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

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

For aman more used to his name appearing on loan applications than in the GuinnessBook of World Records, his achievements to date are impressive. Then you consider that Mike, who suffered from glaucoma at birth, did all of this in the perpetual dark of complete blindness.

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

Buthow does a person, sighted or otherwise, go from business banking to thebusiness of banking world speed records?

“In2001 I was quite settled into my career,” Mike tells me.

“The kids were grown up and there were promotionprospects still out there. But I really justfelt like I was on the treadmill, plodding along.

“That’swhen I decided, right there and then, that I was going to learn to ride amotorcycle.”

With that thought in mind he contacted an old biker friendand floated the idea. Within a few daysthe pair set out to visit a dealership in Rochdale, Lancashire, where they explainedwhat Mike planned to do.

On leaving theyhad agreed to take a liquid cooled, V-Twin engine 1000cc Aprilia Falco sports motorcycle on loan.

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

Therewas, and he did.

Soin August 2001 at Elvington, a former Air Force runway near York, and withall 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, breakingthe old and setting the new world land speed record for a blind, or blindfoldperson, riding a motorcycle. 

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

Almostimmediately after smashing the record on two wheels Mike turned his thoughts tobreaking another; this time on four.

With the help of friend and business associate, Mike Galloway, alongwith a growing team of helpers and supporters, they set about finding the rightcar for the attempt.

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

“There’sa moment when you’re standing still,” Mike recalls. “Andthen there’s a moment when your foot’s on the floor and the car is leaping intoaction.

At that point you forget abouteverything else because you’re concentrating on getting the car to the end ofthe track in one piece, and into the record books.”

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

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

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

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

Withinmonths renowned international power boat ace, Drew Langdon, would join Mike aboardthe £300,000 ‘Silverline’ Formula 1 racing boat. Drew handled the throttle and marvelled asMike casually skipped the Silverline across the choppy and unforgiving watersof Torquay bay, reaching a peerless 91.66 mph.

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

Afterthirteen years of riding, flying and roaring around various parts of theBritish Isles sitting atop all manner of combustion engines, Mike Newman wasfinally at peace; and that, as they say, was that.

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