Archive for August, 2012

We knew that the incident involving Trevor Ferguson in yesterday’s Supertwin race was serious because we were not allowed to announce anything about it in the course of the radio commentary. We obviously feared the worst but hoped for the best and it wasn’t until some time later that it was confirmed that Trevor had lost his life. It had been such a good day, and all of a sudden it wasn’t such a good day any more. I didn’t know Trevor personally but I’ve commentated on all his races in the Manx Grand Prix since his debut in 2006. It was only four days earlier that I’d been talking to Ryan Farquhar at the wedding reception for Manx Radio’s Tim Glover and Ryan told me that Trevor would be using Ryan’s own KMR Kawasaki in the race. “He’s the only person I’d trust with it,” said Ryan. Ryan was so pleased to be running his bikes in the Manx with Nigel Moore on the bike that Jamie Hamilton usually rides. One of the most poignant moments of the day came very late on when I looked through the emails which had come into the studio and found one from Jamie, wishing the KMR riders a good safe ride. I feel so sorry for Ryan and Jamie and all Trevor’s family and friends. Those two KMR machines looked fantastic as they lined up at the start and then, less than two laps later, disaster.

The motorcycling community of Ireland has lost yet another brave racer. Richard Britton, Martin Finnegan, Robert Dunlop, Andrew Neill, Victor Gilmore, John Donnan, Derek Brien, Wayne Hamilton, the list goes on and that’s only in recent years, not forgetting Joey. You wonder how much more the road racing community can take. The thing is though, road racing is in the blood and if it’s in the blood you can’t extract it any more than you can remove someone’s DNA.

It doesn’t make it any easier at the moment though.


James Cowton

Have we seen a new star born? James Cowton at the age of 20 took an astonishing fourth place in the Junior MGP today. Three days after winning the Newcomers Lightweight James jumped on his Honda CBR600, made steady progress throughout the race, and grabbed a superb result. It must be wonderful for his dad Fran, a former racer, although he never raced here. This is James’s first visit to the MGP and he’s already made a massive impression.  I grabbed Roy Moore for a photo before he headed up to Ramsey this morning. It is always great listening to Roy’s commentaries which combine terrific knowledge with devlish humour. Today he managed to weave in a mention of ’50 Shades of Grey’ before spotting that Junior Classic leader Chris Palmer was having problems with a slipping clutch. Chris nursed the bike home and revealed that yes, he had been having problems with a slipping clutch.

The Mountain Course is a temperamental old lady. She can be so cruel at times; at others positively generous. Last year Chris came second in all three races he entered – today, he won. Wayne Kirwan came second in both the Junior and Senior two years ago. Last year he couldn’t compete for financial reasons. Today, he won. Pete Symes won for the first time and what a reward that is for his long-time sponsor Jack Harrison, now in his eighties and not so well. And it was good to see Geoff Bates on the 250 podium after all the work he has out into his own racing and that of others from the Fylde Coast over the years.

Final thought on a good day: Triumph placed five bikes in the top 15 of the Junior. Truly, the times they are a’changing.

Changes on the island

Posted: August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

The forecasters got it spot-on today – it’s been grey and wet all day on the island and Douglas harbour lighthouse is already flashing away at this early stage of the evening. Hopefully the weather people will be just as accurate tomorrow when it’s predicted to be dry.

News of changes in tomorrow’s grid. Hot favourite for the Junior Jamie Coward will lead them off at plate No 1 following the withdrawal of Kieran Hankin. Jamie was originally due off at No 2. He’s riding a Barnes Racing Yamaha and not a Suzuki as originally listed.

A number of riders have been moved up the order after good performances in practice or the Newcomers’ races. They include Newcomers Senior winner Kamil Holan who is up from 56 to 39 and Newcomers Lightweight winner James Cowton, up from 85 to 19. John Simpson goes at 21 and not 31. Withdrawals from tomorrow’s race include Andy Fenton, Andrew Farrell and Alistair Howarth.

We start with the 350 and 250 Classic races which look like going off much as listed, with the exceptions of withdrawals Colin Stockdale, Peter Creer and Bob Simmons. Brian Cooper has spent the last two years marshalling but now he’s back in the race, piloting a Drixton Honda in the 350 race.

I’m not sure how many events there are on any sporting calendar where a 22-year-old can line up on equal terms with a couple of 68-year-olds but that’s what the democracy of road racing gives us tomorrow. Hefyn Owen represents the young brigade on a Honda and Keith Dixon  (Seeley 7R) and Peter Richardson (Honda) are from the, ahem, more experienced generation. Good luck to all.

Racing starts with the Classic 350 at 1215 over 3 laps, not 4 as originally scheduled. The 250 Classic runs concurrently. The Junior goes at 2.45 over 4 laps. The roads will open between 5pm and 6pm, and then close for a practice lap starrting at 6.15 with roads reopening at approx 7.30pm.

What a start!

Posted: August 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

It was a real test for the newcomers yesterday – having to cope with three delays and then battle around a damp, windy and misty Mountain Course: what a baptism! So it was a privilege to be able to describe the victories of three riders who will never forget what they were doing yesterday: Kamil Holan, Andy Dudgeon and James Cowton. Those riders took a combination of mental and physical fortitude and reliable machinery. And the same goes for all the finishers yesterday. Riding the Mountain Course is not just about the podium. Completing the course represents a victory in itself.

Throughout the day the prospects of racing looked on the low side of nil. The rain persisted till 3pm and the cloud was low over the mountain. The best decision that clerk of the course Phil Taubman made was to un-decide to make a binding decision at 6pm. By then we’d had two postponements and Phil had declared he’d make a final decision at 6. Just before 6 we could see from the commentary box that the cloud was beginning to lift, both via the webcams and the naked eye, and Phil rightly thought that onemore delay might just give the race the chance to get going. So it proved.

Had a good chat to Ryan Farquhar later in the evening, while celebrating the wedding of Manx Radio’s sports editor Tim Glover. The King of the Supertwins is making a fantastic contribution to the MGP by entering the two bikes that have been making such an impact on road racing this season. Ryan’s own bike, the one on which he won the Supertwin TT this year, will be ridden by Trevor Ferguson, Ryan’s uncle, in Wednesday’s MGP race, and Nigel Moore will be aboard the bike which has been campaigned all summer by Ryan’s protege Jamie Hamilton.

Meanwhile Ryan himself is among the favourites for the Junior Classic tomorrow. We’re on air at 9.45 building up to the 10.15 start and if the weather is as good as it is right now in Douglas, we’ll be in for a good day.


Come in Number 34

Posted: August 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

I can reveal the identity of the mystery Number 34. For the last few practice sessions an unidentified  No 34 has been circulating the Mountain Course with the red plates of a newcomer but not appearing on the raceguide.

David Brook and Terje Joensen

Yesterday I came across the bike in the paddock and quickly located the rider and sponsor. No 34 is in fact the Faroe Islander Terje Joensen who was supposed to be riding No 42 in the Supertwins class for his sponsor David Brook of Brook Suspension of Bradford. Terje explained that he’s had little experience on a supertwin and the duo decided this was not the best place to start so he’s switched to David’s own Yamaha R6. David has been campaigning in Thundersports GB while Terje, the Faroes’ only bike racer, has raced on several British circuits including Cadwell where he survived a big crash in March.

Andy Dudgeon continues to impress, dominating the Newcomers supertwins again last night. Andy is this year’s recipient of the Olive Bullock Scholarship and he’s already repaying the faith shown by team boss Martin Bullock.

Martin Bullock and Andy Dudgeon

Andy began as a moto-crosser, moved into bike racing three years ago, and has helped Roger Maher and Dan Kneen in the past. This is his big opportunity and he’s shaping up really well.

Other news of newcomers: Frenchman Steve Cervellin thinks riding his Ducati every day around the roads of his native French Alps has helped him adjust to the Mountain Course, and Hinckley’s Sam Middlemass was allowed to go out in both sessions last night because he’s lost a lot of practice time due to a jammed gearbox. He was up till 1am yesterday morning stripping out a selector shaft from a GSXR600 engine in Ramsey after the owner generously responded to an appeal on Manx Radio.

Paul Smyth is one of the island’s big hopes for a local win. He’s going well in both the Junior and Senior practice sessions with the backing of the experienced PRF team. Team boss Paul Rennie has his brother Carl helping out which means Paul Smyth has Carl’s immense experience as a TT racer to tap into.

Carl Rennie

Carl hasn’t raced for the last two years but when we spoke yesterday he wasn’t ruling out a return to the TT – a talented, determined rider with top-10 finishes under his belt, it would be good to see Carl back in action next year. PRF were originally due to run the Irishman William Cowden at the MGP but William hasn’t recovered from a crash at Cookstown early in the season so the door has opened for Smyth.

The weather forecast today was “unoptimistic” but as I write it is dry and a silvery sun is fighting its way through the clouds over Douglas Bay. Let’s hope for dry roads and safe racing tomorrow when I’m on the air with the Manx Radio OB team at 5pm.

Called in to Manx Radio’s HQ yesterday where programme director Marc Tyley showed me the new studio kit. The studios have been redesigned and new broadcast desks have been installed. It’s amazing what you can do at the push of a button. Marc showed me the studio that’s in use to monitor incoming broadcasts from the Grandstand, Billown and elsewhere. The engineers have pre-programmed the set-up for each Outside Broadcast so that come the day the studio operator only has to press a button to go from standard studio set-up to Grandstand set-up, or Billown set-up. In the past it would take a long time to re-plug the various audio sources which would normally require an engineer’s presence; now it’s all there, ready and waiting. Impressive stuff which keeps Manx Radio bang up to speed.

Talking of speed, 2010 ultra-lightweight winner Phil McGurk has boosted the capacity of that winning bike to 656cc and runs it in the Junior this time. He goes again in the Supertwin race on the same bike that gave him such grief last year when the crank broke in practice. And he’s built a Yamaha 250 for the Junior Post Classic based on a frame bought from Jack Clark in Preston. Sarah Boyes is here for the second year and she’s concentrating on her 125 after problems with the 250. Dick Linton’s Aermacchis will be in contention for both the Junior and Senior Classics, each having undergone extensive work since the pre-TT at Billown. Dick has coined a very appropriate new term in view of the inconsistent weather these days. Discussing the prospects for practice the other day, and not wanting to appear pessimistic, Dick would only admit to being “unoptimistic.”

Michael Dunlop (pictured right) is here. I thought he would drop out to concentrate on his recovery from his back injury which looked so painful at the Ulster GP and I don’t think anyone would have complained. But he told me on Tuesday that a lot of work had gone into preparing the Trident Engineering Suzuki that he’s riding in the Classic Superbike race and he didn’t want to let anyone down. “And anyway,” he added, “it’s a few more laps around the Mountain Course!” I rate Michael as a real star, a brilliant rider and the most courageous competitor.

Spectating at Braddan on Tuesday was more eventful than usual. The road was damp to start with but some oil appeared from somewhere giving Ian Pert a nasty moment on the Kawasaki he’s entered for the Junior Post Classic before John Turner slid into the wall in tandem with his 400 Kawasaki. John was unhurt. The marshals took over from then on, cement dust was spread over the oil line and efficient flagwork ensured no-one else came to grief.

On the left is a pic of Andy Lovett carefully exiting Braddan on Tuesday.

Back on line thanks to Mrs L

Posted: August 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ve had a nightmare 24 hours struggling with laptop and internet problems, eventually solved by Dorothy who despite living with me for over two decades still has astonishing reservoirs of patience……

Happily back on line now, and also happy that we’ve had a good day today with a cracking performance by Jamie Coward in practice, over 119mph reinforces his position as one of the favourites. This year’s MGP could be really close in the modern 600s and the Senior with Paul Smyth and Wayne Kirwan set to challenge Jamie and Michael Sweeney yet to get into his stride. Among the newcomers James Cowton has caught the eye in the Lightweight race and I was planning to add a photo of James here but the internet isn’t keen on my uploading pictures at the moment. It’ll have to wait. I met James before Tuesday’s practice session and discovered that his first visit to the Mountain Course came at the age of five when he fell asleep at Ramsey! He’s supported by his dad Fran who used to race BSAs and Ttriumphs in the 1970s, though not here on the island. The family is from East Yorkshire and James has a good record at Oliver’s Mount. At the age of 20 he is one to watch.

One of the highlights of today was meeting up with Les Trotter. The former MGP winner from Barrow has probably had more mentions in this blog than John McGuinness this year, and he’s now thankfully over his heart bypass and the various complications that followed. Les without access to bikes is even more grumpy than me without access to the internet and it was good to share a brew with him and his wife D’reen and their mates Alan and Sheila in the paddock. Les is spectating, marshalling and helping Bud Jackson which is not a bad recommendation for the surgical team at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

Finally for now, who today went to fill a kettle of water and came back with a kettleful of brake fluid? The answer is a closely-guarded secret but I have a feeling it may leak out before this blog signs off at the end of the MGP.