Pure-bred rac­ing ma­chines will be back on the Is­land

For­get the lap­tops and ECUS re­quired by mod­ern race bikes. The up­com­ing Clas­sic TT is all about span­ners, files and pure-bred rac­ing ma­chines

Classic Bike (UK) - - Contents - BY MIKE NICKS.

Its of­fi­cial name is the Clas­sic TT, but you could call it the Tuners’ and Fet­tlers’ Grand Prix. For this is an event where the bike builders, me­chan­ics, horse­power seek­ers and team own­ers are the real stars.

Fet­tling? It’s a word they used in clas­sic times: a fet­tler files, drills, light­ens, eases, mas­sages, mod­i­fies and de­vises. It’s what you do in clas­sic rac­ing, where you can’t buy a mass-pro­duced pro­duc­tion bike, throw a few off-the-shelf rac­ing good­ies at it, and have a re­li­able and com­pet­i­tive ma­chine. For the Clas­sic TT you can buy a com­plete Manx Nor­ton, a 1216cc Suzuki XR69, a 500cc Paton twin, or a replica MV Agos­tini triple, but you’ll still find your­self fet­tling. These bikes are built in tiny quan­ti­ties, so they need con­stant vig­i­lance and at­ten­tion to sur­vive a week of prac­tice and a four-lap, 151mile race over the TT course.

Among those fet­tling hard for the Clas­sic TT are Mitchell Kay, the 24-year-old en­gine build­ing prodigy in the Black Ea­gle Rac­ing team. Mitch has de­signed a short-stroke 500cc MV triple for ei­ther Michael Dun­lop or Dean Har­ri­son to race in the Se­nior Clas­sic. Honda spe­cial­ist John Davies, of Davies Mo­tor­sport, is do­ing head­work on his CB500 en­gines for Wil­liam Dun­lop and Alan Oversby to gain two to four horse­power more. His 350cc K4s will have a new dry clutch to min­imise drag on the en­gine and keep the oil cleaner. He’s shav­ing 6kg from his bikes by us­ing dif­fer­ent hubs and more ti­ta­nium, in­clud­ing a 3kg-lighter ti­ta­nium ex­haust sys­tem made by Oversby.

If the rac­ing side of the Clas­sic TT doesn’t stir you, there’s ev­ery rea­son to take your road bike to the is­land. You see ev­ery kind of clas­sic there, from pre-war bikes – the Vin­tage MCC has a big pres­ence – to Bri­tish kit such as Greeves twins and rock­ers’ metal from the 50s and 60s, Ital­ian ex­ot­ica, Ger­man and Amer­i­can hard­ware… ev­ery­thing re­ally. As the Isle of Man lacks mo­tor­ways, its roads are ideal for bikes de­signed for a time when en­gines were not ex­pected to sus­tain con­stant high-speed run­ning.

Back on the track, two spe­cial bikes fea­tured in re­cent is­sues of Clas­sic Bike get their own one-lap pa­rades. Michael Dun­lop will ride Black Ea­gle’s recre­ation of the 500cc Gil­era four on which Bob Mcin­tyre recorded the first 100mph lap of the Moun­tain Cir­cuit, 60 years ago in 1957, while for­mer Se­nior TT win­ner Steve Plater will ride Team Ob­so­lete’s 250cc Honda six to mark 50 years since the sixes last wailed on the Moun­tain Cir­cuit. That was 1967, when Mike Hail­wood won the 250 and 350cc events.

In this year’s races, un­der­dogs Pad­gett Rac­ing and rider Bruce An­stey, with their 1992-spec Yamaha YZR500, will try to wrest Su­per­bike hon­ours from Michael Dun­lop on Team Clas­sic Suzuki’s XR69 bruiser. In the Se­nior race, Michael Rut­ter will try to squeeze a 110mph lap from Ri­p­ley Land Rac­ing’s See­ley G50, with Pa­tons and MV triples also vy­ing for podium po­si­tions.

The orig­i­nal­ity po­lice would be ap­palled at some of the bikes that are el­i­gi­ble for the Clas­sic TT’S slightly hotrod-ish rules. But race chief Paul Phillips wants to stage a clas­sic-themed spec­ta­cle, and in that he suc­ceeds. What is re­fresh­ing about the Clas­sic TT is fet­tlers and rid­ers don’t have banks of com­puter screens to tell them where they’ve lost three-hun­dredths of a sec­ond. They have to work it out for them­selves. It’s real rac­ing on the world’s only sur­viv­ing long-lap public-roads cir­cuit.

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: STEPHEN DAV­I­SON

1 Bruce An­stey smokes them on his Yamaha YZR500

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