Competing At The TT

Saturday 27 May - Getting There

Some people just don't understand Kiwi initiative and budget restrictions! We received some strange looks from other race teams as Nigel Healy and I arrived at the ferry terminal all kitted up on our race bikes. Our R1's were barely run in so the more miles on them the better, plus Bill Smith had leased his transporter and two R6's to the Argentinian newcomers. No room for us but at least there was room for our gear on it.

Bill Smiths transporter

Sunday 28 May - Setting Up

The morning was spent doing the final prep work on the bikes. I removed the side stand, taped up the lights and stuck some numbers on. I also replaced the standard brake pads with EBC double H items. The production Metzeler's would be fine for the first few sessions. The two Argentinean's were naturally anxious to get some laps in before the evening practice. As Nigel had two bikes to prepare, and I thought I might get an idea on suspension set up, I offered to lead them around. An offer I was soon to regret, I had forgotten how bad the open roads are during TT fortnight. The traffic was diabolical and the police were out in force. They don't worry about race bikes being ridden on open roads, but they hit speedsters with hefty fines, except for the mountain where there is no speed limit. It took us one hour to cover 38 miles and there were at least 30,000 more spectators still to arrive.It was six o'clock before I knew it. I made my way up to Glencrutchery Road and joined the large queue that had already formed at the start line. It's a first come first serve basis but it's wise to let the fastest riders get to the front of the cue. The first lap was my look lap, remembering braking markers and checking out the bumps. Mark Robinson (from Christchurch) zipped past me just before Ballacraine and I followed him for the rest of the lap. I then upped the pace a little to put in a 106 mph lap, about fifteen seconds inside the qualifying time. Ian Duffus was the fastest man that evening at 118 mph.The R1 felt great, I was confident and looking forward to pushing it harder next session. It became quite stable once the Extreme Tech damper was on max but I felt it could pull a tooth smaller than standard on the rear sprocket. There were no 530 pitch sprockets on the Island and Monday being a Bank Holiday it would be Wednesday before one would arrive.

Saturday 3 June - F1 TT

Finally the weather had cleared and conditions were perfect. Seventy one riders started the F1 race, six of us Kiwi's and all on R1 Yamaha's other than Blair Degerholm on his highly tuned ZX7RR Kawasaki.

Steve starting the F1 TT

Joey Dunlop was a man on a mission right from the start, after the first lap he was leading, 10 seconds ahead of David Jefferies who was in fourth. On lap two he was ahead by just half second, but his slick pit stop put him almost 5 seconds ahead at the half way stage. After lap three and pit stop two the half second advantage was in Jefferies favour, his fourth lap was completed at 121.07 mph and Joey (who had borrowed one of Aaron Slight's engines) clocked in at 121.06 mph.

The Kiwi's had mixed fortunes, Shaun Harris was in 13th place, a comfortable 23 seconds ahead of John Hepburn who was really picking up the pace at 115.75 mph (approx. 1.5 sec is lost due to the pit stop). I had worked my way from 34th after lap one to 23rd on lap four with my best time yet of 113.13 mph. Nigel Healy was running Dunlop 207 GP's and was discovering first hand that these brilliant short circuit tyres are not so great at the TT. Their sharp profile made the R1 unstable in a straight line forcing him to roll off over the mountain. Never the less he was still in 32 nd position and clocked 111.36 mph. Blair unfortunately pulled into the pits after three laps while running in 11th, Mark Robinson also retired while in 44 th position.

David Jefferies pushed his R1 hard trying to catch Joey. On lap five he broke down at Ballaugh Bridge, leaving Joey comfortably (although rumour was he found the SP1 a real handful) leading well over a minute ahead of Jefferies team mate Michael Rutter.

The only true lap time is the final (flying) lap. I was anxious to reach my 116 mph goal and after two hours I still felt great and my Pirelli EVO's were still working a treat. I passed the pits in 20th place at 160mph and headed down Bray Hill bracing myself for the ultimate rush as the suspension bottoms out at 9000 rpm in top and my helmet is forced onto the tank by the G forces.

I regained my senses just in time to wheelie over Ago's leap, then the second rise a few seconds later. I rolled off, touched the brake, changed down a gear then released the brake just before the bump where a side road meets, the back end always kicks up here. Once the bike had settled I am braking hard down hill towards Quarterbridge. The forks bottomed out then the front wheel locked up for a split second so I eased the pressure off then feathered the brake to keep it right on the limits of traction with the back wheel bouncing in the air. I could feel every bump through the bars with the forks max'ed out.

Peeling the R1 off the Mountain section into Douglas

I missed the apex, leaving it as late as possible before peeling in towards the Quarterbridge roundabout. As I let the brake off and laid it over, the suspension decompressed pushing the front wheel out. I was now putting my new Spidi leathers to the ultimate test as all I could do was watch and follow my R1 as it slid backwards into the kerb outside the Quaterbridge pub. I immediately picked the bike up desperate to get going again, but when I saw the brake reservoir bowl was missing I realised my race was over. The huge sympathy applause I received was great and I waved showing my appreciation then headed for the bar where I ordered a complimentary Guinness, which was little compensation for throwing away 19th place and a bronze replica - I should have asked for a pint of Jamesons on the rocks. I was cursing myself for such a stupid mistake, I had been running too hot into Quarterbridge throughout the whole race and without thinking I decided to brake harder after the bump rather than before it. Another lesson learnt the hard way! I was rapt to hear the commentary as Joey Dunlop took the win 60 seconds ahead of Michael Rutter. Jim Moodie on the controversial Fireblade was three minutes down in 5th, Shaun Harris came 11th and Heppo was just 15 seconds behind in 12th. Nigel Healy had battled his way up to 34th, just two seconds short of a bronze replica. Fifty bikes finished, there were 21 retirements and 11 non-starters.

Saturday 3 June - 1st Sidecar Race
This was a three-lap race and was another Honda benefit with the winners average speed was just short of 110 mph. Unfortunately, Chris and Richard Lawrence who are regular Kiwi contenders at the TT, had dropped a valve over the mountain on the first lap.
That evening I joined the party down at the Douglas promenade.

Sunday 4 June - Setting Up

I eventually arose to a bleak looking Mad Sunday. The rain would not be helping the riders tackling the widow-maker style hill climb which I planned on watching and, due to my complete lack of Spanish vocabulary, I could not secure our FZR 1000 pit bike from the Argentineans in time to catch the midday start. So I checked the events calendar:

  • Southern Vintage Tractors Rally
  • Harley Davidson rides (are they two different events?)
  • Custom Chopper Club or Street Fighter Challenge.

Oh well it's wise to stay off the roads on Mad Sunday anyway. The mountain is closed for one-way traffic and the best entertainment can be found sitting near Gutheries, The Veranda or Windy Corner and watching the Mad Sunday carnage.

Monday 5th June - Lightweight TT and 400 Class

These were combined in one three-lap race and there was a strong contingency of Kiwi's competing. The weather had cleared up and the 250's were led away by Paul Williams, but when they came through after lap one it was Joey Dunlop who lead on the road, last years winner John McGuinness was second, Bruce Anstey third and Shaun Harris just four seconds behind. Bruce had a flying second lap at 115.91 mph, faster than Dunlop and McGuinness, which proves that equivalent machinery was all he was lacking last year. Shaun lapped at 114.81 mph, still in 4th place, and Hugh Renolds had worked his way from 19th to 16th position. At the flag Joey took the win by 53 seconds, Ian Lougher was second just 12 seconds ahead of Shaun Harris, Hugh Renolds lead one of the Island's top racers home to take 15th place and Paul Williams, who I had heard was having handling problems, finished 21st.Meanwhile, all sorts of drama were unfolding amongst the 400's. All ears were on the front runners, Brett Richmond started in seventh position, ten seconds behind the local favourite David Madsen-Mygdal. During the first nine miles to Ballacraine, Brett's Shand's Racing CBR was clearly closing in on the IOM riders NC 30, Brett was confident the race was his. Then disaster struck as his Honda began to misfire and Brett was sure his race was over and he could only ride for the finish. At the end of the first lap however the two riders were still exactly ten seconds apart, first equal. One lap later Brett trailed by 1.8 seconds, but had no idea how close he was. On the final lap Brett's problems became insignificant as the leader suffered an engine failure and retired at Ramsey. Brett failed to see the stricken rider as he passed through Parliament Square, so he had no idea he was leading as he negotiated the mountain for the final time, in fact no one else knew either.Craig Sheriffs suffered more problems than he had during practice week when he pulled out due to a flat battery, a huge disappointment after all the effort he had put in but, as always, he accepted his bad fortune in good spirits. Nigel Bish had a great ride finishing 12th and picking up a newcomer's medal and a bronze replica. Paul Dobbs was 6th and received a silver replica.

Straight after the race I ran from my viewing point at the top of Bray Hill back to the pits in time for the presentation. It was fantastic to see Bruce Anstey and then Brett Richmond standing in 2nd spot on the Podium displaying the New Zealand flag, (was that a missprint?) Well no actually, Brett had the top of the podium place robbed from him by an Irishman who definitely does not portray the true Irish spirit of road racing. The top three finishers had their engines stripped and checked. It was then that the officials discovered his Yamaha had a 200 cc advantage over his rivals. Even so, if Brett`s engine had been running properly he would have beaten him anyway. We celebrated till dawn and Brett had a huge grin on his face the entire night.

Brett Richmond on thePodium after the Lightweight TT

Monday 5th June - 2nd Sidecar Race

The second sidecar race followed the Lightweight TT. Luck was with the Lawrence brothers this time they finished in a well deserved 23rd position from 70 starters, not far off their 100 mph goal and just short of a bronze replica . All the hours they had spent on an engine transplant had paid off!

Tuesday 6th June - Repairs to the R1

I continued with the repairs to the R1. The cast section of the sub frame had broken in two from the impact with the kerb. This was the main concern as the rest of the damage was mainly cosmetic. Glyn Jones, a Manx man who has always helped Nigel out, got me sorted. Unfortunately the man we were after was always at the Ramsey Sprint but he did promise to weld her up first thing in the morning. I was up really early to make sure I got to the workshop before the roads closed.

R1 Under Repair

Tuesday 6th June - 125 TT and Singles

While I was working on repairs the 125 and Singles competitors were preparing for their race. The weather was a bit misty with the temperature very low. Most riders chose slicks but Jason Eston opted for intermediates, a decision he was soon to regret. On the first lap while trying to keep maximum corner speed up through Ballacraine he lost the back end and slid heavily into the wall. It looked bad and he was taken straight to Nobels Hospital with major fractures feared. Thankfully, although he had a broken femur, he was out on crutches the next day and even made it to the pub Thursday night. It was a great shame though as his qualifying times were right on the pace. Another Kiwi to come to grief at Ballacraine was Jane Parrot, her 125 decided to call it quits here, very disappointing as she really deserved at least a finishers medal this year.Three Kiwis did make it to the chequered flag though. Nigel Bish had another exceptional ride, coming home ahead of Paul Williams and Paul Dobbs who are no strangers to the TT course. The three of them took 17th, 18th and 20th places respectively with Nigel and Williams achieving a bronze rep.

Yer man Joey Dunlop, OBM, King of the Mountain took the win which tragically was to be his last. He was undoubtedly the best true road racer ever. His death in Estonia while challenging for first place in the wet on his 125 has really shocked me into the reality that nobody is beyond the grim reaper of road racing. Here is an extract from an article I wrote for Irish Bike magazine a year ago, which shows the faith I had in him:

'The guys and gals who compete in them (the Irish road races) are truly fearless, unfortunately the fatalities this season reflect this. However, the King, Joe Dunlop, his amazing track record proves if you do not ride beyond your limit you can rarely minimise the danger.'

A lot of people started to believe Joey was immortal, of course nobody is ever that safe, least of all motorcycle road racers.As I mentioned earlier, the Singles TT field was very thin due to many riders not qualifying and reliability problems causing DNF's. Considering most machines are highly tuned and that pistons have to cope with 60 to 80 thousand revolutions in a four lap race, its not surprising more machines broke down than finished! The race was dominated by the two AMDM 720 BMW Rotax based machines that were designed by the late Dave Morris who had won the Singles race for the last three years, and the team was managed by his two sons to commemorate their father's death. John McGuinness won with an astonishing best lap of 111.43 mph. Jason Griffiths was second and a Ducati Supermono was third, best lap was 108.48 mph.

Tuesday 6th June - Junior TT

The mist had cleared by the start of the Junior TT. Ian Lougher was 1st away on his V & M R6, Joey was third (as usual!), Blair Degerholm was eighth and Shaun Harris 14th. As they pitted after lap two David Jefferies completed a 120.65 mph lap and was leading Joey by 16 seconds. Lougher, Adrian Archibald and Jim Moodie were all only two seconds apart, Michael Rutter was 6th and Iain Duffus next. Then came Shaun Harris, lapping at 117.74 mph on his R6 Yamaha, Blair Degerholm not far behind him on the first of the Kawasaki's, John Hepburn riding the wheels off a well-dated CBR 600 was in 23rd position. Warren Turner, who had shipped his R6 over to the TT, was lapping at 110 mph and had moved from his 59th starting position up to 29th. Adrian Archibald was a man on the move and he set the fastest lap of 121.15 mph, but it was not fast enough to catch Jefferies, Lougher was third, then Joey Dunlop 34 seconds behind the winner. Last years winner, Jim Moodie, would not have been happy with 6th but I'm sure Shaun Harris was pleased with 8th, Blair hung on to his 9th spot - great to see two Kiwi's in the top ten. Hepo improved by four places up to 19th, easily getting a bronze (awarded for finishing within 110% of the winning time).

Warren Turner struck some bad luck, he was black flagged at Ramsey Hairpin due to an insecure muffler. He ran down to the nearest servo in search of some fasteners and, finding nothing suitable, he returned to find the marshals had removed his muffler so he could continue. He finished 42nd, far from being last, and a real shame as Warren had been on course for a bronze replica.

Ramsey from Guthries Memorial

There were two privately backed TT 600 Triumphs entered. Unfortunately they both broke down, one with a broken gear linkage and the other with Jason Griffins on board suffered from a broken battery lead on the final lap while running in 12th place. They apparently handle very well but need another 8 to 10 bhp to be really competitive.The prize giving was packed and the atmosphere was fantastic. Great to see so many of the Kiwi's getting a chance to have a few words. Brett Richmond nearly stole the show when he was carried to the stage on a wooden CBR replica along with a large banner saying 400 TT winner on it which was all instigated by his pit crew, it created a few laughs. But of course the biggest cheer went to Joey Dunlop, his wife and four children joined him on stage. As the prize giving drew to a close I joined Nigel Bish and his crew for their final round of Sambuca's and then wandered outside to watch the amazing fireworks display. After that we went off to Toff's nightclub and the Swing Easy Bar for the remainder of the night.

Wednesday 7th June - Testing the repaired R1

I awoke with one thing on my mind, to test ride my R1 to see if it was straight. The first thing I noticed was that my forks were twisted but loosening the pinch bolts and yanking on the clip-on's soon cured that.Nigel Healey also wanted a run on his R1. I had given him the Pirelli rear I had used in practice and he had brought a Metzeler front and some HH EBC brake pads so he had to bed them in and scrub in the tyre.The road was closed through the Glen Helen section while a steam cleaner was cleaning up a large slick of diesel which had been spilt all over the track. I'd heard rumours that the locals had sabotaged the track so our only option was to head in reverse direction up the mountain, a move which should be avoided if possible as bikers often get carried away and cross the white line. We turned around at the Bungalow and carefully sped back down.My bike felt sweet and my only concern now was the reduced fuel capacity due to the rather large dent. During the F1 race I had been travelling up to nine miles with the fuel light on and with the throttle on the stop for most of that distance there was very little left at the pits - that's about NZ$ 45 per tank for two laps. Nigel was ecstatic, his bike had transformed, it now stopped on a dime and was steady down the straights. Finally something was going right for him, so now all we needed was a clear dry day. Wishful thinking!

Thursday 8th June - Production Race

The race was due to start at 10.45 am and I woke to a cloudy day and, although the mountain was clear showers were forecast. Wets are not allowed and riders had to make a decision on what tyres to use, I had no choice but knew my Pirelli EVO's were superb in the wet. At 10 am the first delay was announced due to mud on the circuit from a campground entrance. Then the rain came down causing another five delays until about 4.30 pm when they decided to let us go. The rain had stopped but the track was very wet so the race was shortened from three to two laps.

I headed off down Bray Hill with caution. A wee spill at Pukekohe aboard Hamilton Motorcycle Centre's ZX9 was a harsh reminder of how evil 140 bhp can be in the wet and I was in no hurry to find the limit of my tyres. My main concern was the constantly changing road surface, I expected a bit of carnage but not what was about to unfold. Hard under brakes

Hard under brakes

The first incident was seven miles from the start at Greeba Castle, not too surprising as the slippery off camber on the exit has caught many people out in the past. A couple of miles later as I left Ballacraine and headed into the notorious Glen Helen section I had to slow almost to a stop and had to weave between the wreckage of the second accident. The scene was horrific, the bike and rider had obviously hit the stone wall. I expected the worst but was thankful to hear later that the rider survived, minus one leg though. Any temptations I may have had to push the limits were well and truly gone!

One of the many unforgiving stone walls

As I approached Ballaugh there were even more yellow flags being waved. Leslie Williams, a local Manx man had tragically grabbed too big a handful of front brake at the approach to Ballaugh bridge, he hit the deck and kept on going over the famous jump for the last time to be killed on impact. His bike left a huge slick down the road and all over the bridge. I blocked out what I had seen and concentrated on riding smoothly and reading the road. I was glad to reach Ramsey Hairpin and head up the relatively smooth and consistent seal of the mountain. At the completion of my first lap I had built up a lot of confidence in my tyres so I upped the pace for the final lap and in doing so I improved my lap time by five mph to 87.3, and gained nine positions to finish in 25 th place.

David Jefferies first lap was the fastest at 99 mph and he kept that pace up to take the win from a local rider, Richard Quayle on an SP1. Michael Rutter was 3rd on an R1 and Shaun Harris finished an excellent seventh place on the GSXR, the first 750 home. However, it was a shame that the course was wet as Shaun had qualified third and was looking sure to take a podium place. Blair Degerholm retired after one lap and John Hepburn had opted to ride the Senior instead as he had earned a No 15 start position (the rules specify that you cannot ride the same machine in both races). Nigel Healy finished 30th (best lap 86 mph) and Mark Robinson was 44th from 49 finishers.Due to the six hour delay they postponed the Senior TT to the next morning. As Nigel and I headed back through the pits, Mark pointed out that the three of us could now enter our production bikes in the Senior, Excellent! So we set about cleaning and checking the bikes and changing our numbers. Next task was to arrange another pit crew, which required a trip to the pub. Fortunately Craig Sheriffs and Phil came to my rescue and by midnight I was sorted so Nigel and I headed back to our tent to get some shuteye.

Friday 9th June - Senior TT

Thankfully the sun was out and the roads were well on there way to drying by mid morning. Scrutineering was a breeze but getting 60 litres of fuel from the bottom of the pits to pit wall with no crew was a bit more of a mission, and Nigel and I thought we were organised!I remember struggling with the tins all piled up on me paddock stand when I heard the first bikes leaving the start line, which meant that my No 30 start position was about 4 minutes away. Phil turned up just as I started sprinting to Park Ferme, I threw the rest of my gear on and rushed to the start line, thank God for electric starters! I pushed past about 30+ bikes and slipped into line with 20 seconds to spare, totally not the way to start a two hour TT race and I felt more knackered than after a BEARS Le Mans start.As I headed down Bray Hill I wondered for a split second if Nigel had been far behind me but then it was all about the riding. The sun was out and the roads were dry but there were strong winds about. From Douglas to Ramsey it was no problem but over the mountain it definitely had to be accounted for, bends like the mountain box were risky as you can get blown off the road as you exit from the shelter of the bank. This unnerved me so I eased off a bit and took tighter lines that meant that if the winds died off briefly I would end up oversteering, which was frustrating, but it was safe. I was surprised to see David Jefferies had described the conditions as perfect and I couldn't really argue with him as he set the outright lap record of 18 minutes flat on the way to his third victory.

Ballacrye Leap, At 150 mph it never fails to scare me!

Because I was being conservative over the mountain I found myself riding only 7/10 instead of 8/10 around the rest of the course. My mind just wasn't in the groove so I decided to just aim for a finisher's medal and perhaps push a bit harder for the final (flying) lap. As I look back now I think the mountain course had, in a way, conquered me this year and after four weeks of events I was looking forward to the chequered flag. At times during the race I would think "This is insane, what the hell am I risking so much for?". And then, at other times even on the same lap, I would buzz out on a huge surge of adrenaline after exiting a bend pulling 9500 rpm knowing I've achieved that ultimate thrust (where the R1 cam really comes on) because I got the previous sequence of bends spot on! It's this adrenaline that pushes you on throughout the entire race when you're really on the pace.

That adrenaline and concentration also enables you to block out the danger. Mentally I found the TT getting tougher and tougher as I passed more and more serious accidents. These black spots, along with the few spots I've nearly come to grief on, are all etched into my mind. Not once this year could I bring myself to hold it flat around the kink that claimed Stu Murdock's life in 1999, and on every lap I would curse myself for not having done so. Two minutes further on is Glen Helen 2, Robert Holden's last bend. My subconscious reminded me to be careful there, which is actually a blessing because even when you are on the correct line you pass only inches from the stone wall. Robert was incredibly brave to try and take this bend flat out. Some think his only mistake was in trying to win on a machine that just wasn't fast enough, time can be made up through these corners but not a lot, it just isn't worth it.Three miles down the road is the 13th milestone and it was at this point on lap four that Nigel Healy flew past me, he was hot on the tail of Brett's mate David Madsen-Mydal, on an RC30 this time. Nigel later told me that they were dicing for ages. The nimble Honda would pass him through the corners, then the Yamaha would blast past the 750 down the straights. I kept sight of them till Ramsey but opted not to try and stick with them. Nigel had already made up nearly two minutes on me from his starting position and trying to pick up the pace by that much immediately is very difficult and unwise. Following other riders is also something I try to avoid as it is too easy to get sucked into focusing on the machine your following rather than where you are on the circuit.Unfortunately Shaun Harris retired his R6 on the first lap, as did Brett Richmond who had qualified 77th on his 400. Blair Degerholm had a brilliant ride on his ZX7RR, consistently lapping at just under 120 mph to finish 8th. Bruce Anstey was the next Kiwi, coming in at 14th place, the first 250 - the first 13 finishers were all F1 machines. John Hepburn in 16th place must have been the first proddie bike home. Nigel Healy was in the money at 20th position and another bronze replica for his collection. It just proves how much difference the Pirelli and EBC combination made to his lap times. I was surprised to achieve another 25th position as I'd only managed a best lap time of 112 mph and I had completed the 6 laps only 40 seconds faster than I did last year on the R6. Warren Turner had much better luck than in the Junior with 28th position and he cracked 110 mph. However, it wasn't quite as fast as some of his Junior TT laps. A couple of minutes back was Hugh Reynolds in 31st position which was a great result on a standard 250, he must have been working hard holding his line in the wind over the mountain on such a light bike.

There is nothing quite like the emotions I experienced upon seeing the chequered flag at the TT. I had a huge smile on my face whilst touring down the slip road back to the pits. Relief is the best word I can use to sum it up, because although I hadn't ridden my best or won a bronze replica I had achieved my main goal, which was to return home to family, friends and a lifestyle second to none. Ringing home with the news was always a priority just before knocking back my first beer.

Wednesday Night's Prize Giving; Nigel, Steve and Local Pit Crew

Friday 9th June- Some Final Thoughts

I awoke with one thing on my mind, to test ride my R1 to see if it was straight. The first thing I noticed was that my forks were twisted but loosening the pinch bolts and yanking on the clip-on's soon cured that.Nigel Healey also wanted a run on his R1. I had given him the Pirelli rear I had used in practice and he had brought a Metzeler front and some HH EBC brake pads so he had to bed them in and scrub in the tyre.The road was closed through the Glen Helen section while a steam cleaner was cleaning up a large slick of diesel which had been spilt all over the track. I'd heard rumours that the locals had sabotaged the track so our only option was to head in reverse direction up the mountain, a move which should be avoided if possible as bikers often get carried away and cross the white line. We turned around at the Bungalow and carefully sped back down.My bike felt sweet and my only concern now was the reduced fuel capacity due to the rather large dent. During the F1 race I had been travelling up to nine miles with the fuel light on and with the throttle on the stop for most of that distance there was very little left at the pits - that's about NZ$ 45 per tank for two laps. Nigel was ecstatic, his bike had transformed, it now stopped on a dime and was steady down the straights. Finally something was going right for him, so now all we needed was a clear dry day. Wishful thinking!

There is one question I have heard many people ask and it is: 'What lures the riders to the TT?'For every first time rider I am sure that the answer has to be: "For the challenge to conquer the most famous road race in the world". To qualify and then achieve a finishers medal I am sure is enough to satisfy most new comers, but what lures them back, in many cases, is the appearance and start money. This is not enough to cover expenses but it is almost enough to make it worth the risk, unless of course you finish in the top five or so in which case you could earn in two weeks what most people earn in one year.Then there are the true road racers who return year after year, always with a higher goal and, at the top, there are a few who will never be satisfied until they win. Shaun Harris is one of these. He has the skill and the course knowledge so I am sure he will find the right machinery to pull it off, all he needs now is luck on his side.At the 2002 TT Shaun will be riding GSXR Suzuki's, Brett Richmond has a couple of Yamaha's, Nick Pedley and Mark Perry have secured an R1 each off Bill Smith and the surprising news to some is that Mike King is returning taking his 750 GSXR. I'm sure Bruce Anstey will be chasing a win in the Lightweight class but unfortunately Blair Degerholm had a serious accident at Donington damaging his arm so I doubt he'll be able to compete. I'm unsure if John Hepburn will make the trip as I know the time off has taken a toll on his business. I'm in the same boat with commitments in NZ but I haven't ruled out a return, 2007 will be a huge event if the TT survives till then and besides, I am still 1.5 mph short of my 116 mph goal!Here are some more interesting facts from TT 2000. During the fortnight of racing:

  • 3781 laps totalling 142657 miles were completed
  • new lap records were set
  • 5 deaths occurred

That's a lot of racing miles - the odds could be worse!