THE TEN SECOND WAIT
You can cut the tension on the TT grid with a knife, but do the riders feel it?
Ask anyone who has watched the grid form at the TT and they’ll tell you about the intensity that surrounds the riders. It’s an atmosphere thick with fear and danger, yet alive with anticipation and expectation.
Of course, there’s a buzz when the grid forms in BSB, WSB or Motogp, but the senses are heightened by the reality that some of the guys waiting to take on the most challenging circuit in the world might not return in one piece.
“You end up with a lot of nervous energy ahead of the race because of the people around you,” explains Norton rider Josh Brookes, who is returning to the TT after two years away. “It’s almost like the paddock is full of fear. Obviously nobody wants to experience the worst case scenario, but they know it can happen.
“Because it’s so raw, the emotions are quite noticeable. You can feel that tension, people just want everyone to come home safely and that fear spreads through everybody and then into me. I start to feel really nervous. The fear, worry and hope that everyone comes home safely is obvious and then that comes to you as a rider. You carry all that with you until you head to the line and it’s your turn to start and then it all goes away. Riding a bike is what I’ve done my whole life, this isn’t some strange thing I’m being forced to do with a gun to my head, it’s not like I haven’t prepared. I can choose how fast I go and how late I brake. I’m in control.
“I think if it was just the riders, not that you’d ever get that environment, it would be much less of a tense environment. All the riders feel comfortable within themselves, nobody feels like they’re doing something out of their comfort zone or they’d stop doing it. That’s why we go back each year.
“Once you’re heading down to the famous arch and it’s your turn next, the ten seconds go quickly. Ten seconds isn’t long, is it? All you’re thinking about at that moment is how you have to be in gear ready for a good start, preparing to set off as fast as you can.
“You go from a broad spectrum of thoughts that are important over the next two hours and start to narrow it down to the more specific things the closer you get to setting off. Once your visor is down you’re on your own, you’re not communicating with people, you’ve just got your own thoughts and it’s the same as any other race. You feel very calm. Once your helmet is on and the engine is running, that’s the noise and atmosphere you’re used to surrounding yourself with and you’ve only got your own thoughts and you’re just watching everything else around you carry on doing what it’s doing. Your life becomes less complicated.”
‘You carry all that with you until you head to the line and it’s your turn to start and then it all goes away’ JOSH BROOKES