If 2018 was the "perfect" TT with brilliant weather and every single detail going to schedule, 2019 will go down in history as the weirdest TT!
With poor weather all practice week, some riders only got to put in a couple of laps! One top sidecar team we spoke to had put in just a single lap prior to the abbreviated qualification and first race.
Unfortunately, the weather and the truncated schedules persisted into race week, and at one point there was a very real possibility that people who had opted for the 4 nights "Mad Sunday" package would never see a bike in anger.
It all worked out in the end, but not through considerable effort by the TT organisers (not to mention continuous rescheduling of our programme!)
Follow our 'story' of the week in our Flickr gallery linked on this page.
FRIDAY night was the first official get together of our customers arriving for the 4 night Mad Sunday or the entire 8 night packages. Dinner and drinks were at the superb Harbour Lights restaurant at the Sefton Hotel. We were honoured to be joined by Czech TT Racers Michal "Indi" Dokoupil and his partner and Manx TT racer Veronika Hankocyová. They gave us the low down on the practice week - or rather how many laps Indi had NOT experienced, and then shared the evening (and considerable drinks) with all our guests, Indi relating hilarious stories of his road racing adventures and Veronika sharing what it is to be one of the few female racers. Unofficially present was the legend Carl Fogarty, several guests took advantage of the coincidence to get selfies!
Further practice and qualification sessions that had not taken place earlier in the week were provisionally scheduled for Friday evening, but as Indi's presence demonstrated, these were cancelled as well.
SATURDAY race day we had scheduled to spend the day at the lovely Ginger Hall at the northern part of the course just prior to the entrance to the mountain section. Although the weather wasn't promising, the racing had not yet been called off, so we took the bus up to this iconic pub. Great beer, great company and a great lunch (newly re-opened as a Thai/English restaurant!) were only let down by the ultimate lack of racing. Making a spur of the moment decision, we all packed into the coach after lunch and headed for Jurby to see the new(ish) Manx Motor Museum. This was well worth it -- an amazing collection of machinery going back to the 19th century, and of course numerous motorcycles! Next door is the smaller but also interesting (and free) Manx Transport Museum, featuring cars, trams and busses from yesteryear.
We took advantage of the open roads to do a half lap of the course including the mountain section. Although the weather looked fairly nice in the lower areas, it was all too clear (or not!) why the racing could not happen, as we could barely see the tail lights of the vehicles ahead of us while traversing the mountain!
Racing was postponed to "Mad Sunday".
SUNDAY dawned wet 'n' wild. Racing was definitely not going to happen in the morning. This didn't bother us overmuch as we had several tables in the VIP Hospitality at the paddock, so we were more or less warm and dry, with food and a bar to hand. Best of all, the Italian MotoGP at Mugello was shown on the big screen, and the racing was fabulous! Definitely the most exciting MotoGP of the year, so in a way we were happy the TT racing was held off until after the MotoGP. Two of our guests were especially happy, as they had picked the unlikely Michele Pirro to take 7th in the MotoGP, so they shared a pot of some £440!
The sun finally peeked out in the afternoon, and helped by the high winds cleansing the mists off the mountain and (partially) drying the track, the first practice session got underway about 15:00, and at long last we were treated to a bike in anger! In this case, it was the sidecars heading out, lead by the indomitable Birchall Brothers. We all cheered as they zoomed past our private VIP grandstand!
Following the closure of the VIP, some of us took the van around to Quarterbridge to catch the tail end of the superbike practice, seeing the bikes at top speeds near the bottom of the famous Bray Hill. Although brief, our first taste of the famous TT 'hedgerow' viewing!
Almost as if in celebration, an impromptu party sprang up in the Sefton bar in the evening. A good time was had by all...
MONDAY was the next "official" race day. Ordinarily we would have gone to one of the countryside 'hedgerows', which in this case would have been a soggy experience. However a few weeks before the event, we had made the impromptu decision to purchase grandstand tickets next to the legendary Creg-ny-ba pub, one of the finest viewing points on the track. We were very glad we did! Even after delaying our departure in light of the dodgy morning, we got up there fairly early, but there was a food/beer tent and plenty of area up and down-track to sit and watch the action.
And finally the action happened! Led by a practice lap of the Supersport/Superstock bikes, we got great views both from the grandstand and from the hedgerows, where bikes were passing at speeds of >140mph at arm's length!
The first race was the sidecars, and watching them bomb down the hill from Kate's Cottage and then the "monkey" learning heavily in the tight hand bent at Creg-ny-ba was a thrilling sight!
We got some great photos of some of the Supertwin "toenail clippers" who sometime hit the white line just under our feet! Beyond thrilling!
Our day at the Creg ended with the TT Zero bikes silently whooshing past -- both of them.
For a few guests who hadn't had enough bike action, we took a van to the Braddan Bridge - the first chicane on the course and a brilliant viewing spot to see the bikes cornering. The shortened Supersport race took place, with our sponsored rider James Hillier narrowly missing the win by just three seconds to Lee Johnston - taking his maiden victory. This was to prove a significant podium....
"Indi" put in a respectable result of 21st, earning himself a coveted Bronze Replica trophy.
As it was the final night for our "Mad Sunday" guests, a number of them decided to keep the bar open until late... Indi and Veronika were rumoured to be late joiners to the party...
TUESDAY is traditionally the "rest" day. Of course they were trying to get more sessions in on the day, but the weather simply refused to co-operate. However not so bad for some of the group staying for the full 8 nights, as we took a private tour of the island to visit some of the non-TT attractions. We visit the Steve Hislop memorial with the (usually) stunning views over Douglas promenade. The Laxey Wheel and mines are one of the highlights of the island (and for shoppers, the woollen mills had some appeal!) Lunch at the unique outdoor parliament of the Tynwald was followed by a visit to Peel Castle and the Mannan Museum charting the history of the Isle of Man. We always leave these tours saying "we need to come back to the Island when there is no racing!".
It was also 'change over' day as many of our guests sadly departed, although they had had finally gotten some racing! New guests arrived and we met for the first time in the evening.
Tuesday evening was our Riders' Dinner. Featuring the inimitable legend Phil McCallen, 13 times TT winner, we were honoured to be joined by two top riders -- ironically Lee Johnson and James Hillier, the 1-2 of the previous day's Supersport race!
Indi and Veronika also joined us and stayed through dinner to share more of their stories, especially as many of the guests were new. Our colleague Sammy Morton was also on hand to tell us her experience of starting a road racing team (on 2- and 3-wheels). On a more sombre note, Chloe, the girlfriend of our guest last year and newly sponsored rider James Cowton was on hand, to announce their new team in the memory of James, who tragically passed three weeks after the 2018 TT at the Southern 100 road race.
Our favourite Moto-artist David Daisy was also on hand dripping eye candy and selling some of his superb pieces.
Another great night, with the final guests leaving after midnight (we are told!)
WEDNESDAY woke up on the wrong side of the bed, with more drizzle and grey skies. We had the day at the Honda Racing Team hospitality in the paddock, so figuring spending a soggy race day in a hospitality tent with great free Austrian beer surrounded by TT bikes and sidecars wasn't the worst way to pass the time, we headed on up. While awaiting the hourly (or more frequent!) changes to the schedules, we were treated to a tour of the paddock and several garages by our host, multiple TT- and World Sidecar champion Klaus Klaffenbock, which included a close-up look at the sidecar rig of 7-times world champion Tim Reeves and his passenger Mark Wilkes.
The day did end up fizzling out, with a Supersport race rescheduled to the evening; so most people returned to the hotel or wandered the paddock, or visited the legendary Bushy's Beer tent! A group went to Braddan Bridge in the hopes of catching the action as we had Monday, but just as we arrived, the race was called off.
With now a huge backlog of qualifying sessions and races, and the weather reports predicting the only nice day of the fortnight as Thursday, the organisers set out an ambitious 5-race Thursday schedule! We waited to see what the morning would bring...
THURSDAY did start promising. We had scheduled a lap of the course in the bus with our rider James Hillier. Given the mayhem of Friday pending (James was to participate in no fewer than 4 sessions, including 2 races), we let him off the hook. However being the hero he is, he told us he would still be happy to do it, and thus at 9 in the morning he joined our coach at the paddock and we spent the next 30 miles and nearly an hour getting a spellbinding narration of the mountain course from the man who had put it on the podium just two days earlier.
In the words of one of our guests: "The greatest piece of education I have ever experienced".
In another happy coincidence, we had booked the famous Creg-ny-ba for lunch. However now that all the racing was to occur that day, we did a last minute deal with the pub to take over the lower section of the bar as our private area! So with great lunch, great beer on tap and a warm and dry base, we spend the day inside and out catching most of the action!
Starting with Senior & superstock practice, we were able to view the Sidecar race 2 (dominated by the Birchall Brothers), Superstock Race and the second Supersport race. James took the podium in 3rd in the Supersport (we took some credit for this!) and Indi once again took a replica-worthy 21st. Sadly James had some problems in the Superstock and finished down the field a bit with Peter Hickman taking a resounding victory. The roads re-opened briefly about 1600, and most of the guests went back down, some to the hotel, others to the paddock to reclaim their grandstand seats still valid from the Wednesday. A small group of hard core fans remained at the Creg to see the final two races and practice. The Lightweights (650 twins) are always exciting, and Indi went from a qualification of 35th to finish 15th! Finally the TT Zero race took place - only 7 or so entries, but with lap times slightly faster than the Twins, this is not to be ignored! As expected, Michael Rutter took 1st, with John McGuinness enjoying his only podium of the week.
Following the final practice session of the Seniors, the last group made it back to Douglas and caught a typically excellent meal in the iconic Paparrazi Restaurant, littered with TT memorabilia.
FRIDAY senior race day had finally arrived!
All the weather reports promised a clear morning with bad weather setting in the afternoon. So all were in a rush to get the last remaining race, the climax of the TT, the Senior, underway.
One group headed back up to the Creg for very privileged viewing from the private terrace. Some went to the main grandstands for close up viewing of the start straight, start grid, pits and scoreboard; and others joined the VIP with its private grandstand, food and drink. A subset of VIPs joined the ultra-exclusive "platinums" at the front of the hall, and enjoyed access to the start grid, a private tour of the control tower, the winners enclosure, and the podium. Sadly, the course cars were unable to run owing to the truncated schedule.
The full 6 laps took place, with a sensation first Senior victory by Dean Harrison, with Peter Hickman and local lad Conor Cummins finishing the podium. It was triumphant in more ways than one -- we were all celebrating the incredible feat of managing to get ALL the racing in despite some of the worst weather in living memory at the TT!
We took the celebration further into our closing dinner, once again joined by Indi and Veronika. We did an impromptu fund raiser for Indi Racing, raising £1000 on the spot; and we agreed to start a "go fun me" appeal for Veronika to try to help her raise money to participate in the TT itself next year. (At the Manx TT in 2018 she was best female, and won a replica, and is now qualified to race the TT)
A brilliant close to what turned out to be a brilliant week after all!
About 15 guests stayed on and joined us SATURDAY for the PostTT races at the Southern 100 circuit at Castletown. We were treated to a guided lap of the circuit by 31 times winner Chris Williams. Following a lunch at the newly refurbished George Hotel, we had an opportunity to have a guided tour of the Southern 100 race control by the Clerk of the Course himself, Peter Oates. Fascinating and utterly professional.
It was nice to see head to head racing, and although the stresses of the week meant that many racers pulled out, there was still great action. In the second race, a mixed 650cc Twins and 250cc two strokes, one of the only two 2 stroke entries won the race! Old timers celebrated!
A few of us finished the day and the week with a pint in one of the best pubs on the planet, the renown Glue Pot in Castletown, while many of the rest of the crew decided a final pint in the Sefton was in order.
People attending the TT might have been a bit cold, a bit wet, perhaps had to wait a bit; but in the end got in all the racing and for certain can be proud to have participated in what was perhaps the most memorable TT in modern times.
Five races in a day was a TT record, and we are now calling it "Mad Thursday" (as opposed to "Sad Sunday"). Hats off to the TT organising committee and the fans and riders that make all the madness possible!
Can't wait for 2020! (And don't forget the Classic TT in August!)
Picture gallery - Isle of Man TT 2019
See our photos of the event on Flickr here
Or check out ALL of our past event galleries here