I'll be lucky to have a motor on my wheelchair at 76
Going full throttle at 76, the motorbike champion with one eye, an artificial hip and a pacemaker | Mail Online
Going full throttle at 76, the motorbike champion with one eye, an artificial hip and a pacemaker
He's got one eye, an artificial hip and a pacemaker but 76-year-old Henry Brody was born to open it up once he's on a motorbike.
Which is why the daredevil pensioner, like a British version of Anthony Hopkin's loveable character Burt Munro in the hit film The World's Fastest Indian, is the current UK motorcycle sprint champion in the veteran class.
Racing bikes made before 1946 he beats off competition up to 59 years younger than himself.
He's happiest when he's topping speeds of 100mph and won 30 races last year on his 1929 Douglas motorbike.
Motorcycle sprinting is quarter-mile action for bikes of all types and ages, from vintage Douglases and HRDs to scooters and Hayabusas.
Competitors perfect the art of riding a bike from a standing start for a quarter of a mile in the shortest possible time - with man and machine against the clock.
'Once you give up and you're just sitting around at home all day life's over really. You only get one life and you've got to get what you can while you can'
'The youngest competitor racing veteran bikes is 17,' said Henry, from Biddisham, Somerset.
'My wife, Norma, says I'd rather crash the bike than come second. She's probably right and I've had my share of broken bones. But you've got to keep driving yourself.
'Once you give up and you're just sitting around at home all day life's over really. You only get one life and you've got to get what you can while you can.'
Dressed in his 1940s leathers Henry lowers his goggles and revs up the impressive 600cc vintage bike which has been ridden to glory through eight decades.
And these heartwarming pictures show him racing through the years. He started when he was just 12.
Henry bought his Douglas bike 18 years ago and maintains it with help from friend Bill Douglas, grandson of motoring legend William who founded the motorbike-making Bristol company that originally made the bike.
It had already won 254 races and Henry admits he has probably won more awards with it than any other bike he's owned. He is currently national champion in the veteran class - which is determined by the age of the bike rather than the rider.
With livestock scattering in all directions, Henry disappears up the farm track where he goes to practise in a cloud of dust and exhaust smoke.
'Obviously I need a bit of distance to get up to speed,' he explains later. 'I did 110mph on a quarter-mile straight last year.'
Henry gets his racing genes from his father, George, a man who had to raise Henry and his seven siblings alone after the death of his mother and who was a founder and President of the Mendip Vale Motorcycle Club.
Two of Henry's brothers are also keen riders and the family have become almost as synonymous with the sport as the Douglas family themselves.
Henry describes the ways in which the sport has changed over the last half century.
'I used to do grass track but that's become more like motocross,' he says.
'Sprinting is still pretty much as it was before the war though. That's why everyone enjoys it. There's a great sense of camaraderie. If you break a part someone will help you.'
Later in the house on the edge of Somerset which he shares with wife, Norma, Henry shows off a room barely able to contain the medals, trophies and memorabilia accumulated over 60 years of competitive motorbike racing.
And Henry clearly has no intention of slowing down.
'The problem is I've set the bar so high now that I don't think anyone else can touch me,' he said.
And it's a sentiment clearly shared by his fellow bikers.
'We're all a bit in his shadow," complained Bernie White, 65, of Laurel Garage, Ramsbury, Wiltshire.' I don't know of anyone as fast as Henry.'