Well, it’s been another year at the Isle of Man TT and this one has been interesting to say the least. It seems the rain gods have been hovering over my head since I got off the plane in Dublin, on May 11th, to shoot the North West 200 in Portrush, Northern Ireland. The rain has been following me ever since.
While practice week for the TT was fairly nice regarding the weather, the actual race week itself was a typical Irish Sea, North Atlantic, unpredictable weatherman’s nightmare. As a result of this fickle weather races were delayed, rescheduled and finally cancelled as it applies to the big kahuna of the event, the Senior TT. All day we hoped, watched the clouds and wished the sun would reveal itself and with help from the wind, dry the course out. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and when John McGuinness joined the marshals for a drive around in a car to inspect the course, a final decision was made to cancel the Senior TT. The TT did run an abbreviated Lightweights class race. However, some of the riders already had left and the real reason for running it at all had to be more politics than racer safety, as the mountain section was still damp according to race radio reports.
If you’re wondering why the Isle of Man TT isn’t run in anything but perfect conditions, you need look no further than at the circuit. This 37.5 mile public roads course has a mixed bag when it comes to surfaces, and the roughness of the asphalt in sections will destroy a soft rain tire before they can complete two laps for a pit stop. This puts the racers in jeopardy, as well as requiring them to slow down to make it around the course which is hardly racing. That said, race slicks in the past have proven to be dangerous. It was just last year that an attempt was made to run a race in similar conditions against the riders protest, which resulted in riders going down at speed through Union Mills and the race being red flagged during the second lap.
Taking what cover they could find, fans and riders had to deal with wet conditions during many TT events.
Another aspect of this year’s event that caused delays was the death of tourists pretending to be racers. While every effort is made to warn, advise and educate the masses who bring their motorcycles across from Great Britain and Europe on the Steam Packet Ferry, every year this inevitably occurs. This year we had racing delayed at one point over two hours due to an incident on the mountain section of the course. The push back in the race times can cause issues with rider visibility on the west side of the circuit owing to the setting sun (not to mention the evening light is horrible for photographs). So, if you do plan on visiting or bringing your motorcycle to the Isle of Man TT, remember you are not John McGuinness, Guy Martin, Bruce Anstey or any of the competitors on this course. Even they would not do what you are attempting on the bike you’re riding.
Wonder what it’s like to be a part of the traveling world of motorcycle road racing? All you needed was to be around the podium following John McGuinness first Superstock win at the TT and for his long time team Padgetts Motorcycles no less. Following John’s appearance on the podium the entire team including Clive Padgett, his family, John’s family as well as the crew broke out into their own chorus of “We are Family.”
TT Marshals at Brandywell corner keeping an eye on riders and track conditions in Dainise Superbike Race 1.
Family is indeed what it’s like for the teams as well as the world racing media. On the rainy Saturday waiting for word on if there would be a race, Conor Cummins and the Tyco Suzuki team were in the back of the team trailer talking, joking and acting like family because really they are. If you were walking around the grandstand on other than race days you may have seen James Hillier, his wife and young son who was riding a small wooden toy motorcycle he pushed around like Fred Flintstone in his car. The paddock is full of small and large teams at night cooking out, enjoying a pint and some good ol’ conversation without Internet or television.
As a result of weather, altered race schedule and lack of a Senior TT, it’s not uncommon to hear visitors grumbling about the cost of the trip and lack of any racing for them to see, if at all. That is the risk of traveling to the Isle for the TT on an abbreviated, anything-but-the-entire-fortnight schedule. Yes, the racing is epic and the scenery, especially off the course and around the Isle, is amazing but you are subject to the Gods when it comes to how enjoyable the event will be. The Isle of Man TT is not for the casual observer but rather a must-see for the hardcore race fans who fully understand all the plusses and minuses of viewing racing on a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea.
Ride Safe, Ride Often and Enjoy The Journey.