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Manx Grand Prix – a fast finish

JB Racing arrived on a grey and dreary Isle of Man for Practice week. When the clouds are low over the mountain of Snaefell, the helicopter can’t land and so from a safety aspect, bikes don’t go out!

By Monday, after more delays and red flagged practice laps, I finally got my first lap in, leaving the line at 8pm. It wasn’t the best lap, with lots of traffic and waved yellow flags at Ramsey, plus I went out with a dark visor as the sun was low, but due to the delay it got dark very quickly!!! Unconfirmed result is that I finished 9th fastest and did a 92.63 mph average, but this was an untimed lap so whilst it was a much needed lap under my belt, it didn’t qualify me on time.

By Thursday panic was starting to set in around the paddock as many riders just hadn’t had the opportunity to qualify on time, or reaching a minimum of 5 practice laps. Yet again, the Irish sea blew the rain our way delaying practice. When bikes eventually left the line, the newcomers were understandably prioritised, unfortunately a few serious incidents resulted in a red flagged session. Game over and the frustration was starting to show!

On Friday of practice week having been on the island for over seven days , I finally got out for what I thought would be a decent two lap, practice. The bike was a missile, and I was third fastest down Sulby straight in the Lighweight group.  The bumpy road at Glentramman resulted in a sudden loss of power and the bike wouldn’t rev past 12k! I nursed it back to the grandstand and pulled in. There were no obvious signs of major problems, no smoke or ominous noises and it ticked over okay, so as I’m short on laps decided to go out again. Big mistake! I had a slow lap with a very sick bike. Got back to the paddock to investigate and started stripping the bike down…….. Thankfully, it turned out to be a loose stick coil off number 4 spark plug! Easily fixed and no major long term damage done!

By Saturday the weather has turned in our favour – It’s glorious in the Isle of Man when the sun shines!! The bike continued to perform consistently well during practice, clocking 4th fastest down Sulby straight and 5th fastest past the grandstand. It was still misty over the mountain, from the top of the mile to Kepple gate, but hundreds of on board laps and knowledge of all the corners means I know my way round, and I keep the pressure on, securing a 97.2mph lap – I’ve finally qualified on both time and the required number of laps!

Monday of race week saw more mist and rain, but the organisers worked hard to get a Classic TT race underway, and managed to squeeze in another couple of practice laps later in the day. Maybe it was because the qualifying pressure was off, but the 400 was the fastest bike down Sulby straight at 137.80 mph – a good feeling to be top of the timing sheet with a bike produced by JB Racing!! Happy with the result and the bike is ready for race day on Wednesday!

On race day, it’s fair to say that the nerves start to set in, everyone deals with it differently. For me, I just need to keep my cool until the race starts at 1pm. By 10am, the schedule delays started so 1pm came and went with no race in sight. By 3 pm, an announcement over the tannoy advised us that the Lightweight race would run on Friday…… Friday!!! I put the race face away and find a beach to visit on Thursday! It’s frustrating of course, but this is the Isle of Man and you need to be prepared for anything.

Friday arrives, the weather forecast looks okay and we can see the top of the mountain – After two weeks of delays and bad weather, the race finally starts on time at 10.15am with some 29 riders in the Lightweight Class. There is little time for nerves in the morning! The bike didn’t let me down, and I was consistently quick around the first half of the course, landing in the top 5 timings on every lap down Sulby straight. At every time check I was sitting between 14th and 18th in the field with just a fraction of a second between places. A slick pit stop by my team at the end of lap 2 meant I held my position and ended the race in 16th place, with a race average speed just under 100mph – fast enough to receive a replica!  On reflection, I’m pleased as punch with the bike, but I have some work to do on my racing line over the mountain – Always room for improvement next year!

Many thanks to our sponsors Sorrymate.com and C&H Autos, for all their support.

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