Tears streamed down the face of Shaun Harris at the Manfeild race track last Saturday.
It was not out of sadness, though.
They were tears of joy for the New Plymouth motorcycle ace who was back racing for the first time since his horrific high-speed crash in the Isle of Man race.
"I qualified fourth of 20 at Manfeild, finished sixth in the race and cried the whole way," said an emotional Harris yesterday. "I'm just grateful to be racing again ... it's unbelievable."
In June last year, Harris cheated death in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race, crashing his 1000cc Suzuki at 230km/h on the final lap on the 37-mile (60km) circuit.
Race officials and medics who came to his rescue at the time didn't give him a chance and their feelings were echoed by doctors at the hospital.
He broke both arms, both legs, some ribs, his pelvis and lost his front teeth in the smash and was in a medically induced coma for several days.
After a long recuperation Harris, 44, announced his retirement from racing - but, as the old saying goes, you can't keep a good man down.
It's a deep burning desire to race again on the notorious course on the island in the middle of the Irish Sea that has got Harris pumped up.
"That's why I'm back racing. The whole goal is to get fit and race the Isle of Man. I just don't want to go back and race, I want to win it," he said. "I'm just enjoying life. It's a joy to get out on the bike and race."
But to qualify to race again at the Isle of Man, where in 2003 he had wins in two of the elite classes, the 600TT and the 1000TT, Harris first has to race in six events in New Zealand.
The first was at Manfeild and the second is at Wanganui's cemetery circuit meeting on Boxing Day.
"Boxing Day will just be another fun day for me. There will probably be tears again. I'm just ecstatic to be be racing.
"When I finished at Manfeild, I probably cried for 20 minutes afterwards, I was so happy. I had tears in my eyes all the way home. The sheer joy of doing something I love."
Harris said his passion to race was stronger than ever.
"It's driving me on. I just keep thinking - A, I'm alive, B, I'm healthy and C, I'm doing something special, something I love."
But there's also another little-known goal Harris has - once he's conquered the 2009 Isle of Man he wants to help out with truancy youth.
"I've been given this gift of life for some reason. I understand those kids," Harris said.
"I was a loose youth and I know the problems they face. I've proven that I can do things and I want to help them."
- Taranaki Daily News
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