Being unable to make the MGP practice week I was most grateful for the internet and Manx Radio so I was able to follow the mixed fortunes of our Team Hottrax Motorsport Racing Club ~ Sean Moss (Hon 600), Shelley Pike (Yam R6), Pete Gibson (Yam R6) and Rod Lynn (750 Suzuki).
The newcomers, all but Pete were treated to an introductionary lap behind a travelling marshall on a wet Monday evening at just above touring speed!, having lost Saturday's opportunity with the same extreme weather that knocked out the Ulster GP.
Tuesday was a little better and most of our trio nailed down two laps with Sean doing a 93mph, Shelley a shade under 82mph and the, by now, seasoned 100mph. Wednesday pm greeted the racers with dry and sunny conditions.
This was reflected in the practice times which saw Gibbo rocking at almost 103, Sean in the 98s and Shelley bumping up to 91+. Spare a thought for Uprite/Sweatshop Moores man ~ Rod Lynn who peddled his six year old Suzuki around at 102mph.
Fastest so far times were set in the Senior class which saw 750s lapping at a smidge under 116mph ~ from a standing start! Clerk of the Course described track & weather conditions as 'ideal' on Thursday evening which saw all our intrepid racers going quicker ~ Pete was a nano second off 105, Shelley was up to 93+ whilst Sean did a 98. Fastest charger was a bloke on a 600 Junior machine at 118! S
helley broke into the high 95mph on Saturday Sean got closer to the ton with a 99mph and Rod Lynn did 106.846mph. During the week our intrepid travellers stopped the clock with Gibbo 153.2mph, Sean 137.5mph, Shelley 132.1mph and Rod Lynn at 149.1mph. On the Bank Holiday race day I did a couple of tours around the TT course and reported rain/mist/fog on the mountain section.
Made contact with Hottrax MGP Team in the paddock and all riders commented on a drama free practice week, Pete fitting a new clutch which was 'run in' with four laps of the paddock ~ tyre choice to be left until nearer the race. As the day progressed the races were running very late and were cut from to three and eventually two laps.
During the race the weather got worse and many incidents out on the track meant lots of slowing for yellow flags breaking the flow of the racing, Sean reported drama whilst following #51 through Waterworks the rider had a spill and Sean had to react quickly in order not o follow suit.
Shelley and Sean returned to parc ferme pleased to have finished in one piece ~ a little more than could said for the other component of the Hottrax packet of three Rod Lynn. Sean finished in 20th place with Shelley in 21st a few minutes further down the road, times were indeed slow with winner Ryan Kneen only clocking up a speed of 103.973mph - a true reflection of a two lap race carried out in adverse conditions.
I was shocked and upset to hear later that day of the death of sixty seven year old John Goodall who crashed out of the Classic 500 at Ballacraine on the opening lap- I had been talking with John at scrutineering only that morning and this was a real reminder to me that life is indeed short and very precious.
Wednesday was the Junior MGP where Gibbo was looking for some 105mph laps - however the Manx weather had plans of its own and the start was delayed till 1730hrs and reduced to 3 - our focus for the afternoon was Pete Gibson starting at 113 a distant 9m 20s after the leader starts off down Glencrutchery Road.
Practice week had indicated a well ridden R6 could do three laps on a tankfull; would you use this strategy or go for a splash 'n dash at the end of lap 2? Riders were advised of an oil spillage somewhere at Glen Helen and some standing water still out on the track.
The win was a record breaking one for Manxman Daniel Kneen who also took one of Monday's Newcomers victories at a speed of almost 16mph. Ex RAF man now living in Anglesey, Gibson came a creditable 67th from around 120 starters with an average speed of 101.680mph - well done Pete.
Whilst the majority of the Hottrax Motorsport Racing Club competitors were testing for the Saturday endurance race at Cadwell our Fabulous Four were all hopefully entered in the big one on Friday afternoon in the middle of the Irish Sea - the 4 lap Senior Manx Grand Prix.
Previous winners of this most prestigious event include; Geoff Duke, Phil Read, Geoff Johnson, Dave East, Nick Jeffries, Grant Goodings, Paul Hunt, Nigel Davies, Gary Carswell, Coli Breeze, Ryan Farquhar, Mark Parrett and Davy Morgan.
Only two of the Fab Four started the two lap Senior Race, eventually run on Saturday - Rod Lynn was back on terra firma in Lincolnshire as he had made a commitment to Sweatshop Moores 2 for the rest of the HMRC season - so it was Gibbo + Mossy to take up the mantle - Pete did a respectable 106.950mph and came 44th and Sean was not far away in 58th with an average speed of 98.3mph.
From a very personal point of view I have been attending the Manx since 1973 and my total visits to Ella Vannin exceed seventy having attended the TT, MGP, Southern 100, trials events, historic car pursuits, hillclimb, karting and International Six Day Trials and for me the MGP has become diluted.
As entries and visitor numbers dip there is also a real difficulty in securing adequate qualified and experienced marshals and officials, I am aware the MMCC are canvassing competitors on their thoughts for the future of the event, changes may encompass getting rid of the Newcomer's Events, adding a Forgotten Era race to the diary or whatever.
This year a competitor needs to take two weeks away from work + home, travel and stay on the Island for what might be less than 10 laps in practice and possibly less than 8 laps over two races.
Marshals, medics and officials need to commit to a fixed number of days and juggle with work, families, other commitments and if a day's racing is lost to weather can they make it on the replacement day or not? Spectators come to the Island in the tens of thousands and once upon a time there were shed loads of affordable B&Bs - I came back on the boat with four bikers from the West Country on their first visit to the IofM ever.
They thought the ferry was expensive for such a basic service, had paid £50 each for B&B in Grotty Towers, Ramsey and felt there was a lack of information available about the racing itself. None of the first timers came equipped with a Manx Radio with race commentary only available on AM frequency so they felt it wasn't easy to watch and enjoy the MGP races - pity. Rod Lynn has island aspirations of riding in the 2009 TT and as for the other three, will they be back again or not? Ask them at Mallory, they will certainly have a tale to tell!