Ah, the Classic TT. Or is that the Festival of Motorcycling? What about the Manx GP? Some might say it doesn’t matter what it’s called, some would disagree. Either way, it’s still motorcycle racing on the world’s most famous road racing island on the world’s most famous road racing circuit. And that, as I’m writing this while coming into land at the Ronaldsway airport, makes me a happy chappy.
The previous handful of days have been hideously disrupted by the grim weather and the forecast doesn’t look too rosy either. Yep, that old chestnut but I’m looking around the small Flybe plane and every passenger, including new TV presenting recruit Amy Williams MBE, is looking out of the window at this magnificently beautiful 32-mile long x 14-mile wide jewel in the Irish Sea. Not everyone is a race fan on their way to visit, I overhear a couple talking about how they live on the island and plan their holidays around the TT and Classic TT...so they can be here. They’re proud residents and the others on board are fans. The buzz is almost tangible. Racing is less than 48 hours away and it’s an onslaught on the senses. Listen to the two-strokes and single cylinder 500s, smelling the sweet aroma of Castrol R and seeing the heroes of road racing scene wrestling with these classic beasts as if they were mechanically-sound modern day machinery.
The roads close as engines are warmed. Riders merge from motorhomes, vans and tents and stride toward their machines through the paddock crowds; here is a fine example of motorcycle racing as it should be. The only places around the assembly area and pit lane that public can’t access is the circuit itself – brushing shoulders with McGuinness, Harrison, Cummins, Johnston, Rutter and Costello plus the newcomers, privateers and future stars knowing that within minutes they’ll all be flat out heading down Bray Hill on some of the finest classic motorcycles on the planet. TV cameras do not do this event justice.
But wait. What’s that overhead? The sky darkens and I feel like a bit of a prat still in my sunglasses yet my t-shirt doesn’t spell out that they have prescription lenses! Once again the practice is stopped and not restarted for the evening. Pesky weather. While the Senior and Junior Classic TT machines had the chance to bang a couple of laps in, it’s the Superbikes who haven’t had their turn and two of the biggest teams here, Padgetts and Team Classic Suzuki have yet to record a lap.
The circuit takes up a lot of room too. While the skies were darkening over the start/finish line, it’s absolutely hammering down on the west side of the island. And even when it stops and parts of the course are dry, it’s the sections under the trees that need the most time to become rideable.
Now, the Isle of Man has a population of nearing 84,000 which swells by around 15,000 give-or-take during the Classic TT. Some residents take the opportunity to leave and rent their houses or take a holiday but that still leaves plenty on the IoM. For arguments sake, let’s say around half of the 37.73-mile Mountain Course has houses, farms, hotels and pubs adjoining it so if everyone got their tea towels out and children involved then there’s a fair chance that would be the solution to mopping up the water. Problem solved.