Motorsport: Kiwi laps up Isle of Man records

By Eric Thompson

Bruce Anstey still setting pace in hairiest races, writes Eric Thompson

Kiwi Bruce Anstey at the Isle of Man TT. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi Bruce Anstey at the Isle of Man TT. Photo / Supplied

In 2011, a movie called TT3D: Closer to the Edge featured Guy Martin and recounted the Isle of Man's road racing history. Those who watched in awe, but haven't been there let alone raced there, may have just a vague idea how daunting, and how fast, the IoM circuit is.

The speeds the riders get up to on narrow, off-camber and bumpy public roads defy belief. The smallest of mistakes won't just end in the biggest of messes - more likely death.

There have been more than 230 fatalities, including some this year, on the Snaefell Mountain Course, including seven New Zealanders, since 1911.

New Zealand has produced its fair share of great motorcar and motorcycle racers over the years and a number of them went on to be world champions in various categories.

One bloke, especially at the IoM, Bruce Anstey, has flown under the radar as far as the mainstream press is concerned for a while.

The Wellingtonian has one of the best records at one of the scariest road race tracks. Anstey is the master of the annual Isle of Man TT races, having won there nine times and been on the podium 29 times.

It's not just the IoM TT course he has sussed. On another course made up of public roads where you have to have cojones the size of a small house, the North West 200 in Northern Ireland, Anstey has another nine trophies to his name.

As if that isn't enough, on yet another circuit on public roads that goes to make up the course for the Ulster Grand Prix, Anstey has stood on top of the podium five times. The Ulster Grand Prix is generally regarded as the world's fastest motorcycle racing circuit, and it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Anstey holds the lap record there at 215km/h.

Despite not managing to win a race during this year's IoM TT speed feast, Anstey did manage a second and two thirds to remain the only rider in the world to have finished on the podium in every TT, NW200 and Ulster GP in the last 10 years.

Gone are the days when regular Grand Prix riders used to make the annual sojourn across the Irish Sea to risk life and limb. These days it's just the hardy, or in some cases the plain mad, who hurl themselves around the narrow country lanes at breakneck speeds.

"The Isle of Man is all about experience really. Every year you're still learning little bits and pieces - there might be some new tarmac somewhere or it could be a bit bumpier than last year," Anstey told Driven in an earlier interview.

"You definitely need the experience around this place to do well and know where everything is. It does vary from year to year, though."

Just one lap is a long and arduous 60km that takes up to an hour, and over on the smaller capacity bikes, to complete a race going absolutely flat out on the ragged edge. Trying to remember every corner over that distance is a feat in itself.

"A lot of guys when they get here go straight out and go a bit crazy," he said. "Whereas I build my speed up slowly over the week and make sure my lines are all spot on. The speed then just comes."

The Kiwi was hoping to get the complete set this year by winning the Senior TT, the only race he hasn't stood on the top spot of the podium for. It wasn't to be and he had to settle for third, but had the consolation of setting the lap record.

- NZ Herald

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