A FORMER motorbike racing champion is setting up a training centre in Darlington.

Jim Peacock, who used to race at a national level, was made redundant just before Christmas and has used his redundancy package to set up the business.

Mr Peacock said he believed motorbike riding was going to become more popular because of plans to pedestrianise Darlington town centre and the increase in traffic congestion.

He said: "It's much cheaper to park a motorbike. There are many areas where you can park for free, but the cost of parking cars is spiralling."

He is offering training to 16 and 17-year-olds starting out on mopeds and motorbikes, as well as refresher lessons for people who have not ridden a bike for several years.

He said: "The bikes now are very different from those around 20 years ago - they are much more powerful."

But 38-year-old Mr Peacock said that as well as coaching pupils towards taking their test, he will also be trying to make sure they are safe on the roads.

He said: "I have had some nasty falls and if anyone can explain how much it hurts to fall off, I can."

Mr Peacock is dedicating the venture to a friend, Kevin Miller, who was due to be involved in the company but died just before Christmas.

* For more information about the training centre call (01325) 267569.