Published on June 27th, 2010 | by Guest Writer
ISLE OF MAN TT 2010
8am, Friday morning, I’m at London City Airport. Haven’t slept much due to night shift. That doesn’t matter, I’m off to the TT. Like many, I’d seen it on TV, DVD, Youtube, etc. And like many I’d said “I’m going to go there one day”. Well here I am, actually on the way. My smile lasts the whole albeit short plane trip to the Sacred Isle.
I met my mates Matty and Woody in the airport bar. They’d met a bloke called Ray who was on his own. His missus was checking out the other sights of the UK and Europe but Ray was here to check out racing. Ray was from Melbourne, loved beer and played guitar in a metal band. Apart being a Southerner, he was a good bloke, and we got along great.
While looking for them I see Cam Donald picking up his mates in his tiny hire car. His Aussie mates turned out to be on the same flight as me. This is one of the many things I saw during my time on the Isle of Man “You wouldn’t see that anywhere else.”
After setting up camp, we wandered over to the pits and met up with my mate Colin, a Leeds native doing work for a bunch of racing teams in the road racing scene. He filled us in with the goings on of the week: who’d been fast, where to watch, what bikes to check out.
Then I had moment of realisation. I was enjoying a few cold pints, in the sun on a Friday afternoon, talking about motorcycles, listening to motorcycles being tuned and fettled. All at the TT on the Isle of Man…We’d only been here a few hours and things had gotten this good already. I hoped that things would stay this good for the rest of the week
Our accommodation for the duration was the well appointed campground of the St George’s Rugby Ground, just near pit area and right on the part of Glencrutchery Road that makes up the main straight. The campground was a mix of many nationalities. English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Spanish, Dutch, German, Polish, all sorts.
A conversation I will always remember was between a French rider, Colin and I. With his non-existent English, our near non-existent French and the use of various hand gestures, we managed to talk about our bikes, the bikes in the parking lot and where we came from. He’d ridden here from Lille with six friends in four days. His bike was a ‘03 R1 and they loved their sportsbikes and going fast. The three of us wandered through the parking lot and fawned over some of the exotic machinery and wondered how some even made it out their own driveway. The language of motorcycles can transcend international borders with ease.
Friday evening being the last practice session before the Superbike race meant a lot of bikes on the track. We went up to the Glencrutchery Road in front of the campground and got our first taste of road racing.
The road is like that of any road in a UK town or village. Not a great surface with bus stops, stone walls and street lights all the way along the track. Not the place for bikes that can lap at an average of 131mph. But yet they do it anyway. The first time you see the bikes come down the road, you get a real respect for the riders who challenge themselves and the TT course. They aren’t sportsmen and women. They are gladiators. They know they may not come back, yet they do anyway. All for their own reasons, but for whatever reason is theirs, they make our lives better that they do.
Saturday: Superbike Race & Sidecar Race 1
The secret to watching the TT is you need a radio with you to know what is going on. You can see only a few corners at best and so you have no idea what is going on for the other thirty seven miles of track. But the race announcers do a great job of relaying the time splits of the riders and what their respective places are. They also have different broadcast positions around the track so they can see the riders in some of the more interesting spots and give the times and positions from their own location.
There is a lot of waiting around done at a TT. With thirty seven miles of road on an island in the Irish Sea, you’re going to get some issues with the weather. The only thing to do is sit it out. So three hours later than planned, the Superbikes leave the starters gate. They start ten seconds apart and race the clock for six laps.
First place to watch from is the bottom of Bray Hill we’d been told. It’s not far from the start line, but far enough for the riders to get a good speed up from their start before dancing the bike down the uneven surface of Bray Hill. They change direction at the bottom of the hill, the apex being as close to the traffic lights as they dare. Mind you, the bike bottoms out at the base of the hill. If you’re close enough, i.e. watching from them behind a stone wall on the inside of the corner like we were, you can smell the fibreglass after it’s scraped across the racing line.
The people who told us to first watch from the bottom of Bray Hill were right. Nothing but road racing can give you such a show of skill and bravery. Then to make it more impressive you get to watch the sidecars race through there. It gets very interesting when three sidecars catch each other on the main straight and head down Bray Hill. No one wants to give an inch yet they must all try to fit into a narrow roadway. The fast guys like Dave Molyneux give a blast of sparks like lightning from the chassis bottoming out when they hit the tarmac at the lowest point of the corner.
Monday – Supersport Race 1 & Superstock
Next spot to for us to watch from was the famous Creg-Ny-Baa pub. A lone, white building situated just after the mountain section of the track, it sits looking up towards Kate’s Cottage where riders power downhill along an undulating straight before breaking into the near right angle corner before another high speed section. Our viewing spot was not to be right behind the crash barrier in front of the pub as we hoped but down the hill on the exit of the corner.
Our position was about 200m from the pub, with a good view of the riders as they past the apex and get on the gas for the long straight ahead of them. I’ve been to WSBK, MotoGP’s, AusSBK and club races before but I’ve never been to a race that requires you to keep on eye on the riders if they are running wide. Because if they do run wide, you may need to pull you feet out of the way. You also get to feel the pressure wave of the bikes as they fly past your viewing position.
I took a walk up the hill to the top side of pub to take a couple of pictures when I noticed Kiwi rider Bruce Anstey pulled over into the side lane of The Creg. His Suzuki had chucked in the towel and the pub was as good as place as any for him to pull up and wait for a lift down the mountain to the pits. I got up close and took a few photos and shouted “Someone get him a beer!” To my delight he’d already been handed one and was drinking it. Just as I was leaving there noticed a short pale gentleman walking from the bike car park and into the roped off area where Bruce was. It was the Firestarter himself, Keith Flint from The Prodigy, having a chat with Bruce and watching the racing. “You don’t get this anywhere else”, I said to myself again.
Wednesday- Supersport Race 2. Sidecars Race 2
A cloudy, damp morning greeted us and our large, ongoing hangovers this morning. Ramsey Hairpin was the destination for the day. A twenty minute taxi ride along the coast road from Douglas before we are dropped off at one on the slowest points of the circuit. We are first to arrive and duly set ourselves up closest to the inside of the hairpin. As I mentioned before waiting was a big part of the TT and this was no exception. In our boredom and hunger we sent my mate Matty down into the town to collect some sausages and a disposable barbecue.
This odd device is foil backing tray full of charcoal that once lit and going will cook for about an hour and a half. It’s bit weird to use and makes the food smell a bit smoky/keroseny. The smoke caused a bit of concern with the marshals, as we were cooking within six feet of the track, but as the racing ended up being cancelled we headed back to Douglas and proceeded to get royally pissed for the sixth day in row.
We met Colin in the bar of the paddock. As the weather had cancelled the racing, most of the spectators had gone back to their parts of the Island leaving only the people staying close by at the bar. This included racers Adrian Archibald and Michael Dunlop and the current Irish SBK champion Alistair Seely, plus a bunch of other racers whose names I cannot recall. They’d had racing cancelled for the day so they were blowing off some steam with a pint and talking motorcycles. Our new mate Ray had been in the VIP tent but with the racing being cancelled they’d stopped service there so he’d come to find us. He’d just so happened to meet Danny John Jules AKA The Cat from the TV show Red Dwarf. Danny had come down to the bar too and spent a good half hour having a laugh and few drinks with us You wouldn’t get this anywhere else.
Colin had organised for us to have dinner at the Creg-Ny-Baa pub with some of the race teams he’d met. This was not something we were going to miss for the world. We had dinner with the team of racer Paul Shoesmith, a privateer racing in five races for the week, as well as two guys from South Africa making their first appearances at the TT.
At the table were the team mechanics/helpers/associated peoples with about twenty people in total. I was sitting opposite Paul Shoesmith’s mechanic and his teenage son who’d just taken to racing dirt bikes. We talked about our motorcycle backgrounds. How awesome Phillip Island is but there is simply no place like the Isle Of Man. We discussed the week’s events. We listened to the riders describing their laps to each other and the team. We consumed beers, had a good feed and laugh with people we’d never met but were all connected through the glorious pursuit of motorcycles. The best part of the evening was getting a lift back from the Creg with Shoey giving us a commentary along the way. “…when you’re coming along here, you’re in fifth gear and the front rises as you crest this slight hill. Then you hit sixth for a while before having to brake and drop a gear for this left hander. Then it’s hard on the gas again until this next roundabout…” Simply awesome. Everyday here I get more respect for these guys.
Thursday- Rescheduled Supersport Race 2 & Sidecar Race 2.
Finally on Thursday we get the Supersport and Sidecar races from the day before. Once again we’re first at Ramsey hairpin. This time we are prepared with barbecue, meat and utensils with us. Today there is no waiting for the races. We are greeted with a cool but mostly sunny day so after a day of being teased by the weather we finally hear the howl of 600cc’s of hate echoing through the streets into the town of Ramsey and finally up the hill to the hairpin.
A hairpin on a racetrack is usually a predictable thing as far as the surface goes. But this is not a race track like any other. The lead up into the corner is covered with a tall tree canopy with some damp patches remaining from yesterday’s rain. And then the surface has a pronounced line in the asphalt all the way around the corner that leaves the riders with few different options for tackling the corner. Some go very wide and avoid going close in. Others brush their knee on the stone wall. Either is impressive and both its own merits to the riders.
Just as impressive sight is of the riders winding up the hill as the track curves off to the right toward the Waterworks. The riders give it the berries heading up there so you hear the screaming engines up the hill echoing off the trees and the rocks as they disappear out of sight but can be heard for quite a while.
Between races we time our barbecue so our smoke isn’t there to distract the riders and tuck into a hearty lunch of snag sangas. This makes everyone very jealous and wish that they’d thought of the same idea. We should have taken some more up and sold them; we could have paid for our holiday that way I reckon. Once again the sidecars delight and terrify the spectators. Whenever they race you’ll always hear someone say “No bloody way you’d get me on one of them”. And I’d agree.
After the day’s racing they need to clear the roads for them to be opened back again. They have made the Mountain Section only one way for the duration of the TT to cut the accidents down. A guy I know from a UK bike forum, Chris, who is a Manx local, offered to take us for a lap in his car. We’d arranged to meet at the Hairpin when the roads opened. Not five minutes after the roads had opened some knucklehead had an accident and the road needed to be closed again. So Chris met us in Ramsey and took us around the coast road around to the start line for a lap proper.
Now Chris is a born and bred Manxman so he knows the roads well. He also knows where the cops sit on race week and is keen to flog the bejesus out of his 73HP Citroen C3. We overtake some unnecessarily slow riders near Ballycrane. The back part of the circuit is very much a rural road lined with many stonewalls, trees, houses, farms, and small villages. Some of the bigger trees and the lampposts on the track have padding around them. But then next to that is a stone wall or a house. I’m sure that the protection is more for the object than anything else.
Just after Quarterbridge there had been an accident, so we headed back to The Raven for a pint and to watch a few of the spectators give the jump over the bridge a go. Soon we were back on the road. Threading our way through Parliament Square in Ramsay you wonder how they do this at such speeds. We went up the hill past our viewing position for the last two days and onto the Mountain section.
This section has no speed limit. And it’s now one way. You can ride the proper lines and not have to worry about opposite direction traffic. Next time I come back here, and I fucking will don’t worry about that, I will bring a motorcycle. Chris’s car is underpowered at the best of times but with four blokes in it, even more so. But still we are held up by this gentleman on a R6. After the struggle up the hill where the car is overtaken by the several bikes. Mr R6 takes an age and a good long straight before deciding to overtake us. Chris is keen on keeping his speed up with as little braking as possible but Mr R6 decides that braking everywhere is a good idea. Corner after corner Mr R6 slows us down.
Chris is screaming at him to hurry up. I’m screaming at him to use some proper lines and stop riding like an arseclown. We overtake Mr R6 at the death defying speed of 75 mph near the Bungalow. I hope he remembers this day and sells his motorcycle. If there was a speed limit, we wouldn’t be breaking it by a lot for us to overtake him.
We quickly put a gap between us and Mr R6 and get a good run over the rest of the Mountain. Down near Creg-Ny-Baa is where the speed limit ends. I remind Chris not to get too carried away at the pub and accidentally plough into the assembled bikes out the front. I didn’t feel like being beaten to death with the fuel tank from a GSXR K2. Neither did Chris luckily. Down the next fast section down the Governor’s Bridge and back to the campsite. Not quite a sub twenty minute lap but still a good way to get some idea of how the track goes.
Friday – Senior Race. TT Zero
The big day. This is one they want to win. Hutchinson himself said that if he didn’t win this his four previous wins would count for nothing. There is a real buzz in the air today. The medical choppers take off like they always do. A good sign that racing will get underway today. The riders for the parade lap assemble down on the pit straight. Lorenzo and Capirossi do their laps, Lorenzo doing wheelies most of the way. A large field of classic bikes take off. All manner of British twins, Japanese two-strokes, Italian triples and everything in between fire their way around the course. The acrid smell of a two stroke and the sight of a racer in a pudding bowl type helmet riding a motorcycle much older than I am is a hell of a great experience. And the sound of the MV Agusta 500s blasting through the Manx countryside is what the apocalypse will sound like, I am sure.
The Senior race kicks off under sunny skies and Guy Martin is on it. I mention to Matty that he will either win it or bin it today. Sadly, during the race Guy comes unstuck. At first they red flagged the race, then we didn’t know how it was. They deduced that it must have been Guy as he hadn’t made it to the next commentary position. Race control announced that a fire truck was needed on track for a fire. A quiet hush fell over the crowd along the Glencrutchery Road. Colin, who was in the paddock, told me later that you could hear nothing but the wind in the leaves for twenty minutes until they told us that Guy was conscious and was being taken to hospital.
The rescheduled race was to be a four lap affair. More tension mounted than before the original race. The guys and girls were on it for this race. But again Hutchinson took the win. I think the whole crowd, no matter who they supported at the beginning of the race, were willing Hutchie to get home in the end. It was a real privilege to witness a rider on such a winning streak at the hardest track in the world.
Next past was the TT Zero race. Interesting idea, piss poor racing. The MotoCzysz bike beat the pants of the other bikes, a lot of which didn’t finish the race. The final lap by race bike of the TT was a ride past by the Suzuki GSVR by Australia’s own Cam Donald. I’ve heard them before but the guttural howl of the Suzuki could be heard much, much further away than the loudest of any of the other bikes. Cam even hit 202 mph on his lap, and his time would have been good enough for a top twenty finish. Not bad for a bike he’s never ridden before.
So all that was left to do is a few beers down on the Prom and debrief over the weeks events with Colin, Matty and Woody. It was the first TT for all of us. We’d all been blown away by what we had seen. Between us we’d all seen other types of racing from different parts of the world. Before the trip we were calling it a once in a lifetime trip. Not anymore, this is too good for only one visit. We’d seen world champions and MotoGP race winners, past and present, mingle and pay respects to the TT gladiators.
Nothing can compare to the TT. It might sound like a cliché but it doesn’t deserve to be.
Nothing can compare at all. We shall return.