Son of one Knight, nephew of another, 17-year-old Tom Knight is the latest in a line of enduro riders hitting the world stage by any means possible and for the love of the sport. But what's it like moving out of those mighty shadows to compete in your first international races in the tough and intense SuperEnduro series?
David Knight you’ll have heard of. World titles, GNCC titles, ErzbergRodeo wins and SuperEnduro trophies – Knighter has them stacked up.
Many people will also have heard of David’s brother, Juan Knight. A formidable competitor to anyone who has lined up alongside him, Juan has a healthy record at national level enduro and trials in the UK. He runs a bike shop on their native Isle of Man.
There’s a new guy in town though, another Knight. Tom Knight. The 17-year-old has some massive shoulders to fill but as the son of Juan and nephew of David, bike skills and broad shoulders should certainly be in the genes.
In the UK Tom has spent a couple of years learning the trade, often with his dad or family minding by the side-lines while he competes events like The Tough One extreme enduro or British Extreme Enduro Championship.
Tom stepped on to a bigger stage and the European class at the SuperEnduro World Championship in 2019. Pulling podiums from the start, he took race wins and went on to challenge for the title.
Tom explains how the hotly contested SuperEnduro series bug bit him and sheds some light on those first steps many riders take when they embark on an international enduro racing career.
“I first found my love for SuperEnduro when my uncle (David) made a comeback last year.” Says Tom about his first indoor race.
“He asked me to join him on a trip to Bilbao for the final round of the 2018 championship, and I jumped at the opportunity, with no idea what to expect. It was completely different to anything I had ever done before.”
“I was only 16, competing in the European class against people between the ages of 20 and 27, on my 250 GasGas and I finished seventh overall in my class. From this point on, I knew SuperEnduros were something I wanted to do.”
“I trained hard and flew out to Krakow in Poland with a few of my mates, having my bike shipped out by another competitors dad.”
“I knew I had my work cut out to even qualify, as there were 45 people in my class fighting for one of the 14 places in the final races. But I successfully qualified and managed to finish a respectable fourth in my class, which I was made up by and that made me even more determined to compete in the championship.”
Living in the Isle of Man brings an extra amount of travel time and expense as riders like the McCanneys and indeed Knight himself knows. “Round two took place in Riesa, Germany. I travelled out there with some family and friends, including my cousin Will, one of my biggest supporters.
“We drove just short of 2000 miles to get there in our old 2002 Sprinter, including two boat journeys on the way.”
“This was a good event. I won the first of my three heat races and finished second overall, which I was extremely happy with.”
Part of life when you’re an international bike racer is the travel but it is also about the sharing of experiences, the chances to train overseas, meet and befriend racers fro different countries…
“Ahead of round three in Madrid, I travelled out a week early to Girona with good friend Will Hoare (who went on to win the Junior World title).
“We stayed at Puigdemont and used the practice track there, which was great training for SuperEnduro. I was also lucky enough to go riding with Pol Tarres, which was an amazing experience.
“I was also gifted with the opportunity to visit the GasGas factory and get a tour with Miki Arpa.”
After a week of valuable riding, Tom went into round three with high hopes and successfully qualified for the finals again before going on to achieve another second overall in the European class.
“After round three, competing in round four wasn’t even a question, I knew I had to go,” Tom understandably explains.
The desire to race doesn’t always match the money in the bank and money was tight for round four in Budapest. Another 1500 miles to clock with another good friend, Daniel Oates, but this time without any family to support this time round.
“I went to Hungary feeling confident that I would pull an overall win out of the bag, and that’s just what I did.” Says Knight who clearly grew in confidence with each SuperEnduro round under his belt.
“I was competing against some very talented people, but believed in myself and pushed for the win. This placed me second overall in the European championship, only 10 points behind the leader, Rob Scharl with a round to go.”
Finally round five, in Bilbao, Spain arrived after a long break. “Almost the whole of the Isle Of Man” travelled out to watch says Tom who drove out with two of my mates.
Knowing the European Championship title was is reach, Tom muscled through some difficult qualifying sessions and qualified for the final, although he admitted the Bilbao track was a tough one.
“I went into the final races with my head held high but unfortunately, after the first of the two finals, pressure got the better of me.
“I managed to third in each of the races (both times behind championship leader Scharl), although if I’d bagged just one second place it would have lead me to winning the championship.” That is, as they say, racing.
How was that eventful season travelling across Europe and living the dirt bike life? “I was happy enough to have finished third overall in the European SuperEnduro Championship in my first year competing in the series.” Explains Tom. “I’ve met a lot of amazing people, and some of the best riders along the way, making new friends for life. I will be back and fighting even harder next year in the Junior class, and I will not be giving up until I win that World Championship.”
Tough talk from this latest in a healthy line of Knights sailing off the Isle of Man to compete on the world stage in enduro.
Tom turns his attention to the 2019 British timecard Enduro Championship and his first Scottish Six Days Trial which he’s riding alongside dad, Juan, who is doing it for the 19th time.Photo Credit: Future7Media Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org