The dust has now settled on this year’s Classic TT. For those unfamiliar with the event, the Classic TT was born from the ashes of the old Manx Grand Prix. Run on the same Mountain Course as the TT, the Manx as it was affectionately known, featured racing on modern and classic machinery.
Originally created as the amateur rider’s TT, TT legends such as Steve Hislop and Philip McCallen first cut their teeth at the Manx before moving on to the TT. Multiple World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty won at “The Manx” in the 1985.
As media interest in the old Manx Grand Prix format dwindled, the Manx government started looking at ways to improve its marketing appeal and increase visitor numbers. Early proposals to cut the amount of modern classes were met with protests by some local fans, but a new format was eventually agreed and the Festival of Motorcycling was born.
The Festival of Motorcycling comprises of the Classic TT, for, well classic bikes, the Manx National 2 day trial, the Manx Classic 2 day trial and the hugely popular Vintage Motorcycle Club Festival of Jurby. The Festival has also retained the modern classes which are still run under the Manx Grand Prix name.
The Classic TT, being the focal point of the event, draws in most of the top TT stars to ride; including 21 times TT winner John McGuinness and 12 times winner Michael Dunlop.
As in its previous guise, the festival is spread over two weeks. Practice takes place over the first week with the modern and classic machines sharing the track.
Although, when it comes to the racing, the Classic TT takes centre stage with the races being held on the middle Saturday and the following Monday with the Manx Grand Prix races on the Wednesday and Friday.
Having missed the 2013 event, I was looking forward to comparing the new format with the old and I have to say I am a fan – particularly of the Classic TT Formula 1 race.
Being a 4- something, the machines raced in the Formula 1 race are the ones I can remember as a teenager. Honda RC30′s, Yamaha OWO1′s, Kawasaki ZXR750′s with the highlight being Bruce Anstey’s YZR500 Yamaha which he rode to victory in this year’s race. For those a little older than me there are 500cc Paton’s, MV Agusta’s, Manx Norton’s, BSA Goldstars and the list goes on.
Arguably the highlight of the festival was the collection of ex-Joey Dunlop racing machines on display in the paddock. Some of them left as they were when Joey last raced them, dead flies and all.
A fitting tribute was paid to Joey with “The Rivals” parade lap featuring some of his greatest rivals. Legendary names from the past such as Graeme Crosby, Mick Grant, Tony Rutter and Brian Reid. Michael Dunlop represented his father Robert (Joey’s brother) on the JPS Norton which much have been an emotional moment for him.
One part of the event I did not like was the 80′s themed fancy dress event run at the paddock on the Friday before the first race. I really don’t see what the organisers have to gain from having John McGuinness dressed as Pamela Anderson bouncing down pit lane on a space hopper. As funny as it may sound, it’s tacky and not in keeping with the rest of the event.
Apart from this one slight negative, the event is clearly moving in the right direction which was evident with the significantly increased media presence and visitor numbers in comparison with previous years.
If you like your motorcycle racing with a touch of nostalgia then the Classic TT and Festival of Motorcycling could well be for you.
Tony Goldsmith is an Isle of Man based freelance motorcycle racing photographer specializing in the Isle of Man TT races. He has also covered selected rounds of the British Superbike Championship and MotoGP. His online archive is available at www.tgfphotos.com and he can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.