Archive for May, 2013

BBC Radio Cumbria TT chat

Posted: May 31, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Here’s my TT chat with BBC Radio Cumbria’s Mike Zeller from the breakfast show this morning.

Thankfully the gods have remembered it’s TT time and provided some decent weather last night.  We have had no real chance to weigh up the contenders and I really want to see how Michael Dunlop will go with full Honda backing. I take McGuinness to win the SBK race tomorrow but Michael will be a realistic challenger for top spot when the Senior comes around in a week’s time.

John McGuinness in last night's practice session. Photo: iomtt.com

John McGuinness in last night’s practice session. Photo: iomtt.com

Another BBC TT chat

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

Radio Cumbria rang up today to invite me to talk about the TT on the breakfast show tomorrow morning. If the alarm does its work I’ll be on at around 0745.

bbc_radio_cumbria_640_360It got me thinking about the excellent job my native county has done at the TT over the years. These days the flagbearer is Dan Stewart whose record as a privateer is awesome – two placings of sixth plus a number of other top-10 finishes and the Privateers Championship last year. Dan’s last three races at the TT have seen him finish 9th, 9th, and 8th – and he would have been 9th not 13th in the race before that but for picking up two time penalties.

Dan races his own Honda Fireblade in this year’s Superbike and Senior Races and has the backing of Lancashire-based SMT, returning to the TT scene this year.  Dan also has an ex-Steve Plater British Championship winning Honda CBR600 for the two  Supersport Races. In the Superstock  he will be riding the Kawasaki ZX10R that Keith Farmer took to the British Superstock Championship in 2012.

Sponsors are vital and Dan has a good one in Graham Wilcock of Wilcock Consulting, his backer for 10 years now.

In the three-wheeled races it’s once again Tony Baker from Penrith who leads the way for Cumbria. Tony is 67 now, again partnered by his daughter Fiona, and they’re a good bet for a top-10 finish.

Cumbria’s top TT campaigner of course is the great Rob Fisher – 10 sidecar wins. He’ll be back on the island next week to recreate the great moments in the 90th anniversary sidecar parade lap.

On the face of it, it’s a bobby’s job. Riding round the Mountain Course on closed roads, showing off their skills without the pressure of the stopwatch, life for the travelling marshals is a breeze.  But actually, it isn’t quite like that. Travelling marshals, the eight men (no women TMs yet) who patrol the course on specially commissioned motorbikes, are often the first on the scene when things go badly wrong. I felt for Jim Hunter, the TM who was first there when Yoshinari Matsushita suffered his fatal crash on Monday. Thank God I have never witnessed a fatal accident but those who have, and especially those who have to deal with the aftermath, must find it very hard to handle. It certainly isn’t a pleasant part of the TM’s job but it is very important, and it means the authorities have to appoint people who are not only brilliant bike riders but also made of stern stuff mentally and emotionally.

Travelling marshals 2013. photo: iomtt.com

Travelling marshals 2013. photo: iomtt.com

The practice of using motorbike-mounted marshals dates back to 1935. They each have a position at different spots around the course, all are trained in first aid, all carry medical kit, and they also carry out course inspections and report any untoward incidents.

Anyone who has ambitions to become a TM has to wait for an invitation. They also need a pretty good riding CV. There are eight Manx Grand Prix winners among the current team, led by Tony Duncan (MGP Junior and Lightweight winner 1995). Also mounting up this year are Ned Bowers, Chris Fargher, Paul ‘Big H’ Hunt, Jim Hunter, Stephen Oates, Paul Corrin and Ian McVeighty. The bikes are provided by Yamaha this year – R1s, R6s and Fazers. They saw similar duty at the NW200 before being transported to the island.

It’s easy to take these guys for granted, as just another part of the TT scenery. The job, though, is demanding and highly specialised – and a crucial thread in the TT tapestry.

A very cruel day

Posted: May 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

We left our position on the stone wall and headed for the pub as soon as the red flag came out. It was pretty clear there would be no more action on this dry but chilly Monday evening. The beer was good and so were the food and the company, and it was only when we got back to base well after 11pm that we discovered that Yoshinari Matsushita had lost his life in the red flag incident. It is the saddest tragedy.

Yoshi Matsushita. Photo: iomtt.com

Yoshi Matsushita. Photo: iomtt.com

Today was also one of the happiest days of Yoshi’s life, with the announcement that he had been added to the official Tyco Suzuki team for the TT. It is the most painful of ironies that the press release containing this information, along with a happy picture and uplifting quotes, should appear on the official TT website just above the news of Yoshi’s death only a few hours later.

I was in the same Italian restaurant as Yoshi a couple of nights ago. He was there with a group of compatriots and the woman interpreter who, if I’m not mistaken, also looked after another Japanese rider who lost his life here, Jun Maeda – coincidentally, also after a crash in the Monday practice session, back in 2006. Yoshi looked comfortable and relaxed, and the Tyco deal looked like pushing his road racing career up a few significant notches.

Sadly that is not to be.

He will be remembered as someone who took up the mantle of a nation which has contributed so much in terms of riders, engineering and ambition to the motorcycling world, who travelled thousands of miles to compete on the Isle of Man,  and who brought a lot of smiles to a lot of people on the way.

This has been a very, very cruel day.

 

 

Typical IoM contrasts! Today is wet and bleak and there’s been no racing so far at the Pre TT Classic at Billown. Saturday was beautiful and it was great to see Chris Palmer doing what he does best, coaxing classic machinery around the circuit and finishing in top spot on the Ripley Land AJS

Chris Palmer at Cross Four Ways

Chris Palmer at Cross Four Ways

As usual Billown was a great buzz, although Dick Linton and Roy Richardson probably didn’t think so. Dick’s 500cc Aermacchi picked up some loose chippings just inside the scrutineering area which put the bike outof action, then Roy had to retire on the Linton/Martin Bullock 350 Aermacchi early in the Singles race with a problem with the fuel pipe.

Chris chasing Mike Hose on lap 2, just before Mike retired

Chris chasing Mike Hose on lap 2, just before Mike retired

Arguably the happiest rider was Les Trotter who was recovering from major heart surgery this time last year. Completing a remarkable recovery, Les took Nick Penny’s BSA Goldstar to 9th place in his class.

It was also really good to catch up with a lot of friends. Dorothy and myself ended the day in the excellent company of Mavis Brown and her husband Clive, and Heike Perry, sharing a meal and a few glasses of wine, the way it ought to be.

Les at Castletown Corner

Les at Castletown Corner

Classic sidecar action

Classic sidecar action

Racing at TT 2013 gets under way with the pre-TT Classic at Billown this afternoon. Have a great TT everyone!

BBC Radio Lancs logo

Here’s my chat about the TT with Graham Liver of BBC Radio Lancashire this morning, discussing John McGuinness’s prospects, TT safety, and the thrill of riding across the mountain.