We are fans of the Isle of Man TT and love the event because it’s the essence of our sport: man and machine against the road.
Martin Brundle perfectly summed up the world’s oldest motorcycle race when he visited for the first time last June. “The combination of skill and bravery required – no other sport needs them both to such a degree,” he said.
For the past 106 years there has only been one TT . Now there are two. August’s inaugural Classic TT was a huge success, with many of the fastest men around the infamous 37.73 miles Mountain course making an extra trip across the Irish Sea to race hallowed old motorcycles over the same circuit. I wouldn’t be too surprised if one day the Classic actually becomes bigger than the real thing. As mind-bogglingly wonderful as it is, the real TT does have a problem: the bikes are monotonously similar.
With few exceptions, Japanese inline fours fill the big classes, so all the bikes look and sound the same.
The Classic TT is completely different: an all-out assault on the visual, aural and nasal senses, a deafening four- and two-stroke cacophony wrapped up in an event that feels as genteel as a village fete. Amid the tents and marquees, the beards and flat hats, the sweet smell of Castrol R and the chill of nervous tension, there’s the whole rainbow of machinery, from the most venerable motorcycle manufactured on these shores, the Norton Manx, to the most terrifying race bike to emerge from Japan, Yamaha’s four-cylinder TZ750 two-stroke. And people race them. To me, riding a Manx round the Island sounds like a nice idea, but just thinking about riding a TZ750 through those blind, tunnelled twists and over those bruisingly bumpy roads makes me feel queasy.
The Manx, however, was no match for its main rival in the 500cc race, the Italian Paton from the 1960s. Like many classic race bikes, including most of the Nortons, the Paton is a replica, created by a burgeoning cottage industry. Twenty-time TT winner John McGuinness rode one, but was unable to challenge 500 winner Olie Linsdell before dropping out with ignition problems.
McGuinness nevertheless enjoyed himself, revelling in the fact that he was riding a bike that didn’t try to pull his arms from his sockets every time he opened the throttle; the Paton twin has little more than one third of the horsepower of McGuinness’s TT superbike.
“It rattles along once it’s in top gear,” said McPint. “But compared to a superbike it just knocks the edge off. When you’re accelerating, the bike’s not wheelying and twisting and pulling and spinning and things.”
Aussie Cameron Donald was another TT winner having a ball, spending most of each lap with the throttle wound to the stop as he achieved the first ton-up lap with an AJS 7R.
“Riding around this place you’re used to going down a gear or two for the corners,” he said. “On these things you just push your chin harder into the tank and keep the throttle on.” DKW (a defunct marque that was part of Auto Union) brought a replica of its 250 that won the 1938 Lightweight TT . Ralf Waldmann – one of GP racing’s most successful riders never to have won a world title – made his first visit to the island to ride the bike in a parade lap and was in awe of the circuit.
“I can’t find the words …” he said, before coming out with the best TT line I’ve heard. “Winning here must be like being a German soldier getting out of Stalingrad in 1943.”
Next year’s Classic TT races are scheduled for August 23 and 25, with practice taking place the previous week.