Up Close at the TT – Under Tree this Christmas

At every one of my TT presentation participants asked about purchasing prints.  With my travels and preparing for the 2019 TT, I just didn’t want to take the time to move ahead and set up the process to sell prints.

Starting with my fall programs, I put together a collection of my 33 favorite images from the TT and created a photo catalog Up Close at the TT and webpage to facilitate the purchase of prints.  

What has ultimately happened is that people want to buy the book!

To that end, I have created two different formats that are available to purchase.  Both are hard cover books measuring 8 ¼ “ tall by 9 ½” wide, so that when opened each double page spread has one image that is 8” x 12” and a smaller 4” x 6” image. 

Included are images of the World’s fastest road racer Peter Hickman, John McGuiness, Michael Dunlop, Michael Rutter, Dean Harrison, Guy Martin and others, at some of the most famous portions of the iconic Isle of Man Mountain course. You can view all of the book’s images on my website.

The content for both formats are exactly the same. The first is a ‘lay-flat’ format with heavy weight paper, and the second is printed on 100# premium luster paper.

If you are interested, please contact me at paul@competitveimage.us.

Lay-flat format printing: $100, plus $8 shipping;

Standard format printing: $45, plus $8 shipping.

Upon request I will sign each book as desired.

Payments should be made via PayPal to paul@competitiveimage.us

I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoy shooting them.

Planning your trip to the 2020 TT

Lee Johnston with a quick flight over Ballaugh Bridge.

As some of you know, I live in Minneapolis, there is snow on the ground, my GS and my RR are both tucked away for hibernation. 

Although the 2019 Isle of Man TT is long since in my rear-view mirror, I have been traveling to US BMW Motorrad dealers to present my Up Close at the TT multimedia program.  This weekend I am off to BMW Motorcycles of South East Michigan (12/7) and then on to BMW Motorcycles of Temecula, CA (12/14).

It really is a great job. I get to take photos of amazing riders and incredible machines and then I get to show off my photos and talk about one of my favorite things to talk about to people who actually want to listen. 

I am really fortunate that I have a topic where there is both broad and historic interest. Almost everyone who joins me at my program, at one time or another has said, Someday – I want to go see the TT

For 2020 the TT runs from Sunday May 31 through Friday, June 12th.  Solely based on the way the dates fall, this is a bit later than in 2019. Also, there has been a change in the schedule.  For 2020 practice starts on Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday. I have included the official schedule below.

If you need convincing about the event, here are a few comments from guys who really know – 

  • Get on a plane and get over here, because there is nothing else like it, it’s so special.  Peter Hickman  
  • I tell people that if you don’t believe me how amazing the TT is, they should go buy their ticket, book their place to stay and if they don’t love it, I will pay for everything! It’s that amazing. – Lee Johnson. 
  • Just get yourself over here, it’s worth it. Come over support the American racers, it really is the greatest show on earth. – Sam West
Sam West cresting at Ballagarey during a 2019 practice session.

One of the most asked questions I receive, is when should I go? I can’t go for the entire fortnight, what is the best time to be there? 

One thing you have to keep in mind is weather. One if the reasons the Isle of Man is so green, is it that it rains, and no one races in the rain!  The risk is too big and the margin for error too small. 

2018 was a year of fabulous weather, 2019 not so much. It is possible to plan a short trip to the TT and not see any racing.  

My plan for 2020 is to again arrive a few days before practice begins and stay until a few days after the final race.  I use the excuse of ‘well you know, I am working.’ But the truth is, I just really enjoy the Isle of Man and being with my friends there and that I am planning on tentatively returning for the Manx Gran Prix in August. 

Peter Hickman will be back n 2020 as part of Smith’s Racing, now the official BMW Motorrad Road Racing Team

The answer of when to go depends on how much time you have.  

If you have the time, go for the full fortnight – GO!

If you only have a week, try to arrive on Wednesday morning of practice week. 

During practice week the paddock buzzes with activity, the riders are accessible for autographs and brief conversation and everyone is having a fabulous time.  

If you arrive early in the day, you can see practice sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and races on Saturday and Monday. Then you can head home on Tuesday. 

The harder question if I only have 3 or 4 days, when should I go? For me 3 days would feel really rushed and I suggest that if you are going to do 4 days.  Arrive Thursday morning and leave Monday evening. 

If it rains on Saturday, they will likely race on Sunday afternoon. 

Either way you will have time to explore, see some really fast bikes and still have time to get some touring in on the Isle of Man. 

Here is the latest official schedule:

TT Qualifying Timetable 2020 

Sunday 31st May

1300: Roads Close

1330: Newcomer Slighting Laps
1350: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 1530 Supersport / Lightweight Qualifying
1630: Sidecar Qualifying 

Monday 1st June 

18.00: Roads Close
18.20: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 2005 Sidecar Qualifying 

Tuesday 2nd June 

18.00: Roads Close
18.20: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 1925 Supersport / Lightweight Qualifying
20.05: Sidecar Qualifying 

Wednesday 3rd June 

18.00: Roads Close
18.20: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 2005 Sidecar Qualifying 

Thursday 4th June 

18.00: Roads Close
18.20: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 1925 Supersport / Lightweight Qualifying
20.05: Sidecar Qualifying 

Friday 5th June 

12.30: Roads Close
13.00: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 1410 Supersport / Lightweight Qualifying
15.05: Sidecar Qualifying

TT Race Timetable (2020)

Saturday 6th June

10.00 Roads Close
10.30 Solo Morning Warm Up (1 lap)

12.00 RST Superbike TT Race (6 laps)

15.00 Sidecar TT Race 1 (3 laps)

Monday 8th June

10.00 Roads Close
10.30 Solo Morning Warm Up (1 lap)

11.45 Supersport TT Race 1 (4 laps)

14.45 RL360 Superstock Race (4 laps)

Wednesday 10th June

10.00 Roads Close
10.30 Solo Morning Warm Up (1 lap)
10.50 Sidecar Shake Down (1 lap) 
11.45 Bennetts Lightweight TT Race (4 laps)

14.45 Supersport TT Race 2 (4 laps)

Friday 12th June

09.30 Roads Close
10.30 Sidecar TT Race 2 (3 laps)

12.45 Senior TT Race (6 laps) 

The Isle of Man that isn’t the TT

As I travel and share stories about the Isle of Man and the TT, I always tell people that if you only go the Isle of Man and only watching fast motorcycles, you are missing half of the experience. This small island nation is a truly an amazing place to explore. There are rugged coastlines, lush National Glens, rolling hills, historic churches and cemeteries, as well as the an amazing waterwheel built in 1854.

I could go on and on, but I will just share a few photos and you can start planning your days off at the 2020 TT.

The Lady Isabella in Laxey
The Lady Isabella in Laxey
The Lady Isabella in Laxey
Ballaglass Glen near Ramsey
Ballaglass Glen near Ramsey
Entrance to Marine Drive – just a few minutes from Douglas
Marine Drive – just a few minutes from Douglas
A 12th Century Viking Castle
The rolling hills are incredibly quiet on non-race days.
Sometimes you forget you are on an island.

These are not the racers you are looking for –

As I travel to BMW Dealers in the US and give my presentation the TT Experience, I always dedicate a few minutes to the sidecars. Sidecar racing is a bit difficult to describe until you see it. It’s much like the rest of the TT but more so. I always describe it a cross between Star Wars and insanity.

Just look at this photo, doesn’t it look like a speeder?

Flying over Ballaugh Bridge just like the solo riders, the sidecars are an amazing test of the riders, the passengers and the machine. Their graceful flight belies the impact of the landing. (#5 – Pete Founds & Jevan Walmsley).

The passengers, appropriately and affectionately called Monkeys, must have strength, flexibility, balancing and an unyielding trust in their driver. The have very little to hang onto in trying to balance the weight distribution and counteract the force of turning, the passenger lays out and has turbulent landing.

Just a few yards down the course, they pick up speed with the passengers tucked in and they are gone.

Ben and Tom Birchall below have won the last 8 sidecar events at the TT, and on Monday they made it #9. They move as a unit, smooth and graceful and FAST! Really, really FAST!

If you find this short post intriguing, check out the video 3-Wheeling! By my buddy Chris Beauman.

Man and Machines Surviving the TT

With a single lap of 37.73 miles and 264 turns, there can be no doubt that part of the TT is survival for both the men and machines. Although not the fastest point of the race but one of the clearest illustrations of the physical demands of the race is at Ballaugh Bridge.

Coming over the bridge at over 60 mph, everyone is launched into the air.

The following sequence is from Monday’s Superbike Race and to give you an idea of speed, these are continuous shots at 12 frames per second.

Dominic Herbertson up out of the saddle launches over Ballaugh Bridge
Dominic’s moto touches down, he is further off of the saddle.
Touchdown and his bike almost bottoms out.
Dominic’s suspension rebounds and he is still high on the saddle.
Now full gas, front wheel lifting and rear tire compressing.

This sequence is less than a 1/2 second out of the race. Now think 6 laps for the big bikes. 226 miles with 1,584 bone-shaking, bike-bashing turns, with miles and miles of rough roads in between.

Amazing athletes, amazing machines and really no surprise when one breaks down on the side of the road.

Back on Track at the IOM TT

WOW – two days in a row! That, in and of itself is enough to bring a smile to visitors to the 2019 Isle of Man TT. With a positive forecast Gary Thompson, the Clerk of Course created an ambitious schedule of racing and practice to run throughout the day and evening. Roads closed at 10:00 AM and reopened for 90 minutes between 4:30 and 6:00 to allow people to get home for work and then closed for another evening race.

The first Superbike started just a few minutes late due to a non-race related medical incident.

I spent the morning and afternoon at the iconic Ballaugh Bridge, just past the 17-mile mark. Where I have shot in the past and know the marshals.

Peter Hickman has passed Michael Dunlop on lap 2 of the Superbike Race
Landing after flying over Ballaugh Bridge, puts incredible stress on both men and machines.

Having had some issues with his Superbike at Sunday’s practice combined with turning in some of the fastest sector times of the week on his Superstock bike, on Sunday night Peter’s Smith Racing crew turned his Superstock bike into a Superbike. One of the really cool parts of the rebuild is that Peter’s new S1000RR – had a Road Bike Engine in it!

After being a few seconds behind in the initial sectors, Peter consistently gained time on race leader Dean Harrison.

A red flag after a tragic incident on the course shortened the race, Hickman was in the lead and declared the winner.

Peter and his Smith’s Racing Team (photo courtesy of IOMTTRACES.com)

The good weather and celebration was muted due to the tragic death of Daley Mathison on the third lap of the course. I will have another post about Daley next week.

A rain day today but the forecast and the schedule look good for Wednesday.

A TT Sunny Sunday

Pulling back the curtain on Sunday morning offered little hope there would be any racing.  Checking all of the weather apps on my phone offered little encouragement. Socked in and puddles in the street, I was trying to decide how I was going to spend the day.

But as the hours ticked by, the sky brightened, and the road closing schedule was unchanged – All roads closing at 12:45 and practice for sidecars at 1:30.  Although 1:30 morphed into 3:00 due to damp roads, eventually you could hear engines revving on the grid via race radio.  

I had been dropped off at Braddan Bridge, less than 2 miles from the start. I have shot well from there in the past and it was relatively easy to get back to the house if things didn’t go well. 

But things did go! And finally, there were motorbikes around the course.  A small group of who had traveled from Florence were sitting on the wall behind me, beaming, and there was great energy in the crowd who had be patiently waiting, many in very damp tents.

For just over two hours, there were sidecars, superbikes, superstocks and supersports flying by Braddan Church. 

Riders tested as many bikes as they could as quickly as possible, some taking two laps and some pitting every lap to make adjustments.  

With only two practice sessions on the Superbikes they would be racing on Monday.

The afternoon wrapped up with one lap practice for the TT  Zero bikes, I love the idea of the electric bikes but they are hard to shoot because I can never hear them coming.  

The Birchall Brothers hope to continue their sidecar domination.
A lot of life is just hanging on.
Swinging in close to the crowd at Kirk Bradden.
Michael Dunlop out quickly, but had trouble on the mountain and had to be retrieved.
Peter Hickman had the fastest Superstock lap on his new BMW RR.
Lee Johnston on the his Ashcourt Racing BMW

Heading back on the course today for lots of racing and practice.