2014 Isle of Man TT Races
Imagine yourself, stood on Glencutury Road watching pedestrians, cars and bikes file there way around as if all is well with the world.
An announcement from race control crackles out from the speaker system ‘road closes in 10 minutes’. Tensions increase, knowing that in less than 30 minutes I will be setting off reaching speeds over 180 mph and taking on the toughest and most dangerous road race circuit in the world!!
The Isle of Man TT course: what more is there to say, it is an iconic event that happens annually where riders and teams from across the globe take on the challenges of this demanding circuit knowing that potentially one error could be your last. Demanding is not the word, both machine and rider endure stresses that would be equivalent to a fighter pilot encountering jumps, bumps and corners lined by brick walls and lamp posts at close to 200 mph. It is a spectacle as crowds of onlookers lining the 37.7 mile track can be close enough to touch racers as they flash past with average speeds in excess of 130 mph.
After winning the previous International Manx GP event in the August I was invited to contest this years TT races and was honoured and lucky to be riding the RAF Reserves Honda Fireblade and TrackElectronics Supertwin 650 machine.
Festival of Speed, the International Isle of Man TT is a two week event, with over 150,000 spectators cramming themselves onto ferry’s taking the arduous journey to be and see part of the action over the fortnight. The first week consists of 6 nights of practice followed by a week of races in various engine size classes.
I was entered into the Superbike, Superstock riding the RAF Reserves Racing Honda for Lee Hardy Racing and entered into the Supertwin 650 class riding for TrackElectronics. Practice week was a chance to get settled in. Having not ridden a bike for over nine months prior to the TT it takes a while for the mind and body to get up to speed. First night was good, having a chance to take out the big bike I thought it would be a good idea to shock the mind into gear that way when I get onto the slow 650 she would be flat out and feel very tame. The RAF Reserves Honda was great to ride, fast enough for me and on the first night other than a technical issue from running out of fuel (rider error) we were set up nicely with sector times over 122 mph average speed and 8th fastest in class.
The reverse psychology to get the mind up to speed also worked for the little 650 class bike. On the second night of practice taking out the little bike was like a walk in the park compared to the thousand class machine. Telemetry shows I am on full 100% throttle around the TT circuit for nearly 70% of the lap, compared to the big bikes at nearly 30%. Second night of practice was good, nice to get settled in on the little bike placing 5th fastest lap in class was encouraging considering there were a few tweaks needed to the bike as speed trap times showed we were over 12 mph down on top speed to the fastest bike.
The following next two nights of practice were unfortunately wasted due to technical issues and not wanting to put excess mileage on the little bike meant I was one day away from the first Superbike race with only 2 laps completed on the big bike. The TT is certainly a test of both man and machine. In this instance machine being the fitter!!
Six laps Superbike race: – Over 226 miles and I was using it as extended practice. It is the Tourist Trophy where riders set off at 10 second intervals and effectively you are racing the stopwatch rather than other riders directly. Minutes prior to any race here is such a buzz, the atmosphere is electric, teams and riders pushing their way through crowds of fans frantically hustling around completing last minute checks and rituals. My last minute.com rituals normally include a toilet break as it will be the last one for potentially over two hours, then change into my leathers and take the walk up the hill signing autographs and having pictures with TT fans before jumping on the bike and OFF!!!! When you put it like that, OFF!!! It sounds so simple. But in reality within three seconds travelling over 100 mph and then hitting 170 mph at the bottom of Bray hill less than 10 seconds later. Everything compresses and my body is forced into the tank, it’s actually not so simple. Just another 37 miles to go to complete that lap!!
Unfortunately with lack of bike fitness prior to the event left me struggling for grip in my legs, on the 5th out of the six laps my better judgement pulled the bike over after making some mistakes at some technical and fast sections of the course. Not the ending I would have liked but better safe than not ever again.
After two good rides in practice and being placed 8th fastest heading into the race, I had high hopes for a top ten finish on the TrackElectronics 650 Supertwin. This was not going to be easy with a field boasting 8 previous TT winners and a field of very experienced and fast racers lining up on the grid. Setting off from the line I was on a storming first lap passing Moto GP star Danny Webb with in 14 miles of the first lap I knew I was going well. The speed deficiency of my bike I knew would not see me on the top step of the podium but on lap 2 I was getting pit boards indication P3 then P4 and kept pressing on. This was a great effort from privateer number 45 but again it was not to be as on the final lap a small electrical issue would see my efforts go unrewarded.
Overall it was a great experience, nice to get the opportunity to get on a bike and race this iconic circuit against the top road racers in the world. I would like to thank the RAF Sports Lottery, RAF MSA, Lee Hardy Racing, TrackElectronics and my trade managers for their support.