Posts Tagged ‘Manx Grand Prix’

So here we are with the final four choices in my personal hit parade of Twenty Top Memories from the commentary box over 18 TT/MGP meetings and 193 races.

4Fourth place goes to one of the moments thatAnstey make the job so exciting – when the time trial nature of the races really comes into its own and it’s too close to call as the riders head down from Cronk ny Mona on the last lap. It’s last year, 2012, and the first of the 600cc Supersport races. The race has settled into a duel between Cameron Donald on Wilson Craig’s Honda and Bruce Anstey on Clive Padgett’s Honda. There’s nothing to choose between them and I have my stopwatch at the ready as Cameron flashes across the line. Then the excitement builds as we count down the seconds until Bruce arrives – and as I stop the watch I declare in my unofficial view that the Kiwi has won it. He has – by 0.77 seconds. They’ve been racing for 150 miles and it comes down to a few yards, and ten hours of broadcasting that day boil down to a split second. Magic.

03These are my most memorable moments, not necessarilyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the happiest, and this is one of the toughest situations I had to deal with – the crash involving six-time winner Nicky Crowe and twice-winner Mark Cox in the second Sidecar TT in 2009. It’s been a day of delays and I’ve been talking to the boys in the awning as we wait to see if racing will take place. Then we’re off, and the lads are first away. They pass the commentary point at Glen Helen but then the computer screen goes blank: no sign of them at the next transponder point, Ballaugh. Red flags appear. We hear Nicky and Mark have crashed at Ballacob on the approach to Ballaugh. After that, nothing in terms of reliable news. Rumours abound, among them the horrible report that the paramedics are treating one of them and leaving the other in the road, from which I have to assume that one is beyond help. It is truly awful and I am holding the fort as best I can, machines circulating the wrong way round the course back to the Grandstand, the fear gnawing away that before long I’m going to be told terrible news but saying nothing about any of the rumours. In the end racing is abandoned and we go off air. Eventually we hear that they are both in Nobles and both are badly injured – but alive. I remember that as much as the horrendous suspense that went before and that’s why the moment makes it up to No 3: the absolute relief and gratitude that they’d survived.

2Second spot is that man McGuinness again and another lap record. 16 John McGuinness. Pic by Dorothy LambertThe reason for this choice is simple. It’s the Superbike TT 2004 and my very first Radio TT commentary. First race, first lap, from a standing start McGuinness on the No 3 Yamaha rewrites the lap record. I recall standing looking at the timing screen, which was very unfamiliar then, wondering whether to believe it or not and anxious not to broadcast any false information. But it’s true: 17 minutes, 43.8 seconds. I’ve just commentated on the fastest lap in the then 97-year history of the TT Races. What a way to start! McGuinness’s average speed of 127.68mph slashes 3.2 seconds off the previous best set by David Jefferies two years earlier. I don’t know what shape John is in, but I’m shakin’ all over.

01Number one is not a TT moment at all, but the CraigManx Grand Prix. The Junior race in 2006. The first two riders to leave the line side by side are Yorkshire’s Craig Atkinson and Ireland’s Derek Brien. They get the tap on the shoulder at the same time, they depart at the same time. After three laps, with one circuit of the mountain to go, there are only seven-tenths of a second between them, Atkinson leading. This can never happen again – riders no longer start in pairs at either the MGP or TT. Past Ramsey and over Snaefell it is still nip and tuck, neither man able to make a decisive break. This is going to be closer than close. I lock my gaze onto the tarmac of Glencrutchery Road and the Honda of Atkinson and the Kawasaki of Brien scream into view, still cheek by jowel as if strapped by gaffer tape. This is no time to be waiting for the computer to process the information, I call it as I see it: Atkinson. Even though I’m watching at an angle and not dead in line, I’m sure Craig has won it. Then the computer has its say: Atkinson, by one hundredth of a second. One hundredth of a second!! Phew! And what drama! The adrenalin is still fizzing days later and that’s only the commentator!  Without doubt the most exciting moment I’ve known in live broadcasting, anywhere. And that’s why Craig Atkinson’s duel with the equally brilliant Derek Brien at the MGP 2006 is my number one Mountain Memory.

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We’re moving into the business end of my personal Top Twenty Mountain Course moments in my nine years as lead commentator at the TT and Manx Grand Prix. Up to now my hit parade has included the funny and the quirky as well as moments of sporting theatre. Today we are well and truly into the category of history-makers.

8In at Number Eight is the Godfather himself, John McGuinness. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s the Senior TT in 2009 and a high-quality grid looks certain to provide us with some rapid speeds. Even so, the stat that my computer screen blinks out as McGuinness slows into pit lane at the end of lap two comes as a stunner: 131.578mph. “Ohhh, look at that!” I bellow into the mic, oblivious to the fact that no-one else can actually see it. “It’s one-three-one!”  The first 131mph lap ever and a wonderful, exhilarating moment for us all. Such is TT though: John is denied a victory chance when his chain snaps and Steve Plater takes the win.

7Same year, but the summer is burning out and this is a carolynndifferent kind of history but no less remarkable. I’m in my lofty perch watching the Ultra Lightweight race at the Manx Grand Prix. We’re wondering if Carolynn Sells can become the second woman on the podium after Maria Costello, after all she was well placed in 2008 before coming off at Windy Corner. It’s the midway point in the race and riders are coming in for the routine pit stop. Carolynn’s bright orange Yamaha FZR400 rockets into view – but does not slow down. She scorches past the pit wall, head down. What’s happening? A desperate blunder or a brilliant strategy? All is revealed soon enough. Brilliant strategy. The Paul Morrissey/Martin Bullock team has calculated their fuel consumption to the drop and without any pit stop Carolynn wins the race and I’m saluting the first woman ever (and still) to win a solo race around the Mountain Course. Afterwards we examine the stats again and work out that she would still have won even with a pit stop.

6The thought of any one rider winning five out of fiveHutchy TT races in a single year seems ridiculous but in 2010 Mission Impossible takes place before my very eyes. Just as remarkable, all races are won with the same manufacturer and the same team, Padgetts Honda. In a day of sometimes painful drama, in which Guy Martin survives a fireball at Ballagarey and Conor Cummins is seriously banged up at the Verandah, Ian Hutchinson emerges triumphant in the four-lap restarted Senior TT, leading from flag to flag with two 131 laps in the first two.  Hutchy, McGuinness and Conor all exceed 131 on the first lap. The race ends with Hutchy standing on the pegs as the Honda coasts across the line and into Ian’s own chapter of TT history.

05Number Five is another Magnificent McGuinness moment. johnWe’re at the Centenary TT in 2007 and the island has been simply spectacular all week with re-enactments, celebrity visitors, and terrific racing. One thing remains: we’re into the last race of the meeting, the Senior TT, and no-one has yet done a 130mph lap. Enter the Morecambe Missile. Lap Two, and here’s the HM Plant Honda Fireblade as the klaxon sounds to indicate a pit stop. Has it been done this time? It’s a real possibility. There’s the timing computer’s verdict. “It has been done! It HAS been done!!”  The engineers are frantically winding the volume down because my voice is busting the decibels at the top end.  130.354mph is the new record and John goes on to wrap up his 13th TT win with a new race record as well.

Tomorrow: Four to go. Which moments make the podium? Which is my all-time Number One? 

It’s been an incredibly busy week for news from the TT and MGP. In case you missed anything, here’s a round-up of what’s been going on over the last seven days.

  • Entries for the TT closed with all solo classes except Superstock over-subscribed and the Sidecars showing the largest entry since Centenary year 2007. Very sadly, the entries do not include Ian Hutchinson as he continues his fight to recover from injury. They do include Dave Madsen-Mygdal who could become the first rider to complete 100 races.
  • Hutchy will be on the island hosting his Let’s Talk Bikes show, which will be a treat but not exactly where we want to see him.
  • Cameron Donald withdrew from the Honda TT Legends endurance team because it takes him away from Australia too often. He will though ride the NW200 and the TT.
  • ITV4’s documentary series following the Honda TT Legends reached the Isle of Man with highlights of the SBK TT and insights behind the scenes. They’re back at the TT in next Monday’s episode.
  • 25 riders showed up for the first tour of the Mountain Course this year for Manx Grand Prix newcomers. They included a team of four from the British Army.
  • Manxman Gavin Hunt, son of ‘Big H’ Paul, will make his TT debut. The 26-year old will campaign a ZX-10R Kawasaki in the Superbike, Superstock and Senior.

    Gavin Hunt at the 2010 NW200. Photo: Kirth Ferris

    Gavin Hunt at the 2010 NW200. Photo: Kirth Ferris

  • Blackpool’s Roy Richardson announced his retirement from the TT but will continue at the Classic TT in August where he has 10 victories under the old MGP Classic banner.
  • Guy Martin announced his 2013 schedule which starts at Cookstown on April 26 and includes NW200, TT and Southern 100.
  • Olie Linsdell will again ride the SMV Engineering R6 in the Supersport races, and the Steve Bond / Flitwick Motorcycles Fireblade in the three larger capacity classes, and the Suzuki V-Strom racer in the lightweight race. For the inaugural Classic TT, Olie will ride all three races.

    Experts on and off the bike: Olie Linsdell and dad Steve

    Experts on and off the bike: Olie Linsdell and dad Steve

  • Olie’s former team boss Ian Lougher will join the team at the Classic TT riding the Royal Enfield that Olie took to second place last year.
  • KMR Kawasaki, run by Ryan Farquhar, announced that former Irish Superbike champion Brian McCormack will be joining the squad for the International and National road races. The deal was announced a day after KMR signed MGP Newcomers winner James Cowton who will contest the NW200 and MGP among other meetings.
  • Farquhar and McCormack do some blue-sky thinking. Photo: Stephen Davison

    Farquhar and McCormack do some blue-sky thinking. Photo: Stephen Davison

  • It’s been just over a year since Keith Amor announced his retirement from road racing due to injury but the Scot hasn’t been idle and can now be found in Cyprus running ‘Enduro Paphos’, his own off road/adventure business. Further details can be found at www.enduropaphos.com
  • Kawasaki all-time great Kork Ballington will be at the Classic TT in August, riding in the lap of honour and appearing at the Festival of Jurby on a Kawasaki H2R 750 triple. This will be part of a spectacular contribution to the Classic TT by Team Collins and Russell (Des Collins and Ronnie Russell) who are bringing up to 12 classic Kawasakis to the island.
  • Former MGP Lightweight winner Tony Duncan has been appointed chief travelling marshal for all Mountain Course events.
  • And finally, last Monday would have been Joey Dunlop’s 61st birthday meaning thousands of people worldwide spared more than few thoughts for the modest genius from Ballymoney.

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Grand Prix RacerIf you decide to make a film about motorbike racing on the Isle of Man you have a problem. It’s a bit like writing a poem about the Lake District. A guy called Wordsworth has already said most of what there is to say about daffodils. For Rob Hurdman and the Greenlight team, the shadow of Closer to the Edge must have loomed large. Not to mention the annual TT highlights on ITV4, the DVDs, and the latest offering, the Honda TT Legends series. So what do you do? Something completely different of course. And that is what the film Grand Prix Racer does.

I’ve only seen the cutdown as shown on ITV4 this week so I can’t comment on the full version. I’d describe the ITV4 screening as not so much a feature film as a genuine documentary. Rob and his team took us inside the meeting by following several of 2012’s newcomers, from the moment they landed on the island to the end of the Newcomers’ races. It was an inspired approach which guaranteed an original and fascinating insight into road racing on the Mountain Course. The big names were there, but were shown in minor roles – Ryan Farquhar and Michael Dunlop barely got a look-in as the camera concentrated on Kamil Holan, Adam Nix, the Hodson brothers, Gaby Burn and more. Even Chris Palmer was only featured as the tour guide for the newcomers learning their way round. Which for me was how the film won its laurel wreath. It took us to a familiar setting but in a different way.

The scenes of the Czech rider Holan with his bed and breakfast hosts Ned Bowers and family were delightful. Bowers of course is a travelling marshal as well as treasurer of the Manx Motor Cycle club and you might think he already has enough commitments on his plate, so those scenes on their own told us all we needed to know about the nature of the Manx Grand Prix. Holan went on to win the race, triumphing over this incredibly varied line-up of rivals. On the one hand we saw the Hodson lads, sons of TT veteran Jim and steeped in biking lifestyle. On the other, the somewhat eccentric Adam Nix, who was ruled out of racing after suffering concussion and responded by saying ‘boo’, as if someone had confiscated his sherbet lemons.

There was some decent action, though inevitably not in the same bracket as the TT movies. But this wasn’t about getting close to the edge, it was about seeing what the almost mystical beckoning of the Mountain Course can prompt raw novices to achieve.

On the way it showed what a compelling event the Manx Grand Prix is, and how it inspires men and women of all backgrounds.

I was surprised there was no mention of Martin Bullock and his Manxsport team. Martin puts a lot of time, effort, money and pzazz into the MGP, especially the newcomers, and his input would have been valuable.

It was good to hear my old mate Terry Cringle providing the voiceover. That almost makes me forgive the producer for using so many shots of Chris Kinley. Almost….

MGP new logo

Exciting few days ahead for the Manx GP and its organisers the Manx Motor Cycle Club. On Friday of next week the excellent and entertaining (and I have to admit not too bad a golfer) Nick Jefferies is guest speaker at the MMCC’s annual dinner; then on Monday week, Feb 4th, the good and the great, and the lucky, will gather at the Villa Marina for the premiere of the new movie, Grand Prix Racer, filmed at last year’s event by Greenlight. One day later and a one-hour version of the film will be shown on ITV4 at 8pm. All this and a new logo (above) plus the arrival of the MGP’s 90th year. I’m only sorry that work commitments and the breadth of the Irish Sea prevent me from attending the dinner and the premiere but I was delighted to have been invited and wish everyone a brilliant few days. Practice and qualifying for the 2013 races commence on Saturday 17th August and the Manx Grand Prix races will be run on Wednesday 28th and Friday 30th August, right after the Classic TT, also run under the auspices of the Manx Motor Cycle Club, on Saturday 24th and Monday 26th August.

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.

That was pretty horrible. One minute we’re delighting in the emergence of a fabulous new talent and the next we’re seeing all the nasty elements fall into place suggesting that we have a tragedy on our hands. The loss of Wayne Hamilton when he was having the greatest fun of his life is so sad. He had so much lying ahead and I feel desperate for his family, friends, supporters and crew. Wayne was brilliant in winning the Newcomers race on Saturday and was surpassing even that by occupying third place in the Junior. Then he was late arriving at Ballaugh on lap three and there was a horrible silence. No information flashing up on the screen that gives us the retirements. The news that this was a fatal incident was relayed to me while the riders were still competing and it was a hammer blow.  I didn’t know Wayne personally but like many I’d been tracking his progress throughout the summer, realising that here was a brilliant star in the making and looking forward to seeing him take on the Mountain Course. At Manx Radio we then had to sit on the information for what seemed an age; no criticism of anyone, the delay was caused by the absolute priority of ensuring that the next of kin were informed before anything was said in public. The three podium finishers were quietly told and spectators in the Grandstand will have noticed that there was no champagne celebration after the garlanding. Once we were informed that Wayne’s next of kin were aware of the tragedy we were asked to wait until the riders had departed on their practice session before making the announcement over the air. This again was right and proper. As I noted in a post at the TT, there is no ideal time to convey grim news; it is just so depressing to be doing it again, so depressing in such an uplifting sport and on what had been, for the Northern Irish more than most, a wonderful day.