In the world of motorcycle racing the Isle of Man TT is indeed infamous, and as a photographer I have been lucky enough to shoot on the Isle in the Irish Sea. When my letter of credential for the Le Mans 24 Hour Moto arrived, I was beyond ecstatic — my charge would be to cover those same TT riders as they participated in the FIM World Endurance Championship finale at Le Mans.
An overnight flight from my home in Atlanta, and a train ride from Paris to Le Mans, and I was on-site 48 hours later. There are times when arriving at a circuit that I have never shot can be daunting, but one walk thru the door to the Honda TT Legends pits and I felt at home. As much due to the familiar faces, as to the more relaxed atmosphere of the team here at Le Mans versus the intensity at the Isle of Man.
Seeing the return of American racing legend Kevin Schwantz to FIM road racing, the 2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race was certainly one to remember.
While the return of Schwantz overshadowed many of the other big names in the sport that competed in the event, not to mention the former World Champion’s own teammates: Noriyuki Haga & Yukio Kagayama, the Suzuka starting grid was also blessed with the entries of Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Josh Brookes, John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Simon Andrews, and American Jason Pridmore.
Though a long eight-our race, the on-course action was surprisingly close, with the Top 5 teams on the same lap well past the three-hour mark. Team Kagayama was in good shape for a solid result from the onset of the race, as Noriyuka Haga put the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 in a solid fourth position.
The team rose as high as second-position with Team Manager Yukio Kagayama on-board, as the Suzuka specialist kept a solid pace, and benefited from the pit stops of other teams, not to mention the retirement of the FCC TSR Honda team, which had a race-ending crash with Ryuichi Kiyonari at the helm.
While the crash from Kiyonari on the FCC TSR Honda dashed the race-win-repeat hopes of World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea, Kevin Schwantz finally dazzled fans in the third hour as he took to the course. For all the postulation that the 49-year-old was over the hill for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the Texan held his own on the Kagayama Suzuki, and managed to keep Team Kagayama in the podium hunt, especially as other top teams succumbed to the rigors of endurance racing.
The pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport, as far as the Japanese are concerned, is the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on the Endurance World Championship calendar.
Immensely popular with the fans and fielded with a bevy of expert local teams, even the Japanese OEMs take the Suzuka 8 Hours very seriously — and are not above stacking their factory squads with the top riders from various national and international road racing series.
One such team at Suzuka is the Honda TT Legends crew, which as the name implies, is made up of legends from the Isle of Man TT: John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews. Backed by Honda Europe, McPint & crew are on some top machinery, but as they have already seen in qualifying, that’s only part of the battle.
With Rutter and Andrews having never ridden at Suzuka before, the team has a steep learning curve, though over the eight-hour race, we think they will have plenty of time to crawl back from their 29th spot qualifying, and into their Top 10 goal. Racing kicks off Sunday at 11:30am local (JST), but until then enjoy this on-board footage and witty banter from Mr. TT.
Monster Energy doesn’t really have a reputation for being understated, so we should probably cut them some slack when “The World’s Most Awesome Road Race” is the title of the their four-and-half-minute tribute to the Isle of Man TT. After all if you have seen TT in person, you will probably agree with Monster’s assessment. As the kids say, it’s cray.
The title sponsor for the two Supersport races, and the personal sponsor to a number of riders, namely the King himself John McGuinness, Monster Energy is a great supporter of this iconic road race, and has been doing its part to help cross-polinate athletes with the Manx race, so it’s good to see them promoting the sport even further with videos like this.
If you are like us and going through a bit of Isle of Man TT withdrawal, here is a little something more to help you ease those pangs. A video of the “most awesome” road race is after the jump.
The progress in the last five years on electric motorcycles has been astounding. Taking their first laps around the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course, a 87.434 mph pace was the best an electric motorcycle could do at the prestigious road race in 2009 — a pace that was on par with the 50cc record set in 1971. Since that time though, the development of these machines has grown by leaps and bounds.
In just five years after the first laps were taken by electric motorcycles at Snaefell, these machines have grown their average lap speeds by over 20 mph at the TT Zero race, setting a new record of 109.675 mph in 2013, and boasting a rate of improvement of roughly 5 mph each year since 2009.
If hitting 142.2 mph down the Sulby Straight speed trap wasn’t further proof of the speeds these bikes are achieving, maybe some visual evidence will help support the notion. Checkout the on-board videos of Michael Rutter (on the 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc) and John McGuinness (on the 2013 Mugen Shinden Ni) after the jump.
The blue ribbon event of the Isle of Man TT, the Senior TT is typically the most-welcomed race at the end of the TT fortnight, but after seeing the 2012 race cancelled (for the first time ever outside of World War I & II), on the account of rain, the 2013 PokerStars Senior TT has an amazing amount of build-up.
As if the running of the fastest machines on the Mountain Course wasn’t enough, there was the prospect that Michael Dunlop could sweep the five main solo-classes, a feat only ever done once before, by Ian Hutchinson.
As the flag dropped, and we held our breaths to see if John McGuinness would get his first race win this TT fortnight, if Micky D could make the clean sweep, or if another competitor would rise to the challenge (Guy Martin, anyone?), tragedy struck: a red flag on the first lap.
Jonathan Howarth went off at Bray Hill, and though he was hurt, but ok, the accident injured 10 spectators, one critically. Having already waited two years to see the return of the Senior TT, fans at the Isle of Man would have to wait a little longer it would seem.
In a statement by the ACU that was published right after the incident, “ten spectators and the rider were taken to hospital with injuries ranging from slight to serious but not life threatening. Four of the spectators have been discharged, five of the injured have been kept in hospital and one remains under observation in the emergency department.”
A racing event fraught with tragedy and real-world danger, we all breathed a sigh of relief a dodging another tragic outcome at this year’s TT. Moving onward thanfully, the 2013 Senior TT resumed three hours later, click past the jump for its race results.
You either love the technology and progress being showcased in the SES TT Zero race at the Isle of Man TT, or you hate the lack of sound, slower speeds, and fairly predictable outcomes that the electric race provides.
For our part, we love watching the electrics go around the Mountain Course, and if you have been following the practice and qualifying sessions for the TT Zero class, the racing is anything but a parade lap at the pointy end of the entry list.
To win though, McGuinness would have to defeat two-time TT Zero winner Michael Rutter, and the 2010 TT Zero winner Mark Miller, both of whom are on the brand new 2013 MotoCzysz E1pc this fortnight. Well, now we know the answer. Click through past the jump for our full race report 2013 SES TT Zero.
We would be remiss in our coverage of the 2013 Isle of Man TT if we didn’t say a few more words about Joey Dunlop. A legend of the sport, Joey is the winningest rider ever to race at the Isle of Man, and has 26 TT race wins to his name. Unfortunately, Joey died while road racing in Estonia, losing control of his 125cc race bike in the wet conditions.
The longest standing Honda rider of all time, Big Red wanted to pay tribute to Dunlop at this year’s TT, as it marked the 30th anniversary of Joey’s first win with the Japanese brand. Picking John McGuinness to ride in Joey’s livery, the current King of the Mountain started his career as a teammate to Joey, and was honored to pay homage to the racing legend.
In the video, you can hear McGuinness getting a bit choked up talking about his idol, and we think all the TT fans on the course enjoyed seeing Joey’s old colors go by. He truly is a legend of our sport. Enjoy Honda TT Legends’ video after the jump.
Another four-lap race, the Royal London 360 Superstock TT features the big bikes, but as the name implies, in superstock trim (i.e. with only a few modifications to motorcycle compared to as it comes from the factory).
Even though these bikes are only mildly tuned, the mostly 1,000cc four-cylinder field is surprisingly fast — putting down average lap speeds that are only shy of the Superbike and Senior laps by a mile per hour or two. The second race from Monday, after Race 1 of the Monster Energy Supersport TT, we have a Superstock TT race report for you after the jump.