Archive for September, 2011

MAKE IT A DATE

Posted: September 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Road Racing Supporters have published their 2012 calendar. The photographs are quite amazing, showing the top riders as well as one or two who you might not expect to see, and it’s all the better for that. All proceeds go to the Rob Vine Fund, the Southern 100 Helicopter and MGPSC Helicoptrer funds. You don’t need a calendar to know that it’s perfectly timed for Christmas!  Locate it at www.roadracingsupporters.com

 

MANX BONUSES

Posted: September 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

We lost three competitors tragically in the MGP but it’s worth pointing out that in 2011 there were no fatal accidents involving bikers. It’s the first time since 2007 that this has been the case so let’s be thankful for that. It was also my impression that there were comparatively few serious incidents this year, so congratulations to the bikers on two weeks of safe riding.

I’ve just completed updating my data on each individual competitor so that’s 2011 tidied up and all the stats are ready for next year.

My unofficial award for the rider who made the biggest impression on me without winning a race goes to Chris Palmer – three races, three times runner-up, and not a trace of a moan.

Meanwhile my connection with Manx Radio is paying dividends in another way. When the island won the right to host the Commonwealth Youth Games of 2011 the radio station asked me if I could supply some students from my Sports Journalism course at the University of Central Lancashire to work at the Games. The outcome is that eight students travelled to the island last Wednesday and they are currently being heard reporting live on boxing, badminton, athletics, rugby, gymnastics, cycling, and swimming. I’m listening online in Liverpool and they are doing a fantastic job. It is invaluable experience for them and I am grateful to Anthony Pugh, Marc Tyley and Tim Glover at Manx Radio for giving them this opportunity.

FINAL REFLECTIONS MGP 2011

Posted: September 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

The change of race schedule was a success. I like the idea of the Newcomers having the stage to themselves on the Saturday at the end of practice week. It gave us at Manx Radio an extra helping of full, live commentary and that helped us all to get dialled in for race week proper. I hope that also spells the end of four races running simultaneously, which we had in 2010. Two races running simultaneously are enough.

The biggest controversy of 2011 was racing in wet conditions. I can’t remember hearing riders expressing such outspoken views in public as did Michael Sweeney, David Lumsden, Dan Sayle and Joe Phillips who were all very critical of decisions to race. This opens up two issues: one, the whole question of wet weather racing, and two, the relationship between the riders and Race Control.

On racing in the wet, the nature of the Mountain Course makes it a question to which there is just not a definitive answer. The dangers of the course suggest that riders should never be sent out when the roads are not dry all the way round. Yet the variations in the weather these days coupled with the need of the Manx public to use their own roads suggest that we could be waiting a very long time for the perfect race conditions to appear.

Times change. Phil Taubman, the clerk of the course, starts races in conditions when his predecessor, Neil Hanson, would not. Neil would delay racing for much longer, waiting for better conditions, and if that meant holding the races over to the next day, so be it. Under Phil, despite the tricky conditions, we got every day’s racing done on schedule and no reserve days were needed, which was good for everyone especially marshals, other volunteers who need time off work, and the Manx public.

None of the three fatalities this year seems to have had anything to do with wet conditions. Indeed, when we raced on damp roads there was a remarkable absence of any serious incidents, which suggests that riders are more than capable of adjusting their speed and style when the need arises.

It seems probable that racing in the wet is something we will have to get used to. Not that this is something that ever went away. Certain riders excel in the damp and I remember Nigel Cap Davies showing everyone how to splash round the TT course a few years ago.

The other factor is the relationship between the racers and the clerk of the course. It is vital that this is a good one and I hope that both sides can get together and have a good chat before next year.

At Manx Radio we received a number of complaints about the interview with James Whitham on Wednesday morning. James was brought up to the commentary box while the Senior Classic was under way and I interviewed him after the bikes had passed Dave Christian’s commentary position at Glen Helen. The interview was fine but went on too long and by the time we wrapped it the leaders were well past Roy Moore at Ramsey. This was a mistake on our part and several teams have let us know that this prevented them picking up accurate timings to signal to their riders across the mountain. That won’t happen again.

As I write the sun is up, the sky is shining silver, the sea is calm and Dorothy and myself are about to head back from a lovely island to our lively city.

 

KEEPING ON TRACK

Posted: September 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

MGP is over and it ended on a good note. I was so pleased for Andy Brady winning the Senior to add to his Junior success on Monday. Andy will always associate the MGP with the sad death of his father last year but his achievements in doing the Junior/Senior double give him good memories of the event which will last a lifetime. He postponed any celebrations when he got back to the paddock and instead went to bed and had a good kip! There were plenty of celebrations (left) at the presentation ceremony at the Villa last night. Among the messages of congratulation was one from the last winner of the double, Craig Atkinson.

I’d be a lot happier if my own commentary on the end of the Senior had been better. It was pretty poor. We knew it would be a fairly tight finish between Grant Wagstaff, number 7, and Andy, number 8. When Grant’s bike came into view I said that Grant was here, and then for some daft reason backtracked and thought it was a backmarker. God knows why, when the machine was clearly racing at a much higher speed than any backmarker. I was still fumbling through my second throughts when Andy rocketed out from behind the trees alongside the rugby field. At least I was quick enough to get onto the right track and describe Andy taking the chequered flag reasonably well, but the build-up was disappointing. I think I was expected the two machines to be much closer together and when Grant appeared on his own I was thrown off course. Not good and a lesson to be taken on board for the future. As Dorothy points out, it was Michelangelo who said, at the age of 87, ‘I am still learning’. 

Ryan Farquhar and Roy Richardson produced two consummate perfomances to win the classic races. We’ve come to expect this from each of them. Ryan had tough opposition in Mark Buckley who led at the end of lap three while Roy led from start to finish with Chris Palmer picking up his third runners-up spot of the week. Roy has now won nine MGPs and he’s a more than worthy custodian of the family tradition, started by his gran Linda who raced karts and trials bikes 60 years ago.

Great to see John McGuinness yesterday, both riding a parade lap and in person when he popped into the commentary box for a chat. If you weren’t listening yesterday, John interrupted his lap to call in on Roy Moore at the Hairpin. Roy was delighted. It was a lovely gesture by John and another example of his deep appreciation of the TT and MGP and everything that goes with it.

 

 

EMOTIONS RUN HIGH AT THE VILLA

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

I was at the Foggy and Whitham chat show last night and didn’t get to the Awards Presentations at the Villa Marina, but I hear that the presentation of Wayne Hamilton’s Newcomers trophy was one of the most moving occasions that the MGP or TT has witnessed. MGP fans will know that the tradition is that the winner is carried from the back of the hall to the stage, shoulder high, in a wooden chair. Last night, Wayne’s mum was carried in the chair to receive the award and his dad along with other members of the family were also there. I can imagine in many other sporting arenas the last thing that the nearest and dearest would want would be to join in an evening of celebration so soon after the death of a loved one, but road racing isn’t like that. In their deepest sorrow the Hamilton family provided a wholehearted affirmation of the values of the sport and their respect for its people.

Hopefully this year’s Mountain Course action will end with no more tragedies. We have had more than enough. The conclusion to the programme is at the mercy of the weather. It has been a glorious day on the island today and I sat on the beach at Port Erin (pictured) to complete my preparation for the commentaries. Tomorrow we have been told there will be some rain around so we could be in for some delays and possibly shortened races. The word is that there will not be enough marshals on the island to enable Saturday to be used for rescheduled races if tomorrow is a wash-out so I’m sure Phil Taubman will do his best to give everyone a fair chance.

Bumped into Mark Parrett in a restaurant in Douglas. He told me he had serious problems with the rear brake and the clutch during yesterday’s Formula Classic and getting to the finish was no formality, so thank goodness he was able to coax the bike home and avoid a deserted podium.

The reason why Hefyn Owen was a non-starter in the Lightweight was because he fell off his bike on Tuesday – his BMX bike that is, doing his right arm a fair amount of damage. 

This evening we were honoured to attend a reception in honour of the MGP at the Governor’s residence. It was a pleasant get-together and Her Majesty’s representative Adam Wood made a very good, informal speech, paying tribute to the many people, especially the volunteers, who get the races up and running.

So to the climax of the races and with the Senior and Classic Superbike races on the bill it promises to be a spectacular finale.

A very mixed day at the Manx Grand Prix. Another rider lost his life. Adam Easton was 71 years old, a long-serving trooper at the MGP, I reckon the oldest competitor this year having made his debut here in 1983. Adam was a keen golfer who at his best played off two. In the past he raced a 350cc Manx Norton which Jock Finlay rode when winning the Junior MGP in 1968. Adam had owned it since 1976 when he swapped it for a Vincent with the man who bought it from Jock. That’s the kind of story which adds so much value to road racing in general and the Isle of Man in particular. Adam died in a crash at Lambfell, an incident which was not made public until after we came off the air.

The racing was eventful. The Formula Classic was somewhat farcical with only four riders starting and just one, Mark Parrett, finishing; not that anyone can begrudge Mark his victory, he is a terrific supporter of racing on the Manx roads. As expected, Ryan Farquhar scorched to victory on the Paton in the Senior Classic. For the second time this week we saw a rider pushing in from Governors, Wattie Brown emulating Maria Costello but not being rewarded with a podium finish. In the afternoon it was a hometown double, Dave Moffitt and Billy Smith, both from Douglas, winning respectively the Supertwins and the Lightweights in tricky conditions as rain battered the mountain.

Among the attractions around the Grandstand is a nostalgic exhibition of photos (see pic above) brought together by Mortons Media and selected by Malc Wheeler of Classic Racer magazine. We took a tour after racing ended. The photos are all black and white, apart from that iconic shot of Agostini wheelying over what’s forever known as Ago’s Leap. They are smartly displayed in modern frames and every one of them has been bought by fans who will be picking them up at the end of the week.

We also went to a chat show hosted by James Whitham and Carl Fogarty this evening. Great entertainment. Among the stories that went down well was James’s account of his appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed when he rode the Valmoto Triumph that Bruce Anstey piloted to victory in the 2003 TT. All this involved was a ride up the drive to the stately home but James decided to pull an expansive wheelie, realising too late that he was travelling too fast to get the front end down and stop the bike before arriving at the end of the run. The outcome was an undignified crash, made worse by the fact that gathered at the end were all the other celebrated riders who’d been performing.  “Most of the lads looked concerned,” said Jamie, “but I will always remember Giacomo Agostini whose expression said ‘who is this w***er?’ ” 

Finally for now I can’t let the occasion pass without noting that the Manx GP Golf Tournament in aid of the Helicopter Fund was won by a team called Three Blokes and a Birdie, made up of Nick Jefferies, Nick’s wife Ann, Chris Kinley, and myself. To say I was stunned when I learned we had won is an understatement! I was fairly confident that my contribution would have derailed our chances, but amazingly this turned out not to be so. We won by a couple of points from Roy Moore’s team. I couldn’t stay for the presentation so Chris brought my trophy to the media centre this morning – pic below. The moment of the round came at the short 8th when Nick blasted his shot out of a bunker. The ball was flying across the green when it hit the pin and dropped like a stone straight into the hole for a birdie. We were clearly destined to win after that!

So how do you sum up a day like today? I haven’t worked that out yet.