Isle of Man TT Update
By David Rusk
If I think about it too hard, I’ll be geared up and crouched behind the wind screen of my RC51/SP1, imagining that famous mountain course blurring past in the afternoon light. “David(!), your being silly. Get off that thing, your scaring the cats!” That’d be my wife shouting because the bike is in our living room.
The Isle of Mann TT or Tourist Trophy is hands down, the most prestigious race (s) in the motorcycling world and definitely the most dangerous. I will get into the details in my feature report but for now, lets cover the lead in to this year’s event.
Practice begins May 25 and runs every other day until the following Friday and racing starts Saturday with superbikes and the first sidecar race and continues the skip a day schedule. The final racing on Friday June 7 hosts sidecars in the morning and the senior TT mid-afternoon and thanks to Bikelife magazine, I have an IOM press/photographer pass for this day, which will be one for the history books.
Two past Champions return to the island road course after harrowing accidents, to throw down against past winners and hungry rookies alike. The biggest news is the return of John “McPint” McGuinness, with 23 wins at the TT. A terrible crash at the 2017 Northwest 200 in Ireland saw him off line for most of the 2018 season including the TT, where all he could manage was a few parade laps. Honda admits that recovered data from the Fireblades damaged ECM confirmed McGuinness’s claim of an unexpected throttle blip entering the fast Primrose hill section, resulting in the crash and a broken back, 3 ribs and both the tibia and fibula of his right leg. Fellow Honda mounted Guy Martin caught a false neutral entering Dorans bend at 190 kph and went straight on, hitting the curb and crashing. He was not shy about voicing safety concerns regarding the SP2’s electronics. John’s leg was so bad that internal fixation wasn’t an option and he was fitted with an external cage. A medieval torture device really, meant to repeatedly stretch the bone apart letting new growth fill the gap and essentially create new leg bone. John expounds during an interview. “Sort of a kick in the nuts, if you will” and “With the cage on, I grew my leg 50 mil. That was horrendous, it was horrible.” He returns to the Sneafell mountain with the Norton team, astride the V4 SG8 Superbike and the new 650cc parallel twin Superlight machine.
Ian Hutchinson makes a return after his own terrible experiences. With 30 major operations and over 50 hours on the table, Ian has suffered his worst in the 2010 TT. “I looked down and saw bones sticking out the back of my leathers and my leg just dangling down.”
Ian’s foot was dead and resisting the surgeon’s push for amputation, he ended up in a Taylor Spatial Frame, just like Mcguiness and has been in recovery ever since. This year he will race with an ankle fused to a newly grown tibia bone and a Fireblade modified to right foot gear selection and thumb rear brake. Oh, and two legs that don’t match, can’t forget that because his knees are in different places.
Since his 2010 crash Hutchie has re-broken the same leg twice with the latest at the 2017 TT. With over 1200 excruciating days in the Cage having his leg slowly stretched (280 mm’s) and fighting out of an opium painkiller haze, Ian is anxious to improve on his 16 podiums and race the clock once more. Aussie David Johnson joins Ian at Honda racing and the updated CBR-SP2.
Peter Hickman remains at BMW on the all new S1000RR with Smiths Racing and thinks ZX10R mounted Dean Harrison will be his biggest concern. Local hero Conner Cummins will race both a 1000 ‘blade and a 600 under the long time Paget’s Honda team.
Micheal Dunlop is signed to Tyco BMW again where he managed a hat trick at the 2018 TT and became the third winningest rider behind Mcguinness and his Uncle Joey, who’s legacy proudly tells of 26 wins. Micheal set a lap record last year of 130.324 mph but the 2019 Beemer is a brand-new machine and hopefully it gets sorted before entering the full-on insanity that is the TT. With his father, brother and uncle all lost to road racing, perhaps Micheal is the strongest of the strong. During practice for the 2008 NW 200 a seized 250cc engine took his father and yet unbelievably a few days later, Micheal stood on the top podium and cried. Ten years later at the Skerries 100 in Dublin, brother William died during practice after sitting out the IOM to comfort his partner through a difficult pregnancy. Ever since Micheal has been a madman, driven to win and it is hard to fathom what he will be thinking as the starter taps his shoulder this year at the TT.
Davey Todd, the standout newcomer last year with a lap of 128.379 mph that set the 23-year-old as the second fastest rookie ever (!) will be on another new S1000RR this year.
My trip to the Island was originally and still is the tail end to a greater gift to my wife, a tour of England and its history. Her dream to stand and to touch where Kings and Queens roamed is coming true for her (and me). That said, to see the IOMTT is a dream for me and Bikelife has stepped up with international press credentials, IOM press/photographer passes and amazing accommodations, only 50 meters from the paddock!
I have only set aside 3 days on the Island due to the price gouging during the races and the aforementioned dreams of a deserving wife. Seriously though, if your considering traveling to the TT, it is mandatory to book at least one year in advance, especially the ferry. But before you start inquiring about the costs, I’d recommend self medicating because five months out, a room for 2 nights on a golf course (all that we could find) was £1500 each. That’s almost $6000 Canadian for two nights so throw caution into the wind and adopt the play now, pay later scheme. Until Bikelife came through with the pass’s and reserved for reporter accommodations, Lisa and I were “glamping” on a soccer field (!) close to Douglas. Glamping, as in a tent. Party central I’m sure and 25 years ago I would’ve liked that but now, well now I’m pretty sure the unmuffled race bikes would literally explode my hungover head.
I am getting press releases from the race officials and any important updates will be posted here. Now, I’m off to hone my skills with a camera and try to remain calm as the trip edges closer.
The latest news reports that John Mcguinness’s Norton SG8 V4 is 200cc over the Senior and Superbike displacement limit and the North West 200 organizers have contacted both Norton and John. As things stand right now, the big Norton 1200cc is disqualified from the “Triangle “course in Ireland and possibly the Isle of Mann TT also! Both sides are striving to reach a solution.
Unfortunately your reading this after the event and I have been… and it was awesome ! I am working on two features and hope to have them posted soon. i can tell you that McGuiness’s Norton team switched to Aprillia’s 1000cc V four out of their RSV4 and that he struggled with bike/engine problems during Thursday’s evening ! lap qualifying and the Senior on Friday. He did place second in the TT Zero on a Mugen and that leads me to my second feature about a small team of University students and their efforts in that same race. So stay tuned and watch for my pictures from the Isle of Man TT.