Back home, with my head still spinning

Peter Hickman won 3 races at the 2019 TT

WOW – it has happened, I am on the plane headed home and the last three weeks have flown by like the motorbikes hitting the end of the Sulby straight, and the 2019 Isle of Man TT is in the books.  

My hope is it will be remembered not for the rainy days but the incredible skills of the riders, the tireless efforts of their crews and the perseverance of the marshals as they were at their stations waiting for the racing to commence, only to have another day canceled.

There is a spirit to the Isle of Man, part of it comes from the community that is part of nature of living on an island and part is showing off for the TT. For weeks before the riders, crews and spectators arrive homes along the course and throughout the island are trimming hedges, painting homes and preparing to show off the Isle as the it becomes the center of the Road Racing universe.

I am truly one of the lucky ones, I have had pleasure of making some amazing friends over the last three years. 

  • Rob, a Deputy Sector Marshal and good friend.
  • Pete & Jen, my amazing hosts who set an high bar for making visitors feel like family. 
  • Allan ‘Kipper’ Killip, who began as a Traveling Marshal in 1962 
  • Jim Hunter, a Traveling Marshal (#2)
  • Malcom Wheeler, who with his wife Julie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at this year’s TT, where they had spent their honeymoon.  Malc was on the podium 3 times in the mid-80’s.
  • Trevor Denning, Deputy Chief Technical Officer
  • A Senior TT Party that starts the day with bacon baps and has an amazing view of the course.
  • A 50th surprise birthday party, 
  • Dozens and dozens of dedicated marshals. 

And of course the riders  – 

  • Peter Hickman
  • Michael Rutter
  • Lee Johnston
  • Sam West
  • Dominic Herbertson

And with the mighty come the fallen, I had also gotten to know Dan Kneen who was killed in 2018 and Daley Mathison who perished in a crash this year. No one will every really know what happened, but all should remember the amazing spirit and skills of these two young riders, who passed doing that they loved. 

Daley Mathison on his BMW S1000RR Superstock flying over Ballagary

For 2019, we have also had the chance to see the newest Superbike how it would fare alongside the time and race tested machines.  The all new BMW S1000RRmade its TT debut and quickly proved to be the fastest cat in the jungle. 

Needless to say, there are a lot of stories to share.  I hope that if you follow my blog, you will come and see for yourself what has enticed generations of motorcyclist to make the pilgrimage to the Isle of Man.

Stay tuned, my plan is to post a new blog every Tuesday and Thursday for the next few weeks or until I run out of things to share.  

Please send me a questions or topics of interest you have and I will try to respond.

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.

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?