Archive for June, 2010

DOBSY R.I.P.

Posted: June 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

On Monday I led a ceremony in memory of Paul Dobbs. The attendance was tremendous – most people were wearing bike kit and many came on their bikes. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were all in the open air in front of the Grandstand. I don’t really know what you can do at a time like this except to show the family that they are not on their own and try to transmit some love and support and I think the big crowd at the Grandstand certainly did that.

THE CHEQUERED FLAG

Posted: June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

My TT ended earlier today in much the way it has been conducted over the last week – singing the praises of a very small, very special elite. On the Mountain Course it was Hutchy, Klaffi and Danny. At Billown this evening it was William Dunlop and Roy Richardson who monopolised affairs. William was simply unstoppable, winning the 125, 250 and 600 races, setting a new lap record for the post-TT 600 of 106.489. Roy scooped up the 400 and 650-twin titles. Billown as usual was great. The action is non-stop, the racing is good and the atmosphere is always friendly, especially around my commentary point, “the box that rocks.”  Heroism beyond the call of duty was shown by Trish Clague and her team when the butties failed to arrive for the race officials and the ladies rushed off to buy bread and fillings and produced top-quality refreshemtns from nowhere.

I was asked to read a most moving statement from Bridget Dobbs about her family’s response to the tragic death of Paul. This I did just after the studio handed over to me at 5pm.  I won’t reproduce it all here but one part read:

“We held nothing back in pursuing Dobsy’s racing and so I need regret nothing. Our lives have been immeasurably enriched by the TT and the Isle of Man.”

So as the fans disperse and I prepare to board the Liverpool ferry tomorrow, my final reflections on TT 2010.  I have just witnessed one of the most sensational sporting achievements in over 35 years reporting sport. For one man to win all five solo TTs in one week is simply mindblowing. To do it for the same team, on the same manufacturer’s bikes, makes it even more remarkable. The same combination – Hutchinson, Honda and Padgett’s – got it right time after time after time. These wins were no gimmes. The opposition was fast, fearless and determined. The task itself was a mighty challenge. As the tragic fatalities of Paul Dobbs and Martin Loicht emphasised, this is a sport in which the slightest mistake can have terrible consequences. All of us on the island this year, and those following events via Radio TT and ITV4, have been witnesses to a special, once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

Klaffi’s sidecar wins were uplifting too – a man who has won everything at world level took on the Mountain Course, learned the race the hard way, and at last won through. 

On top of that we had the anxiety over Guy and Conor, continuing concern for Karsten Schmidt, Paul Owen demonstrating what a terrific human being lies under the leathers and helmet, the narrow avoiding of a riders’ revolt, power cuts, Mavis tripping over a cable and falling headlong in the commentary box just as the race was starting (she is fine), Dave Christian making a very encouraging debut at Glen Helen, Carl Rennie joining Roy Moore in the commentary box at Ramsey and John McGuinness doing likewise with Dave, emails flooding in from all round the world including the Houston Space Centre, the Kennedy Space Centre and the British Antarctic Survey, a guy from Chesterfield asking me to broadcast his marriage proposal over the air (we never heard if he was accepted or not), laps of 130 and 131mph coming thick and fast, and meeting up again with good friends and making new friends as well.

I guess that sums up the TT.

Thanks to everyone who has visited my blog which will now go into a period of rest and recuperation!

BOTH SIDES OF THE COIN

Posted: June 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

This has been another difficult day but it ended on a high. Five wins out of five for Ian Hutchinson, Padgetts and Honda is quite amazing and something which will surely never be repeated. But the day didn’t start at all well when I was handed a statement from the ACU announcing the death of Martin Loicht after an incident at Quarry Bends  in the Supersport race on Thursday.  Martin only entered the Supersport in order to achieve the qualification he needed to race his electric bike in the TTZero. Guy Martin’s big off in the Senior was another worrying incident. When Guy didn’t appear at Glen Helen on the third lap we knew something was amiss. Then we were informed that there had been an incident at Ballagarey and from the commentary box we could see smoke rising from that part of the course. The next update was that the rider involved was Guy. The red flags appeared and it seemed like the Crowe/Cox crash all over again, complete with bike in flames and a fire engine on the course. One big change this time though was that we were given proper information and were authorised to broadcast it.  So we could report that Guy was conscious. When I did so, the crowd broke into spontaneous applause, such was the relief. Their reaction totally justified the race authorities’ easing of previous restrictions. Last year we were given no official news on Nicky and Mark. In circumstances like this it isn’t true that no news is good news. No news is usually bad news. Equally when Conor Cummins crashed at the Verandah in the restarted race. Very quickly we were informed that Conor was conscious and talking to the medics. We don’t need to know every little detail but if we can report that a rider is conscious it prevents anyone from picking up a load of half-truths and manufacturing a false picture.

After that it was all about Hutchy and a sporting achievement which was a privilege to describe.

photo: TT Press Office

A very mixed day and despite describing a truly amazing sporting achievement in Ian Hutchinson’s fourth win in a week I am feeling pretty down because the day also included announcing the death of one of the competitors, Paul Dobbs. Sport is about joy, cameraderie and achievement and that’s what I like reporting. Having to read out a statement from the ACU that Paul had lost his life after an incident at Ballgarey, a very fast sweeping right hander on the southern section of the course, is not what I came into the business for. Paul had a partner and two kids and my heart goes out to them. He was a very experienced rider who absolutely loved racing motorbikes, whether classics or moderns, whether here or in the UK or in his native New Zealand.  That of course demonstrates both sides of the coin – the love of racing is accompanied by acknowledgement that it could one day take your life. When it does, it underlines what a tough sport it is, what brave people the competitors are, and how harsh life can be if you are the partner or the child of a rider whose luck runs out.

We’ve got a delay to racing at the TT. Douglas Bay is clear but it’s wet and cloudy elsewhere around the island. Latest info is that the clerk of the course hopes to get things started at 1.45pm.  So I’ve been for a wander around the paddock. Caught up with Nicky Crowe who is confident his boys Neary and Knapton will go a lot quicker in the the second Sidecar race.

CR Gittere

Also chatted with CR Gittere, the American rider who is here for the second year. He’s happy with the set-up of his 600 Suzuki but the 1000cc machine has been giving him some grief. “Once I’ve got that sorted out I might be able to concentrate on where I’m going!”

Whiling away the time I stumbled across a great video resource created by Pathe News, the people who used to provide the old black and white newsreels in cinemas. You can type in any name in the Search box and up pops fabulous old video of great riders and races. Check out www.britishpathe.com Try inputting Geoff Duke and find out what was special about his wedding day in 1951.

Quiet day today, updating my data and preparing for tomorrow which will not be quiet – unless the weather intervenes. There wouldn’t have been much racing this morning – there was a lot of low cloud in the Douglas area. Tomorrow we’ll all be watching to see if Ian Hutchinson can make it four wins in a week and equal Phil McCallen’s record. Further down the order there are some other intriguing situations – James Hillier is fast developing as a very consistent TT performer. He only made his debut in 2008 and in the nine TTs he’s finished he has never been out of the top 20. Others to watch: local lad Dan Kneen, fifth yesterday, Ben Wylie  who scored an impressive 15th yesterday in only his second TT, and experienced campaigners Carl Rennie and Mark  Buckley who haven’t managed a finish between them so far – surely they’re due a break soon.

Dropped in at the photographic exhibition at the Sulby Glen where the highlight is a photo of Charlie Williams fettling his Yamaha in 1983, resplendent with such a mane of hair I’m surprised he could se where he was going (I’m sounding like my old schoolteachers now!)

Talking of photos, my eye was caught by a chap lining up a photo of a red telephone box. I could only half-see the phone box and couldn’t quite understand what was so attractive about it. Then he snapped the photo and out of the phone box emerged five full-grown adults. One for the album I guess.

Mavis and Heike are off to a reception at the Governor’s residence tonight. There’ll be no talking to them tomorrow.

That was another amazing day. We’ve seen two great victories in one day – again – by Ian Hutchinson but both wins were hard-fought. Neither was a stroll which made for an exciting day for the commentator. The Supersport race was dominated by Hutchy but Guy Martin was catching him on the final lap, and in the Superstock it was only towards the end of the final lap that Hutchy got the better of Ryan Farquhar. So although Ian is the man of the moment, and deservedly so, I don’t think that remaining two solo races can be written off as formalities for the Bingley rider. I believe John McGuinness has at least one more TT win in him and that could well come  in the Senior on Friday, when Conor Cummins will be another force to be reckoned with after his brilliant showing for the first four laps last Saturday.  Michael Dunlop will give Hutchy a run for his money in the second Supersport race on Wednesday and Guy Martin will be a serious contender in both races.

I was puzzled today, having speculated at the start that we could be celebrating Honda’s 150th TT win by teatime, when I was informed that Honda reckoned they were already at the 150 mark. My records stated 148. Having got back to base I’ve been looking at this and the discrepancy could be explained by the format of the TT races at Billown last year. The Lightweight and Ultra Lightweight TTs last year were both decided over two legs. The TT winner was calculated by the best aggregate performance of all the riders over the two legs. Hondas won both legs of the Lightweight (Lougher) and both legs of the Ultra Lightweight (Palmer and Lougher) but there was only one TT winner in each class – Lougher in both cases. For me, that equates to two wins for Honda, not four, so I don’t think Honda can count them as four separate victories. No doubt the historians will settle on an agreed solution but so far as I’m concerned Honda are now on 150 wins, not 152.

Meanwhile I’ve decided to nominate a completely unofficial ‘rider of the day’ award to the rider who produces the most eye-catching performance without finishing on the podium.  It goes to Conor Cummins for Saturday and Michael Dunlop for today.