WESTHOUGHTON motorcycle racer Joe Lawrence has reluctantly stepped out of the saddle after breaking his neck in a 130mph crash.

The 29-year-old speedster is on the road to making a full recovery after spending three months in a neck brace.

Despite fracturing two vertebrae in the smash at Snetterton over the Easter bank holiday weekend, he avoided any damage to his spinal cord and was told by consultants he would not need surgery.

But while the boyfriend of TV actress Ruth Madeley says there are no medical reasons he cannot return to the sport he loves, he has decided to call it a day after his "lucky escape".

"It was a really hard decision to make but in the end I had to think of my family and my girlfriend," said Lawrence.

Lawrence has, however, been left wondering what could have been, with the accident happening a week after landing a dream move into British Superbikes.

The crane driver instructor started the season racing on a new 1,000cc Kawasaki ZX 10R in Thundersport GB GP1. He finished fifth and seventh in the Sportsman class in his first race of the season at Donnington before an unexpected offer turned his head.

"I was approached by a friend, Mark Evans, asking if I would like to race in the British Supersport 600 Championship aboard his Harris Moto 2 Grand Prix bike," he said.

"Looking back on it now, I had the Kawasaki set up perfectly and should probably have stuck with that, but I never dreamed I would be given the chance to race a Grand Prix bike at British Championship level and I snapped his hand off."

Lawrence was due to race in the next round of the Thundersport series the following weekend at Snetterton, where the first British Superbikes testing would be held at the start of June.

So he decided to test out his new Harris 600cc Superbike in race conditions.

"Unfortunately I only made one full lap of the race," said Lawrence.

"On the start-finish straight a rider came by me going into the first corner. I held my racing line but as he came back to the apex, he tagged my front wheel with his rear wheel.

“The bike slid from under me at about 130mph and I slid until I bounced off the kerbs on to the grass and started to cartwheel.

"I must have landed on my neck at some point, I don't know, and when I came to rest my legs and arms were tingly, but I shortly got feeling back.

"It was pretty scary, but with the adrenaline I thought I'd just damaged a nerve or something so I got myself up and walked over to the bikes and the marshals.

"The bike was okay so and I thought I was okay, so instead of seeking treatment I rode back to the paddock.

"That's when I started to get pain in my neck and my mate put a bag of frozen chips on it.

"It got worse, though, so eventually I went to the hospital.

"I got an inkling something was not quite right when the radiographer took a double take at the X-ray, looked at me, looked back at the X-ray again, then ran out of the room.

"He came back in with a consultant, who helped me to a bed and then I was strapped down and told not to move."

After spending a night in hospital, it was confirmed he was under no danger of paralysis and the fractures would heal naturally, a diagnosis later backed up by a consultant at Salford Royal.

But the presence of a neck brace for the next three months was a daily reminder of how close he came to a life-changing injury.

And despite the odd pang, which peaked on a visit to watch World Superbikes in France in September, he has now made peace with his decision.

"It is a relief in some ways, it means I won't ever have to go back to Snetterton for a start. I badly broke my wrist in a crash there exactly a year to the day before I broke my neck," he said.

"Racing is a drug and the last four years have been a dream come true for me, but it is a very selfish sport.

"My life has been planned out by the race calendar, so it will be nice to take a break from that and to have some money in the bank for a change as it is also an expensive business.

"But it is strange to think I won't be racing again. My grandad (Leslie Jack) and dad (David Lawrence) were bike racers before me – it is in my blood."

Lawrence has had to fight hard to follow in his relatives’ footsteps after being born with a rare condition that left him with one leg six inches shorter than the other.

"My parents were told I would not be able to walk, but I proved the doctors wrong," added Lawrence, who underwent 16 operation, from the age of nine weeks to 16 years old, to help him manage the condition.

"I was also told I would never be able to race, but I found a way of customising my bike.

"We got the Kawasaki set up just right and were going to do the same with the Harris, but never got the chance."

One thing that is for sure, Lawrence will never be one to take the safe option, and is already looking into ways of replacing the adrenaline rush of racing.

"I am not the sort to just sit back and relax," he added.

"I will go insane if I don't do something, so I have already booked flying lessons for next year."