Monday brings us the first of the two Monster Energy Supersport TT races at the 2014 Isle of Man TT — though just barely, as isolated showers first delayed the start and nearly cut its ending short. Thankfully though, all four laps of the Supersport TT race were held, and great racing ensued for the fans who braved the weather.
When it comes to single-lap speed, Bruce Anstey is the man at the Isle of Man this year. Setting the outright fastest lap ever around the Snaefell Mountain Course, on the last lap of the Dainese Superbike TT no less, Anstey has another record to be proud of at the 2014 Isle of Man TT: the fastest TT lap ever on an electric motorcycle, at 112.355 mph unofficial.
For those not keeping up with the TT Zero news, Bruce Anstey is playing teammate to John McGuinness on Team Mugen. The Japanese tuning brand has brought its third-generation electric superbike to the TT, appropriately calling the 500+ lbs behemoth the Mugen Shinden San (san meaning “three” in Japanese).
For the first real racing at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, I had to choose Creg-ny-Baa. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition for me now, as I’ve shot the Superbike TT race from there a few times now. As an added bonus, there aren’t any midges, which is a relief after Barregarrow’s flying bug population feasted on me last night!
One of the most recognisable and iconic sections of the course, the Creg (as it is usually mentioned) signals what is essentially the end of the descent from the top of the blindingly-quick mountain section.
It is fairly similar to a short circuit corner, which I usually try to avoid taking photos of at the TT, as corners like this, and those at the Gooseneck and Signpost, just don’t convey how spectacular the TT is to watch.
Despite my usual reasoning, the Creg has a few unique features, which include the backdrop of the Creg-ny-Baa pub when you’re on the inside of the corner, and Kate’s Cottage when shooting from the front of the pub.
Another great feature there are the rows of fans lining the grass at the side of the road who will wave, applaud, and cheer the riders as they pass, especially on the final lap when the leading rider has essentially wrapped-up victory.
If you are not following the 2014 Isle of Man TT, you are missing out on some great racing already, and we’re only once race into the TT fortnight. Getting down to business with the big bikes, the Dainese Superbike TT has set the standard quite high, with some proper-good road racing happening on the Isle.
We won’t spoil the results from the race, but we will say that the 132 mph barrier was broken during the Superbike TT. Bruce Anstey, the 44-year-old Kiwi, put down a “mega” 132.298 mph lap, while on his Honda/Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Motocycle Honda CBR1000RR SP.
The late evening practice sessions have finally given way to the mid-day races at the Isle of Man, and that means that the 2014 Isle of Man TT has started in earnest. As always, the Dainese Superbike TT was the opening event, which is just the perfect way to start the TT…with the big toys on the Mountain Course, right?
This year’s event brings all sorts of questions. Will Michael Dunlop continue the domination he began back in 2013? Or will John McGuinness reclaim his crown, and make further progress into besting Joey Dunlop’s outright TT race win record? How about fan favorite Guy Martin, and his hunt for his first Isle of Man TT race win? Thankfully, some of those answers can begin to come forthwith.
For this evening’s session, I decided to shoot from a place on the course I’ve seen pictures from numerous times before, and always had an itch to shoot there myself one day.
Following the famous Cronk-y-Voddy straight, Barregarrow (pronounced “Beh-garrow” by the locals) is an infamous dip where machinery is pushed to the limit. Accelerating from the top of the section, down a hill most people wouldn’t want to cycle up, the bikes hit a small rise that momentarily jumps them and the rider into the air.
Par for the course on the Mountain circuit, until the bike lands and its suspension is fully compressed as the riders hit the bottom of the hill, which is also a fairly severe dip in the tarmac, which can be felt at anything above 30 mph.
This ensures plenty of scraped belly pans, spectacular images, and sometimes a few sparks, but never the dropping of revs, as the riders hit their apex and continue on their way to Kirk Michael village. All the obvious challenges of shooting a spot like this are present – the immense speeds and the fading light as the sessions progress.
The sidecar session especially, was fairly tricky due to the lowering evening sun. But, tonight had a more evil enemy than the technical aspects of using a camera, as I was eaten alive by the bloody midges, which have left me with blotchy red bites all over my arms and legs.
Returning to Lezayre for Thursday evening’s practice, with the promise of better weather than the previous night, there was still the threat of rain in the air when I arrived.
Lezayre is an eye-wateringly fast section of the circuit. It is on the run towards Ramsey, and is the most northernly section of the circuit.
Also known as the Conker Fields or “K” Tree, the riders wrestle with the bike as it rears it’s front end towards the heavens on a left-handed, fifth-gear kink. To give you an idea of the “K” Tree’s challenge, skip to 1:10 on this video to see Dan Kneen in full-flow through there.
Despite the rain holding off, tonight was another challenging session to shoot, as the ever-fading light under the trees made it increasingly difficult to track the riders with the autofocus on both of my camera bodies. Quite an issue when riders are travelling at speeds easily approaching 150 mph!
A typical practice day spent at the Isle of Man TT starts in the evening, as the roads close just around dinner time (the Isle of Man’s latitude means the sun sets near 10pm). One finds a good vantage point before the roads close though, which also means choosing a spot that will provide their specatating for the next fews hours, as getting around the Mountain Course is nigh impossible once the bikes get going.
Those few hours are spent watching racers scream by at triple-digit speeds, until the sessions end and the roads re-open. Grabbing a quick bite to eat, spectators typical congregate at the bars where they drink, or the home-stays they sleep, and share what they saw on the course with their mate, over drinks and food of course.
As the night comes to an end, the TV stations air their coverage of the day, which pieces together the day’s events, and adds a cohesive narrative to what was before just a single-corner vantage point. Rinse and repeat this for nearly a week, and you have an idea of why the Isle of Man TT is so special, and less of a race and more of an event.
After a glorious Tuesday evening practice, the weather was looking decidedly gloomy before this evening’s session. Due to an abundance of cloud cover and impending showers, I can honestly say that my decision to shoot from Lezayre wasn’t the best idea I’ve had so far this TT.
Unfortunately the session was stopped, after most riders had only managed a solitary lap, due to an incident at the top of Barregarrow. Combined with the failing light and ever-heavier rain showers on the Northerly sections of the circuit (including myself at Lezayre) the Clerk of the Course cancelled all sessions this evening.
Due to a lack of racing action I will leave you all with a few sights from around the paddock today, and hopes for better weather (and light) for tomorrow’s practice.
We were treated to perfect conditions for Tuesday evenings practice and after a bit of deliberation I decided to go to the Greeba Castle section of the course.
Greeba Castle is a tight S-bend lined with trees and Manx stone walls. The riders have been flat on the stop for two or three miles before breaking hard into this section. The first left-hander is taken quite slowly before they drive through the right-hander and out into a pocket of sunlight, before disappearing out of sight and onto the Alpine section.
I hadn’t photographed there before, in truth I had been put off a little as I’d heard it was tricky as you are perched on top of 5 1/2 foot wall. As the sun was shining I decided it was the perfect night to go and try it out.
The stories I’d been told of the wall were not exaggerated, and not being as mobile as I once was once took a few attempts to get up. You might be thinking that 5 1/2 feet doesn’t sound very much, but when you are sitting on it, planning an escape route, it looks like 10 feet.
Thankfully I didn’t have to throw myself from the wall, the only problem encountered where the dreaded Manx Midges. My head has started itching again as I begin to think about the little bastards.