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“Ollie would’ve been a phenomenal rider" - BSB Champ Tommy Bridewell on winning for late brother 

Gold & Goose

“Ollie had commitment and discipline. If we combined our strengths, you would end up having a Champion.”

You don’t need to see Tommy Bridewell’s face to know he is smiling broadly as he talks about his brother.

In fact, it’s quite the testament to the 35-year old that as I begin to broach the subject of the late Ollie Bridewell with natural trepidation, not only is his response positive, he’s animated in actively welcoming the opportunity to reminisce and celebrate him.


“You can ask me any question you like, talking about Ollie keeps his name, his legacy alive,” he quickly responds, helpfully cutting me off before dreading that I’ve inadvertently strayed into too sensitive an area of conversation.

Ollie Bridewell: 1985-2007

Almost 17 years have passed since Ollie died following an accident while competing in the British Superbike Championship at Mallory Park. Only 21-years old, his death rocked the paddock. 

While the very nature of the sport makes such an eventuality an ever-present risk, any loss within motorcycle racing’s close-knit community is always felt deeply in unison.

In this instance, however, it was a tragedy made all the more heart-breaking by just how woven into the fabric of BSB the Bridewell family were.

Indeed, Tommy was among those present that day. More than that, he was right there in the same Team N.B garage, donned in the same leathers as his brother on a race weekend during which they should have been lining up on the grid together.

Tommy hadn’t yet ventured out for free practice, instead choosing to wait it out in hope that the treacherously wet conditions would improve. Ollie, on the other hand, opted to brave the weather in an effort to get some laps in. Then a red flag and news of a rider down at the Esses. 

“It was wet through at Mallory, there was a red flag and then you’re getting called into the tent and being told there’s nothing that could be done to save your brother.


“It’s something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.”

A fresh-faced Tommy Bridewell in 2007...

Three years younger than his sibling, Tommy was in the early throes of his maiden BSB campaign when Ollie passed away during Round 9 of the 2007 season.


This was the first year the brothers would be competing as team-mates in BSB, the pair campaigning Suzuki GSX-R1000s under the Team N.B banner.

For Ollie, this was his second year in the 1000cc class during which he had swiftly garnered a reputation as a prodigious talent for the future. Alas, time enough though it was for Ollie to make an impression, it consequently sharpens the cruel notion that his was a rising star cut down too soon

“The drive, the commitment, the determination I saw in Ollie was unreal. From a young age he was always training for racing. He knew exactly how to be successful. He needed to be fit, he needed to save his money - he’d leave no stone unturned.

“He realised this from a young age, before any of the other riders did then. Ollie realised the fitter you are, the mentally stronger you are and the better you will be.”

And yet, while the success Ollie could have gone on to enjoy can never be known, Tommy makes for a very convincing reference of what might have been.

In 2023, Tommy was crowned British Superbike Champion for the first time after prevailing in a tense title tussle with Paul Bird Motorsport team-mate Glenn Irwin, the pair separated by just half-a-point at the season’s end.

Ollie was well on the way to becoming a BSB standout during a tragically shortened career

Finding love again after loss

While an effusive Tommy insists he knew he would become BSB Champion within the ‘right environment’, that’s not to say it wasn’t a long time coming. Indeed, if Tommy’s 2023 BSB title is a concrete milestone, then it stands far along what has been a wending career path.

All the same, it’s a path that could have very nearly stopped there and then on that rainy day at Mallory Park, a grieving Tommy turning his back on motorsport in the immediate aftermath of Ollie’s death. It was only when he was tasked with helping out at the family’s motorcycle repair business that the passion for racing resurfaced.

“It took me three months,” he continues. “I didn’t want to race, I didn’t want to see a motorcycle.

“Fortunately, Dad had a garage that did motorcycle servicing and repairs and Ollie would work there, so I took on roles after his passing. I tested a customer’s motorcycle - a GSX-R1000 - on the road for the first time and it just put a smile back on my face. 

“I remember pulling back into the yard and saying to Dad ‘fuck, I want to ride a motorbike again.”

Though emotions were still too raw for Tommy to return to BSB initially - because he wanted to avoid any ‘I’m sorry about your brother’ consolations - instead he relocated to the continent for a stint racing in Italy, a year he recalls as being ‘full of fun, pizza and ice cream’.

However, he’d eventually beat a route back to the UK in 2009, picking up where he’d left-off on the Team N.B Suzuki and quickly proving that talent on the track was a hereditary Bridewell trait. Indeed, while Ollie was no longer present in body, Tommy says it made him determined to imbue his spirit and determination as a way of racing in his honour and winning in his name.

“I can’t stress enough how it has paved the way for me to walk that same path,” he continues.

“He inspired the commitment that you have to put in to be successful. I never used to go to the gym, I never used to train. I was one of those people who’d rock up on a race weekend, do a race, be like wow, then go home. 

“He had such commitment from a young age. It’s something I took from him and gone ‘woah, fuck’, so when I knew I wanted to start racing again, as soon as I made that decision, the next day I was in the gym. 

“I haven’t really stopped since then really, because I know how fundamental it is.” [Ed: Appropriately enough, we’re talking as Tommy is making his way to the gym].

Tommy Bridewell, BeerMonster Ducati, PBM, Ducati Panigale V4 R, 2023 BSB, Snetterton, action [credit/ Tim Keeton/Impact Images]
Tommy Bridewell made his mark in more than one way last season

“I can still talk to Ollie like he was still here…”

A firm fan favourite, Tommy’s ebullient character and spirited liveliness - which is as infectious off-camera as he is on it - bears the hallmarks of a man fuelled by both his passion and pride for racing in the Bridewell name.

“I can talk to my brother like he is still here. It’s perhaps a bit fucking weird, but I’m a big believer in the afterlife and I believe in that spirit.

“My brother is still on my shoulder, on my bike, or whatever it may be. It’s something that drives me, motivates me.

“I get up in the morning, I go training and then I get my old shitty clothes on and I’m out cutting grass, building barns, doing this, doing that.

“I’ve never ever been able to sit down because if I sit down, if I stop or if I’m watching TV in the middle of the day, I don’t feel worthy of my position. So I only struggle day-to-day of making sure I know I’m worthy of him.”

Indeed, while the journey to title-winning success last season has been an arduous one, there is little doubt Tommy can manifest great strength and will-power from his notion that he represents both himself and his brother on track.

And he has needed it on occasion too, Tommy weathering several knock-backs and a period switching to different teams and machinery before eventually finding a happy home riding the Ducati Panigale V4 R with Moto Rapido Racing (Oxford Products Racing). Achieving five wins and finishing top three in three of his four seasons with the team, it was the prelude to him securing the elusive BSB title last year with Paul Bird Motorsport.

Tommy Bridewell, BeerMonster Ducati, Ducati Panigale V4 R, 2023 BSB, Brands Hatch, podium, portrait, celebration [Impact Images]
Smiling down

Scoring five wins along the way, it made Tommy’s signature rostrum celebration of glancing and pointing to the sky a regular sight in 2023. A small but sentimental pause for reflection and solace amid the pomp and circumstance of a podium ceremony, it represents Tommy’s firm belief that racing and succeeding is the most fitting tribute to Ollie.

“I get up in the morning for him. 

“I lost my brother in 2007 and if I’d said ‘right, fuck this shit, I hate motorbikes, I’m jacking it in’, then Ollie Bridewell’s name is not being talked about anymore. 

“This way he is still being talked about in 2024 and that, for me, is the sense of honour that I have for it.

“So, when I look up to the sky and do my little ritual like I have always done and will always do, it just keeps that connection.”

Growing up fast

Motorbikes have always been woven into Bridewell family life, even from a young age. 

Recalling how his father would take him and Ollie to Minimotos every Friday night, Tommy begins to chuckle as he shares how he and his brother would ‘help out’ with the gardening in their own inimitable way…

“Our childhood was unbelievable. It was full of motorbikes, full of fun, full of wheelieing down the road on little pit bikes and then videoing it. Messing about with friends, messing about over the hill on the bikes. It was just non-stop motorbikes!

“We used to tear around the garden on them every single day of the week after school. Then as we got older, we used to have our motocross bikes and we’d go off in an old fucked Vauxhall Vectra Estate.

“It had a towbar and trailer, so it was our entertainment to see if we could get the trailer sideways through the dirt and still keep the bikes on it.”

Tommy Bridewell, BeerMonster Ducati, Paul Bird Motorsport, Ducati Panigale V4 R, 2023 BSB, Brands Hatch, portrait, celebration, champion [Gold & Goose]
Adulation, success and enough ticker tape to trigger a cleaners' union strike 'rain' down on Tommy

The memories give Tommy’s incremental rise to success against the shadow of such tragedy a unique poignancy, not just for the man himself but for his family too, who he credits as playing a crucial role in not only supporting him, but for having the strength to do so after Ollie’s passing.

“I’ve had the full support of my family, it’s massively important to me.

“I might be the face on camera or the person doing this interview, the one racing, but there is a little army of Bridewells behind me cheering me all the way. 

“At the season finale last year, when we realised we’d achieved it, it was massive. Seeing my wife in tears, my sisters, my niece, my nephews… my uncle, who watches all of the races, couldn’t even sit in the house, he had to go out for a walk for that last race! 

“But it makes you realise why you put in the effort you do. The sacrifice in life you have to be successful is massive and I am very fortunate to have a wife and family that allows me to do that.”

The Tommy Bridewell I’m talking to today is a very different man to the one that rolled out of pit-lane on a Superbike for the first time back in 2007 alongside a brother, a team-mate, a rival, an inspiration in Ollie.

Tommy Bridewell, Honda Racing, 2024 BSB, portrait [Honda Racing]
That #1 plate should read 1+1, really...

This year sees Tommy begin his 18th season in BSB, this time as reigning champion, bidding to defend his title with a different team and on a different motorcycle following his switch to Honda over the winter.

It’s a bold change symptomatic of Tommy’s attitude for tackling his challenges head-on. But that’s because Tommy has a special advantage in being able to draw another talented BSB rider’s influence from within in Ollie, so much so that there should really be a #1+1 plate on the front of his Fireblade.

“I think [racing for Ollie] allows me to know my worth in life, knowing that I am doing something to make hism proud.

“I’m achieving a goal, a dream that Ollie and I always wanted. I think that’s the proud part of it, that I’m able to do that. 

“Not just for me, not just for Ollie, but for all of my family…”

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