Josh Elliott: The Liverpool trialist who has made the British Superbike title his goal
Former Liverpool FC trialist Josh Elliott hopes to build on his first BSB race success by challenging for the British Superbike title.
The 25-year-old got his season off to a flying start with a maiden win and a second place on his OMG Suzuki at Silverstone.
Elliott followed that up with 10th and 15th results at Oulton Park but is confident of returning to top form.
The Fermanagh man's career could have taken a very different route however had he continued to nurture his footballing talent with the Premiership giants from Anfield.
"I was over on trial with Liverpool twice when I was 13 and 14 years old and they wanted to keep me on but I would have had to move to Liverpool and was not in a position to do that at the time," explained Elliott.
"Unfortunately, at that time you had to live within 60 miles of the Academy to be part of the youth set-up so it didn't happen for me.
"In the end I chose motorcycling because when you are out there on the bike you have independence and freedom to excel yourself rather than relying on a team and other players.
"I support Liverpool though and was fortunate enough to be at the recent Champions League win over Barcelona at Anfield - that was a wonderful night, an amazing experience."
MotoGP experience 'a massive eye-opener'
Central midfielder Elliott captained one of the youth sides at his hometown club Ballinamallard United but the attraction of pursuing his passion for two-wheel motorsport eventually proved too alluring.
"I enjoyed riding mini bikes as a kid but I also rode a scrambler so in the end I had to choose between tarmac or off-road racing so I sold the scrambler and went down the mini-moto route," said the Northern Irishman.
"I had my first race at Mondello Park in 2007 and the same year I was selected for the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies scholarship which was an awesome experience.
"That was my first year on bigger bikes and I was thrown in at the deep end around the MotoGP paddock which proved to be a massive eye opener."
The highlight of Elliott's career to date was winning the British Superstock title in 2015, a series in which he finished fifth last season with the help of a victory at Thruxton.
His performances caught the eye of OMG Suzuki bosses and after being promoted to compete in the final two rounds at Assen and Brands Hatch last season he was handed a full-time ride for 2019.
'Fast flowing circuits suit my style'
"I had a difficult few years after 2015 looking for a Superbike berth so when I managed a win and a second at Silverstone it was a nice reward for all the hard work the team had put in and the faith they showed in me," he added. "We were expecting to get decent results but that exceeded our expectations.
"Oulton was a tough one as we had issues with the bike and couldn't get ourselves going. We struggled right from the start with the undulations and some corners but at least we came away with points.
"We've been tweaking the bike more to suit my style of riding so we should be fast at Donington and get a few results. The fast flowing circuits suit my style more than the 'stop-start' ones so the bike should be easier to set up.
"We are learning what works and what doesn't to get the best results we can and there are a lot of tracks we are looking forward to getting to with the Suzuki."
NI riders 'push each other on'
Elliott's father Julian was a regular competitor on the roads and circuits of Ireland himself and is now fully supportive of his son's efforts.
"My dad has been there since day one and continues to support me. It's nice to see his hard work and his driving across Europe pay off.
"With the amount of money that has been spent he probably thinks the football would have been a cheaper option and the wages a bit more lucrative but it's nice to be able to give him something back."
With Glenn Irwin, Andrew Irwin, Keith Farmer and David Allingham also racing in the premier Superbike class and many more of Elliott's compatriots taking in the support classes there is no shortage of Northern Irish accents around the BSB paddock.
"There is good banter among the Northern Ireland riders but they are all fast - all at the top of their game and competitive.
"That competitive edge means we all push each other on and want to beat each other so that creates a healthy rivalry."