IOM TT 2014
Heading halfway across the world to an island in the middle of the Irish sea for a hundred-year-old motorbike race is not your average sports holiday. Nevertheless, those that take the pilgrimage to the Isle of Man each year are treated to a spectacle like no other.
To witness man and machine come over a rise and drop down into a sweeping right-hander through the streets of Douglas while doing 270km/h is something you will see on no other racetrack. For the race teams running the bikes, just getting the bike around one lap of the 60.73 kilometres of twisting streets and country roads is a feat in itself, let alone the bike holding together for the blue ribbon events, where they reach speeds in excess of 300km/h over the six laps of the mountain course.
For the riders who don the armour and take to the roads on the mountain circuit, some of whom are plumbers and mechanics holding down regular jobs, it is a coming together of like-minded people. The hazards for these modern gladiators of motorsport are at every corner and the concentration needed, when racing up to 364km/h, immense. Nevertheless, all share in the passion of just being a part of the TT and for the lucky few who get to stand on the podium; there is no greater glory. They really are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Practice week for the bike and sidecar racing began in the last week of May with times increasing throughout the week. The factory teams BMW and Honda set the early pace with privateers including Tyco Suzuki with the infamous Guy Martin (who starred in the acclaimed documentary about the race, Closer to the Edge) at the helm, and Clive Padgett's Honda racing team, with nine-time TT champion Bruce Anstey from Wellington, well in the mix.
The racing started with the Dianese superbike race. Anstey, fifth off the line in the first of the time trial races, ran wide on the first lap and was struggling in 14th place at the start of the second; while the BMW team with star rider Michael Dunlop went on to break the lap record twice over the first four laps. Anstey climbed through the field putting in a blistering last lap to shatter the lap record with an incredible average speed of 212.913km/h around the mountain circuit, only to just miss out on the podium with a fourth place. Throughout the rest of the week, the well-polished Padgett's team, with a race pedigree to rival any road racing team in world motorsport, showed their mettle, supplying the Flying Kiwi with not only pit stops any Moto GP team would be proud of but also meticulously prepared bikes for the privateers to take on the might of the factory BMW and Honda teams.
Anstey contested four more races through out race week with a second in the first super-sport race, narrowly missing the top of the rostrum by 0.6 of a second to Englishman Gary Johnson, a third in the superstock behind the factory BMW, a second in the second super-sport race, and a fourth in the blue ribbon race, the Poker-Stars Senior TT. Anstey wasn't the only Kiwi taking on the mountain, with the Australasian outfit of Daryl Rayner and Richard Lawrence contesting the sidecar events. Unfortunately for the Kiwi and Aussie pairing, their campaign did not go to plan, with the team plagued by engine problems but still putting in some good lap times, indicating they will be competitive if they return in 2015.
Anyone wishing to follow Bruce Anstey and the Padgett's team should head to the Padgetts racing website (www.padgetts-racing.co.uk). The team will be contesting the Classic TT in August with Padgetts and Valvoline supplying the Kiwi rider with an Moto GP two-stroke racebike. For those who remember the era of Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey racing on these screamers, they are certainly something to behold and once again the mountain will reverberate to the wail of motorbikes.
- By Paul Young
About the author: Paul Young is a Wellington-born motorcycle enthusiast who went on what must be regarded as a pilgrimage of sorts to the mecca of high-velocity motorcycle racing, the Isle of Man TT 2014 which ran from May 24 to June 6. Age sportsbuster, Francis 'The Offsider' Malley, approached Young, a good friend who currently resides in Perth, and suggested he write about his IOM experience as an exclusive for Age readers, particularly those who enjoy motorcycle racing.