Archive for January, 2012

Keith Amor’s anouncement this week that he is retiring from road racing because of damage to his shoulder brings a disappointing end to an all-too-short TT career. It also means that the paddock has lost not only a talented rider, but one who was well capable of making hard decisions based on practical evidence rather than emotion.

Keith always rode the TT with a proper appreciation of the hazards. On the Wednesday of race week in 2010 he was one of a handful riders who refused to race when steady rain left the track treacherous. It took quite some time for Race Control to agree and postpone till the next day.

Twelve months later the Wednesday schedule was again affected by rain. Racing started after a delay of two and a half hours, but with water spraying off the tyres Keith crashed heavily at Union Mills and Guy and Cameron almost came to grief at the same place. The damage to his shoulder that day has contributed to his retirement. He also had a spill at Quarterbridge in practice, and another one at the Ulster GP, meaning that both shoulders are weakened. Despite a major operation last November he hasn’t regained full strength and, with his first child on the way, he’s made a good decision.

Keith made his TT debut in 2007 at the age of 35 and made his mark instantly by taking 14th place in his very first race around the Mountain Course. A year later he made it to the podium, third in the first Supersport race on Wilson Craig’s Honda, the same year that his bike caught fire on Bray Hill in the second Supersport race. 2009 saw him on the podium twice, third in both the Supersport and Superstock events. Another third came in 2010, again on 600cc machinery and he was lying second for HM Plant in the Senior when forced to retire at Glen Helen on the last lap. Last year saw him advance to second on the podium on his own KBMG Honda 600. That was his best year overall – finishing all five races with three fourths, a fifth, and second place in the points championship. I tipped Keith for a win last year and I feel sure that within the next year or two he’d have become the first Scot since Jim Moodie to top the podium.

Retirement will have been a tough decision but in typical style he’s weighed up the situation as it is, not as he’d like it to be. He’s given us all a lot of enjoyment and I wish him every success in the future, a future which includes working for Focused Events who run track days across Europe.

This could take some time…

Posted: January 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

Now that the organisers have decided to start TT races with riders in the order of their fastest practice times, apart from the pre-designated top 20, I’m wondering what the Raceguide will look like? And how long will it take me to read out all the changes when hardly anyone will remain in their original slots?? If any spectator misses the Raceguide changes, they’ll have their work cut out recognising who’s who.

What's in a number? McGuinness takes numero uno through Braddan, 2011. photo: CL

Not that I am against the idea – it makes sense. I’m just starting to think through the consequences. I guess the I.T. team will also have their work cut out, re-programming starting numbers which, I assume, will be changed to correspond with a rider’s actual start position. Will it also make life harder for the scouts behind the scoreboard?

Whatever the consequences, we’ll all manage to cope and you can’t argue with the sporting logic behind the decision. I wonder how long it will be before the whole grid lines up on the basis of practice speeds, including the top 20? And how much will that add spice to practice week?

TTale of TThree TT Stars

Posted: January 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

Big news today is the signing by TAS of Conor Cummins for the 2012 road racing season. Conor’s arrival means Hector and Philip Neill will again run a two-rider team at the TT, having entered only Guy Martin last year. Conor’s time with McAdoo has yielded some terrific results but his chances of becoming the fourth Manxman to win a solo TT will only be improved by this move which teams him with a proven TT-winning outfit.

Conor made his TT debut in 2006 and was best newcomer in both the Superstock and the Senior – an impressive 17th overall in the Senior. In 2007 he became the fastest Manxman ever around the Mountain Course in taking 6th place in the Senior for Millsport Racing on Yamaha machinery. The same year he was 5th in the Superstock, a feat he repeated 12 months later, again aboard a Yamaha but now with NCT. In 2009 Conor made another quantum leap, signing for McAdoo Kawasaki, grabbing his first podium with 3rd in the second Supersport TT, and then runner-up in the Senior, still his best TT finish. The same year he lapped at 133.284 at the Ulster, setting what was then a new record for the fastest road racer in the world. His victory in the first SBK race was his first international road race win. Conor continued to raise the bar in 2010. On the Mountain Course he lapped at 131.511 to lead the SBK TT before retiring at Laurel Bank, he was back on the podium with third in the Superstock, and led the Senior before Guy Martin’s crash at Ballagarey caused a restat which was when Conor had his own spectacular off at the Verandah. Last year, by no means fully fit following months of surgery and rehab, he took 6th in the second Supersport race and was also honoured by the Spirit of the TT award in recognition of the courage and commitment he’d shown in battling back from his injuries.

So 2012 is going to be another exciting year for Conor and his army of supporters.

But it isn’t like this for all TT riders. The arrival of the Winter edition of the excellent TT Supporters Club magazine brings news that former MGP Senior winner Simon Fulton is by no means sure of racing this year. A detailed interiew with Si reveals that his sponsor Kev Stephenson from Rev2Race has sold his R6 because of a downturn in business, and Simon himself has had to sell his R1 to pay for his TT bills from last year. Total cost of keeping Si on the road last season was £38,000. At the time the mag went to press he had no bikes, and was planning to build a 600cc bike. Whether he’ll be entering the other classes looks very doubtful to say the least. Simon will not be the only rider who is finding the financial climate very damaging to his TT career.

To end on a up note. Keith Amor has just tweeted the great news that he’s to become a dad. So for all sorts of reasons, 2012 is getting off to an eventful start in the TT world.

 

Good news from Hutchy

Posted: January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Hutchy has been on Twitter to reveal that he’s just had his 19th operation. This one has enabled him to lift his left foot for the first time in 16 months, meaning he expects to be using an orthodox left-side gear shift before long.

Paul Owen and Phil Harvey have helped each other out for a long time and no-one was more delighted than Paul when Phil bagged a podium place on his two-stroke 250 at the Manx GP last year.  Now they’ve officially teamed up for a joint effort at the TT this year. They’re to campaign under the banner of Team Go Kart Electric Golf, a name which is bound to cause confusion but hopefully will keep them out of the bunkers. They’ll be riding Yamaha R6s in the Supersport races and will also contest the Superbike and Superstock events on as-yet un-named machinery.

Phil’s most recent TT was 2009 when he took 5th place in both the 125 and 250 races at Billown. His last TT race over the Mountain Course was a year earlier, 30th in the Supersport. Paul has two top-20 finishes in the Senior TT under his belt and last year placed 13th and 20th in the two Supersport races.

 

North One loses WRC deal

Posted: January 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

North One has been an important TT partner for the last couple of years since taking over the contract to produce and distribute TV coverage of the races. They have done a great job but at the moment, through no fault of their own, they are up against it. Their parent company, Convers Sport Initiatives, went into administration in November and as part of the fall-out North One has now lost its contract to promote the World Rally Championship. Full story here. I hope this doesn’t have a knock-on effect on their commitments to the TT.

My chance for revenge

Posted: January 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

The first time I covered the TT as a journalist was 1990. I turned up with a camera crew from BBC TV and was immediately escorted to an audience with four-times TT winner and then chairman of the ACU, Bill Smith. It was made clear that I wouldn’t be allowed to do any filming unless I passed muster at what felt like being paraded in front of the Pope. I was grilled by Bill on the reasons for my interest in the TT and what I proposed to do with my footage.  I must have produced some decent answers because I was eventually given the OK to get on with my job.

The only time I’ve ever encountered anything similar was when I went to Czechoslovakia, in the Iron Curtain days, to commentate on a football match. Along with the other British reporters I had to present myself, with passport, at the police HQ in Prague and sign a document guaranteeing that I would only report on the match and not on any other aspect of life in what was then a Soviet-dominated state.

Tomorrow I will get my own back on Bill. He’s been elected to the board of Chester FC and tomorrow I’ve been asked to lead a forum in which he’ll address the supporters. I will, of course, be putting him on the spot myself first.