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.

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.

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.

New BMW 2020 S1000RR – Resting in the Rain

The sun did not shine.

It was too wet to play.

So we sat in the house

All that cold, cold, wet day.

I sat there with Jon

We sat there, we two.

And I said, “how I wish

We had something to do.”.

Dude – let’s go get some interviews! 

And that’s exactly what we did. 

With apologies to both Dr. Seuss and The (Manx) Cat and the Hat, for the most part the 2019 Isle of Man TT has been too wet to play.

Practice was supposed to be Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Although previously unscheduled, there was practice on Sunday and again on Tuesday but even though the roads looked good at the start and here in Glen Vine, up on Snaefell Mountain, the visibility was so low the medical helicopters wouldn’t have been able to fly.

But that was for Friday, let’s rewind a bit.

I am here at the TT to collect and tell a few stories about the oldest, fastest and most dangerous race in the world. Mostly, I do this with my camera. This year, my favorite video producer Jon Phillips has joined me for a week at the TT. In addition to shooting stills, our plan was to shoot video interviews with some of the riders that I got to know last year and create a YouTube Channel to share some of the drivers’ insights with fans in America.

This is special year, and it will be even more special if the weather clears. This will be the TT’s introduction to the brand new and amazing BMW S1000RR. When first introduced in 2009, it was revolutionary. The new model is NOT an evolution, but total redesign. We will have lots of comments from top drivers. Including Peter Hickman and Michael Rutter.

Stay tuned while we get the edits done over the next few weeks and in the meantime,  here are a few photos. 

A few early morning photos and conversation with Michael Rutter about his lap on the 2020 S1000RR
For Sam West it’s still a work day, sitting here between his Superbike and Superstock S1000RR
Lee Johnston eager to get out on the Mountain Course.
Peter Hickman, the World’s Fastest Road Racer is riding the new S1000RR
When you’re fast, there is always someone trying to chase you down.
What’s the last thing to go through a bug’s mind, when your going 192 on Sulby Straight?
Wasn’t that Michael Rutterrrrrrr?

Superbike Are On the Road

Michael Dunlop on his first practice lap on his new S1000RR Superbike

4:00 PM on Monday afternoon the skies darkened, the rain clouds moved in and within minutes, the speakers in the paddock blasted out the news that the evenings practice was canceled. Not unexpected but not what was hoped for.

Tuesday morning was bright, sunny and cool and we headed up to the former Jurby Airfield and current Motordrome for some early morning testing. The Jurby course is a short course where the teams can get some time in and make adjustments without having to worry about riding the entire TT Mountain course.

We went up hoping to get a few photos of the new 2020 S1000RR. TT veteran Michael Rutter was supposed to be on the bike for the first time, in addition to his Superbike and Mugen Electric.

2020 BMW S1000RR in the morning sun.

There are only five of the new RR’s on the Island. Peter Hickman and Michael Dunlop each have their Superbike and Supersport and then there is this one. Furnished courtesy of BMW Motorrad UK to Performance Bike Magazine. This is the M-Sport model, just as it came out of the crate.

Performance Bike Magazine had arranged with Michael Rutter, the TT Officials and Motorrad UK to take the bike out for a test lap on the Mountain course, immediately after the conclusion of the Monday’s official practice session.

As the side car practice ended at 8:50 PM, Michael Rutter got on to the new 2020 RR for the very first time.

Michael Rutter on his first ride of the new 2020 S1000RR flying over Ballagary

I have only heard two bits of detail from his first ride:

  • He absolutely loved it; and
  • He hit 192 mph.

Not bad for the first time on the bike!

More to follow tomorrow.

The Isle of Man Roars to Life

The 2019 Isle of Man TT began as I am sure so many others have done over the last 110 years, in the rain. The roads were scheduled to be closed at 6:00 PM on Saturday and with the on and off rain throughout the day, everyone was wondering if there would be fast bikes on the roads tonight and how long they would be out until the conditions changed again.  

At about 4:00 it was official, the first day of practice was canceled and it felt like there was a collective sigh of relief and the teams quietly went back to settling in and getting ready.

May / June weather on the Isle of Man always has a good probability of rain and as such, the practice and race schedules have contingencies build it.  Practice would be Sunday at 1:30 and even with a delay until 2:40, the island suddenly roared to life.

Solo and Sidecar Newcomers we first out on the course for a sighting lap and then followed by Super Sports and Lightweights.

Newcomers wear orange bibs in the practice sessions.
Riders line up for Practice Session #1, for Super Sports and Lightweights.
Ashcourt Racing’s Lee Johnston relaxes while getting ready for the sessions to start.
Michael Dunlop flies through on a hot lap on his Honda 600.

One more day to wait before the big bikes come out onto the course.