I’VE always been captivated by the Isle Of Man, not the island itself I guess, but the TT races, the personalities and the whole ‘craziness’ of it all. Joey Dunlop has always been my motorcycling hero. Maybe that’s too strong a word, but his ability to win races well past his use by date, and the fact he was an everyday person with no airs and graces.
He wasn’t called Yer Maun for nothing.
It was this desire to see the TT which sent me there in 2006. I can still feel the goosebumps I had when Irish road racer Martin Finnegan came past the crowd at the end of Cronk-y-Voddy straight for the first practice session. Even though I had long dreamed of racing on the Isle of Man I had also pretty much given up the idea.
That was until my son Alex decided he was doing the TT whether his mum and I liked it or not. After contacting the TT organisers we decided Alex should contest the Manx GP which is run on the full TT Mountain Course, with a view to doing the TT after that if everything worked out. Of course I couldn’t let the opportunity pass, and I had the bright idea to race the Manx as well.
It’s a very big undertaking to tackle the Manx GP or TT, and as I found out it takes lots of knowledge and preparation to be within a shot of actually finishing the race, let alone trying to win it.
The Senior Manx GP, for example, is for modern motorcycles up to 750cc for four cylinder machines, and 1000cc for V-twins. It is run over four laps of the circuit, which equates to just over 240 kilometres.
The Manx GP is considered an amateur event, at least for the modern classes, but it also has historic classes which are popular with the crowd.
After having been to both the TT and the Manx it’s easy to see that there are two distinctly different crowds which go over to watch.
A similar comparison here in Australia is between the Phillip Island MotoGP and WSBK rounds.
The World Supers is more low key, and has less people, and it’s the same at the Manx GP festival, which goes for two weeks and incorporates the Two Day IOM Trial, Jurby Classic Festival, numerous historic vehicle and club runs for motorcycles. There’s not many days during the fortnight where there’s nothing to do on a motorcycling front.
When there is you can always do a lap of the TT course or grab an ice cream down at Laxey. We are almost getting ahead of ourselves though. Alex and I agreed it would be a smart idea to go to the Manx this year to see what was required in regards to bike preparation, and generally how the event was run so we could be best prepared for our racing trip in 2013.
A couple of bikes were required so we could learn the circuit so we were lucky enough to borrow a new F 650 GS Sertao from BMW UK. After arriving at the Vines BMW in Guildford, southwest of London, we loaded it up to the hilt and did the two-up trip some 40 miles down the road to Wimbledon – yes, where they play tennis – to pick up our second BMW ‘loaner’.
Gerry Samuel is the owner of the R 850 R we were to borrow for the three weeks. Gerry has travelled extensively throughout the world and is part of the Trans Atlantic Bike Share group.
Cycle Torque contributor Dave Mason is friends with Gerry and asked on my behalf for a bike. This share deal means you can borrow bikes from members worldwide and it doesn’t have to be a direct swap deal. In other words, I borrowed Gerry’s bike, and I might then loan my bike to another member of the club who comes out to Australia, and when Gerry is in America he borrows a bike from someone there, and so on. Check it out at www.bikeshareworld.com
It was started back in 1992, and serious ‘swappers’ even have spare bikes which have been bought for this particular purpose. After a cuppa with Gerry and Pat, both retired school teachers, Alex and I saddled up and headed north along the London North Circular. Lucky for us Gerry had a spare Tom Tom. Yes, there were a few moments of slight panic getting out of London, especially one moment where Alex got cut off by a car and forced to stop at a set of lights. Among the chaos he saw my helmet in the distance, caught up and a disaster was averted.
It doesn’t look that far on the map Our first port of call after leaving London was Mickleton, a tiny almost Medieval town in northern England. We were heading north to visit my old mate Daryl and his family. We grew up together, did our apprenticeships together and he was best man at my wedding.
You could say we have a bit of ‘history’.
Daryl has lived in the UK for over 20 years now and we hadn’t seen each other for five years, so it was great to be able to catch up. Getting there on the first day was a chore though. Straight up the M1 motorway, on Friday arvo saw us get caught in numerous traffic jams. We threw caution to the wind and rode down the breakdown lane, otherwise we might still be there crawling along.
Yes, 300 and something miles doesn’t seem that far but it took us over seven hours. Love that Tom Tom though. A very pleasant four days were spent in Mickleton, checking out the local scenery, having picnics, drinking a few pints, visiting a local fair, and even attending a christening.
People did give us some funny looks when we walked into the church with Daryl, Sara and the kids. Mickleton is situated right near a mountain range called the Pennines which runs quite a distance through the middle of northern UK.
We had a great ride up through this mountain pass where the scenery is simply spectacular, and it’s hard keeping your eyes on the road ahead. You have to be careful though because sheep wander along right next to the road, and apparently like to lie down in the middle of it. Luckily there were no ‘surprises’ for us along this road. We turned up just before the the annual Romaldkrik Village Fair, within walking distance of Mickleton. There were lots of games to play and things to do, like drinking pints, and at one stage Alex, Daryl and I decided to take on the Welly Boot Challenge.
Neither of us got close to the furthest throw but Alex’s lack of any co-ordination saw one of his boots flying through the crowd, at 90 degrees to the direction he was supposed to be throwing it. Despite landing in between a crowd of people no-one was injured. I think they just thought we were crazy Aussies.
To the boat We had a ferry to catch so it was lots of cuddles and waves goodbye, and a 90 minute ride to Heysham to catch the Steam Packet ferry to the Isle of Man.
It’s not cheap catching the ferry during peak season and the cost for us was close enough to $350 return each!
The journey itself is close to four hours but the ferry has a bar, cafe and even a newsagent so there’s enough to do during the trip. T
here were hundreds of bikes on the boat, and as we were riding off the ferry into Douglas on the IOM I could feel my pulse quickening.
Dave Milligan from Get Routed had organised our accommodation and was at the ferry terminal to meet us, and another two Aussies – Jane and Steve – who were finishing up a four month tour of Europe, Jane on her Aprilia Tuono, and Steve on his Hyabusa.
From there it was to our digs at Peel, with anticipation of seeing racing bikes on the Mountain Course the next day.
But more on that next month.