Thursday, 5 June 2014

Tea at the TT.

Can you imagine getting an invite to four days at the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy). The Mecca of Motorcycles, the Theatre of Thunder, the race of champions.

Well it happened to me this week.

Honda are running a promotion called #myjourney on twitter and through Ian Coates, and Honda Europe I started my VIP visit on Friday 30th.

Twitter #myjourney is a mapping site that anyone with a Honda vehicle can add pictures and routes to. With my twitter account @road2manchester and setting one up for Ian @IanCoatesHonda, (please follow), the stage was set.
Riding my GS down to Leatherhead (140 miles) on Thursday afternoon, I arrived at my nephews home to meet his son Hughie (4) and Elisa and Wayne's new baby Florence, who was just one day old.

After a traumatic night that ended with the baby and Mum back in hospital, I set off for Gatwick airport at 5.30am and got a plane to the Island.
From the collection point we boarded a coach and was immediately taken on a tour of the circuit with the one and only John McGuiness (Winner a dozen times).

The IOM_TT has been running ever since motorcycles have been racing, and the circuit takes about an hour to circumnavigate villages, towns and mountain roads when you are in a 50ft coach. On a race bike the time is cut to around 17 minutes with average speeds on 140 MPH and top speeds in some sections nearer 200 mph...... on a bike.
The streets through the villages echo of the 'blat' of high powered engines, and back fires, and over the hills the scream of high RPM race engines is second to none.
John gave us a bump by bump commentary pointing out every kerb, ever apex and things to avoid and hit on each corner.
Mr Johns McGuiness. Legend.

Once around the circuit and back to the start line, we dropped John off and time for a selfie, then off for the first of many excellent meals offered by our hosts at Honda.

The team of around 50 Honda staff from around the world enjoyed a visit to the Bungalow up on the mountain road. Watching the practise session, the hills were alive with the scream on 12,000 rpm motors as they pass by. The tales from John fresh in my mind. Lost friends and scary moments from years of learning this course.
The road itself is not a smooth race track, carefully manicured to allow rapid progress in safe conditions.
Pot holes and trenches filled , grids and kerbs in awkward spots, lumps and bumps from abuse by all the other traffic, weather and road works. Even the luxury of a modern air-suspension coach often felt like a fairground ride, so hitting these undulations at 200 MPH must go down as the most dangerous motorsport out there.
An evening Meal at the top of the mountain, we took over the cafe for a few hours and with a tram ride back to meet our coach, we went back to the Sefton Hotel in Douglas for a well earned rest.

Saturday morning and I managed to miss the coach as the original schedual had been brought forward an hour. I managed to get to the Honda Grandstand via a bus ride and a 2 mile hike on a very hot day. 
The Honda stand was a scaffold platform just inches away from the road where bikes and side-car outfits raced past at around 130 MPH just 2 feet from the visitors.
There was a slight incident just by us, resulting in a rider being air lifted away in the medical helicopter.
The race is dangerous and whilst we were there two riders lost their lives during races. These guys were seasoned riders, and despite the danger, they carry on seeking glory, new lap records and with average speeds for the 23 mile route being over 130mph, it is not a surprise to those watching or taking part, that crashes happen. |The route is made as safe as it can be, without taking away the challenge or thrill, but the men taking part, know the risk. These men (and women) are at the mercy of fate, mechanical prowess, ability and sheer luck. Like gladiators they go out not knowing how today will finish, but with practise and their gods riding pillion, most go on to their own bit of glory. 
That glory could be simply to get round, to finish a three lap race learning the circuit a bit more so that next time they can reduce a few seconds of their personal record. Some have the pressure of being up their in the top five or six regulars who get sponsored , have history and expectations of the crowds and the grit to break into the hall of fame and win.

I hold any rider willing to try the TT, on any bike in the highest esteem. These guys are slightly mad, very brave and extremely skilled to a line that I will never hope to cross. 
As for the man that is a passenger on a side car racer....... you are just completely bonkers.... Obviously your nervous system is removed at birth and replaced with steel. Its not hard enough hanging on to a bike when you have a seat. Chucking yourself across a tea tray and hanging on for dear life, whilst the driver is allowed a cocoon slightly safer protection is one job I will not be applying for.

Honda continued to entertain with more food and beer, we had a go on quad bikes and moto-x bikes on Sunday, and finished our pampering with a visit to the pits and start line, with a viewing point to beat all, on top of the control tower. 

John McGuiness won another trophy, Ian Coates met some senior Honda execs, who want to help him get on the road again. I got lots of aches and pains to add to my trip home and great memories.

Just a side note:

A young man who has a strange love affair with Honda C90 bikes (Ed March) had an adventure ride from Malaysia to the UK in 2011. His video of the same name is out now and well worth the money.
His little C90 is the most unlikely steed for a 14500 mile road trip, but with a small budget comes a small bike but a big adventure. Click the blue bit for his website or try youtube Ed March
Ed will be off again soon as he embarks on a Alaska to Argentina trip. On a C90 of course,

Ed March ready for action

Ian entertains Honda staff 

Nathan from ABR magazine with Ian Coates

Ian Coates tries out a Honda 250 to see if it would be good to go to Magadan on.

Feeling the heat on Saturday.
The Bungalow watching practise.

View from the top of the control tower

Big thanks to Honda for a great weekend.

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