Battle rages at the Cathedral of Speed

Going into the weekend Remy Gardner leads the Moto2 championship by 36 points from his teammate Raul Fernandez, but the rookie earns his fourth pole of the season, as an eventful race sees him dropping back to ninth then clawing his way back to emerge victorious in the 9th round of Moto2 2021.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Fernandez’s teammate Remy Gardner starts from 2nd place and Sam Lowes completes the front row, ahead of Aron Canet in 4th, Ai Ogura 5th and Jorge Navarro starting 6th.

Off the line it is Canet who gets the best start, forcing Raul out wide into the first bend, causing him to drop back to 4th. Della Porta who started 8th gets caught in the middle of the group into turn 2 – catches the rear wheel of Navarro and is spat off, fortunately avoiding the other machines as his bike is launched into the air from the centre of the pack.

Canet leads, Gardner in second is closely followed by Lowes in third. Tony Arbolino crashes out uninjured shortly after at turn 7, his bike flipping across the gravel.

Lowes moves up past Gardner, then takes Canet to lead at the end of the first lap – Lowes leads briefly before Canet reclaims the lead.

Ai Ogura and Augusto Fernandez pass Raul Fernandez. Raul runs wide through turns 6 & 7 and drops back to ninth as Schrotter passes him.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner passes Lowes out of the chicane, and Lowes gets back past Canet to move back into 2nd

Joe Roberts crashes out at turn 9, meaning that both Italtrans bikes are out of the race.

Augusto Fernandez moves up into 3rd, as Raul battles for 7th, then gradually works himself back up to 6th.

With 20 laps to go Lowes starts to close the gap on Gardner. Approaching the start/finish line Lowes slots past, the two almost swapping paint, but Augusto Fernandez spots his opportunity and passes both of them, taking the lead, making it a 1-2 for Elf Marc VDS Racing Team, Gardner in 3rd and Aron Canet in 4th. Meanwhile Raul Fernandez is back up to 5th, and DiGiannantonio moves up past Ai Ogura into 6th.

On lap 7 Raul passes Canet to move up to 4th, as Lowes, who is all over the back of Augusto, passes him to take the lead. A gap of just over a second separates Gardner in 3rd and Raul in 4th, giving Raul a clear space to push on.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner slots past Augusto into 2nd, and 3 laps later Raul catches Augusto, but Augusto takes Gardner to move back into 2nd.

On lap 14 Augusto Fernandez increases the pressure on Sam Lowes, passing him to take the lead, as Raul gets past his teammate Gardner to move up into 3rd.

Gardner starts to drop back slightly from the top 3, and shortly after Raul takes Lowes to move up into 2nd place. The leading 4 start to spread out as Lowes struggles to match Raul Fernandez’s pace, as DiGiannantonio crashes out at turn 9 from 6th.

Raul pursues Augusto, edging ever closer until he makes the move along the start/finish straight at the end of lap 17, with Augusto unable to come back at him.

Augusto runs wide, giving Lowes the opportunity to move up into 2nd. Raul is starting to stretch out his lead with a 0.8 second lead over Lowes.

Lap 20 sees Aron Canet crashes out of 7th place, sliding into the gravel at turn 3.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Raul leads by over a second, breaking away from Lowes, Augusto and Gardner. Into lap 22 at the end of the start/finish straight Augusto gets the drive past Lowes to move up into second. Lowes checks over his left shoulder into turn 1, as Gardner slips past on his right, dropping Lowes down into 4th.

At the end of lap 23 Gardner passes Augusto, who pushes hard but is unable to come back at Gardner.

Raul Fernandez takes his third win of the season, ahead of his teammate Remy Gardner, with Augusto Fernandez claiming the 3rd podium spot.

Gardner’s lead at the top of the championship narrows slightly to 31 points ahead of Raul Fernandez going into the summer break, Fernandez extends his lead over 3rd place Bezzecchi from 11 points to 25, and Lowes holds onto 4th place overall.  With ten rounds still to go can Gardner hold onto the lead or will rookie Raul Fernandez spring yet more surprises?

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

 

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA –  – 16

4              Sam Lowes BRI – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 11

6              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 10

7              Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 9

8              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9              Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 7

10           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 6

11           Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 5

12           Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 4

13           Stefano Manzi ITA – Flexbox HP40 – 3

14           Thomas Luthi SWI – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 2

15           Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 1

 

Gardner extends lead in Moto2 championship

Remy Gardner dominated the 8th round of Moto2 at the Sachsenring in Germany to take third win in a row, increasing his lead at the top of the championship.

Raul Fernandez at the 2021 Moto2 Le Mans Race. Image courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)/KTM

Heading into the weekend, Gardner on 139 points was only 11 points ahead of his teammate Raul Fernandez, with Italian Marco Bezzecchi 3rd on 101, and Britain’s Sam Lowes 4th on 75.

The Sachsenring, at 2.28 miles, is a tight, twisty track, and the focus for the weekend was on tyre preservation. High temperatures on Friday and Saturday, with a slightly cooler temperature on race day also added to the tension, with the whole field on a hard compound on the front and a soft rear.

A blistering lap time of 1:23.397 in Q2 earned Raul Fernandez pole, pushing Di Giannantonio into 2nd, with Remy Gardner completing the front row. After a crash in Q2, Britain’s Sam Lowes started on the 3rd row of the grid in 7th place.

Fernandez took the lead off the line, closely followed by Gardner. Di Giannantonio dropped back into 6th, and Xavi Vierge moved up from 5th on grid up into 3rd.

The opening laps seemed to be shaping up to be another battle between Fernandez and Gardner, as the two Ajo KTMs pulled away from the rest of the field, with a half second gap opening up behind them to Vierge.

On lap two, Gardner passed his teammate and took the lead, as Sam Lowes dropped back into 14th.

The Ajo’s increased their lead with every lap – 2.5 secs ahead of third place on lap 3, and on lap 4 a gap of 3.8 secs.

Gardner settled into a rhythm putting in faster lap times, with Raul Fernandez pushing hard to stay on his tail, but on Lap 5 the rookie showed his lack of experience and lost the front end at turn 3, sliding into the gravel and out of the race.

Spain’s Aron Canet, who started 10th on the grid, had worked his way up through the field and now moved up to second, starting to pull away from Bezzecchi.

Gardner, riding a lonely race, gradually stretched out his lead to 5 seconds ahead of Canet with Bezzecchi in 3rd.

On lap 21 Lowes moved up into 8th place, meanwhile Bezzecchi & Di Giannantonio swapped places in a battle for 3rd, with Bezzecchi eventually making it stick.

Gardner extended his lead to 6.5 secs over 2nd place Canet, who in turn was over 2 seconds ahead of Bezzecchi.

On lap 26 Honda Team Asia rookie Ai Ogura passed Xavi Vierge to move up into 5th, and both Ogura and Bezzecchi started to close in on Canet.

Remy Gardner at the 2021 Le Mans Moto2 RaceImage courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)/KTM

The last lap brought yet more surprises, with Vierge, running in 6th, crashing out on turn 1, followed by Joe Roberts at the same corner, and Ai Ogura out on turn 8. Gardner crossed the line comfortably ahead of Canet who held onto 2nd, with Bezzecchi in 3rd. Di Giannantonio claimed 4th, and after the incidents on the last lap Sam Lowes moved up to take 5th.

The gap at the top of the championship has now widened, with Gardner going into the next round at Assen 36 points clear of teammate Fernandez, who is now only 11 points ahead of Bezzecchi. Can Fernandez pull something out of the bag at the Dutch TT, or will Gardner make it four in a row and further increase his lead?

First fifteen riders:

1              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2              Arón Canet SPA – Aspar Team – 20

3              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 16

4              Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini – 13

5              Sam Lowes BRI – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 11

6              Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 10

7              Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 9

8              Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 8

9              Marcos Ramirez SPA – American Racing – 7

10           Cameron Beaubier USA – American Racing – 6

11           Nicolo Bulega ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 5

12           Alonso López SPA – Flexbox HP40 – 4

13           Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 3

14           Barry Baltus        BEL – NTS RW Racing GP – 2

15           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 1

2013 TT Revisited – All Too Soon It’s Over for Another Year

This is the last of the blogs I wrote during TT 2013 and is a summary of the majority of Race Week. These blogs were never intended to report on the racing results – there are people out there much better at that than me. Instead, I realised that I was in an incredibly privileged position to have been in the heart of the paddock, at the side of the road, and right in with the action. For many, visiting the Isle of Man TT has not yet been possible, and many others who had visited previously couldn’t get back for whatever reason. So for them I decided it would be good to try and capture and describe the experience. It has been superb reliving these days as I edited these pieces, and I really hope we get racing back next year. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the final instalment…

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

It’s Saturday evening, and all the racing for TT2013 (and the Post TT at Billown) is over. It has been a beautiful day again, but all day I’ve had that feeling you get when you’ve been on a most fantastic holiday and never want to go home. I know a lot of my friends and fellow tweeters are feeling the same. This last fortnight was incredibly special in many ways – the emergence of a new pretender to the throne of the King of the Mountain title (has anybody called Michael Dunlop the Prince of the Mountain yet?!) with the current King of the Mountain claiming his 20th victory and 41st podium proving that he is not going to be deposed that easily just yet.

Although my blog was never intended to be about results and the technicalities of racing, McGuinness was so, so close to 21 – the end of the TT Zero race was about as thrilling as you can get. Believe me, I never ever thought I would use the words ‘thrilling’ and ‘TT Zero’ in the same sentence, but how close was it?? As I think I have already mentioned in one of my pieces I remember when it was an amazing feat for just one of the electric bikes to make it all the way around the course and now we are actually seeing close racing.

Wednesday was a stunning day, and me and my friends (one local, 2 old friends on their first TT visit) started off at Sulby, next to a snoring man who claimed he had seen all the bikes going past and that he was merely resting his eyes. He definitely woke up when Gary Johnson came through on the MV! After the Supersport had been won by Michael Dunlop, with Anstey second & McGuinness third, we picnicked in the sunshine, then headed up to Bungalow for the sidecars second race. It was absolutely packed, and the views as stunning as they could be on such a beautiful day. Sadly, our boys were forced to retire at Union Mills, but it really was something to see them over the Mountain.

There were a number of retirements in the race including Saturday’s winners Reeves & Sayle. The Birchall brothers had a fantastic start and eventually they took the win. Moly/Farrance came home in second place and Harrison/Aylott took third. We ended the day with Italian food and a few drinks, and already I could feel the sadness that there was only one day of racing left building inside me. Thursday was a rest day for me, to recover from late nights sat in the garden drinking with friends and to recoup some energy for the Senior.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

In the evening we had the TTTweetmeet 2013 at the Creg. So great to meet up with people we see regularly on our timelines. Standing on the balcony I looked out to the views and I was reminded just how lucky I was (as if I weren’t already sure) – a real ‘I live here’ moment. It was also a fantastic effort on the charity front, with £1035 being raised for the Joey Dunlop Foundation which will help them to carry on doing their fantastic work with the property at Braddan.

Friday dawned – another superb day weather wise, and the anticipation for the Senior was palpable around the Island. Would Dunlop claim his fifth win? Would he take the lightweight and set a new record of 6? Would McGuinness come back strong? Would we see Gary Johnson, Cam Donald, Anstey or any of the others come and nick it? That is the beauty of these races – it really could be anyone. They all have the skill, they all have the experience, but would their machinery perform and keep them going over the 6 laps? Before we find that out, we had the Lightweight race to go. James Hillier won after close racing at the start which saw him increase his lead to over 30 seconds from

Dean Harrison had 35 seconds over our local lad Conor Cummins. Anyone who saw Conor’s accident will agree that to see him back to podium form is nothing short of amazing.

So finally, it was time for the Senior. The riders set off one by one but before everybody was out on the course, a red flag came out. News soon came over the radio that there had been an incident at Bray Hill and there it was again. That sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. The spectators sitting in the sunshine opposite me were subdued as we waited for more news. The next information that came out was that there had been an incident on Bray Hill, involving a rider, who was ok, but that some spectators had been hurt.

It is easy to get drawn into tweeting about what’s going on, and I shared a couple of tweets without really thinking. After realising that I could be doing more harm than good until we knew all the details I stopped. Sadly it was not the same for everyone – pictures were appearing on Twitter of the scene, which then were picked up by the mainstream media. The official ACU statement confirmed that 10 spectators were injured, with injuries ranging from minor to serious but not life threatening. It was also confirmed that the rider involved had sustained a fracture.

It was inevitable that there would be some kind of backlash in the media. They were quick to pick up on events, talking about how dangerous it is, and how many people get hurt. I would be surprised if anybody out there yesterday, or any of the other days, did not realise that it could be dangerous. There are signs all around the course warning of danger, as there is a warning in the Programme/guide. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that with bikes travelling at c.190 miles an hour in places, there is potential for something to go wrong. But then is that not part of the beauty of road racing? The option to sit so near to the action and feel the speed at close quarters is not like anything else in the world.

Again, there are calls for its banning. I wonder how many calls there have been to ban people from climbing Mount Everest? What about skiing? Rallying? Or Formula 1? There is nobody out on that course – rider or spectator – who does not know what the risks are, and who doesn’t love the sport any less because of it?

The number of visitors this year felt like the most there have been in years. Both weeks were buzzing, and thousands of people have enjoyed the spectacle that is the Isle of Man TT. It has been going for over 100 years, and I can’t see it going anywhere fast. Especially if we have anything to do with it. My thoughts are with those injured and I hope they all make a full & speedy recovery. It also seems appropriate to remember again Yoshinari Matsushita – RIP Yoshi.

And now it is all over…. the spectacular firework display last night in Douglas and the Post TT Races at Billown rounded off the fortnight in superb style. Every year I wonder if next year will be as good, and every year it proves it can stand up to the previous year. It has been the most amazing fortnight, full of new experiences, new friends, old friends, fast bikes, sunshine & fun. I miss it already.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

The Island has already started its transformation back to a sleepy spot in the Irish Sea – it always amazes me how fast everybody disappears and how quickly the road falls silent. Living near a campsite means a steady stream of bikes up and down the main road near my flat. Today, it is noticeably quieter and I have really missed it!!

Monday and the return to work is all too close. But I have the Southern 100 in July and Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix in August lined up.

Then of course, there’s always next year…..

A Farewell to the Scoreboard

In November 2020, we said goodbye to one of the most iconic sights at the TT Grandstand on Isle of Man as the Scoreboard in its current form was dismantled and removed. It has stood in the same spot for over 100

years (although it’s only since the 1980’s that it has remained there on a year-round basis – it used to be put up and removed before and after racing). It’s believed some of the parts that were removed were original, and actually dated back to the 1920’s, and it’s true that the structure has remained pretty much unchanged over the years. The main changes have been prompted by increased health and safety; for example the wire fence that protected the Scoreboard Team, the painters and the Scouts has only been there since 2015.

A lot has been written about the involvement that the local Scouts have had with the boards, but there’s not so much written about some of the other people who were involved in the smooth running of the traditional system. The painters were key – they painted the numbers on the slates (more about them later) as well as updated the Leader boards. The painters were all skilled workmen provided by a local painting decorating company – the job was put out to tender to ensure top quality work was undertaken. As well as the Scout Association and the painters, there were also a team of Race Officials who oversaw the boards – the Scoreboard Controller and his deputy dealt with the processing of the numbers, then the remaining officials would spread along the front of the two boards ensuring there were no errors, no gaps, and that everything was safe & secure. They had radio contact on each side with the Tower, so if any boards or times were wrong, they would get a call to let them know what needed to be fixed. However, in my experience of 5 years on the boards, I only ever got one call – it was a pretty slick operation!

The Scoreboard consisted of two identical scoreboards – the north board and south board. They carried the exact same information but meant it could be viewed from the whole length of pit lane and the grandstand. There are no electronics allowed in pit lane, so being able to see the boards is the only way the teams know their rider is circulating and approaching for pit stops. Each board had a Leader board that would be updated with the bike number, lap time and average lap speed for the top 6 riders. The updates were made by one of the painter team as soon as the times were available. Most people know that the Scouts update the boards by posting the slates to the corresponding rider, but how did it all really work? Where did the numbers come from?

Before the start of every race, the painters would mount the tear offs (lap number packs) on each number. As each bike left the grandstand the top page was torn off to expose the number of the lap they were. As the riders circulated the course the scouts positioned at the top of the board would get a radio message whenever they went through Glen Helen, Ramsey, Bungalow and Grandstand and would turn the crank handle so viewers knew which of the points they had most recently passed. Just below the clock, a light would show when a bike reached Cronk Ny Mona. For the pit crews this was vital information – they would know to be prepared for the arrival of their rider in pit lane. Usually, they’d know which laps they would be expecting to refuel on but would always be on standby in case the rider came in with a mechanical concern – time was of the essence in the pits, races could be won or lost here! That light was switched on by a scout in the lightbox at the north end of the board.

Once a lap was completed, the timings would filter through from the Timekeepers to the Scoreboard Controller, who would print and check them. The A4 page was split into 2 – one for North, one for South, handed to a waiting messenger, who would take it to the painters. The painters would be gathered around trestle tables stacked high with slates (the slates were actually black boards with a hole at the top). They would receive the paper and paint the time on the front of a slate. On the back, the rider number and lap number would help to identify where the slate would go next. The slate and paper would then be handed to another scout (runner) who would go to the relevant section of the board. There were gaps every 10 spaces (1 to 14, 15 to 25 and so on) so the runner would go to the slot for the rider number, knock on the board and post the slate through.

The next stage is the part watched by thousands of spectators over the years – the scouts out front would pick up the slate and paper, check all the details, scrunch the paper up and post it back to the rubbish bag, and then go and hang the slate. In the event of a retirement, the Scoreboard Controller received a call stating the rider number and the lap they retired on, and he would then complete a card for the scouts to take to the painters to swap for a Retirement board (white letter R) and pegs for blocking out the remaining laps. And that’s it! The process, as complicated as it looked to the untrained eye, was so simple and effective. It is hard to imagine life without the Scoreboard, but we can only wait now and see what replaces it.

Speaking to the team to understand a bit more about what attracted them to the role, they all talk about the sense of camaraderie. Race Official Joy Ellis says this was one of the things she enjoyed the most, alongside actually feeling like she was helping the iconic event run year after year. Another one of the team, Chris Ward speaks fondly of his memories of starting out as a cub scout, progression to being a race Official, and most recently over the last couple of years of racing Chris was Deputy Scoreboard Controller. He recalls ‘I worked the scoreboard as a cub and scout for many years. I started as a Messenger running the handwritten timing cards between the Timekeepers hut and the scoreboard controller (a role that no longer exists) and got to sneak a view of the bikes now and then through gaps in the scoreboard. From there I became a Runner delivering the painted timing boards through the slots in the back of the board.

I then moved on to Clocks and eventually Tear Offs on the front of the board, the most coveted role in those days in our bright white overalls (didn’t show the paint that we inevitable got covered in!).

Days of collecting every lap-time card that came from the Timekeepers hut through the system and delivered with the time slates to the front of the board. Pockets full of the things, collecting every lap time of all the big names, getting them signed after the races, loads of freebies from all the big teams. My bedroom was covered in new posters/postcards/stickers by the end of the racing.

That came to an end during my GCSEs thanks to exams during TT fortnight.

After I came back from university, I was actually working underneath my car one day when the scoreboard controller at the time who had lived 2 doors down the road from my parents for years, came knocking and asked if I’d like to get back involved as an official. I said yes in a flash, didn’t need to think about it … just yes! I think that was 2005 and I’ve been there every year since…’

I asked the Scoreboard Controller, Brendan Byrne, what it was he enjoyed most about his time on the boards. His reply summed it up perfectly… ‘The people on my team. Watching a group of strangers volunteering and forming into a functioning unit linked by their affection of the TT/MGP’

I’m sure I speak for most if not all of the team when I say we all felt the same – as with most people talking about the TT, the Scoreboard tells a story of history, excitement, sadness but most of all great friendships formed over a love of racing.

Is Experience the Best Teacher?

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was definitely a race that was missed during 2020. A street circuit which often produces some exciting racing, testing overall straight line speed but allows for overtaking whilst testing the driver’s abilities to be calculated and precise enough to thread the car through the high walls of the circuit.

image courtesy of Getty images/ Red Bull content pool

Experience in an Formula 1 car is often key at tricky circuits like this, which shone through during this race, which did not disappoint. This week it seemed to be all about the older drivers putting in some epic performances which we know they are very capable of. They did give the young guns a run for their money, but it didn’t work out for all of them. Most drivers had solid races at Baku, but the skill of some of the experienced drivers was evident during the race, meaning they were able to maximise on what was a crazy race.

Perez is well known for his experience in an F1 car. Racing since 2011 in F1, he has learned a few things to keep in the mix when it counts, and this race was a clear example of that. In the early stages of the race he was able to keep up with Verstappen whilst keeping the 7 time world champion behind him under constant pressure. He managed his tyres well, showing pace in them during the pitstops, and had it not been for a slow pitstop he may have come out in front of his teammate. During the red flag restart, it would have been easy to get caught up with Hamilton going straight on down into turn 1 if he hadn’t backed out of the move. Even though in his F1 career he has very rarely been at the front, he handled the pressure absolutely perfectly to come out on top with a very deserved win.

Clearly full of confidence after a fantastic performance in Monaco, Sebastian Vettel had an incredible race and a solid weekend all round. Had it not been for the red flag at the end of Q2, he was looking at an almost certain top 10 qualifying, adding to the excellent qualifying from the previous race. After qualifying P11, finishing in P2 was absolutely deserved, and he showed his pace in the Aston Martin early on. During the first round of pitstops he gained the lead by default as the front runners changed their tyres earlier than expected. Vettel was able to manage the soft tyres whilst still pulling a gap on his rivals to then come out P7 after his pitstop. On the safety car restart he showed his experience again, navigating his way past Leclerc without contact despite getting very close. Vettel has gotten used to the new car very quickly, showing he has enough trust to make moves during both the restarts. A resurgence from him is definitely what the fans wanted after a not so great year with Ferrari in 2020.

Alonso had a highly anticipated return to F1 at the beginning of the season, however so far he hasn’t been so successful, being out qualified and finishing behind his teammate Ocon on Sunday. This could be down to getting used to F1 again after his time away from the series, along with getting used to a new car with a relatively new team under new management. Watching his on board camera from the restart after the red flag, he clearly showed why he is a double world champion. Starting on the grid in P10, he made up for places to finish P6 by the end of the 2 lap sprint. What is striking about his on board though, is the skill involved. He had the inside line into turn 1 but was being squeezed by Sainz, who also had Ricciardo on the outside. Alonso did not make contact with the wall or the other cars during any of this. He then demonstrated his race craft by waiting for the right moment on the same lap to overtake Tsunoda. This created an epic finish for him, the likes of which we were used to seeing before.

The oldest man on the grid did not want to miss out on the action, as is normal for Kimi Raikkonen. For him the highlight of the day was a skillful move on Bottas into turn 7, the slowest on the track, during the safety car restart. Raikkonen has shown throughout his time at Alfa Romeo that he still has plenty of talent to keep him in F1 and finishing in the points with moves like this are often the reason for this.

When talking about the experienced drivers on the grid, Lewis Hamilton is part of this conversation being extremely consistent and changing his style over time. However, the incident after the red flag restart was a rare mistake from him, the team revealing afterwards that he had flicked on the magic brake button whilst changing gears. This changed the brake bypass to mostly front end, meaning the car couldn’t stop before the turn. This admittedly makes the error an odd one because this has never happened before, despite the buttons position never really moving. They say it’s best to learn from your mistakes and Hamilton says they will grow as a team.

Overall, Mercedes had a terrible weekend. This is where the team experience came in, allowing them to try different set ups, strategy’s, and tactics to get the most out of a seemingly lacklustre performance from the car all weekend. By the end of Q3, the changes made to Hamilton’s car were successful with him managing to secure P2. Bottas on the other hand was arguably hampered by the red flag at the end of the session but suffered massively during the race. The Mercedes is not known for its great ability to pass other cars in the midfield, but with what appeared to be the quickest straight line speed and the power of the slipstream, a few DRS based moves into turn 1 were expected. Instead Bottas made his way backwards at the restarts and didn’t perform well. However, he did have a different rear wing to Hamilton, which the team confirmed as driver preference, this may have ultimately hampered him when trying to overtake.

Looking forward to the next couple of weeks, Mercedes will need to win in France to make up the points in the constructor’s championship after having lost more to the RedBulls this week. The outcome of the race could also have a huge impact on the Driver championship, with the front runners not gaining any points this week, it is massively important they maximise each race, as cancellations become more frequent and look to threaten the 23 race calendar. France is not known for amazing action over the last few years, but with the 2021 season we are having it could be unpredictable.

The Role of an IOM TT Scrutineer

Jo Marsh is a scrutineer at the IOM TT and very kindly answered some questions put to her from our Crew as part of our IOM TT feature in lieu of racing this year.

The view from a side street in Ramsey

How did you get into scrutineering at the TT and what skills do you need?

Scrutineering at the TT is something you’re invited to do. The team consists of people from the Isle of Man and the UK and, on occasion, as far as Australia.

To be able to scrutineer you are required to hold a licence from your governing body, in my case, the ACU. To obtain a licence you need to attend a seminar and be assessed on your work, both practical and written. You are then required to sit a seminar at least every three years.

Is scrutineering at the TT any different to normal bike racing scrutineering?

Scrutineering for the TT is different from other race meetings but only in that the regulations are different.

Is it one scrutineer per bike or do a team do the same bits for each bike?

We do one scrutineer per bike, or two per sidecar. However, if the same bike is presented to you at the next session then we will swap with another scrutineer so you don’t do the same machine on back to back sessions.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

What are you looking for – faults/meeting criteria for the race/checking things are tight?

Generally, we’re looking for criteria for the race meeting. Each meeting has its own nuances and rules so things do vary.

Does scrutineering of the rider eg crash helmet, leathers etc take place too?

We do also check the riders’ gear out before the start of practice week. We check helmet condition, age and fit, leathers, gloves, boots and dog tag, which is an identity disc with the riders’ name and date of birth engraved on it. If a rider falls off at any point then all this is re-scrutineered before the next race/practice.

What happens if someone misses their scrutineering time?

If someone misses their scrutineering time in practice week then we queue jump them so they don’t miss their session on the course. It’s different for races. If a rider has a problem and can’t make his or her time then as long as we are aware of that fact we can grant an extension on scrutineering.

Have you ever failed a bike / refused to let it race?

I have failed many bikes! I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how many. It’s a tough one. During practice week there’s usually enough time to get the problem sorted and get out to practice anyway but before a race is heart breaking. I’ve even stopped a bike on the start line, 20 seconds before he was due to start, as I saw something break.

I also stopped a sidecar one race day. He was late for scrutineering which meant when I spotted the crack in the frame he had very little time to repair it before the race started. He was, shall we say, less than happy with me! He got the repair done in time, raced and finished in the top 6. After the race he pulled the sidecar up right alongside me and jumped off, still with helmet on. I was inwardly groaning thinking he was still mad with me but instead he hugged me and said “You saved my life, I’m sorry I was mad at you before”.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

Do you fit the transponders?

Transponders, like bike condition, are the responsibility of the rider. We check that the transponder is fitted and located as per the acu handbook and also that it is the correct transponder for that bike. We also check that it is charged.

Do parade bikes get scrutineered and do you have to check the travelling marshals bikes?

Yes, parade bikes are also scrutineered.

We used to check travelling marshals bikes also but in latter years travelling marshals have all sat the scrutineer seminars also. This means that if a rider stops or is black flagged with a reported fault there is a trained scrutineer in spot to check the bike over and allow them to continue or not.

What happens between scrutineering and the start line – are the bikes scrutineered the night before the race?

Between scrutineering and the start line the bikes are held in a holding area. On race days the bikes are scrutineered up to 45 minutes before the start of the race, meaning we sometimes have early starts to get every machine checked in time!

What have been the weirdest faults/mods/innovations they you seen?

It’s not common to see innovations or ingenious modifications any more as most bike regulations are quite tight and, in some classes, the machines are almost standard, how they left the showroom. The sidecar class has much more room for individual preference on things, such as different chassis manufacturers, sizes of wheels, etc.

Are you also involved in the post race strip down of the bike?

After a race, the top 3 machines are verified. This is done behind closed doors, with only a few scrutineers present. To do this you must also hold an acu licence to be an engine measurer.

Do the riders have any height or weight limit? I’d guess a small rider on a small lighter bike could go faster so is that evened out?

There used to be weight limits for riders, many years ago. There are no limits on riders any more.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

What are the best and worst parts of the job?

The best parts of the job are knowing you’re helping people do what they love. It’s a long fortnight, it’s physically tiring and there’s a lot of pressure.  The scrutineering team are amazing. There’s lots of jokes and fun to lighten the darker times. The camaraderie is something else. The worst parts are the heartbreak of losing a rider or riders.

Thank you for your time Jo and for answering our questions, it is much appreciated 🙂

CrewOnTwo

Marshalling the TT – my experience

I never thought I’d find myself standing by one of the most famous race tracks in the world holding a flag and wearing three pairs of trousers, but it’s funny how life works out sometimes.

I fell into marshalling by accident – I was in my final year at uni, chatting with a fellow petrolhead, and the next thing we knew we were on a ferry to Douglas for the Isle of Man TT. Our destination was a football club, their pitch temporarily repurposed as a campsite, packed with bikers from all over the world. One evening after watching a practice session, we fell into conversation with a couple of marshals. The next morning we were straight up to the grandstand to sign on.

For the first race day we headed to Ramsey Hairpin – which is where our new friends were regular marshals, and I have marshalled there ever since.

One thing I quickly learned is that even on a warm summer’s day it can get very chilly under the trees, and particularly for evening practice layers are your friend. My marshalling outfit generally involves leggings, bike jeans and over trousers, plus several tops and at least one hat!

The view from a side street in Ramsey

Having become a qualified marshal, I am now one of the regular flag marshals at Ramsey Hairpin. It is probably the only place on course where the flaggie has to run – the flag point is about 100 yards down the hill, where you can tuck in behind a matrix sign wrapped in padding. But down there you have no view of anything from halfway round the bend – there is a long stretch of road up towards Tower Bends which is now out of sight.

Once the call comes through that roads have closed, the ropes go up and we inspect the track, which generally involves a lot of sweeping, a handful of cement dust, and the odd broken bit of wall (I have a tiny chunk of Ramsey Hairpin wall sitting on my bookcase).

And then we wait. The Hairpin is just over 24 miles from the grandstand, so when the first bikes set off we have a few minutes to dig out another packet of biscuits and get to our stations. One of the other marshals makes me a cup of tea, which will be scalding hot for ages as it’s in a thermos mug. The world falls silent. It feels like the whole island is waiting, listening, holding its breath.

And in the far distance we start to hear a swarm of bees, the noise coming from the north and echoing around the hills. Gradually it resolves into a deeper growl as they approach Ramsey. One marshal, who has been at the Hairpin for 40-odd years, can name the bends by the engine noise. Starting with Parliament Square, he calls them out “Cruikshanks… Whitegates… Stella Maris…” and pop they appear, sometimes two or three abreast, the machines pushed to the limits of their braking ability as they close in.

Any incident, and I am running down to the padded signpost, displaying the flag as I go. Down at flag point riders pass close enough to see the whites of their eyes, and holding a stationary flag the back of my hand is warmed by the heat of passing exhausts. At that point, I am watching the approaching traffic, while glancing back to see if the flag needs to be waved. If the incident is out of my line of sight, I have to rely on the other marshals to keep me informed, while they deal with the incident.

Once everything is cleared, I then nip back up to my spot in front of the marshal’s hut, ready to do it all again.

Occasionally we will have a ‘visitor’ – a breakdown or a minor incident. If they are on the inside of the course the rider will stay with us until we can get them across the road at the end of the session. Spectating from the hairpin during racing is a new experience for them, and their reactions can be entertaining as the machines approach, and they take the opportunity to study the various lines.

There is no one line around the hairpin – some hug the wall, some are wide on the entry, some on the exit, or a few take a wide smooth line around the outside.

Between racing mainly involves a nice sit down, eating biscuits, or having in-depth discussions about biscuits. One regular favourite game is Travelling Marshal Bingo, but nobody is entirely sure of the rules…

That one drunken conversation on the campsite has led to some incredible experiences and lifelong friendships. Marshalling gives a whole new outlook on racing, and without the marshals there would be no racing.

It’s so rewarding to feel that you can make a tiny bit of difference to the greatest show on earth. I can safely say it has changed my life.

TT 2013 Revisited – Racing Gets Underway

By now you may well have read the previous articles revisiting blogs I wrote during TT2013 when my best friends brother competed at the TT for the first time with his sidecar outfit. As practice week played out, there were incidents (racing and non racing) and bad weather to contend with, meaning that competitors had not had anywhere near enough of the anticipated practice time. As a result, the decision was taken to run Saturday as expended practice and run the Sidecar race, and carry the Superbike race over to Sunday as the forecast was being much kinder. This was the first time there had been racing on the Sunday since 2005. Here’s what I wrote…

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

Saturday, with all the drama during the week, the decision was taken to postpone the Superbike race until Sunday, so Saturday would comprise of the first sidecar race and some additional practice for the solos. Once again I headed up to Kirk Michael before the roads closed, to be greeted by a bacon sandwich and a brew. This probably explains why I get a bit lazy about going out to watch the racing – I mean why get stuck on a mountain when there are facilities like this at my disposal?!

Bestie had one of her brothers and his wife over – his first visit to a TT since the early 80’s, and her first ever. We did what we always do with first timers to the house and stood her in the gateway so that when the bikes appeared they look almost like they are coming straight at you. It is possibly a bit mean, but it makes us laugh a lot to see their reactions…!! I watched the practice session, and seeing the speed and determination meant my appetite for racing was well and truly whetted. Josh Brookes is doing so well for a newcomer, and I really like the look of the Milwaukee Yamahas. It’s hard to know who will be on the podium – it is not just about the pace, but the reliability of the machines. The Superbikes have 6 laps to survive, and the other solos must get round four. So many times we’ve seen leaders retire with mechanical issues, so it really could be anybody’s race.

However, I was a little distracted as at 12.30 Sidecar race one was due to start, and that would mean our boys would be out there for their first ever 3 lap race on the Mountain Course. After last night’s bizarre happenings, the outfit got recovered (when they pulled up at the Mitre, there was water leaking) and the team had worked long into the night to fit a new radiator. The first piece of good news was that the bike had gone through scrutineering with no problem at all (more of those sighs of relief!). The time came, and we listened to them starting off.

Dave Molyneux, with his passenger Patrick Farrance, had to be a favourite as he has taken his place on the top step 16 times. Tim Reeves and Dan Sayle were also looking for the win that has so far eluded the World Champion, and then were others in the mix in the form of the Birchall brothers and Holden & Winkle (and I still snigger when I hear their name after an unfortunate radio presenter once announced ‘the driver’s Holden the passenger’s Winkle…!!) to name but a couple. The battle played out, and although we were aware of the race going on at the front as Tim Reeves edged out in front, we were more interested in what was going on further back in the field. We had radio tuning issues, so there was lots of running inside to check the live timings on the computer, and then back out again to watch them through. The race played out not quite as expected, with the Birchalls leading at Glen Helen on the first lap, Reeves/Sayle in second, Harrison/Aylott third and surprisingly Moly/Farrance were fifth, behind Holden and Winkle. As happens on this course, things do not always work out as planned.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

The Birchalls were forced out of the race with a puncture sustained in an overtaking manoeuvre as they tried to pass Reeves/Sayle on the road, pulling up at Creg Ny Baa. Eventually, it was Reeves and Sayle who got the win, making Reeves the first World Champion to do so since Jock Taylor in 1981. It also made Sayle the joint most successful passenger in history by matching the 8 wins of Rick Long. Conrad Harrison and Mike Aylott came home in second place and Dave Molyneux and Patrick Farrance completed the top three. Our boys completed their 3 laps in one hour and 14 minutes and made us all very proud. Although they were physically worn out after the race, they were both absolutely delighted. They are now amongst those special people who can say they have been to the Isle of Man and completed a TT race. They are now looking forward to Wednesday when they get to do it all over again, and I predict that this will be another real battle at the top too…

Following the race there was more practice for solos, rounded off with the TT Zero. Not everyone is a fan – they are kind of the marmite of the racing world. It is interesting to see how things have improved since their first appearance at the TT though, when it was a major achievement to finish a lap. Now they are competing to break the 110mph lap.

Sunday Sunday was all about the Superbikes. It would be hard to split the Dunlops, McGuinness, Martin, Anstey, Donald, Cummins, Johnson et al. Eyes were also on Josh Brookes, as he set out in his first actual race on the Island. The racing was delayed, eventually setting off at 3pm. It was to be a 6 lap battle, and to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Joey Dunlop’s first win on a Honda, McGuinness donned replica leathers based on those worn by Joey at his final TT in 2000, and the Fireblade carried the red and black Joey Dunlop/Honda Britain livery.

We had a houseful, and a fab spread of food (which is almost as important as  the bikes!) so there were a few ‘newbies’ to entertain us with their reactions as the bikes flew past us. After all these years it is still heart stopping at times. There were a few ‘moments’ for us this year – a couple of foot off pegs, and a couple of major wobbles when the line wasn’t quite right. There is a stone wall with a covering of greenery just up the road, and the racing line sees the guys who know it well practically brush it with their shoulder. There were many times during Sunday’s race where we had sharp intake of breath moments as they looked like they were right in it, and it’s those sorts of things that you only get when you experience it in person.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

Eventually the race was won by Michael Dunlop. Fitting, given he was also on a Honda and it’s the anniversary of Joeys win too. The young man is looking fit and well, and seems to have matured, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the week plays out for him….

TT 2013: Revisited – End of Practice Week

My previous article described just how badly things could go wrong. In this piece, I described some of the things we experienced with various ‘incidents’ that took place over two consecutive practices. Some fairly typical events, albeit circumstances will vary by incident. Others are slightly less common. It’s fair to say those two nights were eventful! These events were the Thursday and Friday evenings in practice week…

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

Well thankfully the weather was a bit kinder than previous days, and that meant that at last we would get a proper practice, and finally the big beasts would get out and stretch their legs. It was also the second clear run for the sidecars, but more about that later.

Again, I made my way to Kirk Michael, and got myself settled in at my friends house. She has guests arriving Saturday, so had stuff to do, so I got my brew and took my spot outside. I had my instructions to look out for various people and let them know how they looked, so I had my eyes peeled. It was so great to see the bikes finally flying past – no wet, no controlled laps, just a proper full on practice session. It was just a shame we had to wait until so late in the week. In the Superbikes, the usual suspects were all at the top of the table – John McGuinness at the head of the list with a lap time of 17:30.299 with Anstey, Rutter, Guy Martin and Michael Dunlop hot on his heels. He really is a joy to watch round here, smooth as you like, and seems to hit the same line without fail. Superstocks, Supersport & Lightweights were also out, and then Sidecars were out.

If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know this year my best mates brother is racing his outfit for the first time, so as they started to come through, she left the housework behind and joined me outside to watch them through. We mentally ticked the numbers off waiting for him to appear and saw him through on his first lap. As usual we had various media set up (the app, the website, Manx RadioTT and Twitter) to keep an eye on their progress. We clocked them back through the Grandstand, and before too long they were passing us again. As they were towards the back of the pack, we headed inside to get a fresh brew and a warm (it gets very chilly as the sun goes down!) and saw them through the Ramsey on the live timings. Then we heard the words we dread at the TT….. session red flagged.

At first, the reports said due to an incident at Ramsey, so our initial feeling was relief as we knew they had gone through there. However, information then came through that the incident had been by Graham’s and the relief turned to a sick fear….the boys were likely to be near there, and all we could do was wait. We put word out on Twitter for any sightings of the boys, and sent numerous texts and messages to anyone we could think of that may have seen anything. Whereas on Monday we were cursing the use of social media to speculate on the sad events of Monday evening, on Thursday it was most definitely our friend. Finally word came through that the incident involved outfit #57 and that the team of David Saunders & Anne Garnish were conscious and talking to medics at the scene. I can’t describe the feeling of utter relief once we found out our boys were okay (suffice to say there were almost tears!)

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

Later, we realised that what had felt like hours was just 22 minutes. They were easily the longest 22 minutes of my entire life, and it’s not an experience I wished to repeat in a hurry…. We would later discover that the incident had happened just in front of our lads, and they did what they could to help at the scene. There but for the grace of god (or whatever else you believe in)…. We wish David and Anne a speedy and full recovery.

Move the clock on 24 hours and after a day that started out with the Island bathed in glorious sunshine, which turned to cloud & drizzle, and then back to the sun again, Friday evening practice gets underway. We have tickets to see Foggy and Whit at the Gaiety Theatre at 9pm, so given the logistics of closed roads and child care we decide we will venture up to the Grandstand and base camp, and then head to the Theatre from there. Due to a slight delay on my part (I fell asleep!) we don’t leave Peel until gone 6pm.

As the sidecars are out first, we tune the car radio to Manx RadioTT and I bring up the live timings on my phone. We see that the team are making decent time, and complete a lap, and go straight through for a second. As we make our way through Douglas we hear those dreaded words again….red flag sectors 1-6…..we know they are out there somewhere. Oh my god, 2 nights in a row…why does this keep happening?! The next announcement is a surprise – the reason for the red flag is a house fire in Kirk Michael. Bestie makes a joke about leaving the gas on, and as she’s driving I’m scrolling through Twitter. I’m seeing tweets indicating that the fire is in the vicinity of her house, so seeing as she’s driving I lie that there is no more information….

After parking at the Grandstand and arranging the handover of a batch of Krispy Kreme doughnuts that my dear friends Bruce and Keri have brought over for me (we can’t get them here!!!) Bestie is looking a bit worried. She’s got her phone in her hand, and tells me she’s looking at a picture of a fire engine….OUTSIDE HER HOUSE!!!! It turns out that it is actually her next door neighbours house that has had a fire. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up. Thankfully the family who live there have got out okay, but there is damage to the house.

My Twitter friends who know I’ve started blogging about TT are asking me if I have enough to write about, will there be a sitcom, and will it all become a book. Some of my friends are texting me asking if I’ve had quite enough drama now….believe me, I have! As all this is going on, we’re wondering where the lads had got to, when another Twitter friend asks us what number our boys are. I tell her, and in return get a picture of them parked outside the pub she’s watching at (not far before the house, and handy for them to be there as the flags were waved)! At least we know they’re safe! With that in mind, Bestie and I head off to the theatre, we’ve had quite enough for one night. Foggy and Whit were very funny, and the G&T in the interval was most welcome, I can tell you.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

So for now, I’m off to bed. It’s first race day tomorrow, but due to lack of track time, the decision has been made to put an additional practice session for the solos in tomorrow morning, and run the first sidecar race at 12.30. There will then be more track time for solo classes, and the first Superbike will be run on Sunday. It must be noted that the job of Clerk of Course this year so far has not been easy, and I don’t think many would disagree he’s doing his utmost to ensure we get good, safe racing. He’s had some tough calls to make, and I for one don’t envy him.

Here’s hoping the weekend runs smoothly, and we can get back on track for the rest of race week.

Adventures around the Isle of Man

You’ve been going to the Isle of Man for the TT races for many years, you’ve been there, watched it, bought the T-shirt. You know the island like the back of your hand, you’ve got all your favourite locations to visit. But maybe you’re on the lookout for something a bit different to do, a bit of exploring or somewhere new to visit.

I’ve been going to the TT and Manx Grand Prix for over 15 years, and I’ve also lived there for a couple of years, and I still haven’t been everywhere I want to visit on the island. Here are a few of my suggestions, most of which I’ve done, but some are still high on my to-do list!

A burnout at the winners enclosure

A great way to get a different perspective on roads you’ve travelled many times is by public transport. You can make a day of it, with a rover ticket that covers all forms of public transport. My mate and I like to spend one day of the holiday working our way around the island, covering trams, buses and steam trains. Or if it’s a spectacular day we’ll jump on the tram up Snaefell for cake in the café at the top, and hopefully a glimpse of all seven kingdoms (the Isle of Man, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the sea and the sky).

If history is your thing, read up in advance about the history of the Island away from the racing. For example, the island was used as an internment camp during World War 2, and some of the locations are still in evidence.

And talking of history, there are plenty of museums to visit, some focusing on the Island, including the Manx Museum in Douglas and the House of Manannan in Peel, some based around motoring, such as the Isle of Man Motor Museum in Jurby, and Murray’s Motorcycle Museum in Santon. On the road to the Calf of Man, the village of Cregneash is a living museum, and Castle Rushen in Castletown is the perfect destination for a rainy day.

The TT course hasn’t always included the Mountain Road – on a day off from the racing, seek out the original race circuits – the St John’s Course, a 15 mile route used for the 1907 TT, and the 10 mile Clypse Course which was used between 1954 and 1959.

And keep an eye out for other racing taking place around the same time – the Billown Course near Castletown hosts the Pre- and Post-TT Classics, which many of the TT riders take part in. There is usually beach racing taking place in Peel and Douglas, plus stock car racing at Onchan Raceway. And don’t forget the World Famous Purple Helmets!

For race days, find spectating spots which are different to your usual haunts. Maybe watch the commentary team in action at Glen Helen or Ramsey Hairpin, or gradually work your way round the course spectating from a different pub each time. Or if you’re feeling brave, attempt a TT circuit pub crawl on a non-race day!

One of my favourite spectating spots which people tend to overlook is the entry to Governor’s Dip under the trees – there is always plenty of room on the grass, and you get a close-up view of the machines as they tip into the hairpin, around the famous white-painted stone post. If you walk up the hill slightly, you can sit on the high bank – one of the few places left on the course where the bikes still go under your feet.

I also recommend having a bit of a walk around Ramsey – not too far from Parliament Square you can nip down the side streets and escape the crowds, or cross at the footbridge and watch from the inside of the course.

An emergency cake stop at St Ninian’s Church

And I can’t end this article without mentioning cake! I am always on the lookout for new and interesting places to have cake, and am currently most excited about going back to the little café in the steam train station at Port Erin, for lemon drizzle and a trip back in time.

The Isle of Man really is full of surprises, even when you’ve visited so often you think you’ve seen everything. I haven’t even scratched the surface here, but hopefully I’ve given you some ideas for some new adventures!