Steve Parrish
Steve Parrish

Steve Parrish

Probably best known to millions around the world as the voice behind the excellent week long coverage on ITV 4 of the Isle of Man TT races I think it would be fair to say that Steve Parrish has had a varied and at times colourful life.

Introduced to motorbikes (as many of us were) by an older brother whose bikes were regularly ridden when he wasn’t around to notice, it wasn’t long before Steve was the proud owner of a Matchless 500 acquired for the princely sum of £12. This was followed by a road going Yamaha 250 just as soon as he reached his 16th birthday.  A series of close shaves followed and having ended up in just one ditch too many, the decision was made to go racing. Minor success followed until he entered The Star of Tomorrow series in 1984 where he would meet a man that would go on to be a lifelong friend, that man was Barry Sheene. In Steve’s own words “It was at Brands Hatch in 1974. I was riding in the Stars of Tomorrow meeting and he was a judge. I won lots of races but still didn’t win overall. Barry voted for me though – probably because he fancied my girlfriend.”
One of the new fearsome Yamaha TZ 750’s was bought for the 1976 season and Steve duly won the ACU British solo championship on it. His efforts on the TZ brought him to the attention of the bosses at Heron Suzuki and so he became the team mate of Barry Sheene riding an RG500 in the World Championship. The next season would see Steve finish 5th overall in the championship and yet Suzuki sacked him for falling off while leading the British GP on the very last lap. Salvation for the 1978 season came from none other than George Harrison (of the Beatles fame) who was annoyed that Suzuki had sacked his friend. George told Steve not to worry because he would make sure that Steve had enough tyres and petrol to go racing and promptly handed over £55,000.

Three British 500cc titles were won in 1978, 1979 and 1980 before the world went four stroke and in 1981 and a British superbike title was added. Retirement from motorcycle racing in 1986 opened another door into the world of truck racing, a successful career followed, winning the 1987 British Open Truck Racing Championship. Steve took both the European and British Truck Racing championship titles in 1990, then held the British title for four years and retained the European title for three years driving for the BP-Mercedes Benz team. He regained the prestigious European crown again in 1996 in Jarama. The most successful truck racer ever, he retired in 2002 at the age of 47 to hand over to Terry Rymer.

 In 1985, Parrish started commentating for BBC radio, before joining Sky television to commentate on Superbike alongside Barry Nutley. He moved to the BBC in 1990 to commentate on the British 125 championship, before transferring to the BBC’s Moto GP coverage, with Charlie Cox. The pair soon developed a rapport and have since commentated on a number of series for the BBC from the late 1990s, including British Touring Cars, British and World Superbikes. A qualified pilot, Parrish also commentated on the Red Bull Air Race series for Channel 4. These days he is best known for his commentating on the Isle of Man TT Races for ITV4 and on the NW200 for BBC Northern Ireland.

This article couldn’t be written without a mention of his renowned practical jokes which have included being permanently banned from the Chinese administrative region of Macau after blowing a house of ill repute up with a home-made bomb made out of firecrackers, when several of his fellow riders were being 'serviced' inside. Posing as a medical doctor, to allow John Hopkins to fly from Japan to the Australian Moto GP and my personal favourite, he once posed as Barry Sheene in a qualifying session when the two were team-mates, as Sheene had turned up to the session with a hangover. Parrish put on Sheene's helmet/leathers and qualified on his behalf, then put his own clothing back on and qualified further down the grid as himself.

Steve also runs a series of talks where he recounts these tales and many more from his racing career and members of the Grampian Transport Museum and the Bon Accord Motorcycle Club will have the benefit of hearing him talk during “An Evening with Steve Parrish” on the eve of the Convention. We are hoping that he can be persuaded to return to the North East sometime next year to perform at a larger venue where the general public could be accommodated. Steve will also be appearing in the Bon Accord club marquee on the top of the hill for signing autographs and picture taking, keep your eyes peeled for details of the times in the programme.