Keith Farmer determined to make most of PBM opportunity
Reigning National Superstock 600 champion Keith Farmer vows to make most of PBM chance in 2012
Northern Ireland's Keith Farmer was a revelation in his rookie season in the British Superstock 600 Championship last year.
The former Irish Supermoto champion made a seamless transition to short circuit racing as he shocked seasoned observers by capturing the British title at his first attempt during a sensational year in 2011.
It was a remarkable achievement by the 24-year-old, who has now set up home with his girlfriend in Northamptonshire.
Farmer, who only cut his teeth on the tarmac scene in 2010, took the ultra-competitive Superstock 600 class by storm as he plundered his maiden victory at the second round at Oulton Park before stringing together four wins in succession to seize a commanding championship lead.
The Ulster rider never looked back as he closed in on a sensational British crown at his first attempt, winning six races on his Yamaha R6 to wrap up the championship with two rounds remaining.
And his potential has now been recognised at the top level by entrepreneur and British Superbike and MotoGP team boss Paul Bird, who has signed Farmer to compete in this year's Metzeler National Superstock 1000 Championship on a Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Keith is carrying on a proud family tradition in motorcycle racing, with his cousins Stephen and Mark making a name for themselves before their careers were tragically cut short by fatal accidents.
Stephen died as a result of injuries suffered in an accident at work in 1995, a year after Mark was killed following a crash during practice for the Isle of Man TT races.
"Racing has always been around in our family so it wasn't hard to pick up the bug," Keith said. "I did motocross from an early age before I went into Supermoto and I won the Irish Supermoto Championship once and the Irish Winter Series three times in a row.
"People knew me as a Supermoto rider but things changed after 2009," he explained. "I was supposed to ride a factory KTM in Supermoto out in Spain for a guy living over there but it all fell through for one reason or another after he contacted me to say he had some family issues and he wouldn't be able to commit to me properly.
"Then my Supermoto bike blew up at the first round at home in 2010. It had only just been rebuilt, so I just said let's leave it and take a year out and if anything comes up then we'll have a go. Then the next thing I knew my dad and Darren (Gawley) had been talking about things and they had a Yamaha R6 delivered to the house, which was all news to me," he added.
"We decided to go short circuit racing and I think in my first meeting at Kirkistown I had three top ten finishes and it went from there. On my first time ever at Bishopscourt I qualified third and won each race by over 11 seconds."
After an encouraging foray into short circuit racing Keith was thrown in at the deep end in the Superstock 600 Championship for 2011.
Although he had never previously raced on any of the championship circuits that make up the calendar, Farmer made an immediate impact, taking victory at the second round to mark himself out as a dark horse for the silverware.
"Last year took me by surprise if I'm honest because I was really only hoping to try and score points and I wasn't expecting to be able to do the full series either because we couldn't really afford it on our own.
"But we got a win at the second round and then we had four wins on the trot, so once you've done that and you're in the championship lead then you have to keep going. We got a bit of sponsorship and help from Paul Bird and a few others at home.
"Everyone chipped in and made it all possible for us, so I want to say a big thanks to everyone for that," Farmer said.
"I had done seven or eight races in 2010 at home and that was really it before I went to England last season. I thought it would take a lot more time to adjust to short circuit racing after being in Supermoto and people had said it would be hard to adjust my riding style.
"But there were a lot of times when I had big moments on my R6 but I got
away with it because of my experience in Supermoto. I'm used to the bike moving around below me so it didn't bother me, but I've been slowly changing things to try and ride a lot smoother and be consistent and take the same lines and hit the same apexes on every lap.
Farmer was offered the chance to ride a ZX-10R for Bird in the European
Superstock 1000 race at the World Superbike round at Silverstone where he was far from disgraced as he crossed the line in 16th position directly behind Danny Buchan, who ended last season as the runner-up in the National Superstock 1000 series.
"I rode in the European Superstock class on the ZX-10 in the World Superbike race at Silverstone and I finished in 16th, just one place behind Danny Buchan, so that was a decent start. I went to the Nurburgring as well but it didn't go to plan as I had two crashes over the weekend in practice and qualifying.
"I was up to 17th in the race on the first lap when another rider rode into me and took me out, so I didn't have much luck there. The big bike will take a bit of getting used to but I've got a lot of testing lined up this month so we should be well up to speed by the time we get to Brands Hatch at Easter."
Farmer was undoubtedly one of last year's revelations and the Co Tyrone prospect is determined to make the most of a golden opportunity afforded to him by Bird in 2012, which could unlock the door to a coveted BSB ride.