Making its debut in October 2021 is a new road racing festival set for the Isle of Wight on a 12.4-mile road course.
The event will be known as the ‘Diamond Races’, and will complement the existing UK road racing calendar including the Isle of Man TT, Classic TT, Ulster GP, Oliver’s Mount (Scarborough) and North West 200, among others. This new event will be held on the southern part of the Isle of Wight around Chale, Kingston, Shorwell and Brighstone, which in itself is just six-miles from Southampton, making it easily accessible from Europe as well as just a two-hour drive from central London.
Two blocks of Superbike, Supersport and SuperTwin races will take place in a time-trial format on the Saturday following the final Bennetts British Superbike (BSB) race of 2021, with practice sessions commencing on closed roads the Wednesday and Thursday before.
Sidecar demonstration laps will take place in year one with a view to have sidecar races from year two (2022) onwards.
An elite team of experienced motorsport events experts has been assembled to create a road-racing meeting that will aid industry and tourism on the Isle of Wight while offering an extremely competitive series of races, incorporating a strategy to promote road safety, all at the end of the BSB season, with a 10-year deal in place. Names familiar to road racing fans such as the TT’s Clerk of the Course, Gary Thompson MBE, and Neil Tuxworth and Steve Plater are involved with the likes of James Kaye (ex-British Touring Car Champion and Diamond Races co-founder) and Matt Neal (three-times British Touring Car Champion) among a squad of brand, marketing, event and commercial experts.
Ahead of today’s announcement we spoke at length to three of the team to get a little more insight:
The Course, of course
Gary Thompson has been involved in the TT, Classic TT and Manx GP as Clerk of the Course for ten years and took little time in choosing the right course layout, “We looked at three courses on the Isle of Wight and settled on the ‘Chale Course’ – the first ¾ is quite technical and twisty but the last stretch down the Military Road is “awesome”, it’s not been raced on before. We also looked at the ‘Freshwater Course’ which is about 8-miles but part of the decision is to make sure the grid is clear before the first man comes around again. That last 4 – 4.5-mile Military Road is going to be as fast as Sulby Straight, if not faster. It’s an immense circuit.
He continued, “From a road surface point of view, it’s raceable right now such is the quality, although 2,500 centre white lines to be repainted and treated plus cat’s eyes and manholes too.”
Rider Liaison Officer and two-time TT winner, Steve Plater, talked about the course, “The first part, starting off in Chale, is very technical with blind approaches to many areas. It’s the same as anywhere, you never get a true sense until you can close the roads and Some kerbs and turns will disappear and it’s still fast, some places are going to be 4th gear even in the technical parts, there are blind crests, it’s undulated yet the road surface is incredibly good – there’s no pot holes or bad surfacing. It’ll take a lot of learning, you run through quite a few built-up areas and quite a few trees, bushes hanging over the road, we may have to cut some bushes and trees down to get the sun to certain parts of the course. We’ve had Mervyn White from the NW200 over too, to give his opinion and advice on the course too. He’ll be providing the course protection.”
In terms of spectator opportunities, Plater carried on with some of the detail, “There’s a mix for all sorts, we’re going to building this event over the years. There’ll be grandstands in key areas, as well as some hard-core places to go and view over/through a hedge. There’ll be some restricted areas but the Military Road is where we’d like the start/finish line - we’re looking at a location that will feature bikes flat out over a crest and in front of a massive hospitality unit. It’s yet to be determined but it will be on the Military Road, there’s an area that Gary and I favour but we’re waiting for confirmation.”
Above (l-r): the Diamond Races team: Neil Tuxworth, Steve Plater (on bike), Eddie Forster-Knight, James Kaye, Matt Neil, Paul Sandford, William Parry, James Hillier (on bike), Gary Thompson
Who’s idea was this and why the Isle of Wight?
But how did it all come to fruition? Even back in the 1930s, between the two wars, racing on the Isle of Wight was a subject of discussion but it wasn’t until early 2019 when former British Touring Car rivals James Kaye (Isle of Wight resident) and Matt Neal came up with the Diamond Races plan.
Kaye told us, “There is no motorsport on the Isle of Wight – we looked at Formula E, we looked at British Touring Cars, then about 18 months ago, Matt Neal and I thought about the amount of motorcyclists here.
“The industry (on the Isle of Wight) is based around tourism and we’re a holiday destination and there’s a desire for more footfall on the island and even though we’re only 6 miles from Southampton and within a stone’s throw from Portsmouth, we want to have something else that will attract people here and benefit every part of the industry associated with the Island.
“We’ve got a 10-year deal in place and a commercial package which will bring in some new names not normally associated with motorsport. We want to make motorsport more digitally available, such as an app which will included food, drink, hotel, event information, interviews, course videos, there are going to be so many parts of that app, so people who can’t get to the island to see it for the first year can still see it ‘live’ via the app.
“To get here, it’s a ferry. There’s no commercial airport here (just helicopters and small, light planes). There are three main providers of transport to the island and we’ve got their support as partners in this. If we want to bring 100,000 people to the Island then they need to see the economic benefit and join us. The same goes for campsites, hotels, B&B’s AirB’nB – we’re got to ensure that if 100,000 are coming then they’ve got somewhere to stay!”
“We’ve spoken to the usual suspects in terms of broadcasters but we need 100% detail on everything we’re doing before we can move that forward.”
What do the rider’s think?
Only one current road racing star has ridden the Chale Course; Isle of Man TT race winner, James Hillier, who said, “It’s pretty good, as a foundation to start from. It’s got a little bit of everything from the high-speed Military Road and then some real nice combinations of corners out through the farms and the narrower roads, so there’s a little bit of everything with longer bends. It’ll definitely be a challenge to learn which is what we want for road racing and everyone’s going to be in the same boat. I might have a little advantage but it looks great.”