Diary of a 2015 Manx Grand Prix Newcomer
These are extracts from the post "competitor course information" from the www.ttwebsite.com which was going to be read only because of cyber morons so I am going to continue the updates on here. The full post can be read on the web site.
24/11/2014 Next August I hope to be competing in the Manx Newcomers and I have been doing as much as I can to learn the course before I get there. I
do not think I can afford to visit before August so I have been relying on onboard footage and then watching footage where Milky Quayle explains the nitty gritty bits which I find
In my mind I have broken the course down into different sections so I am learning each section bit by bit.
I was wondering what other methods competitors use to gain race pace course knowledge .
One of many replies. As a 2014 newcomer I spent a lot of time watching the Milky Quayle/ John Barton lap (I could almost recite the whole thing by the middle of August) along with a few other on boards like the vendetta racing stuff, and kamil Nolan's laps.......all on YouTube.
I would strongly recommend you get in touch with the Mike Hailwood Foundation (Jim Hunter) as they run really well organised newcomers weekends. You get lots of laps in cars with people who know what they are doing round the mountain course, some very useful information, Scroot tips, etc and get a few beers with people in the same position as you. The weekend probably cost me £200 including flights and we were lucky enough to get some money back from them when we entered and started (almost covered the weekend costs).
28/12/2014 Things are moving forward , I booked my ticket to get to the Island for the course learning weekend sponsored by the Mike Hailwood foundation ,
thats got to be a good thing and money well spent and it will give me a chance to meet other riders heading for the Island. ( boy are some of them in for a suprise !)
Got my Christmas DVD , the one recomended from 1993 with the on board footage, I like this there are some very good laps one particular one I do like is the 400 one as this is the same cc machine i will be coming to the Island with myself.
I have also noticed that quite a few road markings are different from the modern on board footage I have been watching . ( the modern markings make it easier to pick up certain points on the circuit )
Also picked up a PS2 and a game but need a memory chip to make it work which is on the way .
15/01/2015 another post recommended the PS2 game as a learning aid.
The playstation game is good fun but very frustrating ,I have never ridden a bike that responds like that, we thats the non gamer me and another who is better at such things are struggling
with one section in the challenge the head to head race , hes a bully But thats is just
a bit of fun .
My main watching is going well and my main swatting section at this time is Ballercraine to Ramsey , this for me is the longest and most complicated part of the course and have found the naming of corners and points from some of the onboard is really helping to memorise the flow.
all booked for my training weekend
5/02/2015 Just a little update on my course learning curve, personally I have found the PS2 game no real help to learning the course more a bit of fun, but
then I have never ridden a bike that handles anything like a PS2 controller its just not subtle enough.
I have watched a good few on board laps now and have found the fast no commentry ones are better for learning the pricise lines that these riders have to use to do what they do so quickly, this accuracy in the way I see it still translates down to the speed I will ride the course at.
The older slower laps like those of Alan Warners first ever race recorded lap are giving me a much better idea of what I can expect when I have a go myself. Plus as I mentioned before the commentry laps with locations are now helping me string the different sections together.
Some of my work mates now think i have lost the plot , I am one of the crane drivers at work and while I was waiting for further crane movement instuctions , I was sitting in the cab running the course through in my mind with my eyes shut, I had just got to the end of Cronk Y Voddy straight and changed down for the last right ready for the left when they bought me back to the real world . Much to thier amusement
24/03/2015 Time for a bit more input really on how everything is progressing .
Firstly the newcomers introduction weekend the point of this weekend is to give newcomers circuit knowledge by going round with as many different riders in the vans and cars as you can cram in. This was excellent and gave me the chance to do just that learning from expeirenced and some of last years newcomers all giving valuable input. I found doing this particulary helped me pick up important posistional point info that you just cannot see from on board videos or play stations , this alone made the weekend worth while . Plus elevational changes which the game and videos cannot replicate.
Plus then add the bonus of an insight of what happens in the paddock, pit lane and scrutineering should help make the whole experience less daunting when August arrives.
For those of us there on Friday we went to a charity auction in aid of Hogg Rescue a TT and Manx medical support charity. Lots of amazing TT stuff donated for support of this worthwhile charity. I purchased a Connor Cummins original picture which is now hanging on a wall in Douglas, this is because I could not take it home with me on my Easy Jet flight.
It was also good to chat with my fellow newcomers and get to know them, hopefully we will all see each other in August and have a good and safe race.
I have submitted a race entry and made a ferry booking, I will not find out if my entry is accepted till mid May. I have booked a race meeting at Snetterton to full fill my mountain licence qualification requirements mainly to get this out of the way so there something less to think about. I will do others just to keep me up to speed depending on finances.
I want to get back to the Island between the TT and the Manx for a weekend mainly because the course will be different with foilage everywhere and it will have all the course furniture in place which hids some of the points of view in my last visit.
Still watching plenty of onboards can I count these towards my race qualification laps say a ratio of 10 video laps = 1 qualification lap .
Medical Friday another cost
27/04/2015 Strange how things unravel on this journey to get to the start line of the Manx Newcomers. For anybody that has done this in recent years will
know that one of the requirements for the mountain course licence is that you must have competed in 6 races on different days in the year prior the meeting , two of these races must actually be
in the Manx entry year.
I love my racing and everything that comes with it but because of the finicial comitment of the Manx my other racing this year will be at a minimum to save the pennies. Some of this money saving will be spent on a return to the island between the TT and the Manx for more course familerisation , this is going to be much more use to me than charging round some of our races tracks that I already know like a headless chicken !
This weekend I decided would be the meeting to do to get those races, leaving me some time left before the cut of date if I get it wrong. The requirement for the mountain course licence is to get a finish so with this in mind this is how I went racing.
Instead of the usual I having some of that when there was near a group of riders, my must finish the race mind set is thinking be careful let them sort themselves out and pick of the weak later, definatelly more jackel than tiger this weekend. I got the finishes required and was able to have a bit of a blast during the last race but still mindful that a trashed bike was not part of the requirements but new leathers are.
Even though not my first ride on the bike this was my first competitive ride of my Manx steed. Wow the NC30 is one hell of a bike and sounds like the dogs gonads and is perfect for the task we have together. The suspension will need to be set up and adjusted for the bumpier roads I will encounter on the island but I think we are pretty much there with other bits.
That is apart from all the extra lock wire hole drilling and other little mods required to get the bike past scrutineering and on that start line.
The entrys close on the 8th May so some sometime after that I will found out if i am in
8/05/2015 Its the 8th of May ! Theres been a general election but much more important in my world its the closing date for entrys for the Manx Grand
How do I feel ? Well I am going to try to discribe my feelings . I feel like a gladiator in the middle of the arena in the Coluseium in Rome waiting for Ceaser to decide my fate , will he move his thumb from the horizontal up for yes or down for no the wait goes on
15/05/2015 Checking the E mails is the first thing I do each evening when I get in from work. Then there it is the E mail that going to say if
the effort over the last few years has been given the thumbs up.
Well I opened it up and I am really pleased to say thet my entry for newcomers C has been accepted . After reading this I reacted in a rather loud way much to my wifes suprise and anybody else within about a mile radius of my house. My wife is supportive and puts up with my racing but has no real idea of the passion and effort and everything else that has been involved with getting to the point of opening up this acceptance E mail.
I know from the Manx facebook page that not everybody had recieved an E mail at this time and the waiting for it is the same for many, tense times ! I felt it wrong to go on there at that stage and tell them I was in as this would only make the unknowing feel worse. We all know that with the upsurge in interest in riding the Manx and TT that some riders are not going to get what they want.
At this stage I just need to sit down chill out to consider everything thats ahead and get planning, first one pay the entry fee.
Just time in a busy preperation period for another update . I have carried out some bike mods from information that I picked up during the Mike Hailwood foundation TT course
training weekend, this course is so worth the effort for all newcomers you learn you meet you make friends and a visit to the Isle of Man thrown in as well ! Great stuff.
I have now got my notes for getting round the course in rally co driver note style. Most notes trigger more information but that part is hopefully tucked away in my memory banks , all I need is the memorise these notes as the co driver is not actually coming with me
16/06/2015 I have booked a two day recce for mid July so I can come back and check my pace notes in the real world. I would like to have come over on a bike but cost and time wise it is not pratical so I am going to fly and use a small cheap car.
After watching the Grand Prix Racer documentry the other weekend I went to Croft to support a friend and I meet steely frame Honda Adam from the documentry and had a quick chat . I am not racing myself at the moment, after getting this far along the journey to the mountain I cannot take the risk of injury putting me out or damage to the bike which I can not really afford.
Watching the TT coverage with my wife was interesting to say the least , though stunning to watch I am not sure it was what my wife need to see to put her at ease. I have explained that what she was watching on the box was the pinicle of TT motorcycle sport and I would be approaching the Manx from a totally different speed level, base camp !
As far as I can make out everything is heading in the right direction , I am looking forward to meeting new friends particulary those who have been giving me advice and help and support via social media like this web site and facebook .
14/07/2015 Well . Thanks to Malcolms change of heart I am still able to bring you my Manx ramblings on here. Thanks again Malcolm Well its about a month since my last update so whats been going on. No racing just preperation at
this stage. The bikes almost ready its been away to have the suspension sorted. It feels as soft as a babies bottom now so much softer than the race track set up I am used too. My home
made radiator grills are fitted, a steering damper is on the way. Lots of torqued bolts with tell tail paint lines so making checking the bike easier between practices.
The body work is having a new coat of paint I want it to look its best as it flashes past !
I going to take it out at Lydden in a couple of weeks the reason I have chosen there is because its the roughest track I know, and this will help me in giving the suspension a good work out and see what it feels like.
I have a nice long check list of things to get and do and wish I could actually cross some of the items off ,I have applied for but I am still waiting for things like my mountain course licence and caravan permit small things but life is easier once they are here and crossed of the list, another thing less to worry about !
Thursday I am flying to the Island to spend two days checking the course out again. Nicest thing is I will be able to concerntrate on any areas around the course where I feel my knowledge is weak. It will be good to see the course and how it will be when I return in just over 5 weeks time to ride it for real !!
The moment when I sit on my bike waiting to go of down Bray Hill has been a long time coming but now as we get closer to the time it seems to be approaching like a stampede.
18/07/2015 I know its not long since my last update but I have just returned from my last visit to the island before the big one I feel I should at this stage try to express my feelings and emotions . I flew over Thursday hired a little
car and drove around the circuit checking the course against my pace notes as I call them, against the reality of which is the TT mountain circuit. A few tweaks and adjustments and they are pretty
much there . My first thoughts as I am driving round is I cannot describe it any other way as I am going to be involved in probably one of the most bonkers things on earth and its legal ! This
thought kept me smiling as I was driving round anyway.
If you have never been to the Manx or the TT one thing you will not be able to see from any on board footage is the massive amount of elevation changes there are as you go round , everybody talks about Bray Hill and the mountain but there are hills both up and down everywhere .
The two days passed quickly but by the time I left I felt the next step in my learning curve will be my first speed control lap under closed road conditions. This lap is compulsory to all newcomers to the Manx and the TT and is completed behind an experienced course rider going at a steady pace. ( Steady pace is my description not the organisers ) During my few days on the island I have been using as much of the road as I could safely so the only way to use the rest will be under the closed road conditions.
I flew back last night and I will try to describe the way I feel since giving the car back at the airport I have this sort of internal buzz and smug grin and my blood is flowing with more life than it has for a ages, is it nervous energy, anticipation, fright .I do not know but I am loving it every inch of the way
I woke early than I expected and my brain has switched straight on and has gone straight into race mode thinking about have I done this and I need to get that but racing is like that , Living life for real.
As a foot note the small car I hired went well but handled like rubbish braking from high speed it wallowed like a balloon filled with water rolling down a hill , and did not like any steering input adjustment once it was set up in a corner. Give me a bike any day 3/08/2015 Well the days are counting down , the whole thing is shall I say becoming a little bit more real . I am more concerned by the last few things slotting into place rather than the actual thought of riding the Manx course itself which I am now itching to get on with and do.
Waiting for the fire proof suits to arrive , my caravan permit, and a few bits and bobs for the bike are my real concerns , I just want this all here and in place so I can relax and chill before the big off with the drive up to Heysham for the ferry .
I am looking forward to challenge of the mountain course and hope that the effort put in watching on boards and plotting and checking my course notes will pay dividends once I get there. Refering to one of my early posts in this section I mentioned about not needing to know corner names but as a racer the shapes and curves were more important , I will admit that on a course as large at the TT knowing reference points by name as well as where it goes has helped so much, it gives me as a rider more information to prepare for whats next than you need doing short tracks. This point, plus what I have learned with two pre race visits would be the must do things I would recommend to any budding newcomer.
The local paper are coming round for an interview and take some photographs with me all geared up and no where to ride ! This gives me opportunity to thank the locals that have given me something towards getting there.
16/08/2015 Just started the final get bits ready for the big trip to the Manx Grand Prix process . At this stage I would like to say a big thank you to my sponsors , DKS . Mark One Hire . Putoline UK. B W Motoring Services . Max Maud . Lynda Robinson and Howard .
Well , the moment of truth approaches . This time next week subject to enough marshals signing on and turning up I will of had one speed control lap and a free practice lap of the famous Isle of
Man mountain course. If any of you have been on my web page at http://www.manx200raceteam.com and you have read my history you will know
that my path to get to this point has been a long one and I am only here today because as far as I know somebody ( my new best mate who ever you are ) challenged the entry criteria on its ageist
based policy and I am very pleased to say the rules were altered so that as long as you are fit enough and can pass a medical you can race.
The bikes ready and hopefully everything has been done to ensure a trouble free Manx. The spares are ready and sorted the caravan is just itching to get on the back of the van and hit the road for our ferry on Thursday.
The to do list is now a lot shorter and most are just niff naff and trivia,still waiting for for a pit crew suit one came through and was far to large so it went back to be replaced , I hope it comes soon as they are all kitted out in the same colour and they almost look professional !
I have my caravan permit something everybody must have to take one to the island very easy to get.
I have built my timetable of things I must do once I get there which is important as failure to complete something or attend some meetings could result in not riding , I have not come this far on this journey to falter at the last hurdle.
I cannot really think of much more to write at the moment , me myself I am anxious about everything, getting there, forgetting something , all the usual pre race stuff most racers have to go through . The nerves will come I am sure about that but i can handle those.
Once there if you want to say hello feel free pop in white van and Gazebo IOM flag with the number 74 attached.
All the best to my fellow riders have a good ride and stay safe.
18/08/2015 By Tuesday evening 18th August everything on the list is in the van with the bike, plus anything I can think of that might be useful
whilst there is bunged in as well. My pit crews camping equipment plus my other daughters family camping equipment is also in the van. The caravan is sorted so we are just about ready to set of on
the adventure which is the Manx Grand Prix. My daughters and other family members are flying in later hence we are taking everything in the van. Even though our ferry is not till 2.00pm Thursday we
decide if we are ready to get on the road Wednesday and stop overnight closer to Heysham our sailing port.
This on reflection was a good decision as it took any pressure of getting to Heysham from Essex on Thursday morning, we found somewhere only about forty miles from the port that was perfect for the stop over , did not even unhitch the caravan just wound the feet down for stability, job done !
Next morning was a nice easy drive to the port to join my fellow racers and spectators on the sailing across to the island. Already you can feel that buzz in the air that goes with any visit to a special occasion like this. We had a good crossing and landed after 6.00 pm in the evening. Now comes a bit of a test can the van pull all that weight up those hills to Nobles Park the paddock which would be our home for the next two weeks. Well it got up there just, the traffic light hill starts were pushing my old van to the limit ! Once up at the paddock we joined a very long queue to get into the paddock while our paddock space was allocated.We ended up in the lower part of paddock C on what I assume is a gravel car park work area. A bit of mucking about and we set our camp up. The weather was closing in and it was getting dark so the nitty gritty part of camp would be left till the morning. More by chance we got the caravan positioned along the fence which gave us an unobstructed view across the harbour and sea which was nice.
Friday morning the weather was not great and discover the water table rises around our area even if under cover , we managed to get an extra piece of wood to use as flooring so we could get in and out of the caravan without dragging lots of muck in. Along with an extra door mat this seems to work. but this area seems better that some of the wet grass areas further up the paddock. You can tell those teams that have been before they bring various forms of flooring to keep the weather conditions out !
Friday is the first time we can actually sign on and get our race clobber and out pit suits checked over. This all goes very well it just involved a lot of queuing which was something I would do quite a lot of while here. No dramas with anything and everything was approved to use and I got signed on and received my race folder. I missed the first newcomers briefing while queuing to sign on but this was not an issue as there was another tomorrow.
During the day I had a chance to catch up with friends old and new and check in with a lot of the other riders I had meet on the Newcomers introductory weekend in February . The tension builds we that's all the newcomers are only 24 hours away from out first ride down Bray Hill . 22/08/2015 Saturday 22nd August . Friends are over from the mainland hoping to see me go off on my first lap but before we can chat I must first attend a newcomers rider briefing . This is done using a slide show and chat , this covers things like the flag signals and how we are expected to react to the ones we are shown. Information on how our race will be run, what we are expected to do and were we should be at different times leading up to practices and races. The zero tolerance of alcohol and the random breathalyser test that is conducted.Lots of important information to take on board.After the meeting our mountain licences were scanned so the officials know who has attend the meetings. We sat and chatted with our friends and they took the wind out of my sails when they presented me with a Minion money box with cash in that had been given by friends in the BSSO and BHR clubs that I race with. The weather forecast for the evening is not good with lots of rain coming our way. It was not to late in the afternoon when it is announced that the evening practice has been cancelled this included the newcomers speed control lap, from what we heard via the jungle drums this is caused by the helicopter which must be on the island with conditions to be able to fly and help riders if required but was stuck on the mainland in even worse weather conditions.
This is a shame as unlike the last few years they organisers had all the marshals for a full practice to go ahead. This is frustrating and even more so when it dawned on me that there was going to be no practice till Monday evening two days away. .
Our friends are only over for the weekend and fly back Sunday afternoon and unfortunately this means they will not see a wheel turn down Bray Hill.
At base camp things have settled down and apart from the caravan water pump packing up everything is fine. A nice little extra all the entrants get with their entry pack is a 10% discount card for Shoprite the local supermarket. Thank you Shoprite . Funny thing while wandering round in Shoprite you encounter a few famous riders picking up there grocery's as well ! This is only ever going to happen in the Isle of Man !
Made good friends with our neighbours as we have plenty of time to chat as there is little else to do . Tried to get some laps in on the paddock bus but we were told it had broken down and we were unable to get information about what was going on as the race office was closed till Monday.
24/08/2015 Monday 24th . The day dawns with sunshine the weather forecast is good so if all goes well us newcomers should get the control lap and maybe some
more if everything happens as it should. So we can get about for fuel and a bit of sight seeing during our days off we have hired a little car which we have to pick up from the airport . A pleasant
good value for money bus ride gets to the terminal to pick it up the car ,we are given a Citroen metal box, a gutless object designed by a plastic trim salesman !
Then its back to the pits to get ready for the technical inspection this afternoon this in time for us to be ready to get out on track at about 18.20 pm.
To help you understand my emotions in this next bit I want you to imagine something that you really want and this has been the driving force for many things for you over the last few years and you have now got to the point where you can almost taste and feel what you want but you just have to do a couple what you think are easy things and you are there !
OK then the scene is set . Since I have arrived in the Island I have not run the bike, there really has been no point it was fine at home so I assumed it would be fine now , from my base in the paddock its a long way up the hill to the technical inspection bay so I will start my NC30 up and ride it up there. So some time before the inspection is due I thought I would start it up. I turned it on and pushed the start button and this was followed by what I would describe as three or four metal on metal clatters then nothing it would not even turn over. I cannot put the feeling of what those clatters did to me into words but I was distraught and actually felt like I wanted to cry . My brain immediately went into unable to think in a clear rational mode to work out what had happened . Here I am about an hour and a half before I am due to go to technical inspection with a what sounds to me be a very broken bike. I am thinking I am going to have to change the engine I have a spare that I no nothing about and I do not have enough time to do it. My wife goes up the paddock to find a friend with a level thinking head as I begin removing the fairings to investigate whats going on !
At this moment in time the bottom has fallen out of my world. But to find out what was going on and did I actually make it out to technical inspection in time you are going to have to wait till my next write up . Monday 24th part two I get the fairings tank and seat unit out of the way and my wife returns with the calvary in the form of Marek and Tim. I explained what has occured and demonstrate the lack of engine turn over with the starter button. I am thinking engine swap but Tim reasons that we should discover what the problem with the engine is first . After draining the oil the clutch side cover is removed first so it can be determined which section of the engine the problem is in. after some more mucking about the motor now moves but there appears to be a clicking noise, the rocker covers are removed to try to locate this , at this stage the plugs are removed and one of them is very wet and this is when the penny drops to what hopefully has caused the problem as the engine is now turning over. We put the clutch cover back on and spin the engine over, then working in reverse the engine is put back together and we check it still turning over after each bit is refitted. After the plugs are fitted and new oil in the sump its time to find out if it will start. Fingers crossed and yes I am back in bussiness she runs . The rest of the bike is put back together a double check on what has been touched and all seems fine.
The cause of the panic ! During the journey from Essex to the Island fuel had leaked into one of the cylinders and when I attempted to start it up it had hydraulically locked that cylinder , the rattling noise was caused by the quitening gears on my engine which have been removed a common mod on NC30 engines I have been told, which caused the horrible rattle as the starter motor tried to turn the engine against the hydraulic fuel lock.
Thank you again to Marek and Tim for thier help during my crisis !
I then have a small amount of time before the the call comes to attend technical inspection with the bike. I go up there and join what is a very long slow moving queue until somebody comes down and tells all us newcomers to move up because we are going to be first out. I eventually get to my turn and the first thing what happens is my transponder is logged into the system , I am then given my technical inspection card which will be the same one I will be given each day during technical inspection. Anything wrong with the machine is recorded on the card , and as far as I am aware different people are supposed to inspect the bike each night to keep continuity of quality inspection.
The preperation for this inspection is a lot more in depth than the usual short circuit race I attend, it requires a lot more locking wire and safety orientated bits and pieces. Things like metal sealing dustcaps, locked wired exhaust springs so that if they break they stay on the machine.the liberal use of coloured tape over bolt and screw heads to keep them in place if they come loose . Not a technical inspection requirement but once the nuts and bolts around my bike were torqued up I put a tell tale paint mark on each one so during any visual check after a practice I would be able to see anything that had come loose.
I have always felt that any race starts at home, be it in your garage or workshop get the preperation right conform to all the regulations and then presenting a bike in a good clean condition and the inspection should be easy. But its nice to have the bike checked over by an independant set of eyes just in case I have had a senior moment and left something loose , it happens ! If ever in doubt about something you can always ask somebody. I used this forum to ask questions before I got to the island better safe than sorry.
The inspection went well and the bike passed without any problems much as I expected . After this the bike goes to a holding pen where I am allocated a place the wife brings the rear stand . At this stage if I wanted to work on the bike a technical inspector would have to oversee what is done to ensure it is still up to standard to go on track. There are plenty of power points for those that want to use tyre warmers but I decided not to use them on this first evening.
Monday 24th part three Monday 24th part three. With the bike secure in the holding bay I return to base camp to put on my riding gear. The riding gear was
inspected Friday and any helmet I wanted to use presented at that time then has a special decal attached. My riding gear is subject to random inspection before going out on track
to ensure you are using the approved equipment. Before any of us got to the island we were given nutirtional and fitness advice the beauty of the web, one of the areas explored in this is
keeping body fluids topped up to stop dehydration and the use of energy suppliments and drinks to help this. After we had signed on, as a rider we were able to pick up a free powerdered energy
drink mix to assist us with this. Most riders prior to going out will often be seen wandering around the paddock drinking energy drink suppliments.
I return to the holding pen and the place is buzzing. The bikes are crammed in there and its now full with riders and support crew just happy to be there I guess, For most this has been some journey. From the Isle of Man or Japan we are gathered from all the corners of the globe, seventy of us all fulfilling the our own dream ! I am sure the stories of how each of us got to this point in time could keep us all entertained over a few beers on some dark winters evening.
Our speed control lap will be run in numerical order so I will be last away as I am number 74 . Just after six its announced everything around the course is good to go and the first batch should be away at 18.20 pm, first twenty riders are called up to the Glencrutchery Road to get ready, you can almost feel the tension in the air coupled with the chained enthusiasm we are minutes away from a blast down Bray Hill . The first riders are away as I get the call to join the queue I take my time and try to stay calm . As we get up on Glencrutchery Road Yuris bike stops ( number 73 ) and I hang back to see if it will restart to stay in number order but his machine has seen that hill in front of us and is not having any it so I join the end of the now shorter queue. Ive not met my guide for the evenings tour ! But as I get near the front theres a rider without a newcomers bib four bikes up the line so I decide I going with him. Then in no time we are away of down Bray Hill and beyond , the pace is nice and steady and my guide takes the odd glance back to check he still has five bikes in tow. From my position at the back I can keep an eye on whats going on in front but try to think about my homework, like whats coming next and where I should be in the road . I cannot remember where exactly where but After Cronk-Y-Voddy we caught up with the group in front and this slowed the pace and after that I did not really think I learnt much from the control lap experience. I can racall the buzz I got from actually doing it but what I really wanted to do now was go on my own at my own pace.I topped up with energy drink as we waited in the pit lane to get out again.Unfortunatelly there had been an incident at Ramsey and the session had been stopped while it was cleared up. Originally we were told if we were not away by 8.00pm it would not happen but the powers to be restarted the session at 8.10 pm with a pit lane full of bikes to get away. The newcomers would be the last away in this session but at least we were going to get a free lap. Eventually I was away and I felt a lot more comfortable than on the control lap as I was now in control , this is a truly fantastic experience one I will remember for years to come. At that time of the evening the sun was a major issue with regards to vision in the Grebe castle and Bridge sections very low in the sky and blindingly bright but my homework helps with regards to were I should be going. The lap was soon over which was good as light was fadding fast as we came of the mountain I returned to base camp with a rather silly grin stuck on my face. After first wanting to ride the mountain course in 1993 here I am 22 years later having done just that . Was it worth the wait of course it was A foot note: Most performance enhancing drugs are banned in all sports including ours so if you want to take something check its legal first !
Tuesday 25 th It was quite a late finish Monday so this was the first time I had a chance to really consider how the practice laps had gone . As I mentioned earlier I did not really learn anything about the bike or myself while doing my control lap, but the second lap left me with things to consider to work on and adjust . Firstly the most time I have ever been tucked right down behind any screen on any of the UK's short tracks has got to be the back straight at Snetterton , well the TT course has taken getting tucked in to a whole new level there is loads of it and goes on for miles . The problem this kicked up was my neck cannot bend that far for that long so I had to find a solution. I think the solution comes in the form of the TT bubble screen which can attach to the top of the existing screen then this coupled with me adsjusting my tucked in stance and not getting down quite so low should make it more comfortable for those long tucked in periods. The other two things , I increased the rear rebound three clicks as it was wallowing on some corners . I then down geared a little as I felt pulling my lardy bottom up to speed was more important than my actual top speed which was about ten miles an hour down on the front runners in my class. The speed of the bikes are recorded at two points of the course so the results of these adjustments can be judged in real time.Each rider can also print out lap times which is broken down into four sectors with times for each ,but I do not use these for reference at this time, the reason I am still in the early stages of learning the course and naturally would expect my times to improve with each lap completed.
The neck issue had affected the second half of my free lap and was suprised to find out that I had already completed a lap quick enough to qualify me for the race, this was the first hurdle completed as far as I was concerned I just needed to smooth the whole thing out with more laps. I measured the fuel left in the tank and it was using between 6 to 7 litres a lap .I checked the rest of the bike over and all was OK gave it a clean and we are ready to go again.Unfortunatelly the weather is not good and by mid afternoon we are informed that the practice is cancelled again, this is becoming frustrating but what can one do but just accept it. As we were not going out on track we went down the south of the Island to do some sight seeing and by the time we returned the weather had really closed in and it was not nice at all , lets hope for better tomorrow. Wendsday 26 th During Tuesday night the rain had given us another good battering and apart from rising car park damp all is fine. Taking the short cut across the grass back to base camp from the top of the paddock could see you going ar-se over tit on the wet hilly slippery grass. The weather forecast for today is iffy but it is improving at the moment so my hopes are up that we should get a lap or two in. Mid afternoon the weather seems OK so it will soon be timr to get ready for technical inspection. Further back you might recall I mentioned the very long queues to get the bike inspected on the first day. Well somebody has put a plan together and the bikes will be done in time slots relative to when you are expected to get out on circuit. If you come up with your bike to early before your time slot you will get turned away , this system is spot on and the queues are much shorter so much so that the tech crew actually get ahead of themselves and the later groups are getting called up early. ( Well done on this one more like this next year ) If a full pratice is going ahead in those few hours before the off the technical crew will have to inspect something like 500 bikes , I think this might be why they wear knee pads as they spend a lot of time crawling about on the floor looking upwards and inwards.! I have also now realised that there is more than one vampire in this area but both of them are a bit random . By this I mean the breathalizer crew to check my non alchhol content and the other the fuel vampire she only takes a small bit with her pipette but I know whats going on here and all she wants to get back to Ramsey and needs to fill her car with race legal fuel my fuel must be road legal and is tested to check it conforms. Fuel and breath are both subject to random testing during the Manx Grand Prix and as it is random you could get checked for either on more than one occasion ! Each practice is broken down into two sections and depending on which section you are in this will determine where your bike goes after the technical inspection, The first practice bikes go into the holding /park ferme area and from here will go out on circuit through a gate on to Glencrutchery Road and start from the race start posistion . But the second practice will start from the pit lane , the reason for this unlike a normal track that will be cleared before the next lot go out with a 37 mile course this is not possible with the time allowed so once the first wave have all gone and thier alloted time expired the riders will be slowed down after Governers dip and red flagged of the track at the begining of parc ferme, this allows the second practice to start simultaneously further down the the pits. The first practice gets away and we are waiting for our turn when we are informed that due to an incident at the 13th and visability on the mountain the practice will have to be cancelled. Disapointment and nervous frustration theses a lot of disapointed faces about but there nothing that can be done so it all back to base camp.
Now comes a sobering bit which I am not really sure how to put on here but its in the diary it happened so if has to be here.Getting to the Manx and competing is along with many other things a roller coaster of emotions and I want to try to relate to you as a potential newcomer or just an interested spectator some of this in my diary. The news comes through that the incident at the 13th has involved a fatality . This news alone is chilling and real, my first thoughts are with friends who I know are out in that first session, it is quite a while before some of them get back to the paddock as they had to be escorted back the wrong way round the course from where they have been stopped. You might think this a harsh point of view but thankfully I track them all down and it is not one of them. This is not going to be the same for all, someone will be looking for a friend who is not coming back. This is: The harsh reality of road racing.
I later find out that the rider involved was one who had attended the same newcomers training weekend in February as I, he was someone I might describe as a paddock buddy, this makes this news harder to digest.
It's getting late now so I return to base camp have our evening meal and just relax and try to take in todays events.
Thursday 27 th There is a bit of a sombre mood in the paddock this morning which you would expect after any incident like that at the 13th, there
are the usual theories going around the paddock about what happened, this is just paddock gossip so I dismiss this I try to stay in a positive frame of mind. More on my mind is that including the
speed control lap I only have two laps under my belt which is long way short of where I expected to be at this stage of the week . The weather has just not been kind to us I just hope it
can improve . This morning is the pit lane briefing , this is a guide of what you can and cannot do in the pit lane during your pit stop.The wife is coming on this one as she is the only member of my
pit crew on the island at this time. First off the score board and how the clocks the light work . the clock has thre positions and each time a rider passes each point on the track the clock
hand is moved , the positions are Glen Helen, Ramsey and the Bungalow. The light go's on when the rider reaches Cronk-ny-Mona and gives the pit crew warning thier rider is approaching. There are two
lanes in the pit one to come in to stop and one to go out and it is the responsibility of the incoming rider to mind those coming out as they have to cross his lane.This is follwed by an explanation
on the fuel rig and how it works with a mock bike refuel demonstration. Its not rocket science , put fuel in big tank in air turn tap on pull trigger fuel comes out. But the little bits like flushing
the system through then bleeding any air out of the pipe plus covering the end of the zozzle with a towel to stop spillage onto the hot bike as you finish are the important bits to remember. Theres a
chat about pit lane speed limits and the electrical things you cannot bring into the refuel area. The wife seems a little overwhelmed by this influx of knowledge but I assure her everything will be
fine on the day and we will practice what we can first.
After lunch all the newcomers are called to a meeting by the clerk of the course . This was for a general warning to us all to take it easy and learn the course and let it come to us or we could get sent home ! He stated he had recieved quite a few reports from marshals around the course that the standard of riding was not good and we needed to take it easy and learn first and the speed will come on its own.
The Mike Hailwood Foundation which organised the course learning weekend visit at the begining of the year also run a sponsor a rider scheme , this is where members of the public or companies can sponsor individual riders for £200, a scheme which gave many of the newcomers some extra funds which can really help. Thank you again to the Mike Hailwood Foundation.
If we get out I should be going in the first practice but this is now the second and the news that we will now have extra practice Monday and race Tuesday this is because of the almost total lack of track time we have had so far.
The weather is holding up so practice is good to go , the usual ritual of Technical inspection takes place with no dramas, then its into pit lane again to wait and see if we are going to get away this time.
There is a lot of bikes waiting to go in this second practice and I have already realised that the only way to get the second lap in is to get back to the grandstand before the hour is up , well the theory of this is great but when you have so many bikes going before you this time is very quickly eaten up. well we get the signal all is good to go and after the other two queues in pit lane have gone my line starts to move forward then at last I'm away blasting of across the lights and down Bray Hill. Up on the mountain it was very windy and gave my little 400 a battering it was strong and unnerving particulary near black box . Any way I got round but by the end of my lap of 26.39 minutes the chequered flag was out to end the session. I was a lot more comfortable with the higher screen but feel I need to adjust the gearing and suspension preload to get the best out of the bike.
I was suprised to discover that the lap was within my qualification time, I just need more lap time to smooth it all out.
Friday 28th With last night practice complete and an improvement in the weather there seems to be a lighter mood about the paddock and weather forecast is
looking good to get some more laps in tonight . I have to go to the airport to pick up the rest of my pit crew,well one of my daughters and her boyfriend as they are flying in this morning . As
we do not have lots of time today I decide that thier escorted tour of the course will have to wait. Back in the paddock the place is begining to buzz as the main weekend of the Classic TT approaches
and more visitors and spectators are arriving. Mikey thats the boyfriend is quite amazed at how many famous faces are wandering about in the paddock and even more suprised that
they are all nice blokes and you can talk to them ! My wife is glad they are now here to as she has had the short straw and has been pulling the pit trolley up to the holding bay each day. My
pit trolley is one of the metal garden cage type but is perfect for hauling the various stands tyre warmers extension leads adaptors and other bits and peices I might need prior to going out .
Its not to long before I get the call to go to Technical inspection . I elude the vampires and the inspection goes well and I get another technical inspection decal on my fairing , these decals
are different colours each day and I now have a nice little collection of them. Tonight the newcomers are in the first practice away so there should be every chance I will get my
first back to back two lap run in . I have now started using my tyre warmers but knowledge gained through my training process reminds me to be carefull at Quarter Bridge pulling up for the turn
at the bottom of the hill with a full tank then more care on coldish tyres on the first left at Brandon Bridge , not a lot to be gained at these points but a lot to loose ! The atmosphere in the
holding bay is always good with a lot of nervous tension and with all the energy drinks the two porta loos at the end are quite popular ! Then there's the public address system telling you all
is good to go adding to the excitement . It seems like an age but eventually one of the pit marshals calls us up to the Glencrutchery Road , but a bit like cattle herding through a gate
eveybody wants to get through the gate at the same time this all adds to the fun. Once up on the top road we queue up in two lines and will be realeased in pairs once the previous pair are
out of the way.
Well its off I go again I soon settle into a rythm and like the other evening the sun flag is out warning me to be careful . Theres still a part of me that cannot really believe this is actually happening but it keeps me smiling as the miles just disappear behind me. Its not long before I face a new challenge Bray Hill flat out at the begining of my second lap, this will be taken as fast as my little bike can get to from the exit of Governers Dip ,as I approach I relate to my notes in my head for this section bush, lights, tree, tree then third post and in exactly the same as before just a bit quicker
Its seems no time at all and I am puttering back up the return road having completed the two laps , I am having trouble with my jaw and mouth as there appears to be a malfunction in this area I now have this semi permanant cheesy grin stuck on my face ! I wonder where that came from
I am pleasantly suprised the way I feel physically much better tonight after two laps than the one lap the other night , I think some of this is down to the fact that I am relaxing more on the bike as I begin to get into the ebb and flow of the TT course , I even remembered to wiggle my fingers and breath along the long straights .
I think the bike is handling quite well, but as it is the only one I have ever ridden on such a course I have no base line of information to relate to . Main thing is I am not having any big tank slapping moments and I can see most of the time so I am happy to keep plugging away.
Back at base camp there are no major issues everything is settling down nicely.
My lap time is now down to 25.38 minutes at an average speed of 88.266 mph not to shabby for the old boy at the back
Saturday 29 th The day dawns to what we all want a nice sunny morning and for the 500cc classic TT boys it's race day. The morning passes with the usual
wandering around the paddock chatting and making lots of new friends along the way, there is a big increase in the number of people in the paddock which just helps to add to the whole buzz about the
place. Household names dotted about all over the place, then there's the food and stage areas which are always busy with something going on and the market stalls full of people looking for those
bargains and mementos. My technical inspection time is not after the end of the classic race so I will be able to find a local spot to watch the action. My other daughter and her family fly in today
but will not be with us till after the roads have closed so I have given her some directions to help her get to us from the airport via the seafront. During her visit she is going to a camp site over
near Ballaugh Bridge and as it will be getting dark before they can get to the camp site tonight so the owners allowed us to go over Friday morning ( forgot that in Fridays report ) and put the tent
up before getting my other daughter from the airport , its busy life racing motorcycles !
They get to us before the Classic race starts and we wander up to watch the racing from the park at the lights near the top of Bray Hill . This is a good spot and the kids can still muck about in a safe environment if they want but the two older boys are taking all the racing in. We enjoy the race and I think they are all surprised by the spectacle of real road racing in the flesh, the true sounds smell and feel of it cannot be experienced unless you are actually there
We then wander back and its not to long before I get the call to get up to technical inspection, as a rule I try to get up there fairly prompt as getting through earlier should get me a good position further up the holding bay to allow me get away in the practice.the technical inspection goes well and so far it has passed every time with not so much as a negative comment, I feel this because of the effort I put in at home to ensure it was right .
I now have so many helpers they are almost fighting to pull the back up trolley up the hill, once up there the tyre warmers are put on and we hang around to wait for the session to begin. It does not seem to long and we get the call to go. Topped up with energy drink I sit in the queue and wait my turn, its not long before I get to the front and again I am shooting off down Bray Hill. The earlier Classic race has left its mark around the course and there a quite a few yellow flags warning us riders of reduced adhesion from treated oil spills add this to the usual low sun vision problems this is not making for the best of laps. As we came over the mountain the vision was already reduced so I knew that if we got the second lap in a quick lap with all the yellow flags and the other problems was not on the cards.
I chequered flag was not out so a second lap was on but I knew it was not going to be quick as we would be slow come back over the mountain due to visibility . With this in mind and the low sun in the sky near Grebe Castle while with a group of other riders I was surprised to encounter what I would class as short circuit riding from one of my fellow newcomers, pushing through in an aggressive fashion a style that is dangerous to the rider and to those around him. Leave your short circuit style at home, around the Manx course just have a fast road ride learn the road and build your speed slowly !
By the second lap over the mountain the cloud had come down so much we had yellow flags from the Gooseneck till coming down again to Creg . I followed a lightweight rider and let him down the peering into the cloud bit .
When I returned to base camp I mentioned that I thought the laps were poor because of all the different things but Mikey said my time was quicker so I popped up and got the timing sheets and sure enough he was right, it just goes to show the more laps ,you do the more comfortable you can become to get that flow, this place is all about the flow. I am fairly happy with the progress and I have a day off tomorrow so might allow myself a beer to celebrate.