Russell Brown is like most school leavers, full of dreams and big ideas.
He likes cycling and rock music, and is looking forward to going to Glasgow University. But this teenager has something that sets him apart - he'll be riding a 160mph Kawasaki ZX6R this weekend in World Superbikes at Donington Park.
The Strathaven teenager, a quietly-spoken 17-year-old, is sitting at the kitchen table with his mother, Ailsa, and father Al, and we're eating Tunnocks Tea Cakes. The only clue he isn't an average teen is the green-and-black shirt he's wearing with Moto Breakers splashed across his skinny frame. Russell rides in the National Superstock 600 Championship, a famously competitive, crash-strewn class where riders need to fight for every inch of the track.
Loading article content
It is a support class in the British Superbike championship, and the machines are less highly tuned than those in the Supersports or Superbikes class but they can still go from 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds - more than enough to get anyone into plenty of trouble.
Russell,who trains with TT legend Jim Moodie, is matter-of-fact about the dangers. "I haven't fallen off too often, and usually when I have I can't remember it," he says of an accident last year at Thruxton, in Hampshire, when he was racing in the Triumph Triple Challenge. He spent the night in hospital with concussion. "The bike came off worse," he says. The repair bill was three and a half grand.
I look across the table at his mother. How does it feel to watch your only son, this pleasant, intelligent young man, line up on the grid?
"We have seen him grow up with this," she says. "He didn't start doing the speeds he is doing now, in those days it was less scary. We have got to the stage that I don't ask what speeds he does."
But she is there for every race. "I tend not to watch. I keep busy in the pitlane, watch the statistics and put the pit-board out. Of course I worry about him but that's no different to whether he's out on a push bike. There are dangers everywhere."
Despite the natural worries of his parents, Ailsa says she wouldn't change a thing. "You cannot put a price on the memories we build as a family. The three of us have been going away for four years, 12 or 14 times a year, for the weekend with a teenager who is happy to come away with his mum and dad. It gives us a common interest."
Russell started out with a motocross bike, a Yamaha TTR 125, when he was ten, and joined the North Lanarkshire Scramble and Quad Bike Club in Harthill. He moved on to the Scottish Club championships then Aprilia Superteens, and after reaching the final three of the 2012 Triumph Young Guns competition, he moved up to race in the Triumph Triple Challenge. This is his debut year in Superstock, with Bob Grant, three times Scottish champion, as his crew chief.
Russell, who went to Strathaven Academy and has been accepted to study Mechanical Engineering at university, says: "When I was at school I'd go to my teachers and say I'm going to be off these days and they'd give me the work and I'd catch up. The teachers were supportive. Quite often they would sit and chat with me about how it was going."
It is not just Russell who is committed, his parents are, too. Racing is an expensive business.
His father Al says: "We don't go on family holidays because our holidays are at the track so that is a small contribution but financially the majority of it comes down to us. A large part of the money we earn goes to covering the cost. Russell has managed to get sponsorship which is close to 25 per cent and the rest still comes from us."
How much is the rest? Russell quickly adds it up. "All in all to race this year will cost £50,000, tyres, fuel, entry fees, testing, the bike."
He looks a bit embarrassed. It is a lot of money, and he knows it.
His biggest sponsors are OBW Technologies, in Limerick, RST Moto-Direct, and Tunnocks - which explains the big box of tea cakes and caramel wafers on the table.
Al, who works as a fire risk expert, says: "Essentially we put one breadwinner to pay for the family expenses and the money I earn goes to pay for the racing. The biggest disadvantage of being up here is we spend something like four and a half grand on fuel getting to the race tracks whereas if we lived somewhere like Donington you are half an hour from most of the tracks."
Russell, it turns out, doesn't just excel on the track. He has set up his own motorcycle suspension firm, ECS Suspension. He plays piano and saxophone, and is studying for his Grade 8 piano exam. He plays ragtime and jazz and his favourite composer is Scott Joplin; his favourite bands are Guns 'n' Roses and AC/DC. He may be just 17, but he sure has a lot of potential.
The Erskine Motorbike Meet takes place this Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. The event, which raised £5000 for the Erskine veterans' home last year, includes a bike parade, family entertainment, live music and BBQ. Suggested donation is £5 per bike. See erskinemotorbikemeet.co.uk
Send your news to email@example.com or follow on twitter @garryscott7