Motorsport: Flat out under the radar on a risky winning path

By Eric Thompson

Bruce Anstey has nine Isle of Man wins and wants one more. Photo / Euan Cameron
Bruce Anstey has nine Isle of Man wins and wants one more. Photo / Euan Cameron

New Zealand has produced its fair share of great motorcar and motorcycle racers, and several became world champions in various categories.

One bloke who has an enviable record has been flying under the radar for quite a while.

Wellingtonian Bruce Anstey has one of the best records at one of the scariest road race tracks in the world. He is the master of the annual Isle of Man TT races having won there nine times and been on the podium 24 times.

It's not just the Isle of Man TT course he has sussed. On the equally scary North West 200 in Northern Ireland - another race run on public roads - Anstey has another nine trophies to his name.

And on yet another circuit on public roads, the Ulster Grand Prix, Anstey has stood on top of the podium five times. The Ulster Grand Prix is generally regarded as the fastest motorcycle racing circuit in the world, and Anstey holds the lap record there at 215km/h.

Last year a movie called TT3D: Closer to the Edge, starring Guy Martin was released. It gives an idea of how daunting and how fast the Isle of Man circuit is.

The speeds the riders reach on public roads defies belief, and the smallest of mistakes can be deadly - there have been 237 fatalities, including seven New Zealanders, on the Snaefell Mountain course since 1911.

The Weekend Herald spoke to Anstey after his Monster Energy Supersport TT win this week. "It was good to get another win this week," said Anstey. "It's 10 years since I got my first win on a 250cc bike in 2002 and to be still winning is great.

"I've also had 24 podiums, which puts me fifth on the all-time list but I should have another one. I crossed the line in the exact same time as Richard Farquhar, but they gave it [third] to Farquhar in the end somehow."

Gone are the days when regular grand prix riders used to make the annual trip across the Irish Sea to risk life and limb. These days it's only 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," said Anstey. "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. "You definitely need the experience around this place to do well and know where everything is. This year it seems to be a bit on the slow side because the conditions were perfect for the 600cc race but we weren't really on lap record pace."

Each lap on the course is a long and arduous 60km, and it takes more than an hour to complete a four-lap race on a 600cc bike going absolutely flat out. Trying to remember every corner is a feat in itself.

"It's not easy but it's all down to experience," said Anstey. "You've got to do as many laps as you can. A lot of guys when they get here go straight out and go a bit crazy. I build my speed up slowly over the week and make sure my lines are all spot-on. The speed then just comes."

At 43 Anstey is young by today's standards, and wants to keep going back to the race as long as he continues to enjoy it and is still fast enough. Also, there's a bit of unfinished business on the island.

"I've yet to win the superbike race [Senior TT] and I need that to complete the set. That's the one I want to win and it's the one everyone wants to win. I've had a couple of seconds and a few thirds so I'm close."

The race he's desperate to win is this morning NZ time. He'll not have it his own way, though, as perennial favourite Brit John McGuinness is riding well this year, as is Australian Cameron Donald.

- NZ Herald

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