Archive for May, 2012

I’ve just noticed an inaccuracy in the Superbike TT lap record on the TT website. It is given as 131.338 by Bruce Anstey last year, an error which also appears in Island Racer magazine. In fact the SBK record is 131.511 set by Conor Cummins on lap 1 in 2009. The Raceguide has it correct.


Took in the practice action at Signpost last night, a great vantage point on the bank in front of Martin Bullock’s mum’s house where everyone is welcome for the price of a donation to the helicopter fund. Ian Mackman was out for the second time on the feisty-sounding Norton and got in two laps.

Ian Hutchinson

Ian Hutchinson is looking stronger all the time, a lap of 126.760 last night was well up on his previous best this week. 


Throughout the session we could see misty cloud creeping towards Douglas from the south and sure enough it arrived in time to cause the cancellation of the sidecar session.


McGuinness a class act

Posted: May 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

John McGuinness looked in top form in last night’s practice session. I was at Braddan and John swept through there with such smooth power it reminded me of Joey Dunlop at the same spot in 2000.

Guy Martin last night

Not everyone looked so commanding. Cameron Donald tipped into the left-hander too soon and had to stand the bike up in a hurry; Ian Hutchinson went into the bend too strong and had to knock speed off quickly. Cameron though is one of the names we’re all talking about here after a lap of 129.023 last night putting him second only to McGuinness on 129.411.

Other riders making an impact so far: William Dunlop 124.770 to top the Supersport rankings, Jamie Hamilton the fastest newcomer at 117.4, and the Norton has completed a lap with Ian Mackman taking the British-built Aprilia-powered bike around at an average 112.364mph last night.

James Hillier at Braddan

They were showing ‘Closer to the Edge’ in the bar at the Sefton Hotel last night, with sub-titles to compensate for the soundtrack not being audible. It was fantastic to see people riveted to the screen, mouths open, meals going cold. Great movie.

Tomorrow we’re supposed to be having our full dress rehearsal with the radio team but the weather forecast is not too good and we’ve been placed on stand-by to run the outside broacast on Friday instead. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Wow, what a day! The main day of racing in the Pre TT Classic at Billown was the most exciting I can remember. The races were action-packed from start to finish with dramatic moves taking place all around the circuit. My co-commentator Charlie Williams was right on the spot for the most significant of them, on the last lap of the last race when Guy Martin crashed at Cross Four Ways as he tried to take the lead from Jamie Coward. Until then it had been an amazing head to head duel with young Jamie refusing to be intimidated by the presence of such an illustrious TT rider and giving as good as he got.

There was no shortage of thrills outside my commentary box as riders went for overtaking chances down the straight. One was Guy himself who pulled out of Jamie’s slipstream and nailed the move as the two bikes rocketed away from me, but the moment of the day came in the sidecar race when Eddy Wright  snatched the inside line to pass Nick Houghton and found just enough room between Houghton’s bike and my commentary box. A few feet more to the right and Eddy could have grabbed the mic to tell us all about it. Alan Oversby and Chris Palmer recorded two wins each on the day but my unofficial award for the top rider goes to Jamie Coward for the way he took on and beat Guy Martin in the Superbike race.

Glorious weather helped to make it another memorable event in the south of the island. It’s just a shame that so many of the dedicated people who made it happen are clearly disheartened by the Dept of Economic Development’s plans to change radically the structure and nature of the Manx Grand Prix. Their idea is to make the event shorter with fewer classes and fewer races from 2013. I’ve only been back on the island four days and I’ve lost count of the number of men and women who have told me how unhappy they are – and this is supposed to be a sport that’s about fun and enjoyment! The Department clearly has a duty to the Manx taxpayer to avoid waste and to gain good returns on investment and if they believe the MGP needs to be revised, then they have a responsibility to put that view. I have no quibble with that at all. But if, at the end of it all, they want a MGP to continue in whatever format, they will need the same army of willing volunteers which thus far has sustained the MGP, the TT and the events on the Southern 100 course. In many, many cases these are all the same people, from high-ranking officers of the Manx Motorcycle Club to medics, marshals, caterers, and the rest. They can’t be taken for granted but my conversations over these last few days leave me in no doubt that they feel that is exactly what is happening.

It isn’t a healthy environment for what should be a constructive debate. This is how misunderstandings flourish and needless harm is done. I was told about one incident which sounded particularly destructive and had clearly inflamed passions among some staunch MGP supporters, but on checking it out I found that the incident was nothing like the version described and was in fact fairly understandable. But this is the problem when trust breaks down. The way it looks to me right now, the Department has two challenges, not one. One is to introduce whatever changes they settle on. The other is to take the Manx Motorcycle Club and the army of volunteers with them. I can’t see how they’ll achieve number one without achieving number two.

These pictures sum up the Pre-TT Classic event at Billown. Blue skies, superb machinery, and families linking up to have a great time. The first photo is of Edinburgh’s Brian Nichol, about to take his Triumph Tiger Cub through scrutineering before yesterday’s race. The bike goes back to 1957 when it was built by students at Aston University, the frame hand-made inspired by the Manx Norton. The engine is the Tiger Cub. The original motor lasted till last year when it blew up here at Billown, but nothing daunted Brian found a replacement and was back racing yesterday. The bike has been owned by him and his dad John for the last 15 years. If you are on the island you can see it in the paddock and it is due to race again tomorrow. The other photo shows Brian’s wife Louise and her dad Charlie Cope and the 1963 Windle sidecar chassis, Hillman Imp engine, which they took out in yesterday’s practice session.

It was a good day which included Guy Martin dicing with Jamie Coward in the Post Classic Superbike practice session, Guy marginally the quicker to grab pole position.

Followers of this blog will know that Barrow’s Les Trotter should have completed 50 years of racing on the Isle of Man yesterday. Les is recovering from a heart operation and was due to be transferred from Blackpool to Furness General Hospital yesterday. Not only does that take him closer to home but closer to a stronger radio signal for monitoring Manx Radio TT 365. Here, the emphasis at Manx Radio is all on the new online service and the app that goes with it, dowloadable from the App Store – search for Manx Radio TT365. The little earpiece radios which have been sold for the last few years are no longer available, so you have got one, cherish it.

There were a number of envious non-combatants around Glencrutchery Road last night, watching the newcomers, supertwins and lightweights have their first practice laps. Riders without an entry in those classes have to wait till tomorrow and Dan Stewart and Paul Owen were two of those who were suffering from itchy feet, eager to take advantage of dry roads and clear skies. One biker didn’t have a great evening – his machine was hoisted onto a low loader when he (or she) left the bike parked at the end of pit lane after roads closed ahead of the TT practice session.

Bruce Anstey was keeping an eye on things. He has last year’s 600 and Superbike and a new Superstock which he sounds very pleased with – ‘a bit lighter, and more power.’ I caught up with a couple of newcomers – very contrasting emotions! Michael Niblett, from Hinckley, was very happy after his escorted lap and then his first free lap of the Mountain Course, but German Stefan Holz was clearly frustrated that he hadn’t gone quicker and was passed by several riders. It’ll come Stefan – you have to give it time! But then, Stefan works for the BMW Superbike team so I guess he isn’t accustomed to taking it easy.

Finally I met Dan Cooper for the first time yesterday and it was Dan’s birthday! 25 years of age and he’s looking to celebrate by improving on his impressive placing of 20th in last year’s Supersport race, only his second TT campaign.

Today it’s another amazing day on the island and I’ve got people to see, gossip to catch up on and a bit of sorting to do before a busy day commentating on the main day of racing at the Pre-TT Classic tomorrow. On air just after 9am. Below are some photos from the TT parc ferme last night.


On island and on air

Posted: May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

It’s been a glorious day on the island and Radio TT is up and running. Or Manx Radio TT 365 as we have to call it this year, reflecting the excellent innovation that is the all year-round website The radio team assembled at the Sure-sponsored studio under the Grandstand where Tim Glover opened the fortnight of broadcasting with a string of interviews with, among others, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar, Milky Quayle, Paul Phillips, Charlie Williams and myself. Tim’s interview with me wasn’t actually much of an interview. He asked me what my expectations were for this year’s TT and as I neared the end of my answer I realised our esteemed sports editor wasn’t paying a blind bit of notice but was semaphoring desperately out of the studio trying to catch the eye of Simon Andrews.  I had no choice but to keep rambling away until Simon got the message and came in. At which point I became abruptly surplus to requirements as Tim turned his attention to the man who stunned everyone with his rookie performance last year. Oh well, that’s showbiz.

John Marsom, Manx Radio’s business chief, announced that the commentaries are being sponsored this year by Royal London 360, which is very good news; nice to know there’s some financial backing for what we do and of course the revenue is important.

Tomorrow I’ll be at Billown all day, monitoring the Pre-TT Classic practices until we go live for commentary on the day’s only race at 3pm. Then it’ll be back to the Grandstand for the first TT practice session with Newcomers, Supertwins and Sidecars out on the track.

Talking of the Pre-TT Classic, Les Trotter should have been competing but will instead spend the day continuing his recovery from his heart by-pass in Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital. Les has twice been told he was ok to go home but today, for the second time, the decision was revoked. An infection in the leg is the problem at the moment, although judging from texts zipping across the Irish Sea his main complaint is that he can’t get Radio TT 365 from his hospital bed. Hopefully someone will come up with a solution or I fear the former Manx Senior GP winner will kicking someone, infected leg or not.


Commentator’s notes (3)

Posted: May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

If 14-times sidecar TT winner Dave Molyneux wins another one this year he’ll become the first to win using engines from all four major Japanese manufacturers…and if either Moly or John Holden wins, Kawasaki will have their first TT sidecar win. 2011 Race B winner Holden has switched power supply after five years running Suzuki.

Glyn Jones is a regular sidecar entrant but for one reason or another he hasn’t actually started a TT since 2007. He has Richard Murphy in the chair this year. Hopefully it’ll be third time lucky for Leeds driver Dean Lindley. He’s entered the TT twice before but didn’t get to the start line. This year he tries again for his TT debut with Leon Fitzpatrick in the chair.

Tim Reeves once said that he wouldn’t consider himself a true champion until he’d stood on the top step at the TT. Not a bad authentication of the TT from a man who won the World Championship three times. So far Tim has been third twice and I wouldn’t bet against him grabbing that top spot this time. He has Dipash Chauhan back in the chair, Dips having recovered from the broken leg he sustained early last season and it was Dips who shared Tim’s third place in 2009.

Robin and Annette Daykin are back for another tilt at glory. Last year Robin, aged 74, and Annette, aged 60, failed to qualify for the first race but did make it in the second – and their celebrations in pit lane when they recorded a finish rivalled those of winner John Holden. Great to see ‘Team Past It’ back again.  And Mike Cookson’s failure to find a buyer when he decided to retire and sell his bike back in 2004 continues to pay dividends. Unable to sell his machine Mike thought he’d better carry on racing, and since then he’s reeled off a string of top-20 finishes. He goes again this year, again with Kris Hibberd for company.

Newcomers include Scott Lawrie who was pipped by Reeves for second spot in the British F1 Championship last season. Scott has raced in selected World Championship rounds with top-ten finishes. He’s partnered by ex-Andy Laidlow chair-man James Neave.

Familiar names missing this year: Simon Neary, Mike Roscher, Kenny Howles, Tony Elmer, the late Bill Currie and Kevin Morgan, and the  now-retired three-time winner Klaus Klaffenbock. And no Dan Sayle on the sidecar grid. I’ll be rubbing my eyes in disbelief.