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Kenny’s fight: “Whilst there are laps left, there’s a race”

Kenny Noyes spoke with about his autobiography and his current challenges, marking five years since his fateful crash in Aragon

The fifth of July marked a special yet haunting day for the Noyes family: five years since Kenny suffered a serious crash at MotorLand Aragon during a FIM CEV Repsol Superbike race, where he was defending the title he claimed one year before. After clinging to life and overcoming a Glasgow 3 state coma – the lowest level of consciousness that exists – Kenny hasn’t stopped smashing ceilings in his recovery, day by day getting better and acting as a message of hope to those in difficulty, determined to make the most of their “second chance in life”.
Coinsiding with the fifth anniversary of his accident, Kenny has released his autobiography, ‘The Challenges of Superbike, Moto2 and Glasgow 3’, which tells the story of his sports career, including his start on the Dirt Track in America, his move to Moto2™, and his recovery from the accident which changed his life forever. The book, on which Kenny has collaborated with his father – the popular ex-rider and commentator Dennis Noyes – includes a prologue written by MotoGP™ Legend Wayne Rainey and is available for pre-order. Noyes has also created a charitable foundation, raising money to help with his recovery. On we get to know the man behind the book and what the future holds for Kenny Noyes.

It’s a special day that marks five years since the accident at MotorLand and now you’ve launched your autobiography. Was it planned this way, when you began working on the book?

I’m very happy. It’s a really different project to those that I’ve had up until now and I really have enjoyed writing. I’ve treated it like a job and I think that I’ve improved every day. I have to admit that I wasn’t very realistic with my estimations of how long long it would take to write, at first I’d hoped to have had to it ready for the three year anniversary of the accident. The entire part where I explain when I woke up for the first time since the accident, I wanted to write it before I forgot, but I didn’t take into account my physical condition wouldn’t allow me to type quickly, so I had to dictate it to my poor mum. She’s been very patient with me and I think it’s worked out well. Those are just the first chapters and now I’m pleased to be able to do it myself and that everything is laid out in pretty great detail.

In the book you review your sporting career and your life experiences before and after the accident. There’s a lot to process. How did you find it, structuring all these ideas? You father’s advice must have been very useful.

It wasn’t easy, not just because of talking about difficult emotions, but because it was the first time I ever wrote anything like it. My dad helped me and made me see everything that could be changed; that a text which seemed perfect today could be looked in a different light tomorrow. “It’s only finished when you see it published”, he told me.

Lovers of motorsports see you as an example of overcoming the odds and you’ve commented in the past that you want to help people in similar situations. Do you also think that this new situation, caused by Covid-19, could make people look for role models such as yourself, to inspire them during this difficult time?

Maybe, but I’d never really thought of it that way. Helping has always been our objective and all this time we’ve tried to lend a hand, give support and advice, to everything that has come to us. However, the Covid-19 crisis is far bigger than what I thought it would be and, unfortunately, it’s possible that there are far more people looking for inspiration because they’re living through this difficult time. Like a lot of people, I concentrate on the things that the virus has changed. All the big events, those in MotoGP™, they’re important because they help the fans to distract themselves, have a good time and find these examples of hard work and dedication in the athletes. Whilst there are laps left, there’s still a race. Finally the Grands Prix are starting up again in Jerez and it will be really weird without the public, but we have races and I believe that the work Dorna has done has been exemplary.

What does it mean to you that Wayne Rainey wrote the prologue to your book? At the launch you mentioned that he was one of your héroes and that now you are one of his. You must be very proud?

As he himself wrote, Wayne is one of my childhood heroes. For that reason I wanted him to be a part of the book from the start. And when I wrote to him asking, he told me “yes” right away. It’s amazing to me because Wayne isn’t the sort of person to write things like this, so I’m very grateful for his time and effort. I love what he wrote and I hope that the whole world will read it.

Wayne Rainey really became an inspirational figure. On social media we’ve seen you share similar stories of recovery and overcoming tragedy, for example, Paul Basagoitia and his documentary. Aside from such great family support, who have been your heroes during this rehabilitation process?

All those that have been seriously injured and yet kept training and smiling. During this time I had a lot of difficult moments, but I shared the challenge with many other people who were facing various kinds of paralysis, in the Step by Step Foundation. They were very happy to be able to train. The impacted me a lot and made me change my attitude.

Speaking of social media, it was there that we were able to follow your recovery and see that you never stopped smiling or joking. Is that the key to always being optimistic? Was that something you also wanted to convey in the book, too?

The hardest thing is keeping smiling when they turn off the cameras. A first I thought that everything had happened because I was unlucky, but then I started to appreciate that it could have been much worse and that I’m really fortunate to have this second shot in life.

You mention that “people need to be made aware of what it means to be in a coma and that waking up does not happen like in the movies”. What will the reader discover from this part of your story? ‘Glasgow 3’ is one of the three pillars of the book…

I don’t know if it’s a pillar because the book has various important objectives, but yes, it has been a turning point for my family and I. Suddenly the only important thing was my recovery. That I could have a normal life once again. When the doctors said, very sincerely, that I could die or remain forever in a vegetative state, I think there was a change of priorities for everyone… And that’s what I try to convey in the book.

Five years have passed since that delicate moment. Do you feel that you’re now managing your progress in a different way?

Just yesterday I was speaking with my wife. I do no more than set a challenge and say “When I achieve this thing, I will be happy”. But when the day comes when I really achieve my goal, I already think about another, so happiness lasts very little.

You dedicate many hours a day to recovery and it has enormous merit that you can also organise yourself to write the book. Even so, you are involved in other projects like the Noyes Camp or testing the Etnnic trikes. Is there anything else on your agenda? Where do you find the time? It is tremendous!
My recovery is my job, but the doctors don't pay me. It's the other way around! I love the Noyes Camp because I enjoy dealing with people and seeing how they improve with the advice from our staff and myself. I like that you mentioned trikes from because they will be a fundamental part of my mobility. After the fall, I didn't have enough balance to ride a two-wheeled vehicle without help. I tried everything: the usual mountain bike, a small bike, an electric scooter, a 140cc motorbike... But I had the same problem with  everything: stopping and starting. In those moments you have to be precise with your feet and I lack reaction speed and smoothness so as not to press too hard on the ground. That is why I was very excited when I tried the Etnnics trike, which has three wheels and when stopping you don’t have to lower your feet at all. Those trikes are super stable, like quads, but in bicycle format.

As you increase the pace with the completion of the book, MotoGP ™ accelerates towards Jerez. What do you expect from this season? Will we see surprises? And when it comes to other categories, as well as WorldSBK, is there something you're looking forward to with particular enthusiasm?

I don’t dare make any predictions because everything is very tight and there are many new features. Personally, I'm a fan of Valentino Rossi and Alex Rins, so I hope to see more duels like last year's at Silverstone, but it will be difficult, as always. At WorldSBK I am very curious to see the new Honda on the track and how Bautista adapts, but you know that my heart is green, so I am at the top with the Kawasaki Racing Team.

With so many plans for 2020 and the challenge of the book, do you have any more challenges in the short term?

Have more balance and be able to run! It’s one of those things that almost everyone can do, that you learn as a child, but that I, since my crash, have not been able to do. If we think about it slowly, it’s like jumping from one foot to the other continuously and without losing balance… it seems like a simple activity, but in reality it is very complex. Although we don't realize it, our brains are doing a lot of calculations and adjustments to make it possible.

And looking to the future, how do you see yourself? There are always new projects but you have never hidden the desire to return to riding in some way or another. Is that longing always on the horizon?
I want to ride again, but not to compete. At Noyes Camp we have some tiny Kawasaki Z12s and I think it will be the perfect bike to get on ... and not so in the future! I'm going to record it with a bunch of cameras when I try. I want to get my knee down and make it look easy. When I try you will see it, that's for sure.
To date, you have proven to be able to achieve, step by step, everything you set out to do and it does not seem that this will change. So we can only wish you the best of luck to keep this up and meet all your goals. Go for it, Kenny!

PHOTO: Nidori Media