This has taken some time to come round to, for many reasons, but after much deliberation I’ve decided to write this, to remind people of how humble, respectful, and brilliant Christopher Michael Rouse was.
I’ll always remember the first time Chrissy and I spoke; it was the final round at Brands Hatch in 2021. It was cold, damp and grey skies shadowed the Kent venue, but a ray of a light quickly shone through. “Howay, I didn’t know you were a Newcastle United fan” as I stood with my back turned to him, equipped with my Toon bobble hat on my head. “Aye,” I said as I turned to see Chrissy’s smiling face just minutes before he went for his first practice of the weekend.
We then chatted all things Newcastle related and spoke about the recent stag do I’d attended for one of my best friends in Chrissy’s home city. From then on he would always say ‘Howay The Lads’ as we crossed in the paddock. That was Chrissy, the Chrissy I’ll remember, minutes before he’s supposed to be thrashing a motorcycle around a race circuit, he was interested in others, and it was a genuine interest, the mark of any great man.
Fast forward almost 12 months as the rain fell from the grey, gloomy skies at Donington Park on Friday September 30 2022, I text Chrissy asking if he’d join me for 15 minutes to talk through his first full season in the Bennetts BSB class, and how you go about running your own superbike team at the tender age of just 26. And in true Chrissy fashion, 30 minutes later we were sitting down in a small room, the mark of the man, he always had time for people, no matter who they were… and it wasn’t 15 minutes, we spoke for almost an hour.
Little did I know it would be the last time I would ever have the pleasure of speaking to him, we shook hands at the end, I said, ‘good luck this weekend’ and off he went for his dinner with the PBM Ducati team.
I want this to be a celebration of what Chrissy brought to British racing and commend the job he did in affecting so many people. So, with the blessing of Chrissy’s Mum and Dad, Karen and Marty, and his sisters Katie and Grace, here we go…
“I’ll start this off by saying ‘3, 2, 1’,” I said. Chrissy’s signature opening to every Chasin’ the Racin podcast. We both laughed. But I began the interview asking how he would assess his first real season in the blue-ribband class.
“Phwoar, that’s a good question,” he responded. “It’s been very challenging, and it’s matched my expectations, but I’ve very much enjoyed the challenge.
“No weekend has ever been the same, it’s like a constant moving target, but I get a kick out of being out of my comfort zone and trying something new, pushing myself, and it’s definitely been one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I’m very pleased that I went for it, I’ve put my all into it. When I set out to do this, a lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to do it and I was making a mistake, but I’ve completed what I set out to do.”
After what was a lacklustre 2021 defending his National Superstock crown, Chrissy made the brave decision to jump in at the deep end and set up his own Superbike team, a first for a rider of his age.
It’s not every day a 26-year-old lad decides to take on the running of their own race team, but not just any race team, a British Superbike race team. But when I asked him if he regretted the decision, he gave an answer that I wasn’t fully expecting.
“At no point have I regretted my decision, and if anything even on the worst of days I’m pleased I’ve done it with the people around me,” he said.
“It’s very much something I’ve wanted to do, a full season in Superbikes, doing it ourselves. In some ways I’m happy with what we’ve done, in terms of the presentation I’m really proud of how our set up looks, and at times I’m proud of the pace we’ve had. But overall, I don’t feel like I’ve shown my potential, but just to compete at this level with the resources and the budget we’ve got is something I am proud of.
“I feel that I could have done better this year. If you look at my results, I’ve been unlucky with some, like being knocked off in a few races, but then they have resulted in an after effect like heavy damage to the bike or what have you. I’ve been in the points numerous times, I’m often in Q2 with a best race result of 10th, so there are parts I can cherry pick and say, ‘I’m happy with that,’ but on the whole I don’t feel like I’ve particularly shown what I can do.”
I was quite bemused by his answer because if I was Chrissy I’d have been proud as punch with how the year until that point had gone. But when I sit back and reflect, he was a racer at heart and let’s be fair, how many racers are happy with the best result of 10th.
He did surprise many with his choice to move away from the so called ‘established teams’ and being honest I was one of the people who doubted him. Looking back at that I feel stupid, because if I know now what I didn’t know back then I wouldn’t have dared to think he’d fail. I just wish I had the chance to tell him this.
Chrissy built a solid unit around him, with the wealth of knowledge from Crowe Performance team, whom he’d won the 2020 National Superstock Championship with, he worked with friends, not colleagues. He trusted them, and they trusted him.
But what did it take to build his own team from the ground up, what did he have to go through, and how much did it really cost? I thought Chrissy wouldn’t tell me, I thought he’d avoid the question and save it for his beloved podcast, Chasin’ the Racin.
But he didn’t, he told me, and I’m truly glad he did because it made me appreciate how hard he worked to achieve his dream. Everyone admits they work hard, and flipping ‘eck I thought I worked hard… but Chrissy was something else. And in true Chrissy style, his answer was honest and from the heart.
“In order to make everything happen this year, and to make sure everything is organised in between the races and make sure I have the budget in place to make it happen, from the beginning of the season I’ve been 100 miles an hour.
“Whether that be being flat out at work, I’ve worked numerous jobs, full-time and evenings to ensure I have the money to race. As well as organising stuff in the background, spares etc etc.
“But there have been various personal things I’ve learnt about myself, I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone. And that is where you learn the most about yourself, when you’re out of your comfort zone. I’ve been stressed, my stress level has been high, which has made me enjoy the whole experience less, especially when you’re under pressure. There has been a lot that comes down to me to sort, and a lot of the times at racing I feel in a bit of a daze, going through the motions. It’s tough to explain, it’s a little bit over whelming and I don’t often get time to look at it and appreciate what I’m doing.
“But It’s been amazing to do it with all the team, I have loved that side of it. I do fully believe we’ve done a great thing. We’ve had a limited budget, limited resources and we’ve taken it to the big boys.
“So far, some of it is hard to quantify, if someone hasn’t charged for something for example, Crowe Performance paid for the bike and it’s their asset. But in terms of everything that has fallen on my plate to sort, I have had to raise probably about £130,000, £140,000,” he admitted. I said: “You could have bought a house round my way for that”, Chrissy then cracked a smile, and I knew something was coming. “You could buy two up by me,” he laughed, we both laughed. That was Chrissy, his wit was beautiful.
“I’m extremely lucky, I’ve put in so much work behind the scenes to give value back to the people who have helped me out. There is a massive list of people from every walk of life who have helped me, and I’m incredibly grateful to each and every one of them. Some of them are new sponsors, but a lot are existing and when I told them what I wanted to do this year they upped their contributions.
“But I’ve worked ever so hard to secure the funding, it was a massive step in terms of commitment. I’m a doer, I pride myself on having the commitment to do something and see it through. The supporter’s wall has been a huge chunk of my budget this year, that’s from individual people, fans, fans of the podcast all putting in a low as £150, but as a collection that is by far the biggest income.
“It’s obviously not how I wanted to go racing, but I’ve not begged for it, people have wanted to help me out and I’m incredibly grateful for that. One of the biggest things I’ve been able to do is offer the money can’t buy experiences through the series, it gives them something back, and it’s a huge thing. But it has been extremely difficult, and it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Chrissy was a true family man, his love for Mum, Karen, Dad, Marty, sisters Katie and Grace and niece Betsy was clear to see. But even if you weren’t family, you were treated like it, you made to feel a part of it, and being honest not many people make you feel like that.
I was curious to find out what their response was when he told them of his plan for 2022, for many reasons really. I was half expecting him to tell me that his dad was against the idea, but his answer once again left me surprised, in a positive way.
“My Dad always supported me in what I want to do, if I said I wanted to climb Mount Everest he’d say, ‘alright son, good luck.’
“When I told him my plans for this year, I don’t think he thought it was a great idea, but because I wanted to do it, he backed me and he was behind me. He took his class two license at the start of the year so he could drive the truck, he takes a ridiculous amount of time off work to come and help us, I’ve very grateful for that family support.”
It was also his dad that gave him the idea of starting a podcast, something that each and every bike racing fan came to love. Chrissy, alongside his friend Dom Herbertson created ‘Chasin the Racin’ a popular weekly podcast that saw the two chat all things racing and delve into the lives of the best-known racers across the world.
But again, why did two Geordie blokes create something which at the time was so obscure? Well, you guessed it, because it was something out of his comfort zone, something that took commitment and something that Chrissy admitted helped his racing in many ways.
“Neither of us had any experience of doing it beforehand, it comes back to that thing of committing to something and then doing what you say you’re going to do. We started three and half years ago, we’re now on about two and half million downloads at the minute and it continues to grow.
“It’s great fun. I’ve met some fantastic people through it, some I would call really good friends. It would be tough to calculate the amount of sponsorship I’ve generated from the podcast, but there has certainly been a noticeable increase of my support.
“I just really enjoy doing it, it’s opened doors, I got a part-time job commentating at Eurosport on World Endurance. Our family moto is TATH, which is ‘Take Action Things Happen,’ my dad invented it, and that is like the podcast. We didn’t have a master plan for it, we did it anyway and we had no idea where it would take us.
“The podcast is probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, the best decision I’ve ever made. Without the podcast I wouldn’t have been able to run my own superbike team. It’s opened so many doors and continues to do so. People say, ‘your net worth is your network’, and the podcast being a network in bike racing has been unreal.
“In the middle of the season when we’re both racing, or when Dom is busy and I’m busy, it’s tricky to fit it in, but even if that means I don’t get to sleep till 2, 3 or sometimes even later, it comes back to commitment, I make sure I get my jobs done.
“Sometimes that it is a bit of a weakness, I can end up stretching myself a little bit too thin, but I’m at my happiest as a person when I’m really busy. I love having a purpose, whether that be the podcast, or committing to the racing… having a purpose and something to work towards, that is when I get the most out of life.”
And that was one of the last things Chrissy said to me.
I think it’s fair to say Chrissy had a purpose, in everything he did, whether it be work, racing or bringing us into his and Dom’s world with the podcast, and he definitely got the most out of his life.
Chrissy was infectious, you couldn’t help but not smile when in his company, he was simply brilliant. Funny, relatable, polite, driven and much more… Chrissy was everything a person should be, he made me look differently at the world, and I’m sure he did the same to you.
I hope this gives some comfort to people, his fans, his family. I remember walking away from his funeral being inspired, inspired by his parents, his siblings, his friends. I wanted this to be a celebration of all he did in the world, all the great things he achieved.
I felt writing this was an important thing to do, because as Dom said at his funeral ‘Chrissy will want us all to chase our dreams and live our lives to the full, we must carry our own journeys because I guarantee you when we see him again, he’ll be asking us all about it.’
It’s tough to find the words to round this off, but it only feels right to give thanks. Thank you Chrissy, you brought light, smiles and laughter, and for that we’ll always be eternally grateful… howay Chrissy. Thank you.