Back in 2016 I headed to the Isle on Man for the first time. Here’s the story, photos and video we captured.
Photos: MDM & Boxer
Special thanks to Chad Neylon for being an excellent travel buddy
Before heading off, my plan was to write a “my trip to the TT” type story, but thinking about it now it would have been a festival of stupid selfies and me standing in front of stuff doing the old “this is me here” type shot. Instead this is not a guide to TT goers, it’s not an opinion, just a few stories within stories about how the week unfolded. And yes, it was f*&king excellent. The worst bit about it all… was coming home.
First and foremost I had to book holidays from work (that place we all go to that pays the bills) and to be brutally honest I should have planned a little better, because it was after I secured the annual leave dates and tickets I realised that by adding a few days either side I could have added two rounds of the MotoGP calendar to my trip, Catalunya and Assen. More dollars yes, but I’d just sold a motortbike and as the cool kids say these days “yolo”… That’s “you only live once” for us people with pigmentation failure in our hair follicles. As it was though my departure date was June 5th and my work roster showed that I had the 3-4th of June listed as rostered days off. I quickly called Skye from Escape Travel in Unley SA (gratuitous plug because she deserves it for being so awesome with arranging everything) and we discussed adding Barcelona into the trip. More costs were incurred, but when June 3rd arrived I was on my way and flew with Qatar on their new A350 via Doha to Barcelona.
On arrival I spent most of the afternoon and evening in the city where I went for a look around, had a feed and got in touch with a couple of other Adelaide blokes who were in town for the Catalunya race. During my stay I did make the mistake of saying “I don’t speak Spanish” to a Catalan…. That goes down like calling a Kiwi an Aussie or a Canadian an American. Anyway, the following morning I was up early and headed to meet the other guys. I’d booked myself a grandstand seat on bookmoto.com which seemed to work well as all I needed to do was print out the e-ticket. On arrival Adam and Mark told me that the bus ride we were taking was a strict pre-booking only and since they’d already booked theirs we quickly booked another for me. At a cost of only 12 Euros for a return seat it was pretty good. The bus station was busy, but we got onto a bus quickly and headed to the track arriving about half way through the Moto3 race. We split up and I headed towards my seat in the A area which was actually pretty good as I had a great shot of the bikes coming into turn 1, through 2 and then just seeing them re-appear on the other side of the track. Risking copping a spray from the JL and MM fans, I was keen to see Rossi win and was lucky enough to see him pass Lorenzo right in front of our grandstand. That and seeing Zarco win Moto2 was great also. I hope he steps up to GP soon! The weather was great, the crowds were very enthusiastic and the vibe was brilliant. I’m very glad I was able to add that to my trip. The other bonus was that in the evening, my mate and Aussie World Supersport racer Glenn Scott and his better half headed into the city to meet up for some dinner. He’s a great kid with a good attitude and I hope he gets to where he wants to with his racing.
The next leg of the trip was from Barcelona to the Isle of Man. Now don’t quote me on this, but I don’t think any really big planes fly there, so the luggage allowances for me were quite a bit different to the international flights. Minor details really though, just don’t get caught out cause it’s not cheap. Arriving in Douglas I jumped in a cab and headed to the homestay accommodation I’d organised for myself and friend Chad (motorsport TV reporter, commentator and tragic to the highest degree). I got comfy and relaxed for the evening to prepare for the following day. Now I would have to call myself the luckiest guy in the world to have great friends who help out, because my mate Dave who grew up here just happened to organise me a loan bike through a local mate of his. Better even it was a Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird. To collect the bike I jumped on the back of Dave’s SV650 and we headed west towards Peel. Not long after leaving to collect the bike, I found out the some roads on the IOM have unrestricted speed limits. Dave pushed the little 650 hard with me on the back, but after collecting the CBR, I gave it some stick on the way home too. Needless to say, what feels like a comfortable speed in the appropriate spot there would land you in hot water with a lot of fines in Australia.
With us technically arriving half way through the event missing the practices, we were pretty keen to get to the Supersport race on the Wednesday, so on Tuesday night my mate Chad arrived, we had a meal, a beer and got an early night. The next morning we headed to the Bradden church at Bradden Bridge and were greeted by an extremely friendly group of people at the gorgeous old venue. It was like a church function with homemade soup, cakes and other foods, along with the mandatory 400 cups of tea, but instead of listening to sermons and prayer, we listened to 10,000+rpm engines flying past. There we caught a glimpse of the Supersport and Sidecar races and got a feeling for just how insane but awesome this event is. Needless to say we were hooked from that point on.
Later on we caught up with some British friends and headed to the Douglas foreshore for a beer and a feed. There was beach racing below and acrobatic aircraft above along with thousands of motorbikes, tourists and a vibe that could be only described as electric. Once we’d finished we jumped on the bikes and because of the summer solstice we were blessed with prolonged daylight right up until about 10:30pm we headed for the hills and checked out the Bungalow which is right up at the top of the TT course.
Over the next few days we tried to get to as many locations as possible, but I’d say my favorite was Ballaugh Bridge. Standing right next to the local pub in the thick of the crowd we got there just as the Seniors came through for the last practice and saw a few getting a decent amount of air. Right after that was the electric bikes in the TT Zero class which also flew past sounding like… well big radio controlled cars. We then headed to Ramsey to catch the Lightweight class. With enough time to knock back a decent size pie and mushy peas we found a great spot and watched the 650cc twins go screaming by. After that, the plan was that once the road had opened, we’d to follow the TT course up through the hills for a bit of a play. The only drama was that because most of the property up there is farm land and it’s open speed limits, a damaged fence had caused sheep to escape and as annoying as it was waiting a couple of hours, nobody wanted hit a sheep doing 220…. So we waited and then watched the wannabe racers getting gee’d up as the Police gave the all clear. While I’m on that note too, the IoM Police are excellent! No nanny style tactics, just doing their job and making sure nobody did anything too dumb.
Whilst it wasn’t my last day on the island our last day at the TT was spent watching the Sidecars and Seniors races. We were often told that this is the best the weather had been at the TT in years, so we were very blessed and although there were some delays in racing, it was mainly due to low fog in the hills which meant the medical helicopter couldn’t land. Starting in the pits we checked out both the Sidecars and Superbikes as they were being prepared, but then headed towards the Quarterbridge corner to see the Sidercars race. In the local spirit of it there was brilliant viewing points from three different corners, one was in front of the pub and quiet busy, but the other two were private residences setup for TT fans. Both only cost a few pounds to get in and one was even giving away free cups of tea and donating it’s entry money to a fund being raised for injured racers. Needless to say the vibe was excellent.
After this we headed back to the pits and watched the Seniors race start and yep, Davo Johnson gave the MotoGP powered 150dB Norton a decent wristful and without a doubt quite a few bike junkies like us went a bit weak at the knees hearing it take off. Throughout the race we decided to head off on foot to catch as many spots between the startline and the Quarterbridge as possible. Even though its not even close to being the fastest part of the TT course, the speeds the riders hit Bray Hill and Ago’s Leap (named after the famous racer Agostini) at are were phenominal. You have to look hard because they go past so fast, but the bikes get quite a bit of air at Ago’s leap and to truly see it, you’d need to either have a fast SLR camera shooting at a very quick shutter speed, or a rather expensive video camera that’ll do slow motion.
With the Senior race completed, it was Michael Dunlop who came out on top. Nephew of the famous and highly respected Joey Dunlop, winner of many TT races and other road races before losing his life crashing in the wet conditions during a road race in Estonia in 2000, he clearly carries the Dunlop racing gene! Michel dominated the race on his BMW beating close rival Ian “Hutchy” Hutchinson. Crowd favorite, multiple TT winner and event legend John McGuiness came third. Not long after the event McGuiness announced that he’d be back in 2017 on the brand new Honda and by the sounds of it he’s after more trophies for his already large collection.
With regards to the GP, the TT and my trip in general, I’d have to say it was easily one of the best times of my life. I can’t wait to go back and if the funds and time allow it I’ll definitely be going again next year. As far as me recommending it, well the fact that you’re reading a motorcycle magazine means that you love bikes like us and if you don’t mind the long haul flight I can’t recommend enough that you get over there to see if for yourself. No amount of photos, videos or documentaries will justify how awesome it really is!
I was lucky enough to bump into Scottish stunt rider Kevin Carmichael at Ramsey. Kevin is the factory stunt rider for Triumph and has been for a while. He’s constantly being flown all over the world to ride at shows and do demos, but when it came to being at the TT, he goes because he loves the event! Click here to see his mate’s awesome TT inspired Thruxton
One of the best parts of the TT for me was actually having a bike to ride. Through a friend of mine in the UK, he organised a friend to loan me his spare bike for the entire week I was there. John is a course marshall at the TT and a local in the town of Peel. He’s also a total legend for loaning his neat and tidy (and friggen loud) CBR1100XX Blackbird to a total stranger. Riding the course and other parts of the island were absolutely magic. I can’t thank John enough!
If you have the means to beg, borrow or st… I mean rent a bike while you’re there, do it!