IOMTT: 134mph lap record


Race day, race day! We were up by 8pm, out the door by 9pm, but we still weren’t early enough.Image may contain: 1 person, text and outdoor

Saturday marked the first day of race week and with the schedule of Superbikes followed by Sidecars we knew it was going to be busy. Just how busy, however, surprised us. We lobbed the barbecue, the stove, the whistling kettle and snacks to last 3 days in the back of the van with a couple of chairs and of course a radio. We were ready, we were prepared. We headed off from Kirk Michael to Laurel Bank, but panicked when we saw that the fence looked full of other vans, campers and cars. Fortunately, we took the last available space by the fence… reverse in and set-up camp for the day. That’s the joys of road racing. Go pick yourself out a spot, a hedge, a field, a wall and, provided it’s not prohibited, sit in it, on it – a voila! It’s great in that specific field at Laurel Bank. You don’t have to pay to use it, there are working toilets and it’s a cracking spot to watch from. All the land owners ask is that you put in a donation, no matter how small, for the Rob Vine Fund… and today they raised over £200 alone. Top job they’re doing!!

From the moment I looked out of the window it was clear that there were going to be delays. We couldn’t see any of the hills from Kirk Michael… Manannan’s cloak had descended right on the top of the Isle of Man, and we were in for delays… 1 hour to be precise. All of my thoughts of lap records being broken were out the window.

Before the Superbike race got underway John McGuinness finally got to put those silver Norton leathers to good use and finally got his leg over that Norton at 12:15pm. Not for a second did anyone think McGuinness was going to ride round at 40mph waving to the crowds that were sat on the grass banks through Crosby Leap, the field at Laurel Bank, the wall at Rhencullen, or Parliament Square at Ramsey. There were comments about this lap being the decision maker on whether he hangs up his leathers or not… but with a 115mph lap I’m pretty sure he won’t be AND that was with waving to crowds and soaking up the atmosphere. It was special to see McGuinness on that Norton. It’s something we’ve all been waiting for after the disaster with Honda. After his lap, he commented about how he truly thought flying through the fence at the North West 200 would be the end of his career on the roads, on a bike. Missing two years at the TT is also a big issue. It’s a road. It changes all the time. Pot holes appear, they get filled and they feel different to ride on. There are lumps and bumps that appear or disappear from one year to the next. There might be a new stone wall or higher curbs that appear. A tree you’ve never noticed before or even air fences in places they’ve never been. It differs year upon year. Not only does it change, but your knowledge of this vast course may start to fizzle away. Probably highly unlikely for a 23-time TT winner like McGuinness, but there’s always a possibility. If you don’t use it you lose it right? That’s why missing a year or two at the TT matters. However, McGuinness felt like he was finally part of the 2018 after that lap. A lap of 115mph where he let off the throttle in certain places and hammered it where there were least spectators. He’s still got it…

12:45pm – the 15 minute klaxon is signalled – it’s almost time to go racing.

The teams line their bikes up on Glen Crutchery Road. 1 – 20 are seeded and line up in exactly that order. 21 onwards are dictated by their qualifying times, but they still keep their original number. I remember a few years ago they all changed number when qualifying was finished to whichever place they would start from… one of the most confusing and chaotic ideas the TT organisers have ever had. Imagine having to rush around peeling off number 30 to put on number 29 the night before the race and spectators quickly having to scribble dow the new numbers for each non-seeded rider… nightmare!

Manxman Conor Cummins set off with the number one plate on the Padgett’s Honda after receiving that tap on the shoulder under the TT arch… we were racing & we were ready.

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Around 4 minutes in Dean Harrison had made it to Glen Helen and was already 3.7s ahead of Michael Dunlop and Peter Hickman who was a further 1.9s behind. You could just tell Harrison was on a charge. You could even see his eyes piercing through his visor straight at his next apex. By the time he was in Ballaugh his advantage had extended to 5.6s and a further 2.2s at Ramsey. There really was no stopping him… and it’s only lap one. When you get to Ramsey, round the hairpin, it’s time to start that ascent up the Mountain. Each sector Harrison powered through, the record was broken. Grandstand to Glen Helen, Glen Helen to Ballaugh, Ballaugh to Ramsey… bang. Broken. We knew it was quick, you could see it was quick, the times to us it was quick.

…and there it was. 134.432mph. Everyone at Laurel Bank was cheering, clapping and there’s me… ‘oh. my. wtf. how. insane. incredible.’ I didn’t really know what to say. I was almost speechless… almost. Back in practice week I had said if conditions stayed as perfect as they had been that lap record would be broken and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first 135mph lap. These racers appear to be pushing hard than ever this year. Their lines are tighter, throttle open in places they’d usually roll off. Those bikes were fine-tuned and it’s partly thanks to the amazing weather we had during practice week. Without all those laps a finely tuned 1000cc Superbike would not be producing laps of 134mph. I still can’t process that now. It’s insane. It’s madness. Sub-17 laps of the TT course astounds me… it takes me that long to get from the Quarterbridge to Ballacraine sometimes.

The Silicone Engineering Kawasaki rider had shattered the outright lap record, shattered the sector records and held an 11.3s lead over Dunlop onto lap 2 with the Isle of Man’s own home grown coffee-mann Cummins up into third… we were all in for a treat!

By Glen Helen on lap 2, Harrison was up to 14.7s clear of Dunlop. You could hear the crowds cheering, programmes waving. Everyone was willing Harrison on for that win and we were only on lap 2 of 6! The standings remained the same as they entered the pits on lap 2 with Harrison lapping at 134.180mph, Dunlop at 133.513mph and Cummins setting a new PB of 132.589mph to remain third.

Visor change, juice and maybe a new rear.

Off we go again for more of the same. Lap 3 would consist of a slower time as this is the lap that takes into consideration the seconds in the pits. Have you ever watched those race teams change a rear, fill the tank, give the rider some juice and change a visor in well under 60 seconds? If not, do it. They are also the unsung heroes. Everything can be won or lost in the pits. It can also lead to some time penalties if racers don’t abide by the pit lane speed limit… although this time there didn’t appear to be any dramas in ‘gasoline alley’ *eye-roll*.

Harrison was through Glen Helen safely with the gap to Dunlop still over 16s and the gap between second and third 24.3s. It was clear that the front three were pulling away from the rest of the field. Cummins was 10s clear of Hillier, Hiller 13s clear of David Johnson and Gary Johnson another 30s back in sixth… we were at half race distance and we suddenly had what appeared to be a race on our hands.

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Dunlop had begun his charged. Harrison’s lead had been sliced by 11.5s and Dunlop had broken the sector record from Cronk-ny-Mona to the Grandstand. The pace was increasing, as was the heat, and on lap 4 Dunlop had gained another 2.5s… the difference now only 9 seconds. Then… drama.

Harrison was still leading on the road meaning he’d passed the other four who started before him, but all didn’t appear right. Harrison had lost five second from Glen Helen to Ballaugh and then it was announced that he had retired at Sulby Crossroads. When you race so hard, you hit your apexes, you break every sector record, the outright lap record, you are the man to beat… imagine your clutch slipping and poof – it is no more. Once calmed down and back at the pits, Harrison admitted he ‘spat his dummy’ and ‘had a tantrum’, but was ready to get back out there on Monday on his 600 and Superstock machines. After all, his name will still appear as the fastest man to ever lap this Mountain course.

Dunlop. Up into first 40.3s ahead of Cummins who was into second and Hillier took the third position.

There were quite large gaps between the top three who were heading for that podium and the positions did remain the same over the final two laps with no reported pit stop dramas at the end of lap 4.

Dunlop took his 16th Isle of Man TT victory as he crossed the line taking the chequered flag, Cummins took second and Hillier third. I think everyone loves seeing a Dunlop on the top of that podium. It’s the name of the TT really. No one will ever forget watching Joey race round here. Pulling up in his knackered van, lighting a cig and pulling his race bike out to have a little tinker with his spanners. He was the epitome of the TT. His legacy lives on through both his nephews Michael and William. They do the Dunlop name proud, they still are very much in control of their own bikes. They’re not just racers, they’re mechanics, they know what’s right, what’s wrong. They know when a set-up is perfect and they’re not afraid to tweak things themselves. I doubt you’d find that very often in a MotoGP paddock…

David Johnson took fourth equalling his best ever result an Rutter held onto fifth despite Johnston pulling the pin for a late charge. Martin Jessopp finished seventh – his best ever finish with Ivan Lintin, Phil Crowe and Josh Brookes completing the top ten. Newcomer Davey Todd took 16th in his first ever Superbike TT race as he lapped at 126.268mph to become the third fastest newcomer in TT history. He is surely one to watch for the future.

The chequered flag is out and that’s the end of the first 2018 Superbike TT. The next time these 1000cc machines are wheeled out onto Glencrutchery Road will be on Friday for the big one – the Senior TT.

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Six laps completed. 226.38 miles covered. Two pit stops. Tears and tantrums. Tears and elation. The adrenaline after all that must be higher than you could ever imagine. Muscles sore, throbbing. Hands blistered and raw. Sweaty and fly ridden. That’s approx. 1 hour 45 minutes of pure concentration, determination and grit. It’s seeing P2 at Gorse Lea and twisting that throttle a little more than you dare. It’s seeing P1 and keeping your head down, throttle open and calmness. It’s about your mind. Mind over matter… keeping that feeling of winning an Isle of Man TT at the forefront of your mind.

I personally could not be happier for Michael and the Tyco BMW team. After the lowest low that team had to face in practice week, everyone was thrilled to see them on that podium, the top stop. A win dedicated to Dan Kneen and what an incredible tribute it was.

Lets not forget Harrison, however. The new outright Isle of Man TT lap record holder with an astounding 134.432mph lap. Now that is incredible. I wonder what records could be broke on Friday, but before then… Monday. We go again.


IOMTT: Today we go racing…


…today we go racing. Race week is beginning and we’ve completed the final evening of practice week.

It was a bit of an interrupted practice session on Friday It rained overnight once again. The Mountain looked eerie as the mist lightly smothered it. The haze was noticeable, but by 4pm the skies were clear, sunshine had appeared and the only remnants of the rain were under the trees where damp patches clung to the road.

During the day the Mountain course is a public road. It’s open. There’s two-way traffic, well there is until you reach Ramsey hair-pin. It was decided a few years ago that for the TT fortnight the Mountain would become one-way in direction of the course. This was in hope that it would reduce the number of accident that were seen on the open roads during this period. We still get a fair few accidents mind and I personally don’t think there’s any less or more. I came across one this morning on my way to work just before Snugborough industrial estate – a 40mph limit. Bits of bike were strewn all over the road, traffic was chaos, but the rider was fortunately okay. Up on the mountain it is de-restricted which means there technically is no speed limit. Don’t drive/ride dangerously is the only rule in the eyes of the law. The UK’s ‘national speed limit’ sign is our ‘put your foot down’ or in this case ‘twist your throttle’ sign. You get so used to just driving or riding at your own speed on this little island. A queue of anything more than four vehicles is a traffic jam… Of course not everyone travels at 100mph everywhere and we do have speed limits through villages, along long straights like the Ballamodha, etc., but it’s nice to have that little bit of freedom.

During the TT fortnight some of our de-restricted signs disappear and they are replaced with 50mph speed limits to once again hopefully decrease the amount of accidents. Personally I don’t always think speed is always the reason for the accidents we have here on open roads during TT. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that around 40,000 people travel to the island for TT. That’s a hell of a lot more traffic than us island fellas are used to! Yeah, okay, some people ride like dicks. They get a little bit excited that they get to ride on the same roads these racers race on. They overtake on blind bends, they filter at 60mph, they use the wrong side of the road and try to be the next Michael Dunlop… but that’s where it all goes wrong. I try and avoid driving on the Mountain for this very reason during TT. These bikers don’t mean to crash… if they do, they’re either going home as foot passenger, in a cast or worse. It’s not what they want, but sometimes they don’t really help themselves. The other issues is mirrors. This isn’t just a problem on the Isle of Man, but instead it is a worldwide issue. Car drivers who have not ridden a motorcycle do. not. check. their. mirrors. enough. I constantly check my mirrors. Today I looked in my mirror – no bike. I quickly glanced at it maybe a second later and a Ducati Panigale was up the right-side of me. If they want to be idiots – fine, but try and protect yourselves both in a car and on a motorbike. It just takes that extra glance.

Anyway, someone crashed up on the mountain. The police closed the Mountain road to deal with the incident. A road sweeper was called to clear up the mess that was left, but when roads closed at 6pm a Travelling Marshal and Inspection Course Car had deemed it unsafe to race, so the road sweeper was once again called to deal with the mess. The 35 minute delay to the start of practice felt like a lifetime as it usually does. Stood at the top of Station Road in Kirk Michael, the platform was heaving. Luckily we snuck in and found a prime spot. Surrounded by bikers of all nationalities. Whilst ‘mission road sweeper’ was go, there were reports of a drone being flown above Bray Hill. It is illegal to do so during practice and races due to airmed and media in the skies. There have been so many warnings issued regarding this and still people disobey it. This for the safety of others, not just the racers, but officials too. Don’t be selfish, don’t be dangerous, you’re putting lives at risk.

Finally we were about to see some action. Over the paddock tannoy CoC Gary Thompson stated that riders needed to work with him tonight as there would be stationary yellows at the Verandah and waived yellows at Graham’s memorial up on the Mountain due to any residue that may be left from the road sweeper or the crash that occurred on open roads. The CoC was very clear that riders must slow down in anticipation for what might be lurking on the surface of the tarmac which would disturb the tyre and ultimately end in a situation that no one wanted.

Dean Harrison and James Hillier took to the roads first. Michael Dunlop was near to the front, but shuffled himself down the starting order to start Friday’s final practice session off. I was sat in Kirk Michael – my usual spot. All excited for them to appear. Holy smokes… they seemed quicker than ever through the little village. You can see them appear just by the Mitre pub. Their front wheel almost grazes the right-hand curb as they come round a slight bend, before they’re back on their race line to hit their apex for the next corner just before the shop. You can see why people say it’s the fastest village… it makes you pull all these funny face when they fly through. You almost forget their human. 

Harrison completed his first at 131.56mph remembering that yellow flags were up on the Mountain meaning all riders time would be slower through that section that normal. Always makes me laugh a little when I mention a TT rider and ‘normal’. They’re not normal for these two weeks of the year. They’re oozing talent, they’re brave, they’re committed.  They’re on two wheels racing to be faster than everyone else out there, they want the podium position, that top step, that lap record… the moment that helmet is shoved on their heads, t’s business as usual.  Then, on Monday, Conor Cummins will be back in his coffee shop in Ramsey (it’s called Conrod’s, go and try it, the coffee is amazing!) and unless you knew he was a racer (and if you didn’t grasp that when you’re in said coffee shop) you wouldn’t even know he’d just flown round this famous Mountain course at 130mph. 

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Conor Cummins at the Creg Photo: Babb Photography

Dunlop topped the sheets on his Tyco BMW at 132.33 before heading back in to talk suspension, body language suggesting the BMW was all over the show, and then jumped onto his Stocker. I’m guessing he’s shouted about all the things that he thought were shit, things that need tweaking and things that are just wrong. Next I’m sure his mechanics, the technicians will be working like little ants running around to get that perfect set-up ready for Saturday’s race… it’s 6 laps remember. 

Ryan Kneen, Dan’s younger brother, had announced on Facebook that he was to take to the roads this evening. He wrote:

Just letting everyone know I am doing a lap tonight. Setting off last so I should be the last bike through. Going to wear Dan’s spare helmet so give us a wave I’m #34.

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Ryan Kneen just after the Creg Photo: Babb Photography

The emotions. I could not imagine what that must be like getting back on a bike, back on the same course, the same road. To keep your head together, the tears back, but it’s what they know best though… bikes, racing… how else could someone give Dan the tribute that he so well deserves? Taking his helmet for one last trip round the Mountain course, the last time we would see that helmet, that design race around the roads again. I have the utmost respect for Ryan for doing this only two-days after. I know people who don’t really watch the races appeared at the bottom of Bray Hill or similar to watch. It was beautiful, it was emotional, it was fast. It was perfect. Ryan left the grandstand to a standing ovation and applause – the same as what greeted him around the 37.73 mile course.

Then red lights appear on the bridge. A red flag is prepared to be waved at the Grandstand. That sinking feeling consumes you. Then we wait.

Up on the Mountain once again there was an incident at Hailwood’s Rise. All riders involved were reported to be okay, but a significant amount of oil had been spewed over the road. A slick that big marshals couldn’t control it under waived yellows, so they radioed for a red flag and a road sweeper.

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Riders travelling back to the Granstand after Red Flag Photo: Babb Photography

15 minutes later it was cleared and riders who were out on course were led home back to the Grandstand by a TM showing that the red flag procedure really was implemented with immediate effect. Once again CoC told riders yellow flags would be displayed at numerous places over the Mountain for their own safety. They must abide by them and anyone who didn’t would be reported to Race Control. Now that’s serious business.

The solo’s didn’t get much time out on the roads. Some maybe got three laps if they were lucky. Johnston, Johnson, Cummins, Harrison to name but a few hadn’t even made it back to the grandstand under the control of the TM when the session was restarted. They had to have a manic bike change or team chat before they set off again on their next lap. It seemed to suit Dunlop, however. He’s not completed two consecutive laps all week.

The session got back underway at 7:45pm. Hillier and Dunlop were away first once again with Michael posting a lap of 132.66mph whilst Hillier completed his first 130mph just 0.64mph over. Hickman also chipped away on his Superstock machine with a lap of 130.83mph with David Johnson just above the 130mph barrier too by 0.1mph. Don’t forget, in this type of racing 0.1mph can mean a race win. 

The solo session finished at 8:05pm before the the Formula Two Sidecars began their laps at 8:10pm. 

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Manx duo Craig Melvin and Stuart Christian Photo: Babb Photography

John Holden/Lee Cain were first away followed by Ben and Tom Birchall, however the Birchall’s stopped at Ballacraine… exactly where they intended to. I’m guessing a new engine may have been in so they didn’t wanna thrash it too soon. Probably a new chain that they needed to loosen off slightly and some new tyres to scrub in… but not too much. This is the first time in a while that I’ve known racers to be so tactful in what they’re doing. It’s not like you can just race round a 2 mile track to scrub your tyres in. Oh no. This is 37.73 miles or pull up until the end of the session. There aren’t many places you can pull of the course and make it back home to the Grandstand. 

Holden/Cain were fastest on the opening lap at 115.73mph. Founds/Lowther lapped at 113.56mph, Founds/Walmsley 11.354mph on their second lap and Reeves/Wilkes also over the 113mph lap by 0.198mph. Molyneux/Sayle, meanwhile, sounded like they were having issued through Kirk Michael… they looked like it too. They were, however, going about their business. Focused, Dan flat on his stomach with his legs hanging off, maybe just running something in or testing something… they were 15mph off the pace, probably around 4 minutes behind. The first sidecar race is Saturday, so be prepared – it’s always a cracker!! 

Saturday marks the start of the 2018 Isle of Man TT week. The week we’ve all been waiting for. The week that racers have been working towards. Ten or eleven laps later they’ve got a Superbike race to contest. We’ve had some amazing weather so far. Road temperature is hot, the rubber is down & I can already see lap records being broken officially. We have seen an exceptional pace set by Harrison with the unofficial 133.462mph. We know Dunlop is a bull in china shop round here, we know he’s quick, we know he’s hungry. We’re not exactly sure what Dunlop can do on that Tyco BMW however, as he’s not put in two consecutive laps full throttle as yellow flags donned the Mountain. I have no doubt that the hammer will be down with the Tyco team and Dan in mind. Cummins is flying round here like the Manx Missile he is and Hickman is constantly increasing his lap speed and decreasing his lap time. Soon they will all line-up on Glencrutchery Road under that arch. Cummins will start them all off with that tap on the shoulder as he sports the number 1 plate this year followed by Hillier, Rutter, Hutchinson, Harrison, Dunlop, Gary Johnson – all 10 seconds apart. I think we might just have a race on our hands.

Will we see lap times and records broken? Will it be Dunlop on that top step? Will Cummins take his first TT win? Will Harrison? It’s a six lap Superbike race. Two pit stops. anything could happen.

…but now – we go racing.

IOMTT: Steve Mercer Update


We are now all aware of what happened on Wednesday evening, an evening many of us wish we could forget. I won’t go back into details, but you can read about it here..

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Whilst the incident in Churchtown was dealt with another incident occurred. I do not know what happened other than some kind of miscommunication took place which had severe consequences.

During a full course red flag an incident occurred between a rider and a course inspection car. Said car was travelling along the TT course on closed roads with, whom I presume, were police officers in luminous yellow being sent to attend the incident at Churchtown which we later found out was fatal. The police are not usually involved during the TT races unless there is a serious incident. The bike will be taken away for examination and a full inquest opened. The course car flew through Barregarrow and that was the last we saw. I don’t know what happened at Ballacrye; I wasn’t there. What I do know is something went terribly wrong.

Some riders were making their way back to the grandstand the wrong way round the circuit. This isn’t uncommon when an incident has happened, but usually if it does you know something quite serious has happened. There were photos taken at Sulby Bridge of riders waving to spectators. They didn’t look to be going fast which later was confirmed by a spectators video. They don’t often to get to ride round this course on closed roads at slow speeds. At that point racers would not know why a red flag had to be waved, of course unless they were near, and it’s not often they get to ride on the close road TT course at speed slow enough to take in the atmosphere. Programmes waving, people cheering, children jumping up and down with Cheshire cat grin’s. I remember McGuinness saying after one of his races something along the lines of ‘Programmes being waved. I could hear the crowd over the Superbike and through my helmet.’  It must be pretty special to be able to soak all that up, to enjoy the moment instead of thinking about the next 7 corners or whether you’re in Kirk Michael or Sulby.  I don’t what happened in that sector, I don’t know what race control said, I just don’t know. All I know is a rider sustained serious injuries.

A statement issued on behalf of ACU Events Ltd was as follows:

TT Race organisers ACU Events Ltd can confirm that a rider was involved in a collision with a course car at Ballacrye during this evening’s qualifying session at the Isle of Man TT Races.

The rider has been taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital. This followed an earlier incident during the Superbike session at Churchtown which the course car was attending.


Yesterday Jackson Racing confirmed that their rider Steve Mercer was involved in the incident at Ballacrye and that he had been sent off-island for further treatment. Steve’s wife wrote the below on Facebook:

I’m sorry to say Steve has sustained serious injuries this evening following an accident on the way back to the Grandstand. He has been flown to Liverpool this evening where he will be assessed further ascertain the full extent of his injuries.

I’ve seen some horrendous comments on social media and even worse I’ve seen some horrendous articles written by high-profile media outlet which are so far from the truth I think it’s all fictional. These high-profile media outlets don’t know anything about motorsport. The person behind the computer typing away is probably some robot picking out the doom and gloom. They’re probably never had their leg over a bike, never watched a British Superbike round or maybe never even heard of the Isle of Man TT until a fatality occurred. Now they’re jumping on the band wagon of the second incident because they can’t blame the rider for being ‘stupid’ or ‘insane’. These racers have families. Show a bit of respect.

Shortly after it was confirmed by an ACU Events Ltd statement that Steve had been flown to Liverpool for further treatment and that a full investigation was being conducted.

Red flag being displayed at TT.

Yesterday the red-flag procedure was updated with immediate effect following Wednesday’s incident. In short, the procedure is as follows:

Red Flag instruction will apply to the entire TT Mountain Course irrespective of where that incident has occurred. There will be no movement on the TT Mountain Course by any rider until the incident has been cleared, regardless of how long that incident may take to clear.

The riders will only be permitted to move in Course direction under the control of Travelling Marshals at the front and rear.

Don’t go blaming marshals. Don’t go blaming the rider. Don’t go blaming control or the CoC. Don’t go shouting your mouth off about ‘how on Earth could this have happened’?

Gary Thompson, Clerk of the Course, is one of the best. He’s experienced, his knowledge is impeccable and he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders. Since he has been CoC things have run smoother than ever. Marshals are no longer subjected to long delays, they’re kept up-to-date and are now well informed. Quick decisions are made about delays as well as whether racing is to be abandoned due to bad weather or similar and updates sometimes even included ‘we’re just rounding up some sheep on the Mountain. 20 minute delay.’ Definitive and concise decisions are made and by no means are they easy decisions. Obviously the job of CoC is not just to keep everyone updated. It’s to ensure riders, officials and spectators are safe, it’s ensuring everything complies with ACU regulations. It’s giving newcomers a firm talking to for being dangerous (as we saw in last year’s Manx Grand Prix), it’s dealing with incidents whether they be minor or worse. It’s updating procedures and it’s probably two weeks of insomnia. There are of course more to the CoC role than the above, but it keeps you an insight into that world up in the control tower. I for one would not want to be in Gary’s shoes. He does an amazing job and deserves more credit than he gets as do some other people at the Isle of Man TT…

We couldn’t race on this 37.73 mile course without marshals, the orange army. Many marshals are IMC (Incident Management Course) trained. This includes the basics of what flags mean, use of the Tetra radio and first aid training with the inclusion of safe helmet removal and CPR. Marshals are volunteers and its takes over 520 to become the eyes and ears for Gary – CoC. Without marshals the races cannot take place under any circumstance. We have had years where we’ve struggled for marshals and due to this there have been times where it’s caused a delay to racing.

Marshals don’t get the credit they deserve. Yeah, okay, you get some who sign on just to watch in the best spots because it’s true… there ain’t no better view at the Bottom of Barregarrow than where us marshals stand. But there is a job to be done. An important one. The reason your are on the island, the reason you are watching is because you’re watching the greatest road race in the world. Without people doing this ‘job’, you ain’t watching it! You get some who take the p… and those are the ones which tar every other marshal with the same brush. Don’t write on social media how shit marshals are at such a point because I can guarantee you there will be at least two marshals at that post which are ready, reading every race number even to the point of seeing the plate colour in practice. It’s the small details. They’ll be watching and they’ll be ready regardless of who else is around them. Everyone is given a job from rider to bike, debris to airmed guide… and every marshal just hopes they don’t have to do their job.

My heart goes out to any marshal who has had to endure an incident. To pick up the bike bits after I know it’s what we all sign-on for, we are prepped as best we can be, we are equipped with the best equipment and guidance from race control, but in that moment, that fraction of a second none of that would matter. Until your brain goes into overdrive and you’re subconsciously violently waving a yellow flag in a figure-of-eight just hoping other riders see you in time. For those who had to deal with the incidents on Wednesday night I commend you. You are brave and please just know that you all did whatever you could because that’s what we do. Don’t question yourself for a second.

Steve’s wife has given a further update on his condition:

Just to give you an update, Steve had surgery early Thursday morning for pelvic and leg injuries which went as well as the doctors could have hoped at this stage. Other injuries include a broken ankle, heel, T12 vertebrae, a fracture to his larynx and damage to his neck which means he’s not currently able to breathe for himself without support.

They’re keeping him heavily sedated most of the time to make him more comfortable whilst he recovers from his injuries. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped us to get over to him so quickly and for the hundreds of messages of support we have received. I have been reading some of your messages out to him to let him know everyone is rooting for him to get better.

Come on, Steve! This may just be the biggest journey you’ve ever been on, but we’re all behind you!


IOMTT: We go again


It was the morning after the night before. I don’t think many of us slept well. I tossed and turned for most of the night and woke up asking if it was all just a bad dream – no, it wasn’t.

I drove to work and it was almost as if the TT had disappeared for a few moments. The sky cried with us overnight leaving damp roads, the roads were quieter than a mouse and that was until I got to Union Mills. The boat must have just docked and streams of motorbikes were finding their way to set-up camp whether that’s in a field somewhere or in a house. They’d made their journey across Europe maybe, the UK and over the Irish Sea to be here on the little rock. To see the Isle of Man TT. For those people, their journey, their adventure is just beginning.

The weather wasn’t looking too great by all accounts. During the day the IOM Police closed the Mountain Road due to extensive fog, but by 2pm it was business as usual and people were able to continue their own lap of the mountain course.

The roads dried beautifully, except for the usual places under the trees at Glen Helen, Governor’s, and every little nook and cranny appeared to be filled. It was overwhelming. After what we all experienced last night, the heartbreak, the tears – emotions were running high . People outside this sport probably thought what an Earth were we doing back in a hedge after losing one of our own, but it’s just what we do, it’s what we know and it’s what Dan would want.

Thursday 31st May, 6:20pm – the tap on the shoulder, we go again.


Peter Hickman just after the Gooseneck Photo: Babb Photography

It was still. Everyone was waiting in anticipation. I think we all just needed to see & hear race bike on the Mountain course again and oddly it would feel like everything was okay again… if only for a split second.

Peter Hickman posted the evening’s fastest time in the Superbike class with a lap of 132.81mph – a new personal best! After setting this he said ‘we’re here to do a job and we want to do it in Dan’s memory.’ For some it ignites an extra fire, it makes them more determined.

I remember back in 2003 when we were all so very heartbroken after David Jefferies sadly left us, Adrian Archibald took to the roads on 7th June 2003 with his 0 plate with the biggest fire in his belly that I think I’d ever seen. He won. He won the Senior TT on-board his TAS Suzuki for DJ. All for him. Michael Dunlop is another prime example 5 years later. His father, Robert, as we all know lost his life in 2008 at the North West 200. Both William and Michael were determined to get back out there. It’s all they know. They chose to turn their upset and aggression into something special – determination. Some think it’s insane, some even said they’d kill themselves out there, but we all knew there was going to be no stopping them… that was until William had a mechanical failure and was forced to drop out. That left Michael. I remember there being a bit of a kick off on the grid two days later. Race organisers didn’t want him to race. They were concerned. That same day Michael won his first North West 200.

Back to the Thursday’s practice session – first down the hill at 6:20 was Michael Rutter on the Bathams BMW with Hickman. Lee Johnston and Derek Sheils followed with Martin Jessopp and Gary Johnson 10 seconds behind. I could hear the Superbikes roar through Kirk Michael village. I was only at the bottom of Rhencullen, but it felt like a lifetime before we caught a glimpse. There they were. Over Rhencullen jump, drifting towards the right-side of the road inches away from the stone wall to put them on the right line ready to hit their apex as they head past Bishopscourt and through to Alpine.

Hickman completed his first lap at 131.113mph whilst Rutter managed a 127.475mph lap. Both Dean Harrison and Michael Dunlop started a little further back and were both lapping at over 130mph whilst Norton’s Josh Brookes missed out on a 130mph by 0.826mph. If you’re on the Isle of Man, make sure you take a trip up to the paddock to have a look at that Norton – I’ve never seen anything more shiny, plus it sounds insane!

Ben and Tom Birchall posted the fastest lap of the week so far in the Formula Two Sidecar class with last year’s double winners lapping at an impressive 116.554mph.

Hickman went on to complete a flying lap and took full advantage of the clear road in front of him. No traffic usually equates to a good lap, but it could equally mean you lose track of time. Not on Hickman’s watch mind. He set an unofficial personal best lap of 132.81mph just shy of Harrison’s 133mph lap. Hickman made his debut in 2014 with laps of 129mph… He’s still the fastest ever newcomer this Mountain Course has seen to date.


Conor Cummins on his Padgetts Superbike Photo: Babb Photography

Manxman Conor Cummins took to the roads on his Padgetts Honda Superbike to put in a 131.18mph. It always amazes me how some so tall tucks into a Superbike machine let alone a little 600 Supersport so neatly! Cummins also put in a late lap of 130.59mph. I could see on the live timing that he was just a couple of seconds off his 131.18mph he had set earlier on in the session.

Something that needs to be mentioned is the speed and talent of these newcomers we have this year. Dave Todd posted a lap time of 123.995mph and I’m telling you… he looks fast, super fast. Fellow newcomer David Jackson also went above the 120mph for the first time this week. Unfortunately Adam Lyon retired at Cronk y Voddy and I don’t believe he was able to return back to the paddock until the end of the session. 

Speeds were slowing around the Mountain course as there were stationary yellows at a few marshal posts. Chris Petty was involved in an incident at St Ninians which left debris on the road. Petty made his way back to the Grandstand, but was taken by ambulance to Nobles Hospital where he was reported to have an ankle fracture. Wishing him all the best and a speedy recovery!

Not many of the top 20 seeded riders to their Supersport for ‘some wheelies’ as Harrison would say. Ivan Lintin posted the quickest lap of the night at 123.22mph placing him ahead of Lee Johnston, but only by 0.2mph. 

It was 7:48pm when the Formula Two Sidecars took to the roads. The Birchall’s led them off down Bray Hill and I’m waiting patiently on the west side of the course for them to arrive… it honestly feels like a life-time especially when you’ve got a numb arse from sitting on a stone wall. (That isn’t me complaining by the way, it’s my happy place!) The sound of the sidecars didn’t resonate as much through the village, so they almost crept up on me, but there they were – 3 wheels off the ground and over Rhencullen jump. The sound reverberating against the stone walls, taking the same line, the same apex as the Superbikes, but just a little bit wider. 


Through Alpine, over Ballaugh Bridge, past the Wildlife Park (yes, we have one…!), along Sulby straight, over the bumps between Ginger Hall and Milntown, through Parliament square in Ramsey, round the Hairpin, the Gooseneck and we’re on the way up the Mountain! 

The Birchalls were the quickest on the opening lap with a speed of 115.48mph whilst Reeves/Wilkes posted (and finished) their first lap of 2018 with 114.06mph. Founds and Molyneux both lapped over 111mph and Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney posted a PB of  110.69mph.

Second lap for the Birchalls saw them up their pace to 116.554mph the fastest lap of the week so far! French duo Estelle Leblond/Melanie Farnier recorded a lap of 107.886mph. Newcomers Michael Jackson/Harry Payne improved to 104.83mph before retiring right where I was sat! The adrenaline runs so high through these racers. They jumped off the sidecar which had a mechanical issue and they were shaking… They probably didn’t notice after clinging onto the metal bars and handles, but you could see it. They were in that moment. The passenger pulled out a scrap bit of paper with three numbers on and asked to borrow a phone. First thing he asked was ‘what was our lap speed?’ Second thing I heard ‘Yeah yeah I’m fine 104 no way!’ …if that doesn’t tell you all you need to know that I don’t know what does. These racers live for this Mountain course. It’s the rush, it becomes a bug… and once you’ve been bitten there ain’t no way you can stop. 

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Rutter & his Mugen machine Photo: Babb Photography

The electric TT Zero machines had their first outings…there’s nothing better than the sound of a hairdryer right?

The Mugen with Rutter on-board  stole the show with an impressive first lap of 116.049mph. Johnston, also Mugen mounted, finished his lap at just over 100mph.  It also appears Mugen aren’t the only race-pace setters as Daley Mathison on the University of Nottingham UON 02 was on a charge. MCN’s Adam Child lapped at 74.869mph on the Moto Corsa Ego. I believe they’re due another lap of practice tonight… one lap that is and the battery will last no more than that! 

Next practice session is scheduled for this evening with roads closing at 6pm, tap on the shoulder at 6:20pm. 

It’s currently raining here on the Isle of Man, but the weather forecast is looking likely to brighten up… I guess we shall have to wait and see. 

IOMTT: Dan Kneen


I had been trying to find the words, but nothing wanted to come out. I didn’t have any. See, that’s the thing about road racing – it really does leave you speechless.

Wednesday evening practice was all to schedule with the Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson announcing that there was a 30% chance of rain for the middle of the session, but apart from that no comments to be made except for ‘have a good one!’

Eagerly stood at the bottom of Barregarrow I could see on live timing they were at Glen Helen. I shoved my phone back in my pocket ready for that Superbike roar… there it was.

They were quick. So unbelievably quick. Road dust flew into the air as the racers came through one by one, sometimes two or three consecutively. It’s been so dry here on the Isle of Man that dust seems to be lurking everywhere. It was noticeable during the sidecars in the previous practice session, but only noticeable this evening for the solos.

Next we heard Control bellow over the Tetra radio ‘all sectors, all sectors – we have a full course red flag.’ We knew it wasn’t in our sector, but that’s all we knew until CoC announced there had been an incident at Churchtown and a tree was on fire. Not only was a tree on fire, but so was social media. I am a firm believer of no news is good news & no news is actual news until it is officially confirmed by the event organisers.

It was clear the incident was serious. You don’t have a full course red flag unless it is… and queue rumour mill & me getting increasingly angry on social media at idiots speculating. It’s not big and it’s not clever to announce anything that has not been put out in an official statement. They have a procedure, a protocol to follow. They ensure family are told with liaison officers present. They make sure the support is in place. It is all for a reason. Would you like to be told via social media your husband, boyfriend, daughter, wife had been injured or worse?

After several text messages back and forth with different people both on island and off, in the paddock and out of it, we all knew. Maybe not who, but we knew. We weren’t speculating on social media. It was messages between each other. Ones which you know go no further. Majority of the time it’s ensuring our best mates, family friends or even family know they’re racer is okay. You see, when you’ve been part of the road racing family through a tragedy, whether it’s a racer you know or not, there are offers of support, there is trust & unity. Everyone rallies round. It’s really hard to describe. I guess you just know the difference between a red flag and a red flag.

We’ve had three solid evenings of practice without any real drama. The whole island seemed to be on a high – the weather, the racing and not forgetting the astonishing 133mph lap Dean Harrison set!

…but now we’re not talking about the highs. The mainstream media such as the BBC, The Independent, etc. were never talking about that. Oh, no. They’ve been waiting for this like they do every year. A red flag. A fatality. ‘Ban the Isle of Man TT’ brigade will be out tonight… and it really isn’t the time or place.

ACU Events released this statement after tonight’s qualifying session:

‘ACU Events Ltd regrets to confirm that Dan Kneen, 30, from Onchan in the Isle of Man died this evening following injuries sustained during the Superbike qualifying session on the Isle of Man.
Dan had an accident at Churchtown on the first lap of the session and died at the scene of the incident.’

Dan Kneen was born and bred on this beautiful island in the middle of the Irish Sea. A proud Manxman. He made his Mountain course debut 10 years ago and is the only newcomer to win three MGP races in a week – the Junior, the Newcomers C and the Ultra Lightweight.

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Kneen through Kirk Michael Photo: Babb Photography

Like any racer he’s had his tumbles. 2016 I remember he came down to the Bottom of Barregarrow as he wasn’t racing due to injury. Watching a racer watch the racing was fascinating. I saw him step back a little as the first bike flew down & I’m pretty sure he said something along the lines of ‘it’s not this frightening on a bike!’

Perspective. Perspective is everything. Racers aren’t forced to race these roads. They know that this sport in particular is dangerous. So do their families. It’s no secret. There’s furniture. Trees, stone walls, curbs. The more forgiving hedge and the less forgiving lamppost. These racers jump on a motorcycle and lean over a flammable tank full of fuel because it’s what they enjoy, it’s their dream, it’s their life! Most road racers live for the TT – the ultimate road race of 37.73 miles. Dan was one of those racers.

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Photo: Babb Photography

He got his race boots on the podium for the first time at last year’s TT in the Superstock race. This was when he also set his fastest official lap of 130.347mph and only last night he set a new PB of 132.258mph. Teaming up with Tyco BMW saw Dan flourish. He was setting quick lap times, he seemed comfortable on the bike and everyone was talking about how ‘he’s on for a podium with laps like that’. Yet, in a split second, quicker than a blink of an eye it’s over. Not entirely. The memories, the legacy – they all live on even through the heartache.

When you’re giving those articles by the BBC, the Independent, Guardian or other the time of day, please just remember the above. These racers have a different mindset to most. They live off this thrill, the adrenaline is above and beyond. It keeps them alive, it’s what they live for. The highs of this sport are so incredibly high. Elation of endurance, accuracy & talent. That feeling when they take the chequered flag after completing six laps of the TT course on a Superbike… 226.38 miles and 1 hour 45 minutes later.

I don’t even think I could imagine how those racers must feel. I also don’t think I could imagine how those racers must feel when we hit those lows like we have this evening, yet I don’t think doubt is one of them. Most will want to do this for Dan. It’s all they know. They’re living their dream just like Dan did and that’s the greatest achievement. Don’t let this become a tragedy. Remember his achievements and most of all remember he achieved that dream of his.

The entire road racing community is heartbroken and numb tonight as is the entirety of the Isle of Man. My thoughts are with Dan’s family, friends and the Tyco team . Race in peace up there under Manannan’s Cloak. He’ll keep you safe from now on. Stay on the pipe, boy!

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Photo: Babb Photography

IOMTT: 37.73 miles in under 17-minutes at 133.462mph


…the rubber is down, the road is hot and they’re getting more practice than ever – I can see us heading for a record breaking TT this year!

Stood around chatting at the Bottom of Barregarrow waiting for the ‘bike on voddy straight’ to blare from the Tetra radio, I made a comment about ‘I bet they’ll be a 132mph straight off the line tonight.’ Close, but no bueno! Try 133.019mph instead…

A slight breeze cooled down the blaring sunshine and maybe that might be a vital part to the next bit as Dean Harrison unofficially broke the Superbike lap record with an insane lap of 133.462mph. Unfortunately this can’t be taken as an official lap record as it wasn’t during a race, however it does at least earn him bragging rights. This lap also saw Harrison become the second rider to complete a lap of the Mountain course in under 17 minutes. Was the wind pushing him up and over the Mountain? Maybe… in an interview a couple of laps later he said he wasn’t even trying!

On-board his Silicone Engineering Kawasaki Harrison completed his first lap at 133.140mph from a standing start. Just under the official lap record, but an unofficial standing start lap record instead. The rubber was down, the benchmark placed and Harrison was truly the man to beat.

Dean Harrison on his Silicone Engineering Kawasaki Photo: Babb Photography

Harrison wasn’t the first rider to set off down Bray Hill in Tuesday’s practice. At 6:23pm Michael Dunlop alongside James Hillier both got that tap on the shoulder – an OK to gently let the clutch out, twist the throttle – hopefully without stalling – going up the box to sixth & flat out till Quarterbridge.

Dunlop’s Tyco team-mate Dan Kneen was up next with Peter Hickman followed by Ian Hutchinson and Gary Johnson. An annoying start for Johnson, however, as he retired at St Ninian’s… at least it was easy enough to get back to the paddock.

It wasn’t long until it became clear Harrison was on a seriously hot pace. I can’t remember exactly how long it took him to get to Glen Helen, but I do remember looking at the live timing and shouting IT’S ONLY TAKEN HIM (x) MINUTES TO GET TO GLEN HELEN *insert expletives*. I was just too in the moment – shocked & worried about what was about to fly towards me down Barregarrow. Fortunately no one flew towards me in the literal sense, but it was clear they were trying – Harrison & Dunlop that is. You could even see that they were that 1mph quicker. It seems crazy, and maybe it’s all in your head because you’ve seen the sector times, but even so that feeling is just a rush of adrenaline for a marshal and spectator… let alone a racer! …and that was the lap Harrison finished at 133.140mph. Dunlop was close with a 132.319mph lap… only 0.821mph difference.

Kneen lapped at 130.668mph, Conor Cummins 129.756mph and Rutter 129.583mph to mention a few. Everyone was on insanely quick laps, but Harrison raised the benchmark to a flying lap of 133.462mph – 0.099mph faster than the official lap record and not forgetting the second rider to complete a sub-17-minute lap.

Manxman Kneen also put in a personal best lap of132.258mph – 2mph quicker than his best lap set last year in the Superstock race. Hickman was also remaining hot on the pace at 132.169mph. One thing I’ve noticed about Hickman is he has quickly developed his own style around the Mountain Course. He hasn’t tried to copy any other racer. He’s felt his own way round, made it his own. That’s the beginning of a real first-class road racer.

Lap speeds started to decline due to the traffic on the course. Conditions have been pretty perfect so far, and I’m fairly confident that most of the seeded riders will have qualified their machines in all classes (except TT Zero) after 3 full nights of practice. Every competitor however is guaranteed to want as much course time as possible for bike set-up & course knowledge.

Hickman and Harrison were still in the 130mph zone on their Superstock bikes with Hickman just having the edge at 130.619mph although this came to an end on his third lap when he retired at Crosby. Kneen placed third on the timesheets ahead of Lee Johnston, Cumming and Hillier. Lintin had a small low-speed off at Governor’s Bridge on his Superbike, but he was soon back out on his Lightweight machine to post a lap of 119.191mph placing him ahead of Stefano Bonetti on the Paton, Adam McLean and the other Paton of Ian Lougher.

7:20pm saw the Supersport and Lightweight machines take to the stage. Dunlop was quickest on his MD Racing Honda Supersport machine at 125.206mph placing him ahead of Hiller, Ivan Lintin and Josh Brookes. 

After joking around with the commentators when they asked him about his 133mph laps, Harrison said he was off to do some wheelies on his 600, but that didn’t last long. He made it to Ballacraine and made his way back on open roads… on his Supersport machine. Where else can you do that, hey?!

The newcomers were improving lap by lap with Davey Todd finishing a lap at 121.97 on his Suzuki Superbike whilst Adam Lyon completed a lap on his 600cc Yamaha at 121.537mph – impressive on a Supersport machine! David Jackson made up for some lost track time too with a lap of 118.93mph after breaking down at Ballig on Saturday. Every year I watch these newcomers join this crazy world for the first time yet every year they are quicker and quicker. It’s pretty phenomenal. It’s down to the determination, the time taken in the preparation not just regarding the bike, but learning the course corner by corner, inch by inch. The bikes are quicker than ever too regardless of whether you are backed by a big team and sponsors. These newcomers we see whether it’s at the TT or Manx Grand Prix are the up and coming road racers – the road racers of the future.

The Slidey’s got another practice session in on Tuesday evening. I still think these racers are insane. To cling on to a side car with your arse hanging off either right or left to weigh it down through the corners, or in the case of Dan Sayle lie flat on your stomach just after Barregarrow rather than tucking yourself into a ball. All of these passengers have their own style, their own way – a way which works for them. I for one wouldn’t like to be hanging off a sidecar at 200mph on the Mountain with fields and a few stone walls. Made of hard stuff these sidecar racers – stay and watch them, they’re fantastic.

John Holden/Lee Cain set an opening lap of 115.732mph whilst the Birchall’s, sporting the number 1 plate, finished the session second at 114.875mph. If you’ve not heard of the Birchall’s before they’re two brothers – Ben & Tom. They’re pretty famous in the sidecar racing world and are currently the reigning F1 Sidecar World Champions, so they have a few wins under their leathers. Let’s not forget, they’ve also won three TT’s and for the first time in history last year they won both Sidecar TT’s in the same year.

Following the Birchall’s on the timesheets were Alan Founds/Jake Lowther at 112.602mph slotting into third with Dave Molyneux/Dan Sayle fourth at 111.122 mph. Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley and Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney also broke the 110mph barrier on their opening lap whilst newcomers Michael Jackson/Harry Payne broke the 100mph lap with 101.714mph.

Second lap around the Mountain course for the Birchall’s saw them remain second with a 115.145mph lap with the Founds brothers in third and fourth and Holden/Cain still maintaining the fastest lap. Tony Baker/Fiona Baker-Holden were trying as they just missed out on breaking the 110mph lap by 0.001mph! I think I’d be impressed yet a bit pissed off with that. 109.999mph… but it’s all fuel to the fire.

So far today (Wednesday) conditions are once again beautiful. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, but only until 6:20pm… because the action will start again with a session for Superbikes, Superstocks, Supersports and Newcomers setting off from the grandstand until 7:40pm. Sidecars are out at 7:45pm till 8:40pm and then the TT Zero bikes will set off on their first qualifying lap at 8:40pm to finish the evening’s proceedings.

IOMTT: Sunshine, Superbikes & 130mph laps

Bank Holiday Monday was yet another beautiful day on the Isle of Man with conditions that could only be described as perfect. Superbikes and sunshine go hand-in-hand. There were spectators four deep at the Bottom of Barregarrow, more orange army than I’ve ever seen and we were all ready for the first Superbike practice session to begin.

Nothing quite prepares you for the thunder that awaits when you hear ‘bike on voddy straight’… and we had to wait a while longer. 

Unfortunately there was a slight delay to the start of practice due to some drunken imbecile being a nuisance, not adhering to marshals warning and henceforth deciding to wobble along closed roads. Although marshals have their own powers in their own right, these powers were somewhat useless in this situation and the police were quickly called to arrest and remove said imbecile. The most irritating part is that that man will call himself a ‘race fan’ yet the racers were sat around in their one-piece leather race suits and boots sweating their arses off, teams rushing around to put tyre warmers back on & most vitally they were missing that important course time.

Once the above had been taken care of it was time for that tap on the shoulder at exactly 6:40pm… and they were off towards St Ninian’s crossroads, down Bray Hill and heading for Quarterbridge.

As I was saying there really is nothing that can prepare you for that thunder, that blur, that sound – especially if it’s Josh Brookes on that Norton! You hear ‘bike on voddy straight’ and you’re waiting… just waiting to hear that roar, then you see the front wheel and then a colourful blur and in that split second their already very almost in Kirk Michael. It really does make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. 

The first session was a mixture of Superbike and Superstock machines. It’s insane to see Superstock machines racing at the same pace as Superbikes and it showcases how with very slight modifications (expensive one’s mind…) can turn an out-of-the-crate-ready-to-sell motorbike into a weapon as quick as a highly modified Superbike. Supersport machine were also allowed out in this session although after a full two-hours on Saturday where most riders qualified their machine, the majority parked the 600cc for the 1000cc machines. 

Tyoo BMW’s Dan Kneen and Batham’s Michael Rutter were first away with Gary Johnson on the RAF Kawasaki hot on their tails alongside Honda’s Ian Hutchinson. Kneen, Johnson and Conor Cummins were Superstock-mounted whilst the rest of the seeded riders appeared to start off on their Superbikes.

There were no questions as to whether we would see a 130mph lap straight out of the box due to the perfect conditions… then Dean Harrison topped the sheets with an opening lap of 130.232mph on his Silicone Engineering Kawasaki. Peter Hickman finished his first lap at 128.011mph followed by Manxman Kneen at 125.526mph. Michael Dunlop crossed the line with a lap of 129.358mph placing him second behind Harrison whilst Ramsey Rocket Cummins finished quickest in the Superstocks with a lap of 128.180mph only 1.178mph slower than Dunlop’s Superbike lap.

A few riders, Cummins and Dunlop most notably, were unfortunately caught behind a little bit of traffic and  without that traffic they would’ve easily have both been into 130mph laps with the pace they appeared to have. Undeniably however, there was no touching Harrison. Coming down through the trees from Barregarrow Top Harrison was line perfect every time just skimming the white line next door to the fence and gliding over the bridge before grabbing the throttle to power through the 13th milestone towards Douglas Road corner in Kirk Michael.    

Harrison took a flying lap to raise the bar even further to a 131.376mph lap. Astonishing lap speeds and time for the first superbike/stock practice session.

Hickman posted a 129mph lap on his Smiths Racing Superstock BMW with Cummins finishing his lap a mere 0.584mph ahead. After that Cummins jumped onto his superbike, but it wasn’t to be as he retired on his first lap at Ballacraine.
Perfect conditions again greeted the competitors for the second qualifying session at the Isle of Man TT Races, fuelled by Monster Energy, and Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) topping the Superbike leader board at an impressive 131.376mph, the quickest ever lap recorded on the opening night of Superbike qualifying. Dunlop rode phenomenally to put in a 131.087mph on his Superbike and let’s not forget that the Superbike lap record by Dunlop is 133.393mph… sandbagging could be a potential. Hickman took his Superstock machine for another lap to finish quickest with a 130.219mph lap.

Hutchinson was up to a 124.588mph lap on his Honda Superstock machine. Impressive considering it’s almost a year ago since his tyre burst up on mountain near the 27th milestone (between Guthries and the Mountain mille) in the Senior TT resulting in a fractured femur.  

Not forgetting these important riders – Newcomers Adam Lyon and Davey Todd. Impressive laps at 120.186mph and 119.148mph respectively. David Jackson finally got his first lap around the TT course with Richard ‘Milky’ Quayle showing him the way after he didn’t make it round on Saturday. An opening lap of 113.933mph was pretty impressive.

It must be such a daunting experience taking on the Mountain course. You prepare for months. You learn the names of the corner, you watch every on-board possible. You do your track time and days, you officially get your mountain licence. Milky shows you the ropes and then it’s time. Your first time on closed roads must be a surreal and emotional moment. Just you, your bike and the famous Mountain course. I do wonder whether that 20 minutes feels like a lifetime or whether it flies by. The energy that must go in to the concentration that is required to remember every corner, just to simply recognise where you are must be a mission. Being an island resident since I was 12 I still get lost – not so much on the Mountain course mind, but then again I’m not going at 200mph+!

Towards the end of the session there were bike changes left right and centre. Hickman and Harrison flung their legs over their Superstock machines to post laps of 128.142mph and 128.134mph respectively. Josh Brookes and Gary Johnson both unfortunately retired at Sulby Bridge and Ballacraine. However, it was Hickman who took the top spot in the Superstock class with a late lap of 130.219mph placing Manxmen Cummins and Kneen second and third.

Manx Radio announced a slight delay to the start of the first side car session due to an oil spill at Ballacraine. This was cleared relatively quickly as the sidecards set off at 7:58pm only a few minutes behind schedule. It was the Birchall brothers who set the Formula Two Sidecars off on their first practice followed by Dave Molyneux and Dan Sayle who broke the 110mph barrier on their second lap in their ‘bat mobile’. 

It was John Holden and Lee Cain who were the first to complete a lap at 113.663mph ahead of the Birchall’s 110.937mph whilst Molyneux/Sayle finished marginally behind with a lap of 110.508mph.  It was only Holden/Cain who sailed through to start a flying lap whilst the others pulled in to make their adjustments – common in sidecar practice. 

Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes clocked the fastest speed through Sulby at 150.1mph, but they had a few issues and were forced to stop at the Black Hut to make those vital adjustments. Holden/Cain didn’t manage to match or better their first lap with a second lap speed of 99.053mph but Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley improved to 108.851mph with Tony Baker and Fiona Baker-Holden only marginally slower at 108.412mph. 

It was later reported that there was an incident up at Brandywell which involved  Thierry Laforest and Freddy Lebulez from France. Driver Laforest was reported to be okay and passenger Lebulez was taken by airmed to Nobles hospital with reported minor shoulder and leg injury.

All in all a great practice session with some phenomenal times posted by the Superstock and Superbike machines. Harrison clearly the front runner so far, but it’s only the first practice session on the big bikes so far and there’s still four evenings of practice to go before the first Superbike race on Saturday 2nd June.

I must admit, however, I am missing the likes of John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey. So much so that I’m struggling to remember who’s riding which number… and now it transpires that William Dunlop has withdrawn also.

Sidecars as expected had their adjustments to fiddle with in first practice which is normal, but hopefully they’ll be pretty much dialled in for the next practice session.

Adios… and into Tuesday evening practice we go!

RST Superbike Qualifying – Monday 28th May – Fastest Laps

RL360 Superstock Qualifying – Monday 28th May – Fastest Laps

Monster Supersport Qualiying – Monday 28th May – Fastest Laps Sidecar Qualifying – Monday 28th May – Fastest Laps


2018 Isle of Man TT begins

I can’t even begin to imagine how exhausting yet exhilarating it must be having the throttle pinned for 37.73 miles, arguably 216 corners for approx. 18 mins… and then doing that SIX times at an average of 130mph on two wheels. 

The Isle of Man TT is a spectacle, it’s unique, it’s intoxicating.

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Road racing is something special.  Some people live for it, others just don’t understand it. There are a handful of road races around the globe, but not many people have heard of them, know of them or even believe anything this spectacular could ever happen. For two weeks every year this sleepy, quiet little rock in the middle of the Irish Sea opens it’s flood gates to around 40,000 visitors with the majority making their own pilgrimage over the Irish Sea on their own motorbikes. You’ll find all different nationalities here just by looking at registration plates on motorbikes. I’ve even met Australian bikers who shipped their motorbikes over to the Isle of Man in containers. It’s bonkers really! The Isle of Man TT is what puts the island on the map and it’s something we should be proud of. 

A road racing paddock is one of the friendliest places you could ever walk into. I’ve never been able to put my finger on why this is, but I strongly believe it’s because the road racing community are a family. We all know how dangerous road racing can be, we all know someone who’s been bitten by the Mountain course or worse. Yet year on year the same racers, teams & spectators come back because it’s what they do, it’s what they love, it’s in their blood. Road racing is a bug.

Teams help fellow teams, riders help fellow riders… yet when the visor comes down as they await the tap on their shoulder to fly down Bray Hill they become rivals who are all competing for the same reason – that top step and a prestigious TT victory. 

You’ve got curb stones, stone walls, lampposts, electricity boxes, pavements, trees and bridges not to mention roundabouts, tram lines and hairpins to contend with as well as the every-changing weather. The roads aren’t smooth like you would find on a track, they’re bumpy and uneven most noticeably from Ginger Hall through to Ramsey. There are arguably 216 corners to negotiate around the 37.73 mile course which is primarily a public road for 365 days a year. It takes months of back-office preparation to ensure the logistics of the two weeks are finely tuned. It takes weeks to paint the black and white curb stones on corners of the public roads, erect the air fences around specific parts of the course and to tie hay bales around gate posts and the like. Yet it feels like the whole two-weeks of the Isle of Man TT is over in the blink of an eye… some truth in this because if you blink you’re bound to miss Michael Dunlop flying past at over 200mph.  

It takes over 520 volunteers to sign up as marshals before any practice or racing can take place on the mountain course. They must be prepared for every possible eventuality whether that’s a racing incident, ducks on the course, oh and of course 4 seasons in one day! These marshals are the eyes and ears for race control and essentially the Clerk of the Course back at the Grandstand on Glencrutchery Road. It’s a time trial and there are riders on each part of the course throughout a race or practice and there is no way Gary Thompson (CoC) with all the will in the world could keep his own eye on each part of the course. To put the 37.73 miles course into perspective it would take approx. 15 laps of Brands Hatch GP (2.43 miles) to complete 1 lap of the Isle of Man TT course. During the Superbike and Senior TT races the riders complete 6 laps of the TT course… call it 93 laps of Brands Hatch? Make no mistake mind that track racing bares no resemblance to road racing other than it involves motorbike racing, but that’s for another day.

It’s usually the newcomers speed-controlled lap which is up and out first. Richard ‘Milky’ Quayle usually don’s on his leathers, boots, gloves & helmet. This year (2018) there are only 3 newcomers, most starting their mountain course career wait until later on in the year for the Manx Grand Prix – more on that in August! Oh, and when I say speed-controlled that doesn’t mean they sit at 50mph all the way round… they’re usually rounded up by a Travelling Marshal to ensure they all finish their first closed-road lap of the TT course safely. 

After that it’s usually time to unleash the experienced riders like the Dunlop brothers Michael & William, Manx-men Conor Cummins & Dan Kneen, the Bingley Bullet Ian Hutchinson who is returning after yet another injury which he sustained during the Senior race last year, NI’s Lee Johnston, Bradford’s Dean Harrison to name a few. Unfortunately this year there will be no 23-time TT winner John McGuinness as he is recovering from a leg injury sustained at the 2017 NW200 after the Honda Racing CBR spat him off into Primrose Hill. There will also be no Guy Martin this year. The first practice session is usually Supersport & Supertwins mingled together and on Saturday some of the riders noted above managed to put in 6 laps during their two-hour session. Usually the first night of practice is a wash out. Marshals are usually soggy, spectators being bitten by midges as they’re unprepared and riders cursing the weather – usually mountain fog and rain. 2018’s first practice was a little unusual as sunshine showered the Isle of Man, albeit a little windy, for the first time in a few years we managed a full evening of practice. 

Nothing quite prepares you for Michael Dunlop flying down from the top of Barregarrow to the bottom throttle pinned in sixth gear brushing the curb before the bridge, powering through the dodgy camber and the bell pan just kissing the tarmac. It’s a bit of a heart in mouth moment, but yet there’s also trust. You know Michael can be a bit fiery, but you expect it. McGuinness always looks to be line perfect, so instead of heart in mouth you watch in awe. If you see someone who just about fits on a Supersport machine you know is Cummins and if there’s a little guy hanging onto a bike you can probably bet that’s Johnston. Once the first lap is out the way your head as a marshal, spectator is dialled in. You start to pick the numbers out, you know who’s riding which number, which plate colour is which machine, you know a dodgy race line when you see one and you know when to prepare yourself. You can also bet that when you think there’s a gap to grab your sarnie and munch it a freight train will be 2 seconds away. 

The first night of practice is exhilarating. You swear multiple times, you take a few steps back, but most importantly it hooks you all over again. It reminds you that although it looks superhuman what these racers are doing… they really are human, just a little bonkers with a shit-load of talent. 

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Yes – it is arguably the world’s most dangerous race, a minor mistake can prove to be fatal & you always get someone saying ‘well if it’s that good then why doesn’t Valentino Rossi do the TT?’… (These are the people you should slap and then tell them to go home by the way.) The Isle of Man TT is a drug. Sometimes you don’t want to watch, but you just can’t help yourself. You become immersed in an atmosphere that is unlike no other. You meet new people from all over the world, you make friends, memories. You become part of the road racing family for two weeks and you get to watch the greatest road race in the world. If you haven’t been to the Isle of Man TT, get it booked! 

…and if you’re reading this thinking what even is the Isle of Man TT, take a look at this: 

…here comes the second night of practice for the 2018 Isle of Man TT.