Archive for May, 2011

THREE TT CHEERS

Posted: May 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

Three highlights stand out from today, one provided by Guy Martin and another by Ian Holloway. Guy was first out in tonight’s opening TT practice. The riders started off down the pit lane where the 60km per hour limit caused so much grief for Guy last year – he exceeded the limit marginally, incurred a 30-second time penalty, missed out on a podium place, and sulked through the next podium ceremony and the press conference. So what happened today when the riders were given a chance to practice keeping to the 60km limit? He shot down the pit lane at some pace over the limit! Fortunately no time penalties applied tonight but it gave us a chuckle.

Ian Holloway, the Blackpool FC manager, has his image displayed on the helmet of Tangerines fan Roy Richardson. It’s an amazing piece of work. When Roy has his head down, as he did at Billown earlier today, it looks as if Holloway is riding the bike and heading straight for you.

The other highlight is our refurbished commentary box at the TT Grandstand. It has got pretty manky over the years, with ancient equipment, wobbly stools and scruffy paintwork. The problem was, Manx Radio didn’t think it made sense to re-kit the place when they only had one or two-year contracts from the IOM Government to cover the races. Now that they have a longer contract they have more incentive, and many thanks are due to engineer Bob Allison who has taken it upon himself to bring about the improvements. We have a new mixing desk, new talkback system, new laptops, new stools, a fresh coat of paint on the walls and even an aircon system. It will make working there much more comfortable and efficient.   

Commentating at Billown on the Pre-TT Classic was fun. It would have been more exciting if we’d had some close finishes instead of the races all being decided well in advance, but there were some good scraps further down the order. The main drama came during the Junior when the computerised timing system went bananas. Suddenly my screen went blank, then it returned but in a different format, then it disappeared again, came back with another different appearance, and all the time bikes were thundering by as the race developed. It turned out later that the mouse on the master computer had fallen on the floor and crashed the system, and it took the rest of the race for it to be re-set in the usual format. This caused a fair amount of confusion before we could say for certain that Chris Palmer had set a new lap record on his way to winning the race.

This evening’s TT practice was red-flagged early because of very heavy rain and hailstones (!) on the mountain. Billown certainly cauight the best of the weather, but at least the sidecars and solos got a fair outing tonight and we hope for an uninterrupted practice session tomorrow evening.

John McGuinness in tonight's practice session. Photo: Stephen Davison, Pacemaker Press International

MOLYNEUX MACHINE SET TO GO

Posted: May 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s been a good day on the island, breezy but dry and a fair amount of sunshine. Spent a pleasant evening at the home of ex-TT sidecar competitor Brian Rostron where the gossip was inevitably about matters three-wheeled. Among the items I can report, Gary Knight, world championship driver who is at the TT for the second year, has acquired Dave Molyneux’s machine and motor from last year and, again with son Dan in the chair, is looking to improve on his debut campaign. Tony Baker in contrast is here for the 44th year (minus one year for the foot and mouth cancellation). He has an interesting hybrid fairing, part Louis Christian, part pure Baker, in a bid to increase the aerodynamics and find extra speed.  Moly is not competing this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s given up for good. With no Moly and no Nicky Crowe, it will be the first time for many years that the sidecar No 1 plate has not been given to a Manxman. When do you think was the last time a non-Manxman had No 1, and who was it? The answer will be given in the build-up to Saturday’s first Sidecar TT on Radio TT.

The word among the solos is that the 1000cc BMW won’t get the full two laps on one tank of petrol. Naming no names, but at least one rider only discovered this today and faces a busy morning tomorrow getting the tank extended in time for practice tomorrow evening. The sidecars, unusually, are being sent out first at 6.20pm with the solos out afterwards. It seems strange that Sunday night is here and we have not seen a wheel turned yet on the Mountain Course – this year there was no qualifying session on Saturday evening in a move designed to reduce costs for competitors. Instead, all the drama was on Douglas Golf Course this afternoon where Steve Parrish and myself took on Charlie Williams and Chris Kinley. My game was so dreadful I fear I’ve given Kinley unlimited ammunition for the next few days; suffice to say that Steve was left with far too much to do and Charlie and Chris won with two holes to spare. 

Billown awaits in the morning – first race at 9.30.

Great, we’re up and running with the first live commentary of 2011 out of the way.  I spent the afternoon in the commentary box at Billown, monitoring a fascinating practice session in which Roy Richardson  came within a second of matching his own lap record for the 350cc Singles, Chris Palmer posted a time two tenths of a second outside Roy’s record for the Junior 350, and Jamie Coward was a class apart in the Post Classic Superbikes on his Suzuki 750. The sidecar qualifying was a bit tasty too, with Vince and Jamie Biggs just three tenths of a second quicker than Nick Houghton and Paul Thomas, so it’s all shaping up for a good day’s racing on Monday.

First though we had today’s one race. Marc Tyley handed over from the studio at 3.40pm and off we went, once I’d managed to stop my tongue getting tangled up over the name of the event sponsors Blackfords, not sure how that happened. Charlie Williams was at Cross Four Ways, which is two-thirds of the way roud the circuit, and Chris Kinley was sweeping up the interviews before and after the race. The noise as the bikes thundered off the line and past my commentary position was fantastic, and Chris Palmer on the AJS got the perfect start. Roy’s Aermacchi has the speed over the longer distance though, and it was a convincing win for Roy with Mike Hose (Bultaco) second and Bill Swallow (Aermacchi) third. The main story was another victory in the 250 Singles, run concurrently, for Ted Fenwick, now 83 years of age and still piloting his Ducati immaculately. When Bob Millinship and Roger Birkenhead dropped out Ted was there to pick up the win with Ian Ward (Ducati) taking second and Terry Kermode (Aermacchi) third.

From my point of view eveything worked fine, and the computer display in the commentary box has been altered this year to make it easier to pick up the different classes when two run concurrently. The race HQ has had a new lick of paint, the course and facilities are in great condition and we even got a fair quota of blue sky. Afterwards we had a pint in Port Erin and then witnessed our second spectacular show of the day. Around six or seven gannets were fishing quite close in to shore and we stood on the harbour wall and watched a fabulous performance as they arrowed into the sea, almost vertically. The fish stocks of Port Erin Bay took quite a hammering this evening. I’m not too sure how many places in the world offer up quite what we can find in the Isle of Man at this time of year, I guess there must be some, but I’m very happy to be where I find myself tonight.

RADIO TT ON AIR

Posted: May 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Radio TT goes on air 6am tomorrow with Ashley Tracey presenting from the studio under the Grandstand. This evening there was a gathering for the radio team in the same studio, part business part social – there is a fridge neatly tucked away at the back with some interesting contents. Even more interesting will be the Kawasaki ZX6 which will be delivered soon as a competition prize for listeners, not bad! John McGuinness, Keith Amor, Mark Miller and Stephen Thompson all came along to do interviews as we went live for half an hour. Myself, Charlie Williams and Chris Kinley also did a chat with Tim Glover conducting proceedings.  Irish Sea crossing was a lot calmer than I expected. It’s damp and not too warm tonight but better weather is forecast tomorrow when my first live commentary is the Singles race from Billown at 4pm, with Charlie Williams at Cross Four Ways and Chris Kinley doing the interviews.

Torsten Robbens of the Belgian team Thor has informed me they will not be ready for TT Zero. They expect to race next year.

Last weekend was very good for John McGuinness. Even though he came off the bike in the final hour of the eight-hour race at Albacete. Despite that mishap John got several hours of priceless time on the bike, while many of his TT rivals were finding somewhere to shelter from the rain in Northern Ireland.

Meaningful track time is at a premium before the TT. It’s still relatively early in the season. Many top riders are adjusting to new teams and different machinery this year – Anstey, Donald, Martin, Michael Dunlop – so the loss of racing at the NW200 has had an ongoing impact. Amid the rain, bomb hoax and oil spill at Portrush, McGuinness was clocking up the hours and the miles, adding to the work he’s already done on the same bike at the Bol d’Or.

It all reinforces my prediction that John will be the first winner of TT 2011.

I reckon we will see the complete opposite of last year. Instead of one man winning all the solo races, we could well see a different winner each time.

Pic of John at Albacete courtesy of Honda Racing

Bits of news are cascading in from all angles at the moment. Manx Radio this morning announced that a Radio TT app is now available for the i-phone (search in the App Store) so there’s even less excuse for missing a second of the action over the next fortnight. 

Here’s one of the riders we’ll be following – Conor Cummins pictured at the truncated NW200 last weekend, a good sight on what was a frustrating day for all concerned (photo by Alan Armstrong).

Jenny Tinmouth has announced that she won’t be riding this year and has left the Splitlath Aprilia team. This is real shame after Jenny made history by becoming the first woman to compete in BSB. I did wonder if things were not destined to work out when the official entry list arrived and no bikes were listed alongside Jenny’s name…but I wonder if she might still appear on the island with another team.  Paul Owen has split from his sponsors Speedy.com and will now be riding a Suzuki superbike supplied by Hallett Aviation, a welcome change of heart by Neil Hallett who looked to have walked away from road racing after the fatal accident involving one of his riders, Paul Dobbs, last year. Dobsy’s wife Bridget will be back on the island next week.  One of the TT Zero entrants, Italian set-up Vercarmoto, emailed to say they won’t be competing this year but hope to do so next year.

On the subject of non-starters, Ewan Hamilton and Alan Oversby are out of the pre TT Classic at Billown on Saturday, both injured. Both would have been in strong contention for podium finishes and they’ll be missed. I’m hoping the winds will die down ahead of the leaving of Liverpool on Friday, don’t fancy a stomach-churning crossing thanks very much, but I’m on course to link up with the Radio TT mob on Friday evening and then the first live commentary of 2011 from Billown on Saturday, 4pm, the Singles race with three entrants from the Czech Republic among more than 30 riders lining up on the grid.