A fatal crash at the world's most famous motorcycle race has left a Kerikeri man mourning the rider he thought of as a son.

Chris Swallow died early on the morning of Sunday, August 25 NZ time in the TT Races on the Isle of Man, leaving behind his wife and daughters aged 2 and 4.

His death has also devastated his students – Swallow was a PE teacher at Tawa College in Wellington – and many friends, including Glyn Robinson of Kerikeri.

Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, England, where he built Ducati racing bikes for Swallow's father, the motorcycle racing legend Bill Swallow, in the 1980s.


At that point Chris Swallow was "barely out of nappies" but already had racing in his veins.

When Robinson moved to New Zealand in 2012 and set up a workshop near Kerikeri building Ducati bikes under the legendary Sports Motorcycles brand, the younger Swallow was living in Wellington.

Robinson got in touch and told Swallow his bike was ready, instructing him to enter it in the next race meet.

Swallow asked him: "What bike?"

"Your father rode for me," Robinson told him. "It's out of your hands. It's your turn."

The pair went on to re-establish the Robinson-Swallow partnership and raced Ducatis around New Zealand.

In 2017 and again in 2018 they competed in the TT Races, the first time the Sports Motorcycles brand had raced on the island since 1996.

Robinson didn't send a bike to the Isle of Man this year but both Swallows competed.


Father and son were racing in the Senior Classic TT Race when the younger Swallow crashed at the Ballaugh Bridge.

Robinson said Swallow was like a son to him.

"I'm 60, he was 37, so he'll always be a little lad to me – but this fellow was all my heroes rolled into one. The world is a poorer, slightly dimmer place. I shall miss him more then I can say."

A highly experienced rider, Swallow made his debut on the Isle of Man in the 2007 Manx Grand Prix, won two second places in the 2012 Classic Manx Grand Prix and was fourth in last year's Senior Classic TT Race.

He was also what friends described as a "running lunatic", completing a 74km double Southern Crossing run over the Tararua ranges in 2011 and a near-100km run along the range's main ridge two years later.

A Givealittle page (search for 'Chris Swallow Memorial Fund') has been set up to help Swallow's widow, Jen, and children. As of Friday more than $50,000 had been raised.

The TT Races are reputedly the world's most dangerous motorsport event with 260 deaths since the first event in 1907. Fans, however, argue it is safer than most circuits in terms of fatalities per kilometre raced.

The Sports Motorcycles brand gained fame in 1978 when "Mike the Bike" Hailwood came out of retirement to win the Isle of Man TT Formula I race in one of the most famous motorcycle races of all time. Founder Steve Wynne, of Manchester, later moved to New Zealand and passed the brand on to Robinson.