From Phil Wain.
Isle of Man Sidecar TT legend Dan Sayle has today (Monday) announced his retirement from all forms of motorcycle racing with immediate effect.
The 38-year old, an eight-time TT winner as passenger for Dave Molyneux, Klaus Klaffenbock and Tim Reeves, suffered life-changing injuries after an accident at Ballaspur during the 2018 Lightweight Classic TT race and although doctors feared he may never walk again, he remarkably fought back to race at last year’s event. However, the legacy of his injuries mean he is no longer able to compete at the level he’s become accustomed to, either on two wheels or three, and unable to withstand another crash, so has decided the time has now come to call time on his illustrious career.
Hailing from Sulby, Sayle started his career on two wheels but in 2002 he competed in the TT for the first time, lapping at more than 104mph on his way to 12th place with Glyn Jones in the second Sidecar race, and just a year later he took his first podium after finishing third with Greg Lambert. His reputation rapidly soared and he linked up with Dave Molyneux the following year, going on to not only win both TT races but also set a new outright lap record.
A year later, the duo took another win and increased their lap record to 116.04mph, shattering their previous record of 113.17mph. In 2007, he joined forces with another Manxman, Nick Crowe, and although they were forced to retire from both races, they raised the outright lap record to 116.667mph, a mark that would remain unbroken for eight years.
The next two years saw him reunited with Molyneux with another victory coming in 2009 whilst a move to the chair of Klaffenbock in 2010 saw him enjoy more success with three victories at the TT coming in the next four races.
Reeves then recruited him for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, with Sayle’s eighth victory coming in the first race of 2013. Two further podiums followed in 2015, this time with John Holden, with his 14th and final sidecar TT podium coming in the opening race of 2017 when he took third place with Molyneux.
His record of eight sidecar TT wins as a passenger is the joint second highest of all time alongside Rick Long, second only to Tom Birchall’s ten victories, whilst his 14 podiums is the most in the history of the event, a record he shares with German legend Wolfgang Kalauch.
Remarkably, at the conclusion of the 2015 TT, Sayle held four of the top six fastest laps ever seen on the Mountain Course with Crowe, Holden, Klaffenbock and Reeves and had also lapped at more than 116mph with three drivers – Crowe, Molyneux and Holden.
Having taken wins with Molyneux (4), Klaffenbock (3), Reeves (1) and additional podiums with Holden and Lambert, it’s clear to see why he’s rightly recognised as one of the greatest TT sidecar passengers of all time.
Four Southern 100 Championship wins were also taken but as well as his three-wheel exploits, Sayle was also extremely successful on two wheels and took second in the 2006 Manx Grand Prix Lightweight Newcomers race finishing behind Michael Dunlop. He also won the Isle of Man 125cc Championship that year. In 2008, he took second place behind Ian Lougher in the 125cc Ultra Lightweight TT race, held on the Billown circuit, and then took an excellent win on a 250cc Honda in the Lightweight Manx Grand Prix. He repeated the victory the following year when, lapping at more than 114mph, he defeated Neil Kent by just 0.23s in one of the closest races ever witnessed on the Mountain Course.
Rostrums continued to flow at the Southern 100 and he showed he could also master the four-strokes with third place coming in the 2011 Senior Manx Grand Prix on a 600cc Yamaha. Seventh place in the inaugural Formula One Classic TT on Bob Jackson’s RC30 Honda continued to show his amazing versatility. A third Manx Grand Prix victory came in 2016 when he won the Lightweight race once more, this time riding a 250cc Moto 3 machine, whilst another 125cc Isle of Man Championship was added in 2017. A lap of almost 118mph on a 250cc Yamaha saw him lie in second place to Bruce Anstey in the 2017 Lightweight Classic TT race before he was forced to retire on the third lap and although the crash at the same meeting the following year left him fighting for his life, he made an emotional return last September and took sixth and seventh in the Junior and Lightweight races.
Speaking about his decision, Sayle said; “I’ve had a real good run, better than most, but sadly due to a few factors like my ongoing injuries from the crash at the 2018 Classic TT, I cannot withstand another tumble. I always said that when I felt concerned or wasn’t enjoying it the same I would stop and whilst this has been a long decision over the winter and one I’ve taken with lots of advice from the doctors, my decision is final. If I were to carry on, it would be selfish and I don’t want the feeling of leaving a hole in the lives of my loved ones.”“After the injuries I received in 2018, my finest moment in racing is probably last year’s Classic TT after lying in hospital not even knowing if I would even be able to walk again. I rode as hard as I could and sat in my van for a good while afterwards in pain. It was my hardest race ever and I pretty much knew then it was over so I’m happy to bow out on a high. I’ve had so many people help me over the years and it would take me another year to count all of them but I’d like to thank everybody that has helped me in any form over my time in racing. I have other avenues I want to go down now and enjoy my life doing what I like doing and my other interests. I’ve had a good run and it’s time to slow down.”
Pictures by Stephen Davison (SD), Mark Walters (MW) and Phil Wain (PW)