Northern Ireland's Marshall Neill is taking an indefinite break from motorcycle racing as he continues to recover from a sickening crash five months ago.
The 35-year-old was involved in a serious incident in the Metzeler National Superstock 1000 race in the final round of the series at Brands Hatch last October, sustaining injuries to his neck, hands and legs. Neill, who was riding an Aprilia RSV4, was knocked unconscious after he clipped Richard Cooper's machine at Dingle Dell on the opening lap of the race.
Cooper had crashed in a separate incident and Neill was unable to avoid a collision with his wayward machine. The Co Armagh rider, who won the Irish Superbike title in 2010 during a break from racing in England, fractured a bone in his neck and underwent surgery on his left knee.
Neill has since benefited from physiotherapy but has yet to gain full movement in the limb and admits he faces a spell on the sidelines before contemplating a return to the track.
“I might just have to sit on the sidelines for a while, the way things are looking,” he told Crash.Net.
“Physio is going well but the doctors have told me that although my knee will probably heal completely, it just won't happen as quickly as I want it to.
“The muscle at the back of my knee is not as strong as it should be and I can't bend my leg fully, even though I keep trying. I'll definitely be missing a few races but at this time of the year it's hard to get a budget together anyway to go racing, so I could be on the sidelines for a while.
“I did about 10-15 laps a few weeks ago just to see how I would fare and it wasn't too bad, but I'm not sure how it would feel in a British championship race and there's no point in getting into that situation when I'm not 100 per cent.”
Recounting the accident at Brands Hatch last October, Neill says the experience made him take stock of the risks involved in motorcycle racing.
“I was knocked out for a while and it was a heavy crash. Richard Cooper was in about 10th place ahead of me and crashed first, but I didn't see his bike until it was too late because I was accelerating out of the corner,” he said.
“By the time I realised, it was too late and I tried to swerve. I rolled the throttle but clipped the left-hand side of his bike and that was it. I broke a bone in my neck and that made me think, because you realise that it could have been a lot worse.
"It's one thing breaking your collarbone or shoulder, but when you break a bone in your neck it makes you think because you realise you could have been paralysed. It was one of those things that nobody could do anything about and now I'm just trying to get back full movement in the leg and we'll go from there.”
The race was abandoned after John Crockford also crashed in a separate incident.
Neill finished in 12th place overall in the championship last year, one place ahead of Isle of Man TT star John McGuinness.