Whenever I have the pleasure of running across MotoGP’s official statistician and number cruncher Dr. Martin Raines, he likes to point out to me exactly why we are living through a golden age of racing.
His arguments are backed with a battery of indisputable facts and figures, which boil down to a single fact: the races have never been closer. Not in terms of gap between the podium finishers, not in terms of gap between first and last, nor between all points finishers. This is an era of truly great racing.
As if to underline his point, the Barcelona Grand Prix served up a veritable smorgasbord of fantastic races: a strong win and thrilling podium battle in Moto3, a surprisingly hard-fought Moto2 race, and to top it off, perhaps the most exciting MotoGP race we have had since 2006, with four riders slugging it out and swapping places right to the final lap.
The winner of the MotoGP race may have been predictable – any bet against Marc Marquez looks more and more foolish each week – but in Barcelona, Marquez’s victory looked in doubt all the way to the final couple of corners.
For what was to be the final day of this year’s TT races, I decided to stick to habit/tradition and shoot the Lightweight and Senior races from Ballaugh bridge, around 17 miles into the Mountain Course.
After passing through Kirk Michael and the famous Rhencullen jump, the riders quickly find themselves approaching the famous humpback bridge. With a variety of lines and methods of taking this unique obstacle, there are plenty of thrills for the gathered spectators.
From the measured approach of Bruce Anstey, who takes very little air and lands the front wheel down before the rear, to the balls out air time of Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes and newcomer Phil Crowe, there is such a difference in styles between the field.
For a photographer at Ballaugh, there are a couple of main challenges. The shadows created by the trees at the side of the bridge make it quite tricky to expose the bikes and background correctly because it can leave the dark tarmac looking washed-out and far too bright when the sun is stronger. This leaves you constantly altering the settings on your camera to keep the images as evenly lit as possible.
The second issue to deal with is keeping track of approaching riders – like most places on the course you can hear the screaming engines begin to ease off and shift through the gearbox, but when multiple riders approach it always helps to spot the order they are in to shoot the leaders or other specific riders. By following the top of approaching helmets through the hedges, you have a fighting chance to capture the right rider.
The final race of the 2014 Isle of Man TT is upon us, the “blue ribbon” event as they call it on the Isle, we are of course talking about the Senior TT.
Six laps of high-octane racing, the smart money pick was of course on Michael Dunlop and his BMW S1000RR superbike — despite BMW having not been at the Isle of Man in decades, and Dunlop never having won a Senior before in his career.
With perfect weather on the Snaefell Mountain Course, TT fans were treated to a fine Senior TT, which was full of close racing.
Friday’s Isle of Man TT racing started off with the Bike Nation Lightweight TT, where the field is comprised of two-cylinder four-stroke machines that cannot have more than 650cc in engine capacity — as such, the field is dominated by Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport bikes.
A race fit for grooming the future talent of the Isle of Man TT, the Lightweight TT sees the big name stars in its ranks as well, though the field is comprised mostly of greener riders. One man noticeably absent from the Lightweight TT grid was Michael Dunlop, who decided to sit out the race and focus on the day’s later race, the blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT.
Before heading up to the Bungalow for today’s races, the weather looked fairly promising with only cloud cover, and no ominous darker clouds threatening rain.
Once I’d arrived it was a different story, with the low clouds covering the tram stop at the top of Snaefell – the island’s highest peak at over 2,000ft – threatening to roll down towards the circuit.
The Bungalow is one of the highest points on the course, as the riders exit the Verandah and continue on their way towards Kate’s Cottage. If you watched last year’s TT highlights you’ll recognise it as the point where Michael Dunlop’s CBR600RR made a damn good attempt to throw him off, leaving rubber on the road and forcing him to take a much wider line through the corner than usual.
Usually the backdrop to any image at the Bungalow is a lush, green hillside, but today it was mainly the low, rolling clouds. This makes the camera try to expose the whiteness of the clouds, leaving the bikes underexposed if you don’t work around it.
With a packed Wednesday schedule, riders had only moments after the TT Zero celebration to mount their Supersport machines for the second race of the Monster Energy Supersport TT, and with mist reported on the mountain, a quick send-off was also necessary in order to ensure a full race distance ensued.
The only man not in a rush though was John McGuinness, as the now 21-time TT race winner had announced in the morning that he and the Padgetts Hona team had decided it best not to race in the second Supersport race of the 2014 Isle of Man TT, as McPint has been suffering from a wrist injury, which was noticeably holding him back this TT fortnight.
In fine form all week though has been the Kiwi Bruce Anstey, and he and Michael Dunlop seemed set for another showdown on the Snaefell Mountain Course.
An event we’ve been eagerly waiting for, the 2014 SES TT Zero electric race was billed as a battle for the #1 spot between the Mugen riders, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey, and battle between everyone else for the third and final podium position. And that is exactly what the 2014 Isle of Man TT fans got.
First to leave Glencrutchery Road, and the first to return, John McGuinness took his 21st IOMTT race win while on the Mugen Shinden San. The first time that the Mugen team has won the electric solo race at the IOMTT, McGuinness’s lap also officially broke the outright record for an electric motorcycle at the Isle of Man TT, with a 117.366 mph lap.
To put that lap time in perspective, rally driver Mark Higgins managed only a 116.470 mph lap during the Subaru exhibition lap, which immediately followed the TT Zero race; that time also bests Ryan Farquhar’s best Lightweight TT flying lap of 116.840 mph from practice.