They say life begins at 40.  For erstwhile bank manager, Mike Newman, the phrase rings particularly true. It was just prior to his 40th birthday that Mike decided he wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle. That was over a decade ago. Since then he has been making and breaking world records by sitting on, strapping in and taking off at the controls of various incredibly fast vehicles.

With a growing list of world records under his belt, including one for flying a stunt plane, he shows no sign of slowing down with yet another record attempt, just maybe, on the horizon later this year.

For a man more used to his name appearing on loan applications than in the Guinness Book of World Records, his achievements to date are impressive.

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Then you consider that Mike, who suffered from glaucoma at birth, did all of this in the perpetual dark of complete blindness.

Along with friend and principle team member, John Galloway, Mike now runs the charity Speed of Sight in Salford, Greater Manchester; giving people of all ages and abilities a chance to try their hand at race car driving, in specially designed cars.

But how does a person, sighted or otherwise, go from business banking to the business of banking world speed records?

“In 2001 I was quite settled into my career,” Mike tells me. “The kids were grown up and there were promotion prospects still out there. But I really just felt like I was on the treadmill, plodding along.

“That’s when I decided, right there and then, that I was going to learn to ride a motorcycle.”

With that thought in mind he contacted an old biker friend and floated the idea.

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Within a few days the pair set out to visit a dealership in Rochdale, Lancashire, where they explained what Mike planned to do. On leaving they had agreed to take a liquid cooled, V-Twin engine 1000cc Aprilia Falco sports motorcycle on loan.

“It had occurred to me,” Mike continued, “that if I am going to ride a motorbike I should try and make some money for charity; and if there’s a record for a blind man riding a motorbike I might as well try and break it.”

There was, and he did.

So in August 2001 at Elvington, a former Air Force runway near York, and with all of three days riding tuition under his belt, Mike climbed aboard the 162mph monster and prepared to quite literally roar into the record books.

Within minutes he had reached a hair raising 89mph, breaking the old and setting the new world land speed record for a blind, or blindfold person, riding a motorcycle. 

For many people that would have been enough. For Mike, however, it was the beginning of a twelve year journey that would lead to seven world records; five on land, one on water, and one for the most consecutive loops in a stunt plane.

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Almost immediately after smashing the record on two wheels Mike turned his thoughts to breaking another; this time on four. With the help of friend and business associate, Mike Galloway, along with a growing team of helpers and supporters, they set about finding the right car for the attempt.

In August 2003 they returned to Elvington Airfield; the very spot where three years later TV presenter, Richard Hammond, would sustain near fatal injuries driving a 288mph stunt car for the BBC’s flagship petrol head program; Top Gear. With his stepfather in radio contact from the support car and his wife and two children cheering him on, he drove the £58,000 Jaguar XJR at an average speed of 144 miles per hour over two runs.

“There’s a moment when you’re standing still,” Mike recalls. “And then there’s a moment when your foot’s on the floor and the car is leaping into action. At that point you forget about everything else because you’re concentrating on getting the car to the end of the track in one piece, and into the record books.”

And into the record books he went yet again until world records were tumbling all around him like dominoes.

After the fanfare and the celebrations for the returning hero had died down, it occurred to him that if he was ever really going to achieve his boyhood dream of driving a race car, he would have to top 144 mph.

Two years later, he did just that. Taking a 507 Horsepower BMW M5 to a top speed of 178.5 mph over a measured mile, he broke his own record.

Not content, and crucially not quite at the 200 miles per hour which to Mike signified Formula One speeds, he took a Porsche GT2 close to the limit and again broke his own record with 186 mph.

Within months renowned international power boat ace, Drew Langdon, would join Mike aboard the £300,000 ‘Silverline’ Formula 1 racing boat. Drew handled the throttle and marvelled as Mike casually skipped the Silverline across the choppy and unforgiving waters of Torquay bay, reaching a peerless 91.66 mph.

Breaking records one at a time, it seemed, had become old hat for the blind business banker as he now became the first man since Donald Campbell in 1964 to hold both land and water speed records simultaneously. And yet that fascinating, captivating, hypnotic 200mph still eluded him; but not for long. In 2014, driving a Nissan GTR he clocked 200.09 mph.

After thirteen years of riding, flying and roaring around various parts of the British Isles sitting atop all manner of combustion engines, Mike Newman was finally at peace; and that, as they say, was that.

Perhaps though, in the presence of great tragedy and great achievement; of great friendship and great optimism the world just doesn't seem so bad. Perhaps maybe, if you don’t know exactly what you are laughing at, just be glad you are and leave it at that.