It’s a long time since I arrived on the Island on a Friday prior to TT practice starting. In recent years, pressure of work have meant that I’ve just got onto the Island as Thursday practice started and the place was already buzzing.
But with no BSB date clash this weekend, it’s been a privilege to arrive early, get settled in and look forward to being able to see everyone arriving and feel the atmosphere gradually build over the next few days of practice week.
TT Press Officer Simon Crellin was saying that ferry bookings are 9% up on last year and I guess that’s reflected in how many people are already milling around.
I was quite surprised to see so many bikes parked up along the Glencrutchery Road this afternoon – and spotted a cool Guzzi that appealed to my sense of humour. And what about the pristine CB750 Honda I spotted in the Pirelli tyre area? Glorious.
That’s the great thing about the TT for me.
You’ll always see plenty of the latest sportsbikes but you’ll also see a wonderful mix of hot-rodded retro customs and beautifully restored classics – British and early Japanese - along the prom during TT fortnight.
There was no shortage of activity in the paddock area either today, with empty places gradually filling fast. TT Rider’s rep Milky Quayle – who does such sterling work behind the scenes helping newcomer racers at the TT - was busy as usual but on this occasion acting as paddock marshall, marshalling Rico Penzkofer’s truck into the busy top paddock. But at least his job has its benefits. We later saw him driving one of the Porsche course cars.
There were lots of riders cruising around before their first official briefing and I briefly hooked up with John McGuinness just after he had picked up his new race boots - limited edition Sidi 50th Anniversary race boots with gold plated panels and a cool 50th anniversary logo integrated into the design “How’s that for bling,” said McGuinness who really is a sucker for anything cool in motorcycling from bikes to kit to memorabilia (check out the latest MCN for the TT supplement to see what I mean!).
John’s enthusiasm is infectious and he couldn’t help swinging his leg of Hector Neil’s immaculate Suzuki RG500 MkII and that kicked off a whole conversation about the great old days of the great tow-strokes.
This particular iconic square-four, two-stroke was ridden to victory in the 1977 Senior TT by Phil Read and McGuinness – who already has a small but impressive collection of bikes said: “It’s so beautiful. I’ve got to have one of these in my collection.”
Neil’s bike is so close to original with only aftermarket triple clamps (the original and now ageing magnesium yokes might not have the structural integrity they once had and would not be safe if Hector goes ahead with his plan to the run the bike in the parade this year) and the front brake master-cylinder being non standards parts.
McGuinness wasn’t the only one eyeing up the old warhorse. Clive Padgett was also there and, in conversation, it was mentioned that the family dealership has one of every model RG500 ever made, including the ultra Mark 1 of which Clive reckons only four were ever imported into the UK!
The forecast for Saturday is not great but there’s hope the rain will abate by the evening allowing the free practice session to run.