Swedish rider Filip Backlund has decided to sit out the 2017 race season following the injuries he suffered at the final round of last year’s campaign.
2016 was a frustrating and painful season for the 26-year-old rider, littered with crashes – many of which were beyond his control. Three laps into the penultimate race of the season on October 15th, Filip was taken out by Howie Mainwaring-Smart who had lost his brakes going into Hawthorn’s Bend, leading to an impact at around 160mph.
Both riders sustained injuries in the incident, as did a trackside race official. For Backlund, the off-season has been a battle to get back to fitness following the head injury he received.
“The final race was around four months ago but it’s only been since Christmas that I’ve been able to do some short walks, three times a week of just 20 minutes each,” he explains.
“This is hard for someone who is always in the gym training. For two months straight I couldn’t do anything physical and during that time after the crash it was quite worrying as I had issues with speaking, lost my balance and had memory problems. Things have improved, but I realise things will not be right to race in 2017.”
The experience has been a sobering one for Filip, who has raced since he was three years of age. He continues: “If I’m graphically honest with you all, I’ve been racing for 23 years and you think that the worst thing that can happen is that you could be paralysed, but you can overcome that, as many amazing people have.
“I guess it’s that ‘superhero’ mentality that bike racers have: you break a bone, they plate it, or pin it and you race a week or so later. You smash your head and suffer serious concussion and there’s no simple fix for this, it’s time that is needed. It’s one of those occasions as a racer that we realise we are not ‘super-human’ and I guess it’s a bit of a wake-up call.”
So, will Filip race on in 2018 and beyond? “If you ask me now, I would say no,” says Backlund. “But a lot of things could still happen in the next 12 months. The biggest thing for me, and of course, my partner Lindha is the birth of my daughter due in May. We’re both looking forward to that very much.
“Racing has been a massive part of my life, but it’s never been the only thing. I do believe it’s all a journey containing many chapters. I’ve always been busy, so I knew that when I stopped racing I would have other things to do. It may be today that I stop, or it may be in ten years’ time. At the moment, I simply know that I cannot race in 2017.”
Ever since Filip was told by his parents to raise his own finances for racing at the age of 15, he has forged strong links with a large number of companies across Europe. He’s also been running his own track days and race school since the age of 19.
“I have plenty to keep me busy during 2017,” Filip says. “In addition to Yamaha sponsoring our track days for 2017, I have also been offered a position with the Bilia group, which is Sweden’s largest car dealership.
“I always wanted to carry on with the business side of things that helped me win sponsorship after I finished racing. Back in 2008, Volvo cars asked to be a partner and this led to the link with the dealership. Since then, we have done lots of business together which I will be hopefully carrying on, as well as looking after one of their key customers and activating other business for them.”
As Filip moves back towards full-fitness in anticipation of becoming a father for the first time, he extends his best wishes to Mainwaring-Smart and the trackside offical for their continued recovery.
“Following the crash a lot of things have been put sharply into perspective for me,” he says. “Firstly I want to say that I hope Howie and the race official are OK and recuperating well with their families. I’m now looking forward to getting fitter and becoming a father. I love racing bikes, but I don’t want to be in a position where I can’t look after my family so that is motivating my decision to not race this year. We shall see what happens after 2017.
“Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in my career so far. From the biggest sponsor and partner down to every single fan who has attended races or said hello on my social media pages, you really need to know how much I appreciate you joining me on my journey. I’ve been blessed that so many have helped me along the way, sponsors, friends, family and fans, thank you all so much.”