The inside line
Our Malcolm has been visiting the paddocks of the scene to see the what, the why and the who of things going on. He’s also been over to the Island to stay abreast of everything on the road scene. It’s been hectic. He loves it.
Five years in, the Classic TT and Festival of Motorcycling has really come of age. With great racing across all classes, the biggest and best Jurby Festival yet, and running alongside it the best Manx Grand Prix for some time, with some great young talent breaking lap and race records. Classic Racer’s man on the ground, John Watterson, brings his usual comprehensive report on all the race action, but here our Isle of Man aficionado, Malc Wheeler, shares his personal take on this year’s action-packed Classic TT.
Having been involved in the Classic TT and everything that surrounds it from day one, it was nice to stand back a little this year, and take a subjective look at what I believe to be one of, if not the best classic race gatherings on the calendar. The Festival of Motorcycling has grown beyond most people’s expectations and the worldwide exposure it has been given has raised the profile and awareness of the Manx Grand Prix, something clearly evident by the number, and quality, of entries and huge growth in visitor numbers. The driving force behind the event, Paul Phillips, sums it up perfectly: “The Classic TT has been a resounding success throughout its first five years and has grown incrementally in economic, commercial and media terms in each of those five years. “The Island’s economy has benefited
by over £20 million of new money during that five year period, as a direct result of the introduction of the Classic TT as part of a new Festival of Motorcycling and we can boast what is considered the biggest and most important classic racing motorcycle event on the planet. “It is a testament to efforts and skills of a wide ranging team of volunteers and partners and there is no doubt in my mind that there is enormous potential for further growth into the future.” As is so often the case, with success comes problems, not least being the number of machines, both classic and modern, to get through scrutineering ahead of each evening’s qualifying session. Quite how the dedicated volunteer team got through 403 machines in one session alone I can’t begin to imagine. To me, a seasoned past Manx Grand Prix and TT competitor myself, one answer seems obvious – increase the number of practice sessions. In the past, riders had the luxury of early morning and evening practice, plus a long session on Thursday afternoon which replicated climatic conditions likely to be encountered during a race. Of course it’s not that simple; the make-up of Island residents has changed greatly over the years, with fewer of them being accepting of the TT and Manx Grand Prix road closing orders. Then there is the ‘orange amy’, the brilliant band of marshals, to consider. A minimum of 550 willing, dedicated volunteers are needed to allow any activity to take place on the TT Mountain Circuit – perhaps the answer isn’t that obvious. One other idea I have heard being thrown around is to reduce the number of entries in each class, both modern and classic. But with the growing interest from riders, from both sectors, that would seem to be a real shame. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so on these pages I’ll share, with images snapped by myself and Russ Lee, how I saw the 2017 Classic TT and Festival of Motorcycling.
Right: Josh Brookes, BSB and former WSB rider, is clearly warming to his classic racing. Not only did he win the Senior Classic Race on the Paton, he popped in a 19 minute, standing start, lap on Steve Wheatman’s ex Schwantz Suzuki in the Classic Racer Parade! Could we see one of Steve’s twostroke Suzukis in action in the races next year?
Olie Linsdell – The Isle of Man alwaysy throws up highs and lows and this year was no exception.the Linsdell family have been staunch Mountain Course supporters, starting with dad Steve who rode both the TT and Manx Grand Prix with great success. Son Olie, a Mountain Course winner followed, and this year younger brother David made an impressive debut. How mum Carole copes I have no idea. Despite having to pull out of the 500cc Classic Race, due to a previous shoulder injury, Olie still set what must be a record when he whistled the push-rod Royal Enfield, which father Steve has dedicated years to developing and which is still on its original set of crankcases, through the Sulby Straight speed trap at an amazing 140.4mph.
Michael Rutter provided a great tribute to his father’s glittering TT Ducati career, in replica helmet and leathers, when he rode the Belgium Red Fox Ducati to runner-up spot. Sadly, the position was taken away, to the dismay of myself and many of the fans around the course, because the fuel tank was oversize, despite no advantage being gained at the pit stop. I really struggle with the strict enforcement of some technical infringements and not others if I’m honest. Michael was very disappointed for the team, but philosophical and less concerned for himself. As if to rub salt in to the wounds someone stole the podium laurel wreath from the team’s awning overnight.
TT legend John Mcguinness, still carrying his serious leg and back injuries from the North West 200, (most people have forgotten about his broken vertebrae), was an interested, but frustrated, spectator at the Classic TT.
Tuner, restorer and all-round great guy Ken Mcintosh, brought the Duke Norton half way round the world for the Classic Racer Parade, so it seemed only right for Cam Donald, complete with period helmet, to give it a spirited lap.