She is a two-strokes fanatic, he is one of the fastest privateers at the Isle of Man TT. They come from England and Northern Ireland, but they currently live in Germany. We are talking about Sarah Boyes and Shaun Anderson, another great couple we can easily spot in a road race paddock.
Sarah has racing in her blood, especially the small bikes, thanks to her dad Steve who used to race himself. The York-born girl made her debut at the Manx Grand Prix in 2011, with an 11th place in the Newcomers B Race. She came back to the Isle of Man again and again after that first appearance, achieving a best result of 17th in the Lightweight Race at the 2017 MGP. There have been some difficult moments too, like the 2018 Manx GP that she missed for a lack of funds. However, Sarah came back the following year with a 690 Kramer Supermono. At the Irish Nationals, moreover, she is a regular attender and a very precious one.
Sarah’s fiancé Shaun Anderson is the typical example of the “hardcore road racer” and one of the fastest privateers ever around the Mountain Course, with a best lap of 128.672 mph (33rd fastest rider ever at the TT) and a best result of 6th in the 2018 TT Zero and 12th in the 2019 Senior TT. After many years spent in the paddock just with the help of his dad, at the start of last year Shaun was contacted by Irishman Noel Williamson, agreeing on riding the S1000RR BMW NW Racing. The Banbridge rider has also a few IRRC and Irish Nationals wins under his belt, in addition to podiums at the Ulster GP and Manx GP. He also lined up among the top twenty “seeded riders” at the TT, something to be very proud of.
Here is our double interview with the lovely Sarah and Shaun.
Date and place of birth
Sarah: 14th March, England, UK.
Shaun: 7th August 1984, Northern Ireland.
When and where did you meet your partner?
Sarah: We initially met and first spoke at the 2012 Manx Grand Prix.
Shaun: First time we spoke to each other was Manx Grand Prix 2012.
When did your relationship start?
Sarah: Not long after the 2013 Manx Grand Prix. After knowing who Shaun was for a while I added him on Facebook; we began talking, exchanged numbers and at the beginning of 2014 Shaun flew over to England from Northern Ireland one weekend to visit me and the rest is history! We recently got engaged and we will have been together coming up 7 years in the new year!
Shaun: October/November 2013, we were chatting a lot and meant to meet at the NEC Motorcycle Show, but Sarah did not show up. We dated officially from January 2014, when I flew over to York to see her for the first time.
Do you ever call your partner with a nickname? If you can tell it!
Sarah: I honestly don’t think I have a nickname for him! Only “half a job Harry” which is more of a dig! When it comes to household chores someone has a habit of only doing half the job… For example washing up (on the rare occasion) but just leaves everything out to dry, leaving me to still put everything away! He’s not the worst though.
Shaun: Not really, we have a few funny things we call each other at different time, but there are more inside jokes between the both of us.
When did you start with road racing?
Sarah: I was around road racing my whole life with my dad racing. However I didn’t start until quite late compared to most people: in 2009 I started racing on short circuits. Then took to the roads in 2011 once I had my national licence.
Shaun: I starting racing circuits in 2008 and moved to the roads in 2010. From the first time I raced I knew I would end up road racing; before I started racing my days were spent doing laps of local road race tracks on my road bike.
What’s your favourite track?
Sarah: The Isle of Man TT course will always be my favourite place to race a bike. It’s the biggest challenge, physically, mentally and mechanically (for the bike), yet so rewarding to even come away with a finish from there. It’s an incredibly special place. In terms of mass starts it’s always a really close call between the Ulster Grand Prix and Tandragee for me. The Ulster Grand Prix is incredibly fast, smooth and the track just flows really beautifully. Tandragee for me feels like proper grass-roots road racing. The paddock is in a field, the track is fast with bumps and jumps everywhere in between the trees and hedges; it has everything you could want in a proper national road race.
Shaun: The Isle of Man TT, it is the Mount Everest of road racing; the length of the course and the races mean that it is the biggest challenge in road racing. After that it has to be Tandragee 100, as it has a little bit of everything in a lap, similar to the TT. The club is super nice and it always brings a smile to my face to race there.
Sarah: I think in the first few years of our relationship we were still very much doing our own thing. My dad was still helping me and Shaun’s dad was looking after him. If we were ever at the same meeting and both racing and we were done with what we needed to do, then of course we would be there for each other – helping or watching. I think the dynamic of that has changed a bit in the past couple of years with my dad being less involved in my racing now and with Shaun and I living away – we have done a lot more racing just the two of us. We are often at these races on our own so for me personally I definitely rely on Shaun a lot more now and I really like having him there with me. I actually find having him there calms me a lot. He is a very logical thinker and doesn’t get stressed in high pressure situations. I really look up to him as a rider a lot too and I find having him there really changes my approach to racing completely – looking at things more methodically – how I can be faster, make changes to set up to improve the bike etc. He is a really positive influence on me most of the time!
Shaun: Yes I like to have her beside me. Mostly throughout my career it has been my father and myself, and Sarah has the racing experience and knows when to do something or when to say something, and sometimes more importantly knows when not to do things or speak, as she has experienced the nerves of being on a start line and knows how stressful it can be.
What do you feel when your partner is racing? Do you actually watch the race?
Sarah: I always watch Shaun race. Even if I can’t be there I will always be glued to the live timing to keep check of what is going on. I think in the past couple of years I am a lot worse but I get incredibly nervous watching Shaun race particularly at the TT. I always used to get nervous and excited of course but I am so much worse now – I am convinced it’s an age thing! A lot of the time I also just feel incredibly jealous that he’s out there and I’m not! But incredibly proud… What he can do on a race bike honestly hand on heart amazes me.
Shaun: I always feel nervous, but I think most racers are control freaks, and would rather be in control of the situation than be on the side lines watching and knowing they can not alter what happens on track. I always try to watch her races, at least the start and the first few laps; maybe after that I go back to the van and wait, knowing there is nothing else I can do. The hardest event is the Manx GP, as for practice or the race you send them off and have a long 20 mins to wait before you see them again, and if you are in the pits you can not use the live timing, so you feel very isolated.
Have you ever battled against your partner in a race?
Sarah: Not close battles. However at Tandragee, Shaun had a one off ride on a 125 and it was his first ever race on one. He got a crap start and I flew past him from 2 rows back; it took him a few corners to catch me back up again. I always remind him of that one! We also raced together in the Supermono race at Horice in 2019 but I didn’t see which way he went when he qualified on pole and I started from the back of the grid! So I wasn’t giving him anything to worry about that day!
Shaun: I think we have raced each other three times: the Manx GP Lightweight/Ultralightweight, but we were in different classes; Tandragee in the 125 race; and “300 Curves of Horice” in Czech Republic on Supermonos. Sarah takes great pleasure in telling me that she lead me at Tandragee on the 125 for the first part of the lap, and I have to defend myself that it is not the start but the finish positions that are important. I am glad to say that I have finished in front all races!
Do you ever argue about your racing career?
Sarah: Not really argue as such. I have always found Shaun incredibly supportive of my racing. We make a lot of decisions together and see things from similar perspectives with racing and he has always had my back. I want to support his racing as much as I can too, as I know how much it means to him. I think the only topic that is sometimes approached a lot is money, but I don’t know anyone in racing who doesn’t stress about the financial pressures of racing.
Shaun: From time to time, tensions can flare up. But overall we got to know each other through racing and we both know how important it is to us and so we always find a way to make it work.
Do you live together?
Sarah: Yes. We did long distance for 4 years when Shaun moved for work, until 2 years ago I moved to Germany to finally be together!
Shaun: Yes, we did the long distance thing twice. First I was in Northern Ireland and Sarah in England. Then Sarah moved to Northern Ireland and I moved to Austria for work, but eventually she also came out to Austria and we have been living together for more than 2 years.
What’s your everyday job?
Sarah: I work for Kramer Motorcycles in various roles but mostly media and e-commerce. I am also in the process of starting my own photography business.
Shaun: I am a project leader for KTM Motorcycles in the research and development department.
What do you do during your spare time?
Sarah: Since moving to Europe I absolutely love to travel, we pack our van and just drive some weekends until we see somewhere we like and camp out – it’s brilliant! I am also big into photography, hiking, keeping fit, mountain biking and watching speedway.
Shaun: I am obsessed with motorcycles. If we are not both racing, or making preparations for racing, as both the bike that Sarah have raced are usually prepared by me, then I am watching MotoGP, WSBK or BSB. After that we both like to travel, and now living in central Europe we can jump in the van and drive to some nice locations for a weekend.
Would you ever ask your partner to quit racing for any reason?
Sarah: I don’t think so. Not unless he was riding like a lunatic every weekend and having regular big crashes. I personally see these things as a bit of a warning that you just shouldn’t be out there if this is a regular occurrence in road racing. I think we are fairly on the same wavelength with this sort of thing. I know that if I asked Shaun to quit he would say no and it has to be his decision and visa versa. We both have similar views in the sense that if we don’t have the money then we just don’t go racing until we do have it, it’s as simple as that. We both feel the same that potentially in a few years the dynamic of our racing will probably change. But besides that I couldn’t ask him to give up something he loves so much.
Shaun: I think that is a tough subject to talk about, but I also believe that if you are unhappy with their level of preparation or focus then you should tell them. We also agree that if you are lucky enough to get some warnings in racing then we would ask each other to stop or at least re-evaluate.
Who’s your racing hero and why?
Sarah: It’s really difficult to just pick one as I feel like I have really looked up to so many people for so many different reasons. Nigel Moore is a real gentleman of the paddock. I love his approach to racing and that he’s such a two stroke fanatic like myself! He’s also such a super fast smooth rider. Derek McGee I also really admire, super super fast and stylish on a bike and really nice guy. I also really looked up to William Dunlop; his style on a motorbike is something else, so smooth and fast and I really admired his love for the two stroke class. I would also be a bit of a Cameron Donald and Bruce Anstey fan!!
Shaun: This is always a tough question. The obvious choice is Joey, for what he has achieved both on and off a bike. I always looked up to people that looked after their own bikes and were interested in the engineering like Peter Williams, or Ryan Farquhar. But I would say Cameron Donald: I never saw anyone as focused, came to Ireland and dominated, went to the TT and won in a very short space of time. That to me was always very impressive.