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.
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.
Given every year to the rider who wins the most points in the five main event solo races, the Joey Dunlop TT Championship Trophy is the not the ultimate goal for the competitors in the Isle of Man TT, but it certainly is a prestigious prize. Winning four of the five main races this week already, Michael Dunlop has locked up the trophy named after his Uncle Joey, ahead of the TT’s blue ribbon race, the Senior TT.
Michael will be keen to win the Senior, less so because of the clean sweep, but more so because it would single the true arrival of the Irish racer as a serious contender in every class. Before this TT fortnight, Dunlop had won only three races (two Supersport races and one Superstock race) at the Isle of Man, though he wasn’t considered just yet to be in the same league as the veteran Superbike class riders. We believer that distinction is no longer relevant.
After three increasingly impressive performances in the first three solo races at this year’s Isle Of Man TT, the Michael Dunlop we have been watching tackle the Mountain Course this week seems to be signalling a clear message of intent to the rest of the road racing field.
Following in the footsteps of his father Robert and his uncle Joey, who achieved a combined record of 31 wins and 54 podiums at the TT, and an astronomical amount of wins on road circuits across the world, Michael had already won three races on the island before this year’s event.
Despite this already impressive record on the Island, his frustration (and clear intent) was always apparent when it came to the Superbike class, as his two wins in Supersport and one in the Superstock class might have been perceived as “easier” wins by more cynical men than myself.
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.
Like the sidecars, the Isle of Man TT features two Supersport races during the TT fortnight, and the Supersport TT has riders taking their600cc class machinery for a shorter four-lap race.
A stepping stone from the Lightweight class, which is limited to sub-650cc twins, the Supersports serve as a gateway to the bigger bikes, and usually have a different mix of riders filling vying for the front.
With the foul weather from the practice week behind them, the TT riders were treated with a perfect day for racing on The Rock, and we have a full report on who made it into the winner’s circle after the jump.
The first solo bike race of the 2013 Isle of Man TT, the Dainese Superbike TT race features 1,000cc superbike fours (1,200cc twins), which complete six laps around the Isle of Man’s Mountain Course. A prelude of things to come during the TT’s blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT, the Superbike TT boasts all the top names on the fastest machinery, and typically is the opening race for the IOMTT.
While many of us are counting down the start to the second rounds of World Superbike and MotoGP, the season-opener for the FIM Endurance World Championship is just around the corner as well. Starting the season with the Bol d’Or 24 Heures at Magny-Cours on April 20th, the Honda TT Legends dream team was out in Albacete, Spain getting some last minute practice in with their Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike.
Built around the relatively low-tech Honda CBR1000RR street bike, the TT Legends crew have fitted the CBR with a MoTeC ECU, which provides traction control, wheelie control, and other electronic rider aids. Though the system is not necessarily increasing the top lap times of riders John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Michael Dunlop, and Andrew Simon, the MoTeC ECU does allow for the riders to ride within a more comfortable margin of safety and use less energy while on the bike.
In the game of endurance racing, managing riders’ energy is just as crucial of a component as is keeping the bike out of the kitty litter. Addressing both those concerns with their modifications, the Honda TT Legends team should be better equipped to challenge for the podium in the four-round Championship, especially at the longer 24-hour races like the Bol d’Or and Le Mans.
Helping us gear-up for the incoming season, there is some dubstepped video goodness after the jump. Enjoy.
With Cameron Donald and Honda TT Legends parting ways two weeks ago, and Michael Dunlop testing with the outfit’s World Endurance Championship squad in Albacete, Spain last week, the logical conclusion of those two events has occurred, with Dunlop singing on to ride with Honda TT Legend’s in the team’s two 24-hour races (the Bol d’Or 24 & the Le Mans 24-hour), riding alongside John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews.
Racing as well for the Honda TT Legends team in its road racing events at the Isle of Man TT and North West 200, Dunlop will also act as the reserve rider the HRC-backed squad at the Suzuka 8-hour race. For the young Irishman, it will be a bit of change from road circuits to proper race tracks, but the added exposure of another international series should certainly be a boon to his already promising racing career (Dunlop has three TT race wins under his belt already).