Eleven things I’ve learnt from this year’s TT…


01) Hickman’s 135mph lap was sensational, but every rider who races is a warrior and I salute every single one of them, regardless of where they finish…respect
02) Bikes are a great leveller. It doesn’t matter, what your background, or your social standing, we all have something in common
03) It is possible to stab yourself in the nose and draw blood while eating a pizza, eh Yag?
04) The scones at the Ballacregga Corn Mill are smaller and drier than previous years…disappointing
05) There’s nothing better than being told by a copper to ‘go for it’ from the Creg because he likes the look of the Tuono and he’d like to hear the V4 ‘given some’
06) Speaking of which, the Tuono 1100 APRC may just be the best bike ever…comfortable, fast, nimble and THAT noise…stunning. Race mode has never felt so good. Thanks Griff
07) The peanut butter cheesecake at The Forge is still out of this world
08) There’s nothing funnier than watching your mate stall it at the traffic light GP…than seeing him paddle round a corner in your mirrors because he can’t restart it. Then learning he did it in front of an unmarked police car. Poor Flo…
09) A BMW M3 at full chat on the island is a giggle a minute. And the noise on the overrun…mmmmmmmm
10) The Steam Packet company still treats bikers with contempt. Why there’s a need to line the bikes up so close together while waiting for the boat baffles me
11) Racing is a cruel mistress, but everything should be done to protect the TT…if you’ve never been you won’t understand, but if you have…

Road racing – Hutchy sets the pace


DAVE KNEEN/PACEMAKER PRESS, BELFAST: 30/05/2016: Ian Hutchinson (BMW – Tyco BMW) at Gorse Lea during qualifying for Monster Energy Isle of Man TT.


DAVE KNEEN/PACEMAKER PRESS, BELFAST: 30/05/2016: Bruce Anstey (Honda – Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Motorcycles) at Gorse Lea during qualifying for Monster Energy Isle of Man TT.

Monday night’s evening session at the 2016 Isle of Man TT races got underway promptly at 6.20pm with dry, sunny conditions all round the Mountain Course and the Bingley Bullet Ian Hutchinson continued his excellent form by setting the fastest time of the night with a speed of 129.964mph on the Tyco BMW, two seconds quicker than Michael Dunlop although the latter posted three laps over129mph.

However, one of the most impressive feats of the night came from Bruce Anstey who, after one sighting lap on his Valvoline Racing/Padgetts Honda Fireblade, switched to the hugely anticipated RCV213-V Honda MotoGP replica and recorded a speed of 127.071mph.

The evening saw the 1000cc machines take to the course for the first time and all of the leading competitors took advantage of the excellent conditions.  Anstey and Michael Rutter lead the field away down Glencrutchery Road followed by Hutchinson and Peter Hickman, Gary Johnson and James Hillier, Lee Johnston and Martin Jessopp, Dan Stewart and David Johnson and Dean Harrison and Cameron Donald, the latter the only rider to go out on his 600cc mount on the opening lap although the Australian was reported as an early retiree at Quarter Bridge.

First to complete a lap was Rutter at 125.152mph swiftly followed by Hutchinson (124.914), Hickman (122.324), Hillier (123.490), and Johnson (123.272). Harrison then went quickest at 125.404 but only for a short while as both Dunlop (127.395) and John McGuinness (126.285) went faster. Steve Mercer (124.881) and Ivan Lintin (123.823) were also going well on their Superstock machines.

Hutchinson, Hickman, Johnson, Dunlop and Harrison all pulled in as did Anstey who had a relatively slow lap at 117.828 but the Kiwi was soon back out, this time on the RCV213-V Moto GP replica machine. Ian Lougher was an early retirement on the Suter at Glen Darragh although the Welsh rider later completed a lap of 115.248 (19:38.571) on the two stroke Suter Racing machine.

McGuinness, Rutter, Hillier and Mercer had continued straight through for their second lap and Rutter was first to complete the lap at 127.031mph but McGuinness was faster, his speed of 128.871mph sending him to the top of the leaderboard. Hutchinson quickened his pace second time around to 126.470mph with Conor Cummins not far behind at 125.905mph.

As the session wore on, the majority riders swapped between their Superbike and Superstock machines and Dunlop’s fourth lap on his Superbike saw him lap at 129.497mph but Hutchinson went quicker at 129.96mph. Harrison jumped to the top of the leaderboard in the Superstock class at 128.044mph but Anstey was quickest through the speedtrap at 193.4mph on the RCV. With his second lap being a hugely impressive 127.071mph, he went quicker still on his third lap with a speed of 127.071 (17:48.916).

Harrison topped the Superstock class with a speed of 128.044 mph, followed by Dunlop (126.726), Hickman (125.725), McGuinness (125.574), Steve Mercer (124.881) and Daniel Hegarty (124.104).

Having had a lengthy session on Saturday evening, not many riders opted to take out their Supersport machines and Harrison was again quickest, as he had been in Saturday’s opening session, with 124.461mph followed by Lee Johnston, who completed his first laps having broken down on Saturday, with 122.067mph and Mercer at 122.067mph.

Meanwhile, the newcomers were also increasing their speeds steadily, Jochem van den Hoek lapping at 108.85mph, Alessandro Polita 108.831mph, Forrest Dunn 106.464mph and Mike Booth 105.135mph.

Karl Foster was reported to have sustained ankle and wrist injuries in an accident at the 32nd milestone and was taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital.

Road racing – Hutchy to race TTC R6 at TT


Isle of Man TT record-breaker Ian Hutchinson will line up in the Supersport TT races after sealing a last minute deal with Team Traction Control to campaign their Yamaha R6 as he bids to add to his eight TT victories.

The Bingley Bullet, the first rider to clinch five solo victories at the event in 2010, returns to the Island feeling confident of a strong performance and is aiming to return to the TT podium after missing out through injury in recent years.

Hutchinson said: “It is a privilege to be working with Keith Flint and the team and I know how much they love their racing. I have worked with Grant [Bunting] from TTC before so to be able to have this opportunity to work with them is just what I need.

“I am looking forward to it and as I haven’t ridden the TTC bike before we need to have a good practice week and get a feel for it, but I know the team have the ability from what they have done this season and in the past. We just need to get our heads down and then hopefully my confidence that I have had this year from Superbike and Superstock can cross over into Supersport too. I want to go out and have a good go at it that’s for sure.”

Hutchinson had been set to ride for the Tsingtao MV Agusta squad but the team was forced to withdraw at the 11th hour after it was unable to prepare its machines in time.

Road racing – Johnson ready for TT

#7 Gary Johnson

#7 Gary Johnson

Lincolnshire lad Gary Johnson heads to the Isle of Man in good spirits after a strong pre-season test.
The GBmoto Racing Kawasaki rider will be competing in the Superbike, Superstock and Senior races for the team.
The team’s pre-season testing programme saw Kawasaki Racing Engineer Ichiro Yoda build Superbike and Superstock specification Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10Rs and this hard work enabled the team to immediately qualify in second place at their road racing debut at the North West 200. However, inclement weather and minor machine troubles plagued race day. Despite this, the team were still able to further develop both motorcycles and head to the iconic Isle of Man TT confident of a strong showing in all three races.
Johnson said: “This is it, the big one! The Isle of Man TT is the event that everything else is built around and these two weeks are really the main focus for the year. Heading over this year with a factory team like GBmoto means I’m in a really good shape and can focus on riding, rather than preparing the machines myself.
“If we just look at the results, then the North West 200 doesn’t look very successful, but the truth is we were able to really improve both the Superbike and Superstock machine. We head to the Isle of Man with two motorcycles that handle incredibly, are very stable and have more than enough power so I’m confident that we’ll be able to be challenging for some good results.
“Obviously the TT is a different course to anything else in the world, so we’ll still have a fair bit of work to do during practice to get the bikes up to speed – but that’s the same for all of the guys who are heading over this year on new machines. We’re in a very strong place and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve over the next fortnight!”
Arguably one of the most iconic motorsport events in the world, the 37 ¾ mile TT course sees rider’s race around closed public roads against the clock, setting an average speed of over 130mph.
Opening practice begins on Monday 1 June, with the Superbike race held on June 6, Superstock on June 8 and the Senior closing the festivities on June 12.

Road racing – Victory enter electric TT race


Victory Motorcycles will race at the 2015 Isle of Man TT Races on two electric race prototype motorcycles.

The bikes will be piloted by proven road racers William Dunlop and Lee Johnston as the American company goes after the dominant team in the electric class, Mugen. The machines feature a dedicated electric racing motor and power cells as well as highly sophisticated electric controls to maximise the top power, power delivery, and durability under racing conditions.

“I’m more than excited to race this prototype at the Isle of Man,” said William Dunlop. “Electric powertrains have many advantages, and the Isle of Man is one of the greatest tests in motorcycle racing.”

Lee Johnston will be riding the second entry for Victory Racing in the SES TT Zero Race and said: “I’m excited to make history by racing the new Victory electric race prototype. It’s thrilling to be part of the emerging electric motorcycle movement.”

The SES TT Zero Challenge class event for electric motorcycles is a one-lap race round the island’s 37.73 mile Mountain Course and is scheduled for Wednesday, June 10, 2015.

TT – Sarolea announces new SP7 electric superbike


Belgian outfit Sarolea has launched its new 2015 Saroléa Electric Superbike at Autoworld, the vintage car museum in the centre of Brussels.

The new Saroléa is an evolution of the 2014 model and has been modified and enhanced on a number of levels. The Belgian team is now targeting a podium place at this year’s SES TT Zero Race on the Isle of Man with Scottish rider Robert Wilson once again piloting the squad’s bike.

The new bike has improved aerodynamics, which will provide higher top speeds, and is considerably slimmer, which also enhances the position for the rider, while modifications to shift the centre of gravity will improve the bike’s handling. Saroléa has also managed to reduce the bike’s weight. The modifications are mainly related to the use of more carbon fibre and more titanium parts as well as the use of 3D printed parts.

The biggest improvement however is the new motor which boasts a significant improvement in torque – early tests by Saroléa are demonstrating a 50 per cent increase.

McGhee set for TT debut with Wilson Craig Racing


Reigning Irish Supersport Road Race Champion Derek McGee will make his Mountain Course debut at the 2015 Isle of Man TT Races.

The 28-year old has recently signed for Wilson Craig Racing team and will campaign Honda machinery in the Superbike, Senior, Superstock and Supersport races at the TT.

The Mullingar rider came to the fore in 2011 when he won races in the Irish Support Road Race Championship and has gone from strength to strength since, going on to establish himself as a front runner in the National Superbike, Supersport and Supertwin Road Race Championships.

The last two seasons have been his most successful to date, particularly 2014 when he clinched the Irish Supersport Road Race Championship helped by wins at Kells and Killalane and podiums at Cookstown, Tandragee, Skerries, Walderstown and Faugheen. He also more than proved his capabilities in the Superbike class with podiums coming at Cookstown, Tandragee and Kells while also finishing second overall in the Supertwins Championship.

On the International scene, McGee’s outings have so far been limited to the Ulster Grand Prix but he has certainly impressed, lapping at 126.607mph around the high-speed Dundrod course and taking a strong second place in this year’s second Supertwin Race.

Speaking during his first circuit learning trip on the Isle of Man with TT rider liaison officers John Barton and Richard Quayle recently Derek said: “The TT has been on my radar for some time and now feels like the right time to make my debut. Teaming up with Wilson Craig Racing makes the process a lot easier of course, and their experience will be invaluable. I’ve loved looking around the course this weekend and can’t wait to ride it. I’ve had a lot of help from John Barton and Richard Quayle and I intend on doing as much homework as I can ahead of making my debut in May.”

McGhee replaces Jamie Hamilton in the team and will make his debut at the NW200 in May.

2014: King of the Mountain

IMG_4267SpectatingGary Johnson 3norton

2014 has been a year of firsts on the biking front, a year that’s seen my biking bucket list get shorter and shorter – TT? Check? Off-roading? Check. Litre sports bike in the garage? Check?

The TT was magical. From the moment you pull on to Liverpool’s waterfront you know that you’re entering a different world, a world where two wheels are king. It doesn’t matter what type of bike you ride yourself, all that matters is that you’re ready to worship at the altar of motorcycle racing.

The first thing that struck me looking at the mass swarm of bikes on the quayside was just how wide the appeal of the TT is – sportsbikes, cruises, tourers, classics, sidecars, crossers, customs, rat bikes, monkey bikes – the machines on display were just as varied as the nationality of the numberplate they’re sporting. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you ride, or where you’re from, the appeal of watching the ultimate test of man and machine across the 37.8-mile island circuit is universal.

The second thing that struck me was just how challenging the TT course is, to both rider and machine. TV coverage doesn’t give a true reflection of just how steep, bumpy and narrow the island’s roads are. It’s a thousand times removed from the short circuit racing scene back in the UK – there are no crash barriers and no gravel traps, no room for error. The roads are bumpy, really really bumpy, the bike’s suspension works overtime to try and smooth out the ride, and the only protection offered to the competitors are the ubiquitous airbags. They’re everywhere – tethered to the red telephone boxes, lampposts, drystone walls. You just can’t get your head around how hard hard it must be to ride a bike that fast around here.

The third thing that struck me was just how accessible the whole event is. It’s the polar opposite of the sanitised MotoGP circus – here it’s about being inclusive, not exclusive. Stroll through the paddock behind the grandstand and you’ll see Guy Martin signing a young girl’s T-Shirt, William Dunlop sharing a joke with a couple of mechanics, Keith Flint laughing with his rider Steve Mercer and Bruce Anstey chewing the fat with a couple of racegoers under the Mugen awning. You really can get as close to the bikes, the riders and the action as you like.

Want to watch superbikes roar past at some 160mph just metres away your feet on a grass bank at Cronk Y Voddy? No problem. Want to see the Norton team spannering Cam Donald’s bike? Step this way. Want to check just how firm the front end of a Lightweight race bike is? Go and say hello to MCN’s Adam ‘Chad’ Child.

Then there’s riding the Mountain itself, there’s nothing quite like it in the world. As you approach Parliament Square you suddenly become painfully aware of just how many bikes there are swarming in your rear view mirrors. Your senses start working overtime, ears picking up every engine rev while your eyes notice every swerving headlight. Heading up May Hill, under the famous gantry, your heartbeat increases as you realise that soon your speed will be governed only by your own sense of self preservation. Tip into the Waterworks and then take a wide left into the Ramsey Hairpin before traffic cones funnel you into one lane, throttling off a little to give yourself a bit of space from the bike in front. After taking the Gooseneck right-hander the cones suddenly stop and the road effectively becomes a racetrack. It’s just you against yourself. There is no speed limit, the laws of the road no longer apply and the only limitation is your own talent and bravery. The next 10-miles and 13 corners are a blur of overtakes, being overtaken, hugging the racing line in left-handers while being horribly offline in right-handers, fear of falling off the road and down the rugged mountainside getting the upper hand over my desire to be quick. The views are spectacular but there’s no time to take in the scenery – your eyes are constantly scanning the road as far ahead as possible while checking the mirrors looking for approaching headlights. Some five minutes later I signal left and pull into the layby by Creg-ny-Baa and jump off the bike, the Aprilia’s engine pinking hard in the cool Mountain air after its early morning workout. My legs had turned to jelly, I was wet with sweat and I felt sick, yet I loved every breathtaking mile.

And there’s plenty more to TT fortnight than the racing. Here are 11 things I learnt from my first time on the Island:

1) Bray Hill is a lot, lot steeper than it looks

2) Queenies rock

3) Malteser and banana cake rocks even more

4) Cruiser riders pull out of every junction without looking

5) French riders are dangerous – give a wide berth

6) When it’s raining and foggy on the Mountain it’s hot enough for ice cream in Douglas

7) Staying with a local with an empty garage is good

8) Staying with a local who knows the roads like the back of his hands and has a Land Rover Defender that he’s happy to use to take use up the trails to the Mountain is even better

9) Riding the Mountain makes me feel sick

10) The phone signal on the Island is crap

11) Kriega luggage is the kit of champions. Nothing else comes close.