Tuesday, 9 June 2015

TT Day 10 - Supersport Race 1

With the changes in schedule over the weekend, we learn at 19h00 on Sunday that they have slotted in another short practice session for the Supersport on Monday morning. We've been struggling with the Triumph's handling so it would be an opportunity to try some more changes before the re-scheduled race at 18h30 Monday evening.

Supersport Race 1 - the Crew: Nic, Deebs and Mark

We were up early to pickup the bikes... we were taking the KMR along too because an additional long practice session had also been re-scheduled. Up at the paddock by 08h00 and getting the Triumph trough skroots before getting the wheels off to change the tyres back to the set we had only done 1 lap on - saving the new set for the evening's race.

More suspension tweaks on the little bike

Minutes before the roads close for practice, there is a serious RTA (Road Traffic Accident) at Ballacrye and the practice session is delayed by 2 hours. More waiting around... I take the opportunity to try rest and also buy a TT tee-shirt.

Morning practice lap - Ginger Hall

At 12h30 we were up on Glencrutchery Road for the start of our 1 lap practice. Out on track, the changes we made were definitely in the right direction. I could actually hold it flat out down the length of Sulby Straight - progress. The problem we now had is that it was wheelying everywhere. Great for pics, not great for fast laptimes. We did a 110.7 mph from a standing start - happy that it was better despite the new problem. We made some more changes to try dial the wheelying out.

We clean the Triumph and get it prepped for the race at 18h30 - at the same time Deebs and Mark take the KMR up through skroots. Awesome having a few extra pairs of hands around the paddock - a big help. Thanks guys! :-)

Lightweight practice lap - Wagon and Horses Leap

Soon we're back up on Glencrutchery Road and setting off in pairs for the Lightweight practice. It's a long practice and we have time to get 2 laps in. I just want to test the changes... and not wear myself out. I ride hard where I need to and take it easy on the rest for just 1 lap. The bike is feeling great and we do a 108 mph lap :-) Back in the paddock I try rest up for the upcoming 4 lap Supersport Race.

At 18h15 we are lining up on Glencrutchery Road for the third time... but this time it was for my first TT race. We start number 65 on the road... at the back of the queue... but damn happy just to be there.  Nearly a third of the 96 entrants didn't even make the start. Racing on the Isle of Man is tough. John McGuiness, Ian Hutchinson, Guy Martin, Michael Dunlop, Bruce Anstey, Gary Johnson and all the fastest road racers in the world are starting up ahead of me. An honor.

On Glencrutchery Road

Other than the big crowds, big teams and big names ahead of me, it feels pretty much the same as the start of another Manx Grand Prix. Soon I'm staring down Glencrutchery Road, seeing the 37.7 mile TT Mountain Course ahead of me. The greatest race track in the world. I get the familiar tap on the shoulder and we're off.

The Triumph lifts it's front wheel on the power and it hovers a few inches above the asphalt all the way through first gear. I hook second and it settles down. Nice! I keep feeding it gears as the gear-change lights flicker on the dash. Third, fourth, fifth. I aim for the hedge on the right... I just brush close to it as I crank the bike to the left and hook sixth gear before the jump at St. Ninians traffic lights. Man! This is thrilling!

Nic in his fire-proof gear - Kickass!

I keep her lit all the way down Bray hill... "clunk!" at the bottom and then a big wheelie over Ago's Leap. Sweet! I try relax and just do what I've done many times before... think ahead... twist that throttle hard... smooth... smooth... smooth.

The bike is still a bit of a handful. Not wheelying as much... but is still very flighty over the bumps and shaking her head everywhere. I hang on... try and finesse her and keep everything smooth. The sun is low and dazzle is a bit of a problem on the section from Bradden bridge to Ballacraine. A couple of the corners you come around from shaded areas straight into the low sun - Snugborough, Union Mills, Appledean and Greeba Bridge. In the fractions of a second that it takes for your eyes to adjust, you're blinded. Keep it lit... stay on line. You're through the corner on pure faith. This is where track knowledge is vital.

Sponsorship from PESARO - thank you so much Paul Deba... and for the help in the pits!

My first lap through Glen Helen and for some reason it's scrappy. I'm using different gears on corners to what I've done in practice and I'm up and down the gearbox. It puts me off a bit and I make some mistakes. I miss a few apexes. "C'mon Paul!" "Focus!" I shout to myself in my helmet. I make a lot more mistakes that lap and struggle a bit to get settled. I am also trying to keep my body position as forward as possible to keep weight on the front wheel... I keep hitting my helmet on the screen.

Through the Grandstand for the first time and lap 2 feels a lot better. Less mistakes... faster... smoother. Keep it going... faster... faster. I struggle to hold the bike flat-out through sections that should be flat-out. The bike bucks and weaves around over the bumps that I'm hitting while cranked over at well over 130mph. It throws me off-line and I have to constantly make corrections and roll the throttle.

Over Ballaugh Bridge for the second time... I get some big air but land it a bit crossed up. I'm on teh gas before the bike has settled and it puts me into a big tank-slapper. "Whoooah!" "Easy there girl." as I roll the throttle to recover. Back on full throttle moments later as she settles down. Giving the big crowds value :-)

Homemade curry leftover from the weekend for lunch - thanks Brett!

End of lap 2 and I hammer down the gears as I approach pit-lane. I look for 1st as I get to the end of the stop-box then hold her below 6000rpm as I bimble down pit-lane to where the crew is waiting. The pitstop is flawless - Mark does the fuel-cap, Nic on fuel and Deebs hands me a drink and gets busy cleaning the screen. It all goes so well that half-way through I am waiting for the tank to be brimmed - nothing for me to do but watch the fuel level slowly creep up. It seems to take ages...

Tank brimmed, cap back on, hit the starter. She fires to life. I'm in first gear already, ease out the clutch and start feeding her revs all the way to 14 000. We are one of the last pit-boxes in pit-lane... great for a fast get-away.

With Alistair Bayley - I did my first ManxGP back in 2005 with Alistair

Lap 3 and I am making a lot of mistakes again. Scappy in places... but getting it right in others. I feel settled and fast in one section... then struggle a bit through the next. Racing something that is not a twin cylinder is taking some getting used to. I keep thinking to myself: "This is the TT... savor it... enjoy it." I try. I am thoroughly enjoying some sections... savoring, enjoying... but getting frustrated by other sections.

An hour after the start and I've covered 113 miles on track - we're onto our last lap. Flat-out down Bray Hill on a flying lap is an incredible thrill. Pushing the bars and moving your weight to pick your line between the houses down the steep hill at over 150mph... nothing like it. Bottom of Bray is always a little scary... you get on your line and hold it... "Whump!" The bike bottoms out and wobbles around while you're leaned over... keeping the throttle pinned. It's crazy!

3 SAffers at TT 2015 - with AJ venter and Hudson Kennaugh

I start feeling tired on lap 3, my 6th lap of a long day. I have to dig deep to keep focused and ignore my body's complaint. Mind over matter. Keep focused, keep sharp. The body will obey. I try be as smooth as I can... resting down the straights... soaking it all up as much as I can. I push on through Crosby, then Ballacraine... Kirkmichael, then Ballaugh. I hang on through the bumps to Ramsay... I'm mostly just a passenger.

I get bounced around up through May Hill... soon we're tipping it around the Gosseneck, straight into the sun. Aaaah... my favorite section - the Mountain. Up, up, up... following the contour... fast, sweeping bends... smooth. Over Hailwood's and Douglas beckons in the distance, basked in the evening sunshine. Sublime.

Had a chat with John McGuiness about these fast new kids after the race 

I keep it steady and smooth. The race isn't over... I keep pushing down the mountain. I make a mistake through Brandish... turn in too early and and have to pick the bike up mid-corner. Damn! I check my rpm at the exit and I've only lost about 300... nice recovery! Through Hillberry, Cronk y Mona, Signpost and Bedstead for the last time. The tricky Nook then the silly Governor's Dip... flat out up through the gearbox to the Grandstand.

Flying high over Ballaugh Bridge

I cross the line to the waving chequered flag... at the end of pit-line I see my crew - Nic, Deebs and Mark all hanging off the wall waving their balaclavas. Thanks guys!! We've done it! We've finished our first TT! I soak in the waving, clapping and thumbs-up from the crowds lining the return road... it's taken nine years dreaming, planning, trying... we've done it. Awesome!


  1. Great job and write up, enjoy tomorrow and let's hope you can tweet the suspension a little.