Time to close the blog

Posted: November 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

My TT and MGP blog has had a good run for its money and it’s time to close. Thanks for visiting and for all the comments over the years. Feel free to poke around the archive – there’s plenty to see!

1. Ian Hutchinson. Redefined the possibilities of sports rehab.

2. John McGuinness. Class, consistency, longevity. Time to revive that campaign for a Royal honour. But then, he’s King of the Mountain already.

High point: McGuinness at Brandywell in the Senior. Photo: Alan Knight

High point: McGuinness at Brandywell in the Senior. Photo: Alan Knight

3. The Isle of Man public. Generous response to mean weather in practice week.

4. The Birchalls. Like Klaffi a few years ago, massive reward for putting their short-circuit reputations on the line.

5. James Hillier. Speed, control, dignity, modesty. TT titles await.

6. Dave Molyneux. A special lap to break a special record.

7.  Gary Thompson. The Clerk of the Course came up with so many correct answers an appearance on University Challenge must only be a matter of time.

8. Bruce Anstey. Specialist subject: making the horrendously difficult look ridiculously easy.

9. Michael Dunlop. Went through the pain barrier time and time again.

10. North One production team. Camera work and editing were quite brilliant.

11. Derek McGee. I saw him racing as a novice at Athea a few years ago and thought then that a future TT star was being born. The leading newcomer goes home with a clutch of bronze replicas. Name to watch.

12. Peter Hickman. Second year at the TT and he’s beating Anstey, Martin and McGuiness? You can’t be serious.

13. Ivan Lintin. Manx GP graduate has done everything the right way.

14. Keith Flint. The prodigy frontman hummed the melody, Hutchy played it.

15. The marshals. Orange army in the pink, as ever.

16. Clive Padgett. Not for the first time, his team punched above its weight.

17. Isle of Man Police. They had more to deal with than they should have. Good online communication.

18. Fiona Baker-Milligan. The TT’s highest-placed woman this year.

19. ITV schedulers for placing ‘Closer to the Edge’ on mainstream TV at the start of the fortnight – with repeat on ITV4.

20. Johnny Moss. Manx Radio’s quirkiest newsman put together a lovely montage to end the station’s TT broadcasts.



Road racing has given us some truly uplifting stories over the years and now we’ve had one to top the lot – Hutchy’s victories in the Supersport and Superstock TTs, at the end of five long years of fighting his way back to fitness after that terrible crash at Silverstone in 2010. It’s a tale that deserves much more publicity than it will probably get, but that doesn’t detract in any way from the achievement.

just one step on the way back...Hutchy in Swan Yamaha livery at Signpost, 2012

Just one step on the way back…Hutchy in Swan Yamaha livery at Signpost, 2012

Hutchy’s success on the 600 Yamaha was described as a fairytale on the BBC website but I doubt if the man himself would see it quite like that. From the horror of the original accident through the news that he’d need his foot amputated to the 30-plus operations, the hours in rehab, the frustration of riding without being able to do himself justice, and seeing other riders scoop up the glory in his absence, it’s hard to imagine a worse experience for a professional sportsman. For those unfamilair with the tale, Hutchy was struck by another bike in that spill at Silverstone, doing such serious damage that amputation of his foot was recommended but Hutchy refused to allow the medics to go ahead. Trying to think of another competitor who has triumphed over anything similar, I thought of Alex Zanardi, the F1 driver who had both legs amputated after a crash while racing in the Champ Car series in Germany. Zanardi overcame the mental scars as well as the physical damage to win a gold medal in the handcycling time trial at the 2012 Paralympics. Talent is essential in big-time sport but without determination it is nothing, as any Liverpool football fans who have watched Mario Balotelli this season might agree. Hutchy has provided a spectacular lesson in the value of determination, turning disaster into triumph like King Midas on two wheels. He’s also one of the most modest individuals in the sporting world, so at a time when the sports pages are dominated by financial scandals in football and drug allegations in athletics, how good to have something genuine to make the world seem a better place.

Good day for the furtive fans

Posted: June 8, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Postponed races create a lot of problems, not least for fans listening off-island. You’ve sorted your schedule so you can be hardwired to the radio, laptop or smartphone, and you’ve signed up to family or other activities when there’s no racing. Then the winds reach gale force on the island, the Superbike TT is put back 24 hours, and come Sunday you join the ranks of the furtive fans.

The furtive fans are those of us who on the surface are putting in a normal day at work, doing the shopping, visiting family, or otherwise leading a routine existence – while below the surface we’re snatching ten minutes of commentary here, sneaking updates on the live timing there, glancing at Twitter as and when, any which way keeping across the latest as the race unfolds.

The trained observer can easily identify the furtive fan by the distant look in the eye, the constant fidgeting, and an inability to concentrate.

In the early days of Radio TT’s online broadcasting we used to get quite excited in the commentary box when someone emailed in to say they were listening from far-flung places. I remember TT fans contacting us from NASA in Houston and the British Antarctic Survey. It’s only now that I’m beginning to wonder what happened to that inter-stellar spacecraft that our man in Houston was tracking, and whether any emperor penguins fell through the ice near the south pole.

One way or another I kept up to speed with that very exciting Superbike race yesterday – although if anyone can explain to me how to get the live timing to display the splits between the leading riders I’d be very grateful. Completely baffled.

The postponement also created a huge challenge for Neil Duncanson and his team at North One, having to edit their one-hour highlights show in a fraction of the time they’d expected. They did a fantastic job, including dramatic onboard footage showing the spills of Gary Johnson and Michael Dunlop.

In the fuss about Michael, I don’t think anyone has shown enough concern for Scott Wilson, the rider who was involved in Michael’s crash. As the overtaking bike, it was Michael’s responsibility to avoid a collision. Scott’s TT is over and it is certainly not all his fault. He’s been a strong supporter of both the TT and the Manx GP for many years. Not only doesn’t he deserve to be laid up in Nobles with a broken collarbone, he doesn’t deserve to be overlooked as some sort of collateral damage either. (As an update to this, Ian Morris posted on the TT Talking Facebook page that Scott may have come off his bike a split second before Michael arrive, so I may be doing Michael an injustice.)

Well done Bruce – fantastic performance, and another brilliant achievement by Clive Padgett’s outfit. And how great to see Hutchy back at the sharp end after five very long years fighting back from serious injuries.

Now, how can I make sure I’m across everything that’s going to happen today? It’s time to get furtive again.



Fine weather, fast bikes

Posted: June 4, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Some photos from Wednesday practice in glorious Manx conditions, by Alan Knight.

Fastest on the night: Bruce Anstey

Fastest on the night: Bruce Anstey








Michael Dunlop on his superstock machine

Michael Dunlop on his superstock machine








Bimota is back at the TT; to the best of my knowledge for the first time since 1999:

Ben Wylie at Quarterbridge

Ben Wylie at Quarterbridge








Brandon Cretu overcame problems with his Bimota

Brandon Cretu overcame problems with his Bimota








Waiting for the action: the orange army of TT marshals

Waiting for the action: the orange army of TT marshals








Very pleased to spot this upbeat review of my book on the website ultimatemotorcycling.co.uk
It’s available at Lexicon books in Strand Street, Douglas, as well as online from the merchandise store at www.iomtt.com ,  and from the publishers www.veloce.co.uk.

The TT is an addiction. I’m in England, hopping from the radio to Twitter to iomtt.com, just in case I might miss something. And we’re still three days from the first race. I didn’t listen to Radio TT tonight for breaking news or sporting drama. I listened for the familiarity of it. The routine of practice coverage is the same. I know, we all know, what Chris Kinley is going to say, how he’s going to say it, and when. It’s brilliant. And we listen out for the things that are different – a new voice on the air, a new name on the grid, something different trackside. The small details of the new take their place among the century-old sweep of the established. Not many sporting events can offer anything like this.

Amid the atmosphere and the tapestry, there is, of course, news of one kind or another. Tonight, it was Anstey, picking up where he left off in 2014, fastest again. McGuinness was looking good. The sidecars got out for a practice session at last. I listened to Tim Glover’s round-up of the evening’s action, then got a phone call from Alan Knight, the photographer whose work lights up ‘TT Talking’. Alan had been out snapping at Quarterbridge and Braddan.

Five minutes after putting the phone down I took another habitual look at iomtt.com to see if the complete practice times were up yet. They weren’t, but instead there was that doomladen headline: ‘Statement issued on behalf of the ACU.’ We all know exactly what that means: there has been a fatality. And so it was. Franck Petricola, in his first TT, had been killed at Sulby.

This is the other side of that coin of familiarity. Shock, yes. Surprise, not at all. It’s the TT. It’s a genuine, real, ultra-physical challenge. My heart goes out to Franck’s family. But we’ll all be listening again tomorrow.

I’ve often wondered what happened to the tankards.
The tankards isn’t the nickname of a biker gang. These tankards are the ones which always lived in the press centre at the TT, many of them personalised with the names of long-serving members of the press corps.
My first TT was 1990, reporting for the BBC TV programme ‘Northwest Tonight’. The press centre was a very self-contained, clubby place. As a newbie, I was required to attend an interview with the then chairman of the ACU, Bill Smith, who quizzed me about my attitude to the TT and my intentions regarding my reports. The only other time I’ve experienced anything quite like that was in Prague during the Cold War when the British reporters covering a European football match had to surrender our passports at the police HQ before we were allowed to work. Fortunately the TT authorities turned out to be a bit more hospitable. The press centre on Glencrutchery Road was equipped with a bar where Peter Kneale would dispense pints to the reporters after the races. I never had a personalised tankard and by the time I’d clocked up enough visits to be even considered, the bar had disappeared and the tankards with them. In came a new, work-efficient era, with a tea and coffee machine which could never replace the sort of refreshment we used to enjoy before.
Peter combined the roles of commentator and press officer. It meant that he always knew exactly what was going on behind the scenes at the TT, and his successor Geoff Cannell also took on both roles. In 2004 the powers that be decided that the two jobs could no longer be filled by one individual. The turning point had come the previous year when Geoff was caught in an impossible situation, trying to handle media enquiries after the tragic accident that cost the life of David Jefferies while also being required behind the microphone to commentate for Manx Radio.
I was appointed commentator in 2004 and found it quite difficult getting hold of the background information that my predecesors had taken for granted. Peter and Geoff had been in on the plans, the committee meetings, and knew everyone. I arrived expecting the usual standards of media information to be available and found that the TT was totally off the pace. Fortunately the appointment of Simon Crellin as chief press officer a couple of years later made a big difference.
For me, the way a sports event treats its media says a lot about the way it rates its public. If it doesn’t provide the media with a professional service, then it is effectively stating that it doesn’t care if the public knows what’s going on or not.


Guy doing it legally. Photo: Alan Knight

Which brings me up to date and an announcement by the Isle of Man Police that they have dropped their inquiry into Guy Martin’s claims in the Sunday Times that he lapped the TT course in a car at an average 103mph on open roads. At the time there was a mix of outrage and disbelief. The police now say  ‘We have sought advice on further investigation of this matter from the Attorney General’s Chambers, and at this point, our inquiries are complete and we will not be seeking to take any further action’. Which leaves more questions than answers. What information caused them to regard their inquiries as complete? I’d imagine it was the discovery that the claims were completely fanciful, but it isn’t good enough simply to state that their inquiries are closed without telling the public what their reasons are.