The former German superbike champion, from the Principality of Liechtenstein, bordered by Switzerland and Austria, is a world class competitor and, over recent years, he has developed firm friendships with many in the Kiwi road-racing community.
It is with great fondness that he regards New Zealand, the country a regular Christmas-time racing destination for him, and he certainly made his mark, either winning (in 2014) or threatening to win the popular annual Suzuki International Series each December in which he made the trip Downunder.
As well as winning the series’ glamour Formula One class overall in 2014, he finished third overall in the Suzuki International Series in 2015, behind Wellington’s Sloan Frost and Whakatane’s Tony Rees, and was runner-up, behind Rees, in the series in 2016.
He also finished third in the Robert Holden Memorial feature race (around Whanganui’s famous Cemetery Circuit) during the 2018 edition of the series, on that occasion following behind UK rider Peter Hickman and Taupo’s Scott Moir.
A fierce competitor in such major international events such as the North West 200 (in Ireland) and the FIM World 24-Hour Endurance Championship, Saiger was equally at home at low-key meetings and always happy to pass on tips and tricks to riders who may even have been his closet rivals.
But now, sadly, he reports that it is time for him to retire from fulltime racing at the top level.
“A week ago I rode at the Red Bull Ring, exactly one year after I suffered a huge crash at the Austrian track. Riding my R1 Yamaha, I felt much better than I had a month earlier at Brno,” he explained.
“But it also made me realise that I cannot ride to the level that would allow me to return to racing. My left leg and arm still need more time before they will be able to function fully again. I suffered a lot of pain in my arm when I was braking and steering the bike.
“Because of these physical limitations I believe it is time for me to stop racing.
“I am 50 now and my family deserve my attention, something I could not provide while I was racing.
“But it is still a tough decision to make and there has been many tears as I recall all the great times I have enjoyed competing around the world. I feel completely lost when I think about that part of my life being at an end now.
I began racing 27 years ago on the Österreich Ring, now known as the Red Bull Ring. I grew up in Zeltweg, just five kilometres from the race track.
“My first races were in the Supersport class of the National Championship before I moved on to competing in the World Endurance series, helping build the Yart Team with Mandy Kainz. I also enjoyed some wildcard rides in World Superbike, my best result a 9th place finish in Valencia in 2004.
When I moved to Switzerland after meeting (his soon-to-be-wife) Tamara, I raced for the Bolliger Team Switzerland for 12 years in World Endurance. The team finished third in the world championship in 2009 and second in 2010. Although I enjoyed many podium finishes, I never won a race.
“To increase my amount of track time, I also began to race in the Stock 1000 class of the Swiss national championship, winning the title in 2011 and again in 2012.
That was also the period when I began to compete on road circuits. I made my between-the-hedges debut at Terlicko in 2011, raced the NW200 in 2012 and entered the TT in 2013. During my career I won at Terlicko six times, beating the record of Janos Drapal.
“I have found it very easy to fall in love with road racing but very difficult to stop even though I have lost friends to the sport down the years. The TT is like no other race in the world and it will always be the best experience of my racing life.
“Starting as Number One on the road and being the first rider down Bray Hill is a feeling I cannot put into words. Finishing second and third in the Classic TT Superbike races was an incredible achievement for me and standing on that podium is something I am very proud of.
“I also raced at the Macau Grand Prix 12 times and I took part in New Zealand’s Suzuki Tri Series four times, winning on my first attempt in 2014.
“I have made so many friends in motorcycle racing: the Red Devil Team in New Zealand, the Greenall Racing Team in England and the Bolliger Team in Switzerland in particular.
“I am very grateful to motorcycle racing for all that it has given me. Without it I wouldn’t be married to Tamara, the love of my life. We met at Oschersleben in 2004 and we now have our children, Benjamin and Luis, together.
“I have also been lucky to travel the world racing with my older son, Thomas, which was a wonderful experience for a father and son to share.
“Whilst I have decided it is now time to retire from racing, I will not be leaving motorcycling. I will continue to organise my fan trips, taking groups to visit races around the world. I will also continue my work with my principal sponsor, Hostettler Ag. They have stood by me after my crash and I will continue to instruct at the Yamaha Riding Academy.
“It has been a great ride this far and now I am looking forward to a new future with my family.”
© Photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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