IOMTT: Supersport 1

Featured

RACE DAY, RACE DAY. EVERY ONE UP. LETS GO.

7am we were up. Packing our cool box with Monster Energy Rossi Edition, sausages, burgers and bacon. Snack box was overflowing, but we were ready. 7:30am we were in the van fully loaded for the day and heading 2 minutes down the road to Rhencullen where we were to plonk ourselves on the grass bank for the forseeable.

Our view just before roads closed – Rhencullen 1

The sun was baking. I’m very fair-skinned. I don’t tan. I turn a bright shade of tomato then return to my pasty self. I thought we had prepared for every eventuality, but nope. I’d forgotten my hat. Suncream was applied, but even at 8am the sun was already turning bald heads pink and I had resigned to the fact I probably wouldn’t make it through both the Supersport and Superstock races. Instead I would probably be sat in the back of the van with a sulk on because it would either be that or burn baby burn! 

Roads closed at 10am sharp. Like clockwork. It’s amazing to see how quickly the roads are closed, how organised. There’s never (usually) any bother with getting motorists off the road. Just lately it’s been the spectators causing issues instead. After I’d climbed through the farmers fence, narrowly avoided a nettle to the face and escaped any injury, I was up on the grass bank with legs dangling. Now you might think that’s dangerous. Why would you sit with your legs dangling whilst motorbikes fly through at 150mph+ about an inch away from the curb you’re closest to? Actually, I can’t really answer that except for at least my feet weren’t touching the pavement! This truly is the closest you will ever get to racing and this is exactly why you won’t find me in a grandstand at a BSB or MotoGP in the UK because there is no way you’re sticking me behind a load of chicken wire so I can look on a big screen. Nope. I want to be right there. A stones throw away. (In fact one clipped my nose on Monday, but that’s another story.) The TT and road racing in general really does spoil you. So, I’m sat on the grass bank like a pig in muck. Sun is out, I’ve eaten by bacon bap and I’m just patiently waiting listening to the radio build-up. Roads are closed and there’s a nosher stood in his socks on the road. I just don’t understand. Clearly a biker with his leather trousers on, guessing his feet were too hot in his boots. I couldn’t smell the pong, but the sweat was showing. I’m tutting, shaking my head. There’s no way he didn’t know the roads were closed. It was bellowing out all through the field. Yet still he has to be told by a marshal to get off the road and even then it took him a few minutes to realise… 

Michael Dunlop appeared to be the favourite before the race had even begun after his Superbike win on Saturday. Sure, he was probably still on a high from that too, but this is a different machine. It’s pretty much full throttle 80% of the time as opposed to a Superbikes and now it was time for the 600’s, it was time to thrash the nuts off them. 

After a disappointing Saturday for Harrison, despite becoming the outright lap record holder, I was sure he was going to push for a win. Conor Cummins, a favourite being a Manxman, gives me a little laugh when I see him on a 600. He’s probably around 6’4″ and yet still manages to wrap himself round that Padgett’s Honda. It must be like some sort of origami! Still quick though and definitely one to watch especially since that number 1 plate he’s sporting seems to be suiting him well. That number 1 plate isn’t for everyone. It’s the road sweeper. You’re the first out onto the road. You find the wet patches, the little stones in the road. You disturb the little birdies in the trees with the roar of a Superbike/sport machine. You have a clear road ahead of you and John McGuinness always said it can feel lonely. If you’re winning a race you know because there will be no one in front of you. You could go a whole 4 or even 6 laps round the TT course without seeing a single bike on the road next to you unless you find a couple of back markers. No carrot dangling in front of you, no one to catch. It’s just you and the road – something Cummins appears to be gluing well with. 

…and Cummins heads off over St Ninian’s and down Bray Hill with a full twist of the throttle, but it’s Harrison who took the lead through Glen Helen on the opening lap holding a 1s lead over Dunlop, James Hillier in third. It was a ‘watch this space’ kinda lap. Watching the live timing you could see that Dunlop was on a stonker of a lap which brought the gap down to just 0.2s at Ballaugh. By the time they’d laid their rubber down at Ramsey Hairpin Dunlop had taken the lead by a mere second. Hillier was now in the race for third as Peter Hickman started to pick up the pace drastically. He was 8s adrift of Hillier, but only 0.2s ahead of Cummins. 

Image may contain: outdoor

128.265mph was Dunlop’s opening lap average speed placing him 1.7s ahead of Harrison. Hillier was currently at the shit end of the third place battle as Hickman now had a 2.5s advantage and had taken that third position. 3 laps left, a lot of time to win or lose and Harrison decided he wasn’t having any of the ‘raging bull’ taking yet another TT victory. At Glen Helen Harrison had started to pull back the time ever so slightly and with Hickman 14.2s behind he didn’t have anyone breathing down his hump. 

Harrison didn’t stand a chance. Dunlop had pulled another second out the bag at Ballaugh and by Ramsey the gap was 4.6s. It felt like Harrison was riding the arse off that Kawasaki, but Dunlop just kept pulling and pulling. His style of riding is so aggressive, but I actually think it’s what those 600’s need. You’re constantly throttle open, dancing on the pegs to pull the bugger from the right to the left and then up-right and back to the left and so on. They might be smaller machines, but they take some muscle. 

End of lap 2 marks the first and only pitstop in the four-lap Supersport race… and there it was – another lap record smashed! Dunlop finished his second lap at 129.197mph breaking his own record which was set back in 2013. That aggression was so visible on the road. He was ready for this win, he was on it. A 6.4s advantage was something Dunlop could keep under control. Harrison remained in second with Hickman a whopping 22.7s behind. Hillier was putting on the pressure for Hickman with only a gap of 3.6 determining the third position… and Hillier was leading on the road. A mega pitstop by Hillier’s team and a longer than anticipated pitstop for Hickman meant the gap narrowed to only 0.2s at Glen Helen. By the time the pair were through Ballaugh it was Hillier in that third position, but only by 0.6s. At Ramsey that had doubled. 

Going into the fourth and final lap there were no records broken. The third lap took the pit stop into consideration, but now they were all on flyers. Dunlop and Harrison were together on the road with the official gap being 9.4s. Watching those two together on the road was just magical… with a slight hint of fire. They both have very different riding styles. As I said before, Dunlop is quite aggressive. He literally looks like a bull in a china shop. Harrison doesn’t look so heavy footed on a bike, but he’s mainly elbows out with his head down. Harrison clearly had his carrot and he was ready to bite the arse end off it… but unfortunately just couldn’t keep up with Dunlop’s pace. 

Image may contain: one or more people and motorcycle

Harrison led on the road to the finish line, but being the gentleman he is let Dunlop through to take the chequered flag. Such an amazing show of sportsmanship – it really gives you a hint of what this road racing family is like. Yeah, they’re all competitors. There can be tensions in the paddock, although I think most of them have gone since a certain tea-drinker hasn’t been around, and they clearly all want to win and be on that rostrum. Yet they are the first people to congratulate each other whether that’s first, second or 30th. Everyone who finishes their race round this monster of a course deserves a pat on the back. It is ruthless on both body and machine. It is why we race. 

Harrison finished in second 0.258s ahead of Hickman who had finally put Hillier into fourth by 1.8s. Cummins finished in fifth, Brookes sixth on the McAms Yamaha. Huge congratulations to newcomer Davey Todd who finished 12th – one of the road’s rising stars as you’ll soon see. He’s a little bit special in my opinion, he’s one to watch. 

During the post-race press conference the top three finishers mentioned an incident on the Mountain section during the Supersport race. Nothing had been mentioned by the race officials. Everyone was buzzing after that race. We all sat on our grass bank. Some with sandwiches, some with their coffee. We’d cracked open the barbecue as per, beef burgers topped with bacon were on the menu and a can on Monster, listening to the radio whilst the crossing points were open. My other half was laughing at me sat in the back of the van munching on my burger – happy as larry – and then I hear the sentence I hate. 

‘ACU Events Ltd have released a statement’ 

Shit – no. I run over to the fence to catch the announcement. Another racer was living their dream to the very end. The statement reads as follows: 

ACU Events Ltd regrets to confirm that Adam Lyon, 26, from Helensburgh in Scotland was killed in an incident during the Supersport 1 Race today at the Isle of Man TT Races. The accident occurred at Casey’s, just after the 28th mile of the course, on the 3rd lap of the race.

Gutted. Heartbroken for his family & friends. Made even harder when you note he was a newcomer. It was Lyon’s first ever time competing on this beautiful island. The first night of practice he was shown round by Milky Quayle on a speed controlled lap, then not long after the 3 newcomers were released to go about their racing career on this amazing course. All week the newcomers had been fast. Not quite as fast as Hickman when he came over a newcomer, but they weren’t far off. It scared me if I’m honest. These were newcomers and they were doing the same lap times as someone just outside of the seeded 1 – 20. Are they just oozing talent, or are they going all balls out? Most likely both. You don’t get offered a newcomers spot at the TT if you hadn’t proved yourself somewhere else, if there wasn’t a spark. There are strict rules and ultimately it is down to the race officials as to whether you are ready or not to tackle this course. Lyon’s had qualified 24th in the Supersport race with a fastest lap of 122.261mph and on his opening lap of the race he’d managed a 122.636mph. In an instant, he was gone.

I don’t know what happened up on the Mountain. The red flag didn’t appear, the situation was obviously controllable through waived yellows. Hickman said that he and others had slowed down considerably due to the incident, but hoped that everyone was okay – that glimmer of hope so quickly taken away. Lyon’s along with Dan Kneen were both doing something they were passionate about, something they loved and lived for. Tonight I watched the red arrows over Douglas Bay. I winced more watching them cross paths at a speed I dread to think about. An accident could have so easily have occurred, yet you don’t see many people complaining about how dangerous the red arrows are and how they should be banned. People see the red arrows practicing, people don’t necessarily see our TT racers practicing. Hickman, for example, is in BSB. He races most weekends during the season. He’s accustom to his machines despite circuit racing being a different discipline. The Dunlop’s are born and bred road racers and they attend many of the Irish road races before and after the TT. Many of the racers are involved in circuit racing or other small road races during the season. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be granted their Mountain licence – it’s not an easy process. Just because you watch the Isle of Man TT, please don’t think this is purely what these racers do. Yes – it is most likely their biggest two weeks of their racing calendar. It takes months of preparation every year if not more and ultimately it takes years to learn this course properly. I won’t blabber on about how they all know the risks because we should be fully aware of all that from when we heard the devastating news about Dan Kneen. Just be thankful you got to see these men race, you got to see them achieving their dreams. 

 

Adam Lyon

Adam Lyon

My thoughts are with all of Adam’s family and friends at this sad time. I hope it brings them some comfort to know he was doing what he loved, what he wanted and ultimately living that dream right to the very end. 

…and then we went again because, as we all know, it’s what we do, it’s all we know.

Next up – Superstock Race 1. 

 

IOMTT: 134mph lap record

Featured

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.

Image may contain: one or more people and motorcycle

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.

Image may contain: 1 person, motorcycle and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing, motorcycle and outdoor

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…

Featured

…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. 

Image may contain: one or more people, motorcycle and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: motorcycle and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

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. 

Image may contain: outdoor

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

Featured

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..

Image may contain: one or more people, motorcycle and outdoor

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

Featured

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.

34146443_2284696301544817_2462318756685152256_o

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.

34066876_2284697308211383_138825008137895936_o.jpg

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. 

Image may contain: one or more people, motorcycle, sky, outdoor and nature

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

Featured

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.

Image may contain: one or more people, motorcycle and outdoor

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.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, close-up

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!

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

Photo: Babb Photography

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

Featured

…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.