What's it like to be an IOMTT newcomer?

Author: Bike Social Sports Reporter Posted: 28 May 2014

Newcomer Pete Hickman behind Milky Quayle

At 37.73 miles, the Isle of Man TT course is the longest and toughest road race in the world. Even the most experienced TT racers will tell you how you can never stop learning things about the course, so what must it be like to take to the event for the first time?

A number of big-named riders are taking on the TT for the first time this year, including former British Superbike racer, Peter Hickman. After his first two practice sessions, he’s set a lap of almost 120mph making him the fastest newcomer so far. We caught up with him after the first session to see how he’s found learning the gruelling course.

 “I’m not pushing anywhere, I’m just riding it as I see it and we’re going from there. I’ve not got lost anywhere yet and I’m feeling good” said Hickman.

“Being able to use both sides of the course makes so much difference compared to when you’re out in a hire car or on a bike when the roads are open. I did around seventy laps in a car before my first closed roads laps on Monday night! The way I looked at it was that if I kept going round and round and round it’d become a bit like the drive to work; you know it off by heart as you do it so often and this has really helped so far! All the stuff before with Milky [Quayle – rider liaison officer] too, it definitely helps but it is a completely different experience when you’re doing it for real. It’s one thing being able to know where you’re going at 40mph in a car: it goes right here, then a bit of a straight, left kink, right and all that, but when you’re doing it at 180mph that’s all one and you’ve got to think so fast! There are definitely things that I’ve picked up on and learned from other people that come to me while I’m riding.”

Hickman also participated in the North West 200 two weeks ago, where he took an impressive ninth place in the first Superstock race.

Hickman is riding for the Ice Valley BMW team

“The North West 200 was perfect for getting used to passing lampposts at 200mph! Although to be fair, I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing, but I don’t really see anything at the side of the road all I see is a track and that’s all I’m looking at.”

Newcomers get the chance to do a closed roads lap behind former TT race winner Richard ‘Milky Quale’ showing them the way around. Unlike many riders, who are often a little nervous before their first laps, Peter says he was keen to just get on with it:

“I wasn’t scared or even really nervous before setting off on my first laps, I was quite chilled out. When I set off for my first lap behind Milky I was right behind him and I did quite a big wheelie all the way down Glencrutchery road which apparently nobody has done before as they’re normally bricking it!”

Joining Hickman on the newcomers list this at this year’s TT is former Moto3 star, Danny Webb, who isn’t only riding the TT for the first time but is also competing on a 1000cc motorcycle for the first time in his career.

Webb made his name competing in the 125cc and Moto3 Grand Prix categories, which is a little more than a far cry away from TT racing. His only venture on production racing machinery came last year in the World Supersport class in which he rode a CBR600RR. At just twenty-two years old, Webb is one of the youngest ever riders to compete at the TT but that’s not put him off, after his first practice session he told Bike Social the TT is the best thing he’s ever done.

“Riding at the Isle of Man is so much fun. It’s completely different to anything I’ve done before and it’s one hell of a thrill!” said Webb, speaking to BikeSocial.co.uk. “I love it. It’s brilliant. I’m just taking it step by step, trying to get as many laps as I can in with the big bike!”

Webb is one of the youngest ever TT competitors

Competing in the Bikenation.co.uk Lightweight TT aboard his KMR Kawasaki 650cc twin, Webb says he feels much more at home on the smaller 650.

“Last night I had my first run on the 650 and I felt a lot more at home on that! I was meant to be out on it on Saturday but it got cancelled because of the weather so my first time on the course was on the big bike on Monday. I could have taken the 650 on my newcomers lap but there wasn’t much point for one lap. I was a bit nervous but not too bad, I headed off down Bray Hill and took it easy. I’m starting to learn my way around and every time I go out I’m learning and learning. It takes three or four years to learn this circuit properly so we’ll just take it step by step.”

So what does it feel like to ride the most famous race course in the world? We put the question to Webb to see if it met his expectations!

 “In some ways it is how I expected it to be but also it’s completely different to what I expected. I didn’t realise how much of a buzz I was going to get out of it! I knew it would be bumpy but to be honest, I thought it’d be bumpier than it actually is. There are a few sections which are really bumpy but then some other sections are really smooth. The whole thing is brilliant and each time I go out on the bike I come back with a smile on my face!

One of the key things for newcomers of the Isle of Man is not to get caught up in the lap times you can post. With it taking years to learn the TT course, it should be years until you’re really pushing it. Webb knows the limits and is keen to focus on the smaller bike for his first attempt this year.

“I did 112.7 last night but I’m not really looking at the speeds at the minute, especially on the big bike! On the 650 we’ve done 108.6 and that’s a lot more suited to me so that’s my main class! I’m happy as long as I can chip away and get faster and faster”.

Joining Webb and Hickman as newcomers in 2014 is British Superbike racer Martin Jessopp. The Yeovil rider isn’t completely new to the roads though, having competed at the North West 200 for a number of years. Not far behind Hickman in the practice times so far this week, it’d be fair to say the fastest newcomer accolade is between the two British Superbike guys.

Bike Social will be following the progress of Webb, Hickman and the other newcomers across the TT festival.