All systems go for TT fortnight
BALLS OF STEEL: It takes real courage to be a competition sidecar passenger - and seriously large ones to ride in the Isle of Man TT races.
Author: DAVE FALL
DOUGLAS, Isle of Man - Make way for the annual Isle of Man Tourist Trophy fortnight – without doubt still the greatest motorcycle race event in the world. The first day of practice took place this past weekend in preparation for the race opener that will start on June 2.
Weather permitting, of course …
Visitors have already started to flock to the island that nestles in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland – and its only access is by ferry into the island’s capital Douglas or by air travel. Already some 12 000 bikers have arrived to enjoy TT fortnight – an event that’s taken place annually for well over 100 years.
The first TT race was on May 28, 1907 and there were only 25 starters – 10 of whom managed to finish the 61km course that had more than 200 bends, extremely narrow roads, the odd pedestrian and definitely the occasional stray sheep.
Once again competitors have come from all over the world – including South African champion rider Hudson Kennaugh – while spectators take up their favourite vantage points around the circuit. My personal spot is Parliament Square in the small town of at Ramsay where one can at least get a good look at the riders, their mounts and their different riding styles as they slow down considerably before entering the town then heading for the superfast mountain sector.
Yes, there’s lots of other great spots such as Bray Hill and Ballig Bridge (where riders fly for quite some distance) but when they whistle by at speeds close to 300km/h you tend not to see that much!
This past weekend it was Ryan Farquhar (183km/h) and Dave Molyneux who set the pace as TT 2012 officially burst into life. For a change it wasn’t the weather that caused a delay for the opening practice session but instead communication difficulties between some of the sectors around the course. Over one lap of the circuit the British weather can change (usually for the worse) at least three times!
It may have been ‘only’ a practice run but race spirit won the day at a qualifying session for the lightweight Supertwin class, while the sidecar riders also love to get in on the act.
It wasn’t long before fans saw some action with solo newcomers first out on a speed-controlled lap before the qualifying session for the lightweight class. It was all wrapped up with a controlled lap for sidecar newcomers to get used to the tricky circuit and a free qualifying session for the more experienced chair-riders.
Fourteen-times sidecar champion Dave Molyneux and his passenger Patrick Farrance laid down an early marker in the sidecars with the quickest lap of the evening (178km/h), followed by Conrad Harrison and Mike Aylott (173km/h).
The next practice is this evening, Monday, May 28 (remember, twilight doesn’t come that far north until at least 10pm).
RACE WEEK CALENDAR
Saturday, June 2 – 11am: Superbike TT race; 2pm: Sidecar TT Race 1; Supersport/Lightweight qualifying.
Monday, June 4 – 10.45am: Supersport TT; Race 1 Sidecar qualifying; 2pm: Superstock TT Race.
Wednesday, June 6 – 10.45am: SES TT Challenge 1pm; Supersport TT Race 2; 3.15pm: Sidecar TT, Race 2: Senior Lightweight qualifying.
Friday, June 8 – 10.45am: Lightweight TT Race; 1.30pm: Senior TT Race.