Looking through pics new and old, I wonder what just happened; a full year’s gone by..
It’s been a wild one and one of few reasons I got out to the other side and am typing this now, is the very website you’re now visiting; all that it stands for and the people I’ve come to know through it.
Excuse me if I sound like a broken record, but I feel I should make this very clear, because it would be all too easy to take it all for granted and make it feel like it was normal and expected. It’s not..
No-one ever MUST open their doors for you and take you in as if you were family. It really is something special and the people that do it for me, must be told how much I appreciate what they do for me.
I’m typing this from Pitbox 22 at the legendary Spa Francorchamps Circuit. KATANAMANGLER is 8 boxes up from me, managing one of the entries in the Classic Endurance Races (A Rooster bike, no less, which you certainly hear about in not too long of a time), it’s as good a time as any to start on a write-up of the 2019 TT trip I’ve just come back from.
My TT-runs of 2018 and 2019 couldn’t have been more different, starting with the fact that this year my fellow compadre Jelly was once more there in shotgun position, whereas last year I did all the travelling on my own. Destination was again the Kearsley-residence, only now moved tot he new house, married and basically, pretty damn sorted out, unlike yours truly.
EFE finished in it’s new Dayglo-guise, Jelly’s Kat just about there after we grafted a new oilcooler on to keep the temperature half decent (for whatever reason, the engine in it tends to run hot) and the van stuffed to the roof with whatever we thought we might need along the way, we set course to Cheshire. My van would again stay there, with us taking the bikes to Liverpool on the road. A 20 mile run REALLY is better than the 600-something we used to do.
I just can’t be arsed to do the touring bit anymore; done it, sat at the side of the road, got recovered multiple times and ended every trip with squared tires; F- that, I’ll stick it all-in a van and take the lightweight approach, thankyouverymuch.
Unloaded on the Thursday afternoon, it was as good a time as any to put the EF on the internet in full colour instead of the sepia Instagram filter and I did get quite the response to it, which was kinda the point 😊A night of Boats, Desperado beers and much speaking nonsense was had. The Friday we had pretty much all day to ourselves; our hosts had to go to work/school, so we just went and had the most touristic day one can have in the vincinity of Liverpool.
Everyone I know that lives there or close calls it a shithole, but I actually thinks it’s kinda cool. We ended up in Hipster-central (as we do) and went for craft beers and neon-lit Minigolf until it was time to get the train back home. There, I was greeted with an actual sign with my name on it, on my room, and my own keys tot he house and the garage. It’s a bit of a strange feeling, but as I wrote before; it really is a home away from home. It feels pretty special.
Quick Dominos that evening, loaded up the bikes and down to Liverpool again to line up for the ferry. Heaving with people as you would expect, I ended up being the very last person to go on the boat; how typical. Bumpy ride over the Irish sea, we disembarked the other end to an Island that was in hit-or-miss weather. It had been glorious the weeks before TT, and as one would guess, it had started to rain from the first day of practiceweek.
Many sessions already cut short, loads were getting worried to not get the bikes set up properly and be able to get the tracktime that you need to get your head ‘round the place. Even the guys that are right up there at the front need to get time on the bike to get themselves dialed in, let alone the newcomers who basically will never have seen the place on racespeed.
Riding around on the open road to learn and understand where the course is going, is totally different from doing it at the speeds they’ll do under raceconditions. Bends become corners, bumps will become jumps and every manholecover will turn into a potential danger; imangine knowing where every single one of those is, all 37 miles around. Does your head in..
Jelly and myself just made our way to our usual digs at John and Jo’s house in Peel. Fed and bedded, it turned into Saturday in notime. We sleep in a shed, christened “Chateau Streetfighters” many moons ago when Wingnut was still coming over with us. The name stuck, even though he’s not been for a few years. Bugger that; you should come over next year mate.
Saturday would have been the first raceday (I think) but that got rained off. Roads were closed with everybody waiting in the hedges and behind walls, but when one part of the track cleared up, it went to shit somewhere else. That was about to become a running gag, if you will, for the remainder of the TT-fortnight. Many times roadclosures with people stuck across the island, only to have nothing actually happen. It’s sad but there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it.
For TT, the racing WILL NOT go on when it’s wet, for good reason. The speeds are that high and the course is so varying in condition, it would be asking for trouble. It’s scary as it is and they rightly don’t make it worse.
With Jelly working as a marshall at Appledene for the event, I was left to my own devices and do what I do best really; no plan, just go as I like, where I like. It takes over 500 marshalls to man the course and John, our host, runs Appledene. It’s a slighty unknown bit of the course, only one corner up from Greeba Caslte. Hardly any spectators there, because when you’re there, there’s no way out.
However, it really is PROPER fast and as spectacular as it can be during TT, but due to it not being know as much, John usually struggles to get the right number of marshalls to man the sector. Jelly stepped up and did his bit, and that’s how a TT-practice or race is run.
No marshalls = NO racing. It’s a thing thats apparently pretty hard for some to understand, as every year there will be reports of spectators not listening to what they are told; not be on the road, etc, only to be picked up by the police and more often than not, be escorted to the Jurby Hotel (prison) for the rest of the TT festival.
I’m not joking; during the TT, the IOM police don’t take the piss. They will sling you in prison, impound your bike, give you a HUGE fine and when you’re sent away after getting out, you’ll usually be banned from the Island for more than a few years. There just is no room for people that don’t want to play by their rules and you can’t fault them for it.
My days were spent chasing the weather, getting to spots I hadn’t spectated from before and waiting, lots and lots of waiting. Ramsey sprint on the Sunday, I went there, understanding full well that it wouldn’t go on if it was wet, but when I got there, it wasn’t even that bad. The Island has its own climate, with the possibility of snow at one end, and bath-in-the-sun temperatures only 10 miles the other way, so when I set off from gloomy Peel, I was hardly expecting the Sprint to be taking place.
Coming up the entryroad where they tell you where to park, I simply said “I’m racing” and they let me straight through. Saves you walking all the way up and down the field and who honestly wants to do that? Parking up next to the gazillion Bhp Hayabusa of Woody, Kev’s mum went well out of her way to feed me and make sure I had proper tea 😊
In two ways of actually entering the Sprint myself, I opted out because it still is another 45 quid out of pocket, only for it to start rainig again not minutes after.
That Sunday was a practiceday as well, which was a first in the history of TT. It shows how badly the time was needed for the racers and the teams to get the bikes out, with the first races on the Monday. Actually, if anyone gets the schedule out and traces how it all went, it might be a bit different from what I’m typing now, but we’ll just call that Journalistic Liberty. What it really means is; I kinda forgot what went on when and realistically, it doesn’t really matter, does it?
What does matter is that this TT was everything different from 2018, from a general perspective; last year every single roadclosure, practice session and race went on time, this year, not a single one did. The weather was terrible and everyone got the short end of the stick as far as Mother Nature was concerned. This ended up with Thursday raceday being the fullest day anyone had ever experienced.
Weatherforecast looked good and with roads to close from 10ish, 5 races and 2 or 3 practicesessions to get through during the day, all you can do is take your hat off to all the people that make racing possible, like the marshalls, like the organisers, like the IOM Scouts and all those other volunteers.
Some eventorganisers in motorsport can learn a thing or 2 from these people; everthing goes on without a hitch and that in itself is one of the reasons for me coming back. You’d think that after a time or three, you’d get oblivious to it all, how incredible it is and how big. Luckily, I’ve been void of that and eversince 2007, my first time, it hasn’t lost any of its appeal.
Hell, if anything; it’s gotten worse. Though OSS I met loads of people that now are my friends and the TT is going the same way. Being in the position that I’m in; having friends live there where we can basically turn up in the middle of the night, any time in the year, for a place to sleep and eat; I’m very lucky.
Senior Day (the Friday of the big race) would consist of just that, because with the bad weather forecasted to roll in during midday, they got everything else out of the way during the recordbreaking Thursday that preluded it. Jelly and myself went up to the Grandstand area to have a final mooch and with Peter Hickman as far ahead in the race as he was, we chose to drop down to the ferry, so we could get a half decent spot on the boat. When we came down and got the check-in out of the way, I turned my radio back on and Hicky’s lead had all but gone!
I’m a Suzuki-man, through and though, but for roadracing, all the brandsnobbery makes all but none of a difference. Every single person lining up on that startline gets utmost respect from me, be you the winner or very dead last; I couldn’t care less and I’ll root for you no end, even if you are on a H@nda.
Hicky was on the new and untested 2019 BMW and everyone was worried it might not make it the full duration of the race. We worried right. First we heard was Peter going though the Sulby Speedtrap at 159mph; that’s walkingpace. He managed to nurse it round the full 6 laps, but Dean Harrison had past him by then, getting his first big win.
A cheer went though the crowd and that was that; TT2019 done. We were then herded onto the boat and on out way to Liverpool once more. Being only Friday and our train across booked on the Sunday, we had a bit more time to play with. With Kev going to Santa Pod to pick up his dad’s frame, freshly tarted up after someone made a RIGHT mess of it, we opted to just tag along.
The weather was horrid; you wouldn’t have wanted to be out on the road in that rain; you could hardly call it summer or spring, even for British standards. We were meeting Ash and Matt who had just done up both bikes on the dyno, with Matt’s really making silly horsepower, on pumpfuel, I might add. Weather clearing a little bit, I was pestered to sign on and pushover that I am, I did. RWUB, foreigners on holiday, bikes in the back of a van, so if it was to blow up, we’d still get home; fuck it, go for it.
Only ever entered one dragrace years ago in Drachten and that was a bit shit. My EFE is hardly setup to rag off the line; not streched, not lowered, not that powerful, etc. Also the fact that my clutch has a mind of its own when you launch it; non of these things help. Anyway, 8mm spanner in my leathers to bleed it after the finishline, on we went.
Paired up at the startline next to Anna on the Slingshot, I think, I ended the day with 4 runs under my belt with a best of 11.5 with a .55 reactiontime and a 1.955 60ft. Good enough for me. Yes, it’s loads of fun but making your bike faster costs loads of money (which, as you know, I don’t have) and the waiting kills it for me. I’ll just keep doing trackdays, one red flag at a time..
Bike loaded up once more, we pointed the van in the general direction of Sarah and Viz’s house. Late night chilli, talking gibberish; a perfect ending to a perfect night. I love it there. Actually, I just love being across, even though the friends that live there, more often than not don’t really understand it. I know it will be different if you live somewhere, for me it’s just the being away from home, grass greener on the other side sort of thing.
Heading home the sundaymorning, another TT-holiday had gone by in what felt like no time at all. One of the big differences compared to 2018 was the fact that I actually experienced the whole thing consiously, instead of having been pretty much oblivious to what was going on with me and around me, like last year, epic as it was.
We were out of stroopwafels; best get the train home and load up for the next one.
See you at Cadwell
Thanks to all who made us welcome, got us fed and made us tea; it’s much appreciated.