After a break of several weeks following Sachsenring I was ready to get going again and was really looking forward to my trip to the States for the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
I decided when looking for flights that I wanted to travel via Dublin. When flying to the States from Dublin, you clear US Immigration on the way out of Dublin. Some friends of mine travelled this way last year and had said it was a much better experience. No immigration queues on arrival which is particular beneficial if you have to catch a connecting flight.
Having booked my flight I was faced with a problem. The airlines connecting the Isle of Man with Dublin had a very small hand luggage allowance. I was not going to be able to bring my camera gear as carry-on and there was no way I was going to check it. I was left with no choice but to travel to Dublin by ferry.
Traveling by ferry would not normally be my first choice, I’m not blest with the best see legs. However, it turned out to be a refreshing change and I enjoyed the journey. I don’t think I’d be saying the same thing if I was traveling by ferry during the winter months though.
My flight out of Dublin wasn’t until the next day so a few pints of Guinness in Temple Bar with a bit of diddle dee seamed the ideal way to spend the afternoon.
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.
Upon arriving at the circuit on Saturday morning it was evident that the weather was going to play a big part in the days proceedings. With light but persistent rain falling all morning, the conditions were far from ideal for racing.
The conditions also caused a problem with my planned shooting locations for the day. I had planned to start at Joey’s Windmill, and work my way to the Lougher’s for the feature Superbike race.
Lougher’s is the fastest corner on the track. On a Superbike the riders are touching in the region 170mph while fighting to keep the front wheel on the ground on the exit — a classic road racing corner, and a place I was keen to photograph.
After photographing the Superstock race from Joey’s Windmill it soon became evident that Lougher’s was not going to give me the shot I wanted, due to the conditions. I decided to abandon my original plan and jumped in the car and drove over to Rusheyhill near the start, as I wanted to get a group shot of the riders leaving the line.
Arriving in Rusheyhill I was surprised to find that part of the circuit was completely dry. There was only two miles between the two locations but the track conditions could not have been any more different. The feature Superbike race was run in arguably the best conditions of the day with Bruce Anstey taking victory after a great battle with Guy Martin and Lee Johnston.
After the Superbike race had finished I headed back to the car and drove over to Tornagrough for the 2nd Supersport race.
After a lengthy delay following a crash on the opening lap, the organisers decided to cancel the Supersport race and send out the Supertwins. By this time the weather had deteriorated all round the track and the organisers abandoned the meeting once the Supertwins race had finished.
Having travelled to Indianapolis through Dublin, it seamed only right upon my return to make the short trip over the border into Northern Ireland for the Ulster Grand Prix.
Having only visited The Ulster once as a spectator back in 2007, I’m pretty much a novice to the circuit. The corner names are not familiar, so I didn’t have much of a clue of were to shoot Thursday’s action from. One place I did know from my previous visit was the Deers Leap section, so I based myself there for the day.
The riders come onto the Deers Leap through a quick right-hand bend before wheeling over the crest at Deers Leap itself, and down under the trees into Cochranstown. There is a huge elevation change trough the section. Standing at the top looking down to Cochranstown it looks like the riders are dropping off the face of the earth as they the crest Deers Leap.
The racing on Thursday is actually the Dundrod 150, the traditional warm up to Saturday’s Ulster Grand Prix. After long delays due to two incidents in the early races, Guy Martin won the feature race of the day, after a race long battle with Bruce Anstey. Martin crossed the line only 0.244 seconds ahead of Anstey with Michael Dunlop 2.5 seconds further back in third.
All of the results of the days racing can be found on the Ulster Grand Prix’s official website.
The worst part of any MotoGP weekend is without doubt the traveling. Sitting around airports is monotonous, especially when traveling alone. No matter how meticulously you prepare, something will almost certainly come along and throw a spanner in the works.
When travelling to Amsterdam for the Assen race weekend it was the French air traffic control strike. Prior to that I had been fog bound in the Isle of Man on my way to Jerez. This time it was staff sickness which left me sitting around Gatwick airport for an extra three hours while the airline tried to sort it out.
I didn’t arrive at my hotel at Berlin airport until gone midnight. My plans for a relaxing that evening, watching the world cup with a couple of German beers, were ruined. Receiving an upgrade on my hire car did make up for the delay, and made the unrestricted German Autobahns fun.
Ask someone to name a motorcycle race held on public roads, chances are they will say the Isle of Man TT. The TT is not the only road race, far from it. In fact in a little over a week, practice for the Ulster Grand Prix begins, one of the most popular races on the road racing calendar.
For those of you not familiar with the event, it is held on the 7.732 mile Dundrod circuit near Belfast in Northern Ireland. The Ulster, as it’s referred to by road racing fans, was part of the inaugural Grand Prix motorcycle racing season in 1949, a place it held until 1971.
Unlike the TT’s time trial format, it’s a mass-start race and in recent years has been given the tag “The Fastest Road Race in the World”. The lap record currently stands to Bruce Anstey at an average speed of 133.977mph. Road racing legend Joey Dunlop holds the record for most wins with 24.