|A Guzzi Races the Isle of Man TT
Peter Hindley has spent the past year prepping his Sport1100 for the Isle of Mann TT. We asked him to document his racing experience with photos and words.
|Posted on August 22, 2004 at 00:19:49 AM
Despite a sleepless night and a constant "i'm really going to throw up now" feeling for the best part of the day, I found myself sitting in a queue of 43 newcomers for my first plunge down the awsome Bray Hill on closed roads. With 1 minute to go, and engines stopped the silence was deafening.
The clerk of the course signalled the circuit 'clear' and we re-started engines before we were instructed to follow a travelling marshall for our speed controlled lap sighting lap.
Conditions were near ideal apart from a few damp patches under the trees, and the inevitable sun dazzle for approximately 9 miles at the begining of the lap.
There were around 15 riders in my group and we set off in close formation.
The next 12 miles were the scariest of my life. The guys in front of me (with no disrespect intended, these are national and international licence holders) had not the first fucking clue where they were going. I watched in awe as they bounced between the hedges, invented new entry points to corners, went straight on down the slip roads, and generally took up the whole road. It was like watching a load of drunks riding home on a saturday night !!
I was passed at a stupid speed braking for Ballaspur and squeezed against a solid looking Manx stone wall which looked VERY univiting.
At this point I spat the dummy and got the hell out of there by dropping back a few hundred yards and letting them get on with killing themselves. Things were much better from then on.
With a little space available, I began to get a feel for the big Guzzi, and discovered the handling to be acceptable on most sections of the course. The only major problems were when I crossed the crown of the road on Sulby straight (which I had been warned not to do !!) and the bike started a 140mph weave I could not eliminate before the braking zone. That made life interesting !!.
We were pulled in at the end of the lap and allowed to make adjustments before going out again unescorted, this time with the Classic and lightweight
I managed to get out in a gap between the traffic, and set of for my first 'proper' lap. I pushed a little harder as the tyres, brakes and suspension were all fully sorted by now.
Approaching Union Mills, I saw waved yellow flags indicating an incident ahead, and backed right off to about 30mph. I did'nt see anything apart from a medic with a stretcher, but later learned a Manx newcomer (Angus) had lost control of his 600 Yamaha and collided with the wall on the exit of the Corner. He was airlifted to Noble's (hospital) with suspected severe fractures, and is currently in the Intensive therapy unit. His condition is described as 'poorly but stable', and he has not yet regained conciousness. Our thoughts are with him.
The rest of the lap went well, and I really enjoyed myself. The Guzzi appears to be up to the Job, and has sufficient power to live with the 600's through the twisty sections.
Timing is now automatic at the MGP, and I discovered shortly after the end of practice my second lap was at an average speed of 93.50mph.
This means I have already qualified for my race, and I was the 15th fastest newcomer.
A full report on the session, and all the official timings are available at www.iommgp.com/news.
Next practice is on Monday evening....
|Posted on August 23, 2004 at 12:29:09 PM
Nothing to report tonight. We queued in the pissing rain for an hour to be scrutineered (i believe you call it 'tech inspection' over there) and then waited for kick off by sitting in the grandstand, and attempting to see any glimpse of the mountain through the mist.
To be honest, despite a small blue patch forming over Douglas bay it was never going to happen. The organisers delayed a decision for 30 mins before sending us all home.
The rule of thumb on the T.T circuit is if the helicopter can land, you can race. Airmed is a vital part of the safety system, as the average time from incident to arriving at hospital is a mere 7 mins !!.
The Guzzi has a permanent crowd around it, and it seems to have been well received. A few people have shaken my hand and said 'braver man than me'. Can't think why............
Posted on August 25, 2004 at 00:31:34 AM
Greetings from the sunny Isle of Man !!.
Tuesday nights practice got underway more or less on time despite a few communication problems between riders and organisers regarding the splitting of classes for the session, and the resulting panic to get into parc ferme before the gate was locked. Scrutineers examined a record 389 machines, most of which had been done the night before, but as the session was cancelled it proved to be a waste of everyones time. As it must, safety takes priority, and every machine must be checked before every session.
The Police closed the roads promptly at 6.00pm, and we were led out onto Glencrutchery Road to await the start.
The session was for mixed classes consisting of junior (600cc), ultra lightweight (400/125cc), junior classic (pre-1971 250cc) and senior classic (pre-1971 500cc) as well as my own class, newcomers.
I sat in a queue of around 200 machines as we warmed up, and shuffled down towards the start line. Riders are released in pairs at around 5 sec. intervals, and I soon found myself alongside and immaculately prepared 1965 Manx Norton which made so much noise my chest shook !!.
Just before the start we were shown a board saying "damp patches through Glen Helen, mud in road after Ballacraine, Rain in Ramsey, Mist on Mountain". Nice !!.
As I have already qualified as far is speed is concerned, my aims for the session were to learn some more about the cuircuit, sort out a couple of corners that had caused me problems on Saturday, and try to follow a few classic riders to pick up tips. The classic riders are some of the best out there, and hold amazing corner speed, and as a newcomer, you can learn volumes following them for a while.
I set off briskly down Bray Hill, short-shifting into top gear just before the compression at the bottom which knocks the air out of your chest.
I settled into a nice pace, and got as far as Ballig Bridge before a classic came past me !!. I tried to hang on as long as I could, and managed about 3 miles before he dropped me !!. I learnt lots about corner speed, and how to hold it. Even though I could have passed him easily on the straights, he left me for dead through the twisties. And I had my knee on the deck !!!. That's experiance for you !!.
The bumpiest section of the course is now the approach to Ramsey, and due to the damp patches I knocked it right off through here only to be passed by more of those bloody classics !!.
Once on the mountain, the mist decended and visability was down to about 50ft. Everyone seemed to back off until it cleared on the decent into Douglas. As I was hammering down the mountain in top gear a classic shat it'self and pulled right across my line. That was exciting !!.
I took the grandstand section flat out, and commenced my second lap. The approach to Bray Hill looks like a dead end from a distance, and then the road falls away underneath you as you try to find the courage to keep the throttle open. It is like threading a needle at 140mph.
A few miles later, I caught up, with Piet Potgieter (South African Battle of the Twins Champion) on his 998 Ducati.
As god is my witness. I passed him on the back wheel !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
This is not the whole story (as you might have guessed) Poor old Piet was a bit lost, and as a result I caught him and got in his slipstream on the approach to the top gear wagon and horses jump. I guessed he would bottle it (who would'nt ?) and as he shut off, I nipped alongside and passed him right on the crest. It would have made a brilliant photograph. Hooraahh for the Guzzi !!
The rest of the lap went well apart from the mist tightening it's grip on the mountain.
The final (unofficial) times were 94.4mph for the first lap, and 95.13mph for the second lap. Considering all the places I had to shut off, I am pleased with that and the magic 100mph may be possible with a clear run......
A full report is available on www.iommgp.com and photos are at eddysphotos.com
I am out again tonight (wednesday) so wish me luck.
|Posted on August 26, 2004 at 00:04:01 AM
Last nights practice conditions were as close to ideal as you will ever get on the TT course. Sunshine had dried the roads for the vast majority of the course, and the wind on the mountain was light but gusty.
I left the Grandstand at around 7.30pm and managed to complete another 2 laps before light faded. This means I have now officially qualified, and will definately be in the race !!
Newcomers were sent out with the junior (600cc) and senior (750cc) machines rather than the classics as previously.
I set off down Bray Hill with purpose, and managed to keep her lit all the way through the dip, so that is another psycological barrier overcome, although I did run a little close to the lamp post on the exit......
I did'nt take long for people to start passing me. The 600's have a considerable straight line speed advantage over the Guzzi, as well as more stable handling through the bumps. I must have been passed by 15 riders in that first lap, but at least I am getting faster. Last night saw 97.86mph for my first lap, and around 95mph for the second. I backed off a little for the second lap due to fading light conditions, and I also Scared myself BIG TIME when she broke out into a full on lock to lock tank slapper after landing from the 4th gear Ballacry jump. I did'nt enjoy that very much.
The bumpiest sections are forcing me to shut the throttle as I simply cannot hang onto the bike anymore, and as a reult I am loosing precious time.
I need to find just over 2mph or 31 seconds in time to achieve my personal goal of a 100mph average*. When you think about it, that is simply adding the speed of a slow walk to everything I do !!. Sounds easy does'nt it ?.
*(This was first achieved in 1957 by the late Bob Mcintyre, a hard riding scotsman who took his Gilera 4 to victory in the same senior race. A few had come desperatly close posting high 99's for the preceeding two years including the great Geoff Duke. The road was very different then, twistier than it is now, definately bumpier, and in a worse state of repair. His bike had little damping, drum brakes and made 52 hp. How hard was he trying ???????????. Certainly as hard as the current lap record holder John McGuiness how lapped at over 127mph this year. They were real heroes.)
Unfortunately, the bottom of the barrell has nearly been reached as far as my courage/ability is concerned, and it will be very close as to wether 100mph is achievable or not.
Local star Tommy Clucas (Spook) lapped at over 119mph last night on his 600 yamaha........ The boys call him 'spook' because the way he rides, he is one step away from being a ghost.
I am pleased to report that Angus is now concious, although he is poorly, and has serious spinal injuries. Lets hope for the best.
There were no serious incidents last night and everyone returned safely.
I am out again this afternoon for a couple of laps, but rain is forcast with hill mist...........
The Guzzi continues to attract interest, and i'd like to thank everyone from around the world for their e-mails of support, particularly Daniel Kalal. Thanks mate.
Posted on August 26, 2004 at 10:42:19 AM
Despite a poor forecast, the weather remained fair for this afternoons practice session, and I set off with the intention of completing 2 laps and trying a few suspension adjustments.
The big Guzzi was never going to be anyone's weapon of choice for the TT course, but as my speed has increased, so have the handling problems !!.
The steering damper has now (reluctantly) been wound up to it's maximum setting in an attempt to calm the front end down, and I have taken a couple of clicks off the rebound damping at the rear to make it more complient and react faster. The problem is, if you make it better on one section, it seems worse at another...
There is little point in complaining to the other riders as they are all in the same boat. I have never in 20 odd years of watching racing heard anyone say that their bike handled well around here.
I was pumped with last nights 97mph lap, and hoped to improve on it, but with rain on the mountain and damp patches under the trees it seemed unlikely.
I set off down Bray hill with a 600 yamaha which blasted away from me and was soon a speck in the distance. By the time I was braking from around 145mph for the slow Quaterbridge corner with a full tank of fuel, a full head of adrenaline and stone cold tyres, I decided it would be stupid to try to stay with him, and settled into my own pace.
Being mid afternoon, I had none of the sun dazzle problems from the previous evening, and felt I made good time out to Ballacraine (approx 9 miles) despite 4 or 5 bikes passing me.
Once into the twisty Glen Helen section I am more able to hold my own. It is mainly 3rd and 4th gear stuff, and outright power counts for less than other parts of the course.
I was however, a little surprised to catch a train of around 8 riders all behind a newcomer on a 600 Honda.
(newcomers wear orange vests to indicate that they may be traveling more slowly, and have limited course knowledge. In other words, we have'nt got a bloody clue what we are doing, and care should be taken when overtaking)
As i was following, I witnessed some of the best riding I have seen yet. The faster guys picked the newcomer off one by one in safe places giving him plenty of room and not scaring him. It was textbook stuff. Watching an experianced rider passing underneath a slower one with his footrest sparking against the road and his shoulder skimming a grass hedge is truely a beautifull sight. It belies the danger of the place, and it's easy not to see the stone wall lining the exit of the corner.
You all need to come here at least once.
I eventually caught the newcomer, but as we were now on a fast straight (Cronk-Y-Voddy) I was unable to pass, and eventually nipped through on the brakes into Handley's and began to pull away.
A mile or so later I was setting the bike up for the top gear blind left hander at the top of Barregaroo whan I saw a static yellow flag being held by a marshall.
As far as I am concerned, this place is dangerous enough, and not obeying flag signals is plain suicidal. I instantly shut the throttle and drew towards the side of the road scrubbing off speed. I expected a broken down machine at the bottom of Barregaroo (as is usual) but there was nothing.
I was now in a train of around 4 machines, and everyone was sensibly staying behind me at around 50 mph.
As we approached Westwood (or the 13th milestone) I saw a marshall standing in the middle of the road waving a yellow flag, he was followed by another and then a third.
The entry to Westwood is a 90 degree right hander which is bumpy and off camber. It is taken in third gear at around 80mph, and is lined on both sides by a low stone wall and trees. The consequences of a mistake here don't bear thinking about.
I took a deep breath and rounded the corner dreading what awaited me. I had good reason.
What I saw made me feel physically sick.
It looked as if a bomb had gone off. There were straw bales ripped open and strewn across the road, along with sods of earth and shattered fibreglass. I saw at least 4 machines (or remains of) and two riders. One lying motionless in the centre of the road, and the other on the kerb his leg at 90 degrees to his body.
As riders we are instructed not to stop at these incidents, but to make our way through as best we can. After all, there is nothing you can do.
I tiptoed through the carnage, and rode slowley into Kirk Michael village trying not to vomit. I felt like parking the bike there and then and walking to the nearest pub.
The rain on the mountain did little to raise my spirits, and I pulled in after that lap aborting the second I had planned.
Dealing with injury is part and parcel of racing on the TT course. You can follow my mother, declare it lethal and barbaric, and back any attempt to ban it. Or you can agree that the riders are fully aware of the risks facing them, and support them as best you can in chaseing their dreams.
I think boxing is the most barbaric outdated sport to exist. But I will defend absolutly the individuals right to fight.
What do you think ?.
On a brighter note, the bike is running well, and my confidence is growing. The Guzzi has recieved many comments and continues to attract attention from other riders and spectators.
My girlfriend Tracy
(would you want THAT job ?.) Is threatening to write a bit about life on her side of the fence..........Watch this space.
As always, a full report is available at www.iommgp.com and photo's are available at www.realroadracing.com and www.eddysphotos.com
Out agin tomorrow evening, let's hope for a safe one.
|Posted on August 28, 2004 at 00:56:01 AM
Last night saw the best conditions for a practice so far. A light covering of cloud kept the sun dazzle to a minimum, and roads were dry for virtually the entire 37.73 miles.
Roads closed at 6.00pm following an impressive effort to clean up over 5 gallons of oil which had been dumped on the road by a combine harvester at around lunchtime. Unfortunately, it was at Gorse Lea, which is a series of 2 right hand bends taken flat out in top gear. Backing off for the oil was sure to harm lap times in such a quick place.
I soon found myself at the front of the queue having chatted briefly with Piet about the handling of his 998 Ducati. Piet has only ever ridden short ciruits, and was having difficulty coming to terms with the bumps.....
I set off with Dave Sells on his old TZ250 Yamaha. Dave can lap at 100mph all day long, so I thought if I can stay with him, I'll learn a bit.
My great plan lasted about 4 miles before Dave seized at Glen Vine. Selfish bastard !. Some people have no consideration for newcomers.
The rest of the lap went well, and despite a few 'could have gone quicker there' moments, I flashed through the timing beam at a new personal best of 98.02 mph. The fastest time of the evening was Alan Jackson on his 600 Honda at 117.98 mph !!!!!!!!!!!.
I continued for a second lap, and was slowed by yellow flags entering the rencullen Jump (about 15 miles out.).
A single rider had lost control, and hit the wall of the cottage on the exit of the turn. Most of the debis was off the course, and Airmed (the helicopter) was in the adjacent field.
I passed through the remainder of the mess, and began to accelarate up to racing speed when I saw another yellow flag. I assumed it was part of the same incident, and although I backed off a little, I did not slow a great deal. (what are the odds of 2 accidents within a mile of each other at the same time ?.)
As I rounded the flat out 4th gear right hander into Bishopscourt, I was greeted by another accident.
There was debris all over the road, and a rider lying on the kerb but no bike. (I later learned the bike had gone THROUGH the stone wall, and into the field.)
That was a valuable lesson in obeying flag signals.
I completed the lap at a sedate pace to record a 94mph lap.
On the subject of team support, I overheard one lad in the paddock say he was trying his 4th rear shock absorber of the week !!. No such luxury for me, I simply have to ride around the handling problems, but it is getting better.
There is a sports sciantist doing research into dehydration at the TT, so I offered myself as a guinea pig.
He weighed me with and without riding kit, and then let me drink from a measured container.
After the 2 laps he repeated the test, and found I am losing 180ml of fluid per lap. (which seemed about average)
Regarding the accident from Westwood yesterday. One lad is believed to be poorly but stable, and the second has been flown to Liverpool for specialist treatment on his badly broken legs. We wish them a speedy recovery.
On a lighter note, one of the classic lads had his 350 Aermacci lock solid at over 120mph throwing him off and down the road. He walked away with a cut finger !!!! How lucky ?.
I'll keep you updated regarding tonights accidents.
Posted on August 29, 2004 at 12:06:28 PM
Last practice report as the race is tomorrow (monday) at 10.00 am
It will be broadcast live on manx radio
1368khz AM and also worldwide at www.manxradio.com
final practice went well and I lapped again comfortably at over 97mph.
The session was overshadowed by an incident involving local rider Gavin Feighery who lost control of his 600 Suzuki at the East Mountain Gate.
I am sorry to report that Gavin lost his life in the incident, and our thoughts go out to his many friends and family.
Gavin was always ready with a kind word, and his smiles will be sorely missed in the paddock. He loved racing, and died as he lived with his head flat on the tank.
God speed mate.
Can't think of much else to say.
I'll write a review of the race when I feel more up for it.
Wish me luck.
Posted on August 31, 2004 at 01:11:43 AM
Here at last.
Post race celebrations made for a late night, so sorry for the delay.
I have to say that I was pretty depressed on the morning of race day. I never really got over the pile up at Westwood on wednesday evening, and Gavin's death had effected us all deeply. The trouble is that but for the grace of god, it could have been any one of us.
This was underlined on Saturday night when I was following Dave Sells on his TZ250 through the flat-out-in-top-gear Crosby village. I had picked up a tow from Dave, and was sitting in his slipstream at probably 135mph.
Next moment, there was a puff of smoke from his back tyre, his arm went up, and I flashed past on his right hand side with inches to spare. I later learned 5th gear had lunched it'self, and locked his gearbox solid.
Dave is very experianced at coping with seized two-strokes, and managed to keep hold of the plot and come to a standstill in relative safety. This was mainly because he was on a dead straight at the time.
200 yards up the road there is a flat out left hand kink. If the same thing had happened there, the outcome would probably have been very different for both of us......
Anyway, back to the story....
I was queueing for scrutineering by 07.15am in the pissing rain and looking at the low black clouds thinking "what the fuck am i doing here ?" when a German spectator wandered up and wished me luck. That really cheered me up for the rest of the day.
Once the bikes have passed scrutineering, they are locked into Parc Ferme, and can't be touched until 45mins before the 10.00am start.
With time to kill, we ran over the plan for my single fuel stop at the end of lap two, and had a cuppa.
I got my race kit on and attended the bike at about 9.40 to warm her up, check tyre pressures, and ensure fuel was fully topped up (it was).
People were frantically changing wheels to keep track of the changing conditions, and one team was changing the rear shock absorber !!.
Rumors were rife in the paddock. "sunny in ramsey", "raining at ballaugh", "standing water at Sarah's cottage". I stopped listening in the end and just got on with it.
With ten minutes to go, the heavens opened again, and we were led out onto the grid. The press were everywhere, and I was unfortunate enough to be interviewed for Manx Radio !.
With 5 minutes to go the clerk of the course announced a 30 minute delay to let the weather improve.
30 minutes later he did it again !!.
At 11.00 we were all set to go. The race was declared wet, and we were advised to take it easy through Glen Helen due to standing water, and watch for strong wind and mist on the mountain.
Riders are set of in pairs at 10sec intervals, and all too soon I was at the start line along side Maurice Walker on his 1000cc Honda SP2.
I got the tap on the shoulder from Frank (the signal to go) and gave it everything. I knew I would be outdragged by the Honda, but wanted to save a little face for the guzzi !!.
Then disaster struck !!. The rear end of the Guzzi lit up, and I found myself powersliding sideways down the road. I brought it back together trying not to shut the throttle too much, and set off after the Honda.
( quite a few rider spun the rear off the start, and the favorite for the 400cc class actually dropped it !!)
Conditions arond the circuit were the worst possible from a riders point of view. Dry patches followed by wet, dry under trees then wet under trees, and the strong wind blowing twigs and leaves across the road.
Using my local knowledge, I tried to second guess all this, but it was pointless. I nearly tripped myself up at Ballacraine when I saw a dry bit, and pitched the Guzzi in with my knee on the deck only to find that the exit of the corner was soaking wet !!.
Glen Helen was desparate with water actually running across the circuit and I tiptoed through with a 600 Honda which had caught me.
Things improved a little into Milntown, and Ramsey was basking in Glorious sunshine ????????.
I started the climb up the mountain and the sky became black as the wind increased. The headwind up the mountain mile was ferocious, and the guzzi would only pull 4th gear where it had been pulling top in practice.
I sat up from behind the screen to brake and nearly got blown off the bike !!. (another lad, Callum, actually did get blown off and sustained minor injuries).
I was relieved to get down the other side and back into civilisation.
I crossed the line at the end of my first racing lap for an average speed of just over 91mph. (ironically the slowest lap I had ever completed).
Lap two went more smoothly because at least I had some idea where to look for wet patches.
As I was rounding the Creg-Ny-Baa corner (approx 3 miles from home) at the end of the second lap, the guzzi coughed and seemed to loose one cylinder for a second or two. I decided it would clear, and gave it full bore down to Brandish corner, where it did the same.
I was now about 2.5 miles from home, and the awful realisation hit me that I was running out of fuel. I whipped in the clutch to save what little was left, and tried to coast as far as possible up the next incline and see if I could push in. By the bottom of Hillberry she was completely dry.
I started pushing in a desparate attempt to get up and over the next hill which would mean I could coast about half a mile down hill, leaving me with a further half mile gentle up hill to push in.
Running out of fuel at hillberry is a bit of a TT cliche, and I have seen many races lost in exactly this way. I had seen people push in sucsessfully from Goveners bridge, but never from this far out.
Two marshalls arrived and tried to talk sense to me. I was'nt listening, and carried on pushing. By the top of the hill I was exhausted. I had hauled the Guzzi over half a mile, ands could not face the same again.
I threw it against the bales in disgust and sat down to sulk.
Once I had my breath back, I walked to the nearest road, and blagged a lift back to the pits on the back of a deaf German's Norton Commando. (this was actually scarier than racing !)
I was greeted by long faces from my pit crew, and cheers from the grandstand as the winner Keith Stewart completed his last lap to win at an average speed of over 108mph.
So what happened ?.
We completed 6 pracice sessions where we did 2 laps, one after the other EXACTLY as in the race, and we always had fuel to spare.
All practice sessions were dry and still (ish) bit the weather on race day was totally different. I think the strong headwind on the mountain meant the guzzi was revving harder in 4th gear rather than top used some, but the main reason was the accelarator pumps on the FCR's.
When you twist the throttle, a large amount of fuel is squirted into the cylinder. This dies away after a few seconds to leave you running on main jet only. (using less fuel).
Using this theory, I was using more fuel being on and off the throttle in the wet conditions, than I had been flat out in the dry.
Does that make sense ?.
It goes without saying I am gutted.
On the plus side:-
1. I managed to get my entry accepted.
2. I lapped fast enough to qualify for the race.
3. A Guzzi started a Manx Grand Prix for the first time since 1981, and gave us all some thing to cheer about.
I ended up as the 33rd fastest qualifier (out of 37) and my best lap was 98.02mph. Had things gone right, I would probably have finished the race in a similar position.
Considering how outclassed the Guzzi was, I am pretty pleased. Shame I did'nt bring it home.
Sorry to let you all down, but I'll be back next year with a bigger fuel tank !!!
Thanks for all your e-mails of encouragement, to Todd and Ed for their help. Pete Roper (I owe you a big pint !!) and especially to Phil Wooley and Daniel Kalal. (you know why, and thanks so much).
Whan the photos have been processed, i'll mail some for Todd to stick on the site.
Thank you all again.