Road racing siblings Glenn and Nathan Harrison have gained support from major Japanese tyre manufacturer Toyo.
The same company boasts AC Milan and Leicester City as two of its top sponsorship recipients, while desert racer BJ Baldwin is Toyo’s corporate figure.
Baja 1000 winner and fellow Dakar Rally regular Robby Gordon is also supported by Toyo Tires.
Mark Hepworth, the northern area sales manager for Toyo Tires and a former professional speedway rider, is a massive fan of the TT and Manx Grand Prix and says the company is simply dipping its toes into the water as far as bike racing and the Isle of Man is concerned on what is the 70th anniversary of the brand.
‘Toyo may not be as well-known as some other tyre manufacturers, but it is a billion dollar company and the number one brand in Russia, Japan and the United States of America.
‘We are the factory original suppliers to Toyota, Mazda and Audi in addition to the bespoke Range Rover Overfinch model. The company also produces the R888 road legal rally tyre.’
Hepworth originally worked alongside former Manx Grand Prix winner Eddie Roberts at Pirelli, but has now been with Toyo Tires UK for a number of years.
The link with Glenn and Nathan Harrison is via the family business, Quayside Tyres and Exhausts AutoCare Centre on South Quay in Douglas, which recently became the island’s approved supplier for Toyo Tires.
The siblings’ father, Dean Harrison, was a regular Manx Grand Prix rider and more recently a travelling marshal for the TT and MGP. Both lads started racing in their early teens and are now making their mark on the home scene as well as at club level in the UK.
The brothers’ main sponsor is Chris Preston, a retired MEA worker from Glen Chass who has childhood memories of local motorsport events stretching back to the late 1940s. Not one to boast about his achievements, Preston’s bikes are always immaculately turned out and very competitive.
He started modestly by supporting his son-in-law Darryl Blake in 1990, but soon took on a former work colleague of his at Peel Power Station, the late Tommy Clucas. ‘I was maintenance engineer there and effectively Tommy’s boss. When I took early retirement, Tommy, in his usual jovial manner, quipped: “You’ve been my boss here so you may as well carry on by letting me ride for you.” ‘So that’s what I did and I bought him a bike,’ added Chris.
He has also supported a number of foreign riders at the TT and MGP, notably Stefano Bonetti, while he started supporting Glenn Harrison in 2009. ‘I’ve been with Glenn ever since, and it now appears that I’ve inherited his younger brother Nathan.’
Glenn, who turns 23 in June, will run a full Supersport-spec Suzuki 600 in local events at Jurby, Billown and in a number of off-island races run by the Wirral 100 Club and selected Thundersport GB events. My main aim is to win the Isle of Man Centre championship and hopefully get on the podium at the Manx Grand Prix,’ says Glenn. The island No3 was 14th in last year’s Senior and eighth in the Junior MGP. But he admits he may have some added competition from his 16-year-old sibling Nathan at Jurby.
The latter set the scene alight last year on a 650 twin, but he will have a BSB Supersport Evo class spec Suzuki GSX-R 600 at his disposal this season and could well prove a major threat at Jurby and in the UK. He may manage a couple of BSB Evo races if he can get entries, but his long-term goal is the 2016 Newcomers MGP, by which time he will be 18.
‘This is a great opportunity to help both lads,’ said Mark Hepworth on a brief visit to the island this week. ‘The island is a big pull to me and although Toyo Tires is solely a car and light truck/SUV and 4X4 brand, it is a good opportunity to get us noticed and on the two-wheel map.’
Words & Photograph from John Watterson, IOM Newspapers