The 2019 Road Racing Season

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In 2019 my little motto is ‘do more of what you love’, so expect more blogs to be appearing in the new future and hopefully more frequently too!

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Photo: Babb Photography

It is currently 120 days until the first practice of the Isle of Man TT, and before I go any further if you will be on the island for Saturday 25th May PLEASE SIGN ON TO MARSHAL. Year upon year the first day of practice is always overshadowed by the usual ‘lack of marshals’ news bulletin. If you can spare those few hours for the newcomers to get a speed-controlled lap and for the other riders to have a bit of a wobble round the TT course, I know they will be very appreciative and grateful! You can sign-on by clicking here. Thank you.

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Photo: Babb Photography

Dates for the diary – 25th May – 7th June 2019. Be there, or be square. I can only apologise for the extortionate prices of ferry crossings and plane tickets, they love spanking racing fans, but I honestly believe that what you will experience is priceless and I can guarantee it will leave you speechless. Trees line the roadsides along with beautiful Manx stone walls, curbstones, and dodgy camber is pretty much everywhere between Ginger Hall and Ramsey. These racers thrive in that type of environment, me on the other hand, not so much! However, I’m not talking purely about the racing here because there are some beautiful places on this little island that you can visit on those non-race days! If anyone is interested in knowing a few hidden gems, etc. leave me a message and I’ll try to get back to you!

I’m not going to bore you too much about the ins and outs of the Isle of Man TT. I’ll save all that for another day because at the moment I’m still suffering from the ‘TT Blues’ and all the things that hit the road racing family during 2019, but I will give you a little whistle-stop tour and probably end up going off on a tangent too…

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Charles Collister

1907 – the inaugural Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race was won by Charles Collister on the St Johns Short Course. Little did anyone know that over one hundred years later (the centenary year was a corker by the way!!) we would still be racing on the roads of the Isle of Man, but on a much larger scale. The circuit changed to the Mountain Course in 1911 and I guess they never looked back after that point! Mat Oxley, who some of you may be familiar with, posted something on Twitter the other day regarding the original FIM Motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship (now known as MotoGP.) Now, I knew that the TT used to be part of this, however, I find it crazy that no MotoGP rider would ever contemplate racing the TT despite the history books.

Rossi said, and I quote, ‘you are true warriors’, but has claimed he would never race a road race. Scott Redding, on the other hand, described it as a ‘death race’. You can’t win them all, but maybe they need to do their research. Thanks to Mat, he’s done it for them:

Photo: @matoxley

The FIM Motorcycle Grand Prix Championship consisted of only six rounds and, shocker, the Isle of Man TT and the Ulster Grand Prix are both on there! Two of the world’s most famous road races, also two road races who are fighting with each other for the title of ‘world’s fastest road race’. Cough, currently the TT, cough. The TT/UGP may now clash with some of the whopping nineteen rounds that MotoGP consists of, but maybe they need to be reminded of their roots? Anyway, they are two completely different disciplines now. Different rules, regs, machinery, set-up. I’m a lover of anything on two wheels, but once you’ve experienced a road race first hand you will never want to sit 200ft away behind a fence again.

Moving to the complete opposite of MotoGP, a time-trial is what sets the TT apart from any other road race. Racers are set off in twos ten seconds apart in practice and on race days the fire off down Bray Hill on their own ten seconds apart. No matter what anyone says hearing the 45-minute signal, 30-minute signal, 15-minute signal, 5-minute signal … ‘and we are racing’ in stereo from all the little battery-powered wireless radio’s firmly gripped in spectators hands makes you tingle ever so slightly. It’s usually John McGuinness who is first off the line, the road sweeper as some say, however during John’s hiatus due to injury it’s been Manxman Conor Cummins who has led the way.

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Photo: Babb Photography

I can’t even begin to imagine let alone describe the emotions Conor must be experiencing in the above photo. A flick of the visor, a brief split second to ensure it’s shut and there it is. The tap of the shoulder. It’s started. Having been through both the highs and lows of this Mountain Course, it must be both a daunting yet adrenaline fuelled challenge and an unimaginable sense of pride to race on your home tarmac.

It’s still Northern Ireland’s Joey Dunlop who has won the most Isle of Man TT’s at 26 wins. I was fortunate enough to visit the memorial garden last year and I can say I was more emotional than I ever imaged. The legend that is Joey lives on in all his fans, his family and of course the entire road racing community as does Robert Dunlop, Joey’s brother, and William Dunlop, Robert’s son, Michael’s brother. If you’re ever in Ballymoney, please go. Don’t forget to visit Joey’s Bar too! The best Guinness in N.I.

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Joey Dunlop’s Memorial Garden, Ballymoney

McGuinness sits slightly behind at 23 race wins and often jokes he’ll never be let back into Ireland if he surpasses those 26 wins! (I think he might be right though…) Joey’s nephew Michael is currently in third with 18 TT wins and at only 29-years-old, I think that’s bloody phenomenal. Known as ‘the Bull’, Michael isn’t the smoothest rider to grace our presence at the TT, but it sure does work for him and it’s amazing to watch him bounce from hedge to wall to curb to white line.

There are now six different classes: Superbike, Supersport, Superstock, Lightweight, Zero and Sidecars. I’m sure you’re all familiar with cc’s, etc. for the above so I won’t bore you with that! All you need to know is practice starts on a Saturday evening and continues every evening from Monday to Friday with the first race being held on the following Saturday. Obviously, this is all weather, marshals and strange emergency dependent. Those two weeks are completely nuts. You have to be nuts to be a spectator let alone a racer and if you don’t embrace the sticky floor of Bushy’s beer tent have you really been to the TT? Oh, and if you’ve never watched from the Bottom of Barregarrow or Crosby Leap you’ve definitely not been! I will definitely be writing a bit more in-depth about the TT, different spots, etc. in the near future before 2019’s kicks off, but I will leave it here for now. Finally, if you see and excited blonde woman with her head popping out of a bush along the TT course… it’s probably me, so say hi!

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Photo: Babb Photography

Between the months of September and May the island falls silent. Our three main road racing events finish for the year and, I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t know what to do with myself other than countdown to the Macau GP and get up at silly o’clock to watch it.  If you live on the island, regardless of whether you like road racing or not, I can probably guarantee you will suffer from what is mainly known as ‘TT blues’, but similarly this can be reformed into ‘S100 blues’, ‘MGP blues’ or just pure ‘road racing blues’. The roar of motorbikes disappear, the sound of squeaky leathers and boots you have become accustomed to fade into the background and the articulated lorries dressed in team livery vacate the island in the blink of an eye. The island falls silent… until July.

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S100 Photo: Babb Photography

July is when the Southern 100 begins, down South as the name suggests, and if you have never been I highly recommend you do! It’s a mass start and a ‘proper’ road race as some like to call it. The Southern 100 started in 1955 and takes place on the Billown Circuit with the start/finish being in Castletown. There only used to be three races for different solo classes, but there are now twelve races with the inclusion of sidecars too. (If you want a tip, Church Bends is an epic place to watch, but take a spare pair of pants because the last time I watched from there Dean Harrison was millimeters away from touching the Manx stone walls whilst fighting for the lead. I’m also pretty sure my heart jumped out my mouth too….!) Veteran road racer Ian Lougher currently holds the most wins at the Southern 100 at a staggering 32 wins! The lap record, however, is held by Michael Dunlop and was set in 2017 at a time/speed of 2:12.231 at 115.707mph. Yes, that is two minutes… it is only 4.25 miles compared to the 37.75 miles TT Course. It is usually a very very close race on the roads, and if you want to be scared shitless at times, this is the race for you! You can literally hear them set off from Castletown, and regardless of where you are sat around the circuit, I guarantee you will the furore. I find the Southern 100 more edge-of-your-seat watching that the TT. You don’t even need to listen to the radio down there, just watch and you’ll know! Ps. 8th – 11th July 2019.

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Photo: Babb Photography

Onto the next then! There a little rest before the Manx Grand Prix (and Classic TT) begins in August and first started back in 1923 as the ‘Manx Amateur Road Races’. Seven years later it was renamed the MGP due to various rules, regulations, and interpretation. Basically, are you still an amateur after you’ve won a newcomer’s race and potentially set a lap record? Nope. This Mountain Course race is more of a stepping stone for those capable of produce lap times quick enough to compete at the TT. If you are looking for future road racing stars, look no further than the Manx. The majority of your up and coming road racers will begin their Mountain Course debut during these two weeks.  It’s two weeks where newcomers start to properly learn the vast TT course, and where some riders come back year after year to compete because of the love for the Manx, or maybe for an elusive win. On paper, it looks no different to the TT aside from the average level of experience, but in action, it is very different. A lot of riders say they don’t feel as much pressure as you do with the TT. It is publicised and there is radio commentary, etc., but as the top names aren’t involved I feel a lot of people think it’s boring. It is FAR from it.  It’s more laid back, mostly privateers and takes you back to the days of Joey Dunlop racing out the back of a van. There are six four-lap races which include the Newcomers Class’, Lightweight/Ultra Lightweight, Junior, and Senior Class.

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Photo: Babb Photography

The Newcomers Class does what it says on the tin basically! No experience is necessary, but you must hold a Mountain license. This is obviously a class you wouldn’t see at the TT and therefore it usually over-subscribed as a stepping stone to the TT. The riders are limited to machinery and it must not exceed 750cc. One thing that is similar to the TT is that any newcomers must wear an orange bib over their leathers during practice. The Lightweight/Ultra Lightweight class is for machinery of 125cc, 250cc, and 400cc capacity. The smell of them two-strokes though! Mmmm!!! Bliss. This is the one class I miss at the TT. The noise, the smell. It was part of the schedule until 2004 and so it’s usually a heavily subscribed class at the Manx. Then we are onto the Junior Class for machines between 200cc and 750cc although the majority are now four-stroke 4-cylinder 600cc bikes. What else could a Manx road race end with other than a Senior?! The final race of the MGP fortnight and I always find it’s a cracker because frustrations are always high after a week racing the Mountain Course. Blown engines, broken bits, fuel shortage, maybe even a little crash or two. Tensions are always high, but of course, everyone is in it to win it!

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Photo: Babb Photography

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you are, they decided to ‘re-brand’ the Manx Grand Prix as the Festival of Motorcycling with the inclusion of new races – the ‘Classic TT’. It allows top TT riders such as John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop, Lee Johnston, Dean Harrison and the like more Mountain Course time without the added pressure that comes with the TT in June. It’s very interesting to see how these top riders have to adapt their style to suit the classic machinery. Dunlop, for example, noted how he had to stop being so aggressive to prevent things from breaking! They are very temperamental and it’s usually a miracle if they manage to get up the mountain let alone down it! There are big teams now involved in the Classic TT such as Norton, Team Classic Suzuki, etc. It’s not a walk in the park by any means, but it’s not 134mph laps as we saw in 2018 by Hickman. Although I think it is a great idea to allow the riders more time on the roads, I find it’s drawn a lot of the attention away from what the Manx Grand Prix really is. A lot say the Manx was dying and I do admit that some years it doesn’t seem as busy as it did 10 or so years ago. However, the addition of the Classic TT cannot have increased visitor numbers over the two weeks. It appears busy on the bank holiday weekend of the Classic TT races where ‘the big boys’ race their classic machines, then it fizzles back to those who are there purely for the Manx. I find it’s caused a bit of a divide in the road racing community. I guess I see both sides, but it’s nice for the Newcomers to the Mountain Course to have their time to shine and I really think people should be more supportive of them. At the end of the day, these are the potential TT winners of the future and I don’t want to take anything away from their two weeks of potential glory.

Rant over… oops!

Of course there are many other roads races, but for now I shall leave you with the Isle of Man’s road races. Notably there’s the NW200, Tandragee, Skerries, Macau GP and the Ulster Grand Prix… the latter I visited last year and I’m so excited to write about my experience as it is something completely different to the Isle of Man TT. That’ll be with you all soon!

Words by Samantha Wanless

The Truth About Road Racing

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*This may not be an easy read, but I think it’s an important one.

Road racing. It’s exactly that. Racing on a road. A public road, albeit closed. On two wheels. On a motorbike. Between the stone walls, hedges and curb stones. Through the trees, mind that damp patch and try to hit that apex. Trees, barbed wire fences, lampposts line the roadsides. There are bridges, hairpins and maybe a Mountain to contest. Roundabouts and chicanes maybe. A mass start or a time trial.

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This is road racing and it isn’t for everyone.

Before I moved to the Isle of Man myself and my family made the pilgrimage over to the Isle of Man TT and Manx Grand Prix almost every year. I remember kids at school asking me why was I going to an Island where there will be nothing to do? Are you sure you mean Man and not White? Is there even electricity. To answer those questions – yes I meant Man, yes there is electricity and that little journey over the Irish Sea is more than just a holiday. It’s a community flocking to a small island to witness one of the greatest ever spectacles. Standing at the bottom of the road watching these racers fly through is something I don’t think you can comprehend at 6 or 7. I can still remember how it felt though. That jumping feeling when one flew past, maybe a little step back. Okay, a rather large step back, but I was hooked. I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t help but watch. I’d run down to the bottom of my grandparent’s road ready to watch. When you’re small you don’t have to be anywhere early… people just let you push in. It was great! At that age you don’t understand the ins and outs of road racing or probably motorsport in general. My Poppa (Grandad) used to track race, he always had a motorbike. I guess it’s all kind of in my blood. The speed, the danger, the mechanics. My Mom followed BSB, WSBK and MotoGP religiously. All you really see at the age though is the race bikes in the paddock, the racers who you meet and talk to and then the races themselves. You cling onto a favourite at that age, you idolise without even realising. You’re oblivious to everything else that goes on. I suppose you think these racers are invincible and that everything will be okay; it’ll t-cut out mentality. Until one day you’re that little bit older and suddenly the world is no longer rainbows and butterflies.

I was 9 when myself and thousands of race fans lost their racing hero – David Jefferies. I cried and I cried. The whole atmosphere on this little island changed, the whole island was devastated – something we would unfortunately encounter again and again.  I didn’t see it, in fact I wasn’t anywhere near where the incident happened, but even at 9 my heart sank hearing the words ‘red flag’ and the press release that followed. Flowers and items in memory were laid by Jefferies family, team-mates, friends, fans. They still are to this day. I guess at that point for me it was a realisation. Jefferies was a TT winner, in fact he won nine in the six years he contested. He knew his way round; he knew his bike. Yet in a split second – gone. The realisation for me at that age was simple. This sport is dangerous. This sport can seriously injure people, or worse fatally. This sport is not for the faint-hearted. This sport is something you need to understand before you immerse yourself in it. This sport is where you need to be prepared for every eventuality. It could be due to a mechanical issue, rider error or even a rabbit. With some fatalities we will just never know except it was a racing incident. I remember my Mom consoling me telling me ‘it’s what they do, they know the risks’. I couldn’t understand how anyone could say bye to their wife, children or parents, put a flammable tank between their legs and ride the nuts off a motorbike with the knowledge they might not make it home alive. I was 9. I was angry. I was upset. The rider I loved, the rider who made me giddy over Suzuki’s, the rider who ignited my road racing spark was gone.

Two months later I found myself back on the Isle of Man for the Manx Grand Prix. I was only 9. I can’t remember what happened in those two months, I can’t remember how I felt, but I’m pretty sure even at 9 I was questioning why I was stood at the bottom of the road once again ready to watch yet more road racing on the same course that took my hero. Yes, it was my family’s choice as to where we went on holiday, but ultimately it was my decision as to whether I watched the racing or not. I chose to. I was drawn to the racing. Not because of the chance of death, not because of the risk, but because of the elation and emotion that everyone feels when you hear ‘xxx WINS THE SENIOR TT’.  You feel like you’re part of something special. Sat by your little radio with Manx Radio AM blaring out, alongside other race fans who are waving their programmes, shouting ‘GO ON FELLA!’, waving their arms around, jumping up in the air. It’s unbelievable. And all this is happening whilst you are stood at the end of a road, sat on a hedge or in a field. They are, in some places, inches away from you. Probably within touching distance. It is scary. You have to be prepared for it, you have to know that motorsport is dangerous. Not just road racing, but motorsport in general. You’re don’t usually get that type of danger at Silverstone or Brands hatch. You’re shoved behind a tall fence or in a grandstand. You don’t often get the danger of a curb stone, a brick wall or a lamppost either. You have to pay for admission, which these days can cost the world, and the majority of the time you have to be pretty important to take a walk down pit lane to the garages. There’s none of that b*llshit at a road race. The paddock is open for everyone to walk around without any charge. You can find yourself a space in a hedge, provided it’s not prohibited’ for free. Take yourself a few beers and a packed lunch and you’re set for a day’s racing! You can congregate on the start line and watch the racers set off down Bray Hill one by one. You can be right where the mass starts take off from at the Southern 100, NW200 or Ulster Grand Prix. Whether you go with friends or go alone, you’re bound to make new friends, race friends, friends who just get it. Nowadays you have to pay to sit in the main grandstand at the start/finish of the TT course and they have started to put up paid-for Grandstand at various points around the course. Some people who only know this are likely to pay, but old school race fans will just perch on a wall, in a hedge, in a field where it’s free (or a donation is payable). You begin to learn that road racing fans aren’t like ordinary race fans. You begin to learn that road racers aren’t like track racers.

There are people I work with who just don’t get it. There will be people in Tesco’s complaining that roads are closed, no food is left or that there’s simply too many motorbikes. They live here, love the Isle of Man, but just don’t understand why for almost 5 weeks of the year specific roads close for racers to jump on their motorbikes to race the roads we drive on daily. They don’t understand why people make the pilgrimage from all over the world to be on this little, not usually tropical, island. One year I noticed some motorbikes had Australian number plates. Turns out the riders had shipped their bikes over so they can ride on the famous TT course. A number of people often ride through Europe, jump on the Eurostar or ferry, cross the English Channel, ride up from Dover to Liverpool or Heysham, sail the Irish Sea just to get to the races. That’s days of travelling. That’s commitment. That’s what we do to watch and immerse ourselves in what this bizarre sport we love. I don’t expect outsiders to understand. Not many people I know would be happy to sit on a grass bank with ants and whatever else is lurking for a day’s racing. Not many find it appealing especially if you’re in the middle of a field and the only toilet you have is a bush… Personally, it doesn’t bother me. I’m 100% content sat on a grass bank, in a hedge or on a stone wall. I’m in awe of these racers. It’s a pleasure to watch these people do what they do best. Hitting those apexes, navigating through the shade of the trees, dancing on the foot pegs. I don’t expect everyone to understand, I especially don’t expect them to understand after recent events where even road race fans are questioning their love for the sport. I know I have been hence why I’m writing this today. Ask a road racing fan on a good day how they feel about road racing and before you know it you’ll be hooked yourself. Catch a road racing fan on a bad day and they’ll tell you how much they hate it. A few weeks later you’ll catch that same road racing fan back in a hedge. But why? Because it’s all we know, it’s under our skin, it’s part of us. I truly believe that a road racing fan carries the death of a racer around with them for a while regardless of whether they witnessed it or not. The turn up on a hedge the next day because it’s what that racer would want. It’s a sign of respect, it’s a show of solidarity.

Some of these racers didn’t make it home alive, but were they doing what they loved? Yes. Some have been critically injured, but were they living life to their fullest? Yes. Some may have lost finger tips, some may have lost a limb, but did they know the risks? Yes. The additional danger in road racing is quite clearly obvious and it isn’t rocket science. 1. Racing on two wheels comes with an additional risk in comparison to rallying for example. 2. The furniture. 3. No run off area, kitty litter or similar. Those of the three main differences. In a racing incident it can be difficult to distinguish a fault, a reason specifically when the mechanical factors appear to be sound after inspection. A rider error can be hard to take, but it’s a stark reminder that they’re only human.

Over the years my eyes were opened to even more road races. There isn’t just the Isle of Man TT or the Manx Grand Prix – there are many! North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix in Northern Ireland, Skerries 100 in Southern Island. The Southern 100 down south on the Isle of Man and many more, but these are to name a few. There have been huge achievements at all of the above, but with great achievements come sadness and at each of the above road races there have been fatalities. You also find road racing in Spain and other European countries, however they’re not as well publicised here in the UK. In fact, the only time road racing gets a mention in the press is when there is are life-threatening injuries or fatalities.

You’ll find The Time, The Independent, The Huffington Post and many more only ever mention the Isle of Man TT, Southern 100, Skerries 100 if a rider has died. They might mention if Cal Crutchlow grabs a podium position in MotoGP, but they won’t mention that Peter Hickman is the world’s fastest road racer as he set a new lap record around the Isle of Man TT course. They won’t mention that Dean Harrison won the Supersport TT this year and that before Hickman smashed the outright lap record at the TT Harrison was actually the world’s fastest road racer at the Ulster Grand Prix or that John McGuinness had signed for Norton. The only recent ‘news’ the world knows about McGuinness is that his Honda spat him off at the NW200 leaving him partly broken. People on the outside are only aware of a handful of riders this year: Dan Kneen, Steve Mercer, Adam Lyon, William Dunlop, James Cowton and Ivan Lintin, People on the outside are only aware of these riders for the worst possible reason. They have either been fatally killed whilst racing or critically injured. Of course this is news, serious news, but they are also people. They’re not just racers. They have families. They might have a girlfriend or wife, possibly even children. The risks are well-known by both the rider and their families. McGuinness has said ‘we look selfish at times; we just can’t help it.’ Their wife will probably be the one holding their helmet whilst their husband zips up their leathers on the start line. Their children are probably holding their gloves whilst their daddy puts on his helmet. Their partners go into a relationship with them as racers whether that be on a road or a track. Their children are brought into this crazy world of road racing from birth and it’s all they know. Paul Shoesmith, who lost his life in June 2016, had two young boys. You’d see Shoey’s tent in the paddock and know that his two little boys wouldn’t be far away razzing round the paddock on their little balance bikes. They loved it! This racing world is all they know. It’s not just a few weeks of the year. The racing world is their life, their family. It’s in their blood regardless of whether they decide to take up racing later in life or not. I hope people can at least understand that part of this crazy world rather than criticising the life they choose.

It was Senior Race Day in 2015. Myself, my partner and his family decided we’d go up to the K Tree, but it was pretty much full! Instead we headed to the 11th milestone and set-up camp on a hedge. The buzz around the Senior TT is unreal despite having a Superbike race on the Monday, this is always the one racers want to win. The Marquis de Mouzilly St. Mars trophy is awarded to the winner. It’s prestigious. It’s special. However, that day in 2015 I witnessed my first ‘big’ crash. I heard a bang, saw a fireball and jumped down behind the hedge as I saw bike bits fly towards me. It was horrifying. The adrenaline had kicked in after a few short seconds and I was ready to deal with whatever had just happened, but I wasn’t signed-on to marshal that day. I was there to spectate. There were adequate numbers of marshals and in a situation like that too many cooks’ rings all too true. The helicopter came, although it felt like hours before it arrived, and I believe there was an off-duty nurse spectating who offered her assistance. It also felt like hours until the helicopter left, but you’re never really certain as to whether that’s a good thing or not. Steve Mercer unfortunately had to ride through the smoke and potentially the fireball that lit up the sky. He pulled into the field next to us and sat there facing away from the road. He just wanted to be alone. All of a sudden the realities of road racing were all too clear. I remember a marshal walking down the pavement after it happened asking if everyone was okay with blood over his orange jacket. He was so calm, collected. Seeing that crash was upsetting, but it never stopped me from watching road racing. The love was still there, just a little tainted. After I’d calmed down and made sure others around me were okay, I looked at Twitter. Rumours were rife. I remember seeing riders’ names strewn left, right and centre. None of which were correct might I add. None of us could even see a number on the bike and we were there, we saw it. This happens every damn time, but unfortunately we live in a world now ruled by social media. There appears to be some kind of sick trophy that people want to grab and say they were the first to announce a death.

Social media wasn’t really a thing when I watched as a child. Smartphones didn’t exist and you were lucky if you were able to send a picture message without trying 273 times. You listened to Manx Radio and if you wanted to document anything you either had a camera or a camcorder. You couldn’t upload photos or videos onto Twitter or Facebook. The latest news wasn’t in your hand. Now I’m constantly fighting with people to keep the rumours they’ve heard to themselves rather than plastering them over social media where families could potentially be given false information. Would you like to see that your boyfriend, husband, wife had died in a racing incident on Twitter? These people either call themselves race fans or their people who want it banned. It boils my blood how social media can be turned into such a negative form of communication. A lot of road racing fans use Twitter, for example, to keep up with the results, the latest updated whether that be yellow flags, red flags. Those of us who know the sport, who respect the sport know that nothing good ever comes of speculation. Twitter is full of racers, teams, team members, family and friends. I have many friends who are directly involved in road racing whether they race themselves, are family or friends of a racer or even part of a team. There’s a little network behind the scenes of Twitter both publicly and privately. When an incident happens we don’t gossip or share information over a public platform. If something needs to be said, it’s done privately. That little network is what holds this community together sometimes. This community knows nothing is official until a press release is published. This community knows the heartache. This community knows this is road racing and this is dangerous. This community is a family. We are all well informed of the risks, of the consequences. Please don’t try and tell us our sport should be no more, that we should suppress such natural born talent on a motorcycle because some people who aren’t even involved in this sport are worried about the consequences.

The past few weeks have been ones of loss, heartbreak and tears. Practice week of the 2018 Isle of Man TT brought up heartache and loss. The Isle of Man lost one of its own – Dan Kneen. This little island will take a while to heal from the loss of Dan, it won’t be quick nor easy. With the support of Dan’s family, the Tyco BMW team and the races went on as scheduled with the knowledge that this is exactly what Dan would have wanted. On the same evening Steve Mercer was also involved in an incident where he was said to be in a critical condition. As per the schedule, we continued knowing that these racers wouldn’t want the races to be stopped. During the Supersport Race Adam Lyon’s was fatally injured on the Mountain section after a competitive start to his Mountain course career. At the Skerries 100 only last weekend it was announced that we lost another of the Dunlop dynasty – William. Brother of Michael, nephew of Joey, son of Robert. Northern Ireland once again along with the entire road racing community are mourning the loss of another of the greatest road racing families in history. I still don’t really know what to say about William other than he was a gentleman both on and off the roads. He’ll be sorely missed by many. Only yesterday at the Southern 100 we lost another road racer – James Cowton. The death of a road racer regardless of whether they are a newcomer or experienced always comes as a shock. It always takes time to come to terms with a loss, and for some it will never leave us.

This is by no means a direct comparison, but for a bit of perspective in 2018 so far FIVE people have died attempting to climb Mount Everest. In 2017 there were SIX. In 2016 there were SEVEN. Now, you tell me that road racing is dangerous and that it should be banned? Ban it because people died doing what they loved, people died living their dream? Ban it because it’s not safe? It’s just not the answer and it’s not what the families of these racers need to be hearing. They will grieve, they will go through every possible emotion, but they will eventually find some comfort and may even find themselves back in the paddock involving themselves because it’s all they know. Whilst writing this my thoughts are with those who are no longer here to live their dream and especially with the families of William Dunlop and James Cowton. Ivan Lintin remains in a critical condition following yesterday’s incident and has been transferred to Liverpool for further treatment – keep fighting!

I’m not too sure how much more this sport, the families, friends and fans can take, but what I do know is we’ll get through it & help those who need it. Don’t get me wrong it’ll take time, lots of time. This season has been horrendous, one of the worst I’ve known, but we’ll get there, we’ll get through it. The truth is road racing is dangerous. Motorsport in general is dangerous. I hope that this gives an insight into this crazy world of road racing especially if you’re someone who just doesn’t get this sport. It’s difficult to understand at times, it’s difficult to love at times. It’s a sport I hate to love sometimes, but a sport I can’t help but love.

Steve Mercer posted something quite poignant today on Facebook for his first post since his incident at TT and I thought I would leave you with this little sentence – ‘We are bike racers and bike racers fight.’

Words by Samantha Wanless