The Isle of Man TT for Non-Bikers (2)

Never trust a Scot when it comes to financial matters….. “£3 or £4 a night” down at Castletown FC turned out to be £8 per person (ie £16) per night. It’s a great spot though, right next to the racing.

In addition to the Scottish chap called Mick who gave Mark the dud price info up at Ramsey, there’s another Scot down here in Castletown, Andy, who is keeping costs to a minimum by only parking up here during the day and disappearing off up the road for a bit of wild camping at night. Honestly, what are those Jocks like? 😋

Mark admits to having told both Mick and Andy his favourite Scottish joke:

Q: How was copper wire invented?

A: Two jocks arguing over a penny 💰

We’ll post a roundup of what we’ve been up to down in Castletown in a day or two, but for now, back to the TT proper.

I decided to put Mark to work the other night distilling his biking wisdom into a short list of the riders he expects to do particularly well at this year’s TT.

I’ve added my thoughts from an alternative, non-biker perspective. If I haven’t written much against a particular rider, it’s because I don’t know much 😎

1. Michael Dunlop

Mark says: from the famous Northern Irish racing family. Michael’s uncle Joey Dunlop holds the record for the most TT wins at 26. Only 29 years old and with 15 TT wins already, Michael could equal or pass his uncle’s record before he hangs up his leathers. Holds the TT lap record.

Jo says: “to be sure to be sure”, as I call him, is a chubby-faced lad (though Mark tells me he’s lost weight this year) whose famous uncle Joey was killed in a bike crash. His dad Robert Dunlop was killed in a bike crash. So what are Michael and his brother William doing? Well, racing bikes of course!

Listening to Manx Radio when we were here in 2016 (which often features short interviews with the riders), I soon discovered that Michael Dunlop’s Northern Irish accent is completely and utterly unintelligible to my ears. All I could make out was “ye knooooow” at the end of almost every sentence. As a result of this complete informational black hole, Dunlop was definitely not my rider of choice last time round.

I’ve had to revise my ideas this time though. My previous favourite is in the dog house (more on that later), and Dunlop has found his voice – on paper if not on the radio.

Many of the top TT riders have churned out an autobiography (well, paid a ghost writer to churn out an autobiography). Dunlop’s is by far the best of the three I’ve read, very entertaining and an honest insight into his bike racing career. So I’ve let him off his elocution issues.

2. Peter Hickman

Mark says: a podium finish in every race last year, but still looking for his first win. Did well at the recent North West 200 race meeting with a win in the SuperStock race. Fourth fastest man round the TT circuit.

Jo says: Many of the riders have their name written on the bum of their leathers for the TV cameras. As bike riders tend to be a very skinny lot, long names have to be shortened somehow. Why you’d want “Hicky” written across your backside, though, is beyond me.

3. Dean Harrison

Mark says: plenty of experience at 29 years old. One TT victory already, looking for more. Going really well this year on the roads. The 8th fastest man around the TT circuit.

Jo says: there’s an interview with Hickman and Harrison in this year’s TT programme. Dean Harrison comes across as a really sound chap. Looks can be deceptive: looking at his photo you might assume he was a supermarket shelf stacker not a 200mph superhero.

4. James Hillier

Mark says: 50 TT starts, one victory, 10 podiums. The 5th fastest man and loads of experience round the mountain circuit.

Jo says: This guy looks like he should be in a boy band, not on a bike! Very easy to spot in 2016 due to the amount of Kawasaki green on both his bikes and himself. I wish more riders/teams would make themselves easier to pick out for novices like me!

I know nothing about him but I’ve had a look at his twitter feed and it’s all good positive stuff. Here’s what he posted before the first TT practice session yesterday, for example:

5. Lee Johnston

Mark says: 26 TT starts and two podium finishes. With a new team this year and going really well after coming back from injury. 15th fastest round the TT circuit.

Jo says: I’m still completely confused by the fact that there are two Johnsons and one Johnston among the top riders. Perhaps two of them should change their surnames by deed poll?

6. Conor Cummins

Mark says: A local lad. 26 TT starts and 6 podium finishes. Lots of experience but still looking for a win. The 9th fastest rider round the course.

Jo says: Some people have a few seconds in life that they’re never going to be able to get away from. Monica Lewinsky, for example, or Conor Cummins. There’s a link here to a slow-motion YouTube video of Cummins’ infamous 2010 TT crash at the Verandah (warning: not for the squeamish). One of very few men in history to be able to say he was incredibly lucky to bounce clean over a dry stone wall…

We were wandering through Ramsey a few days ago when I spotted a coffee shop I didn’t recall from our last visit. It was one of those with a bit of a bar and stools along the inside of the window, and it looked like it could be quite nice. I was trying to peer through to see the seating inside and, if possible, the coffee machine when a bloke sat in the window in a white T-shirt and dark shades suddenly raised his hand in acknowledgement.

Simultaneously, I thought “eh?” (as you can see, I’m quite eloquent when confused!) and Mark said “that’s Conor Cummins”. He’s a local lad and it turns out that this is his coffee shop, opened a matter of weeks ago. He’s clearly operating under the misapprehension that anyone looking in through the window is there to see him rather than just interested in the coffee ☕

In the above photo of the coffee shop, you can just see the white of Conor Cummins’ t-shirt sleeve in the corner of the left-hand window. I didn’t dare take a photo in which he was more visible in case he saw me, assumed I was some kind of groupie, and ran out to foist his autograph on me….

7. Ian “Hutchy” Hutchinson

Mark says: 54 TT starts and 16 wins. The only man ever to win 5 races in one week (in 2010). Coming back from another serious injury so unlikely to do much this year – otherwise he’d be right up there with Michael Dunlop. Second fastest man round the TT circuit.

Jo says: I’m gutted. Hutchy was my clear favourite in 2016. We were watching an early practice session at the Gooseneck when Hutchy pulled up there due to a problem with his bike. As he was walking across to join the marshals, some Germanic-sounding woman screamed out “Hutchy, you’re still the Best”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a grown man look quite so embarrassed…. At that point I decided that as he clearly wasn’t a complete a**e, he would be the one I’d be supporting….

…. and now he’s gone and let me down. I don’t know what he was thinking when he allowed his “autobiography” to go out. I’m afraid it’s complete and utter drivel. The worst book I’ve read in a long long time (and I read a lot of books).

Unfortunately, Hutchy doesn’t seem to be anything like right yet after a crash at last year’s TT. Hutchy’s another one with a horrendous 2010 crash behind him, his at Silverstone. It’s an absolute miracle he ever came back from that one, and amazing how he’ll keep battling to get himself back on a bike. This time round he seems to have a lot of people worried about him though. Fingers crossed he gets through the next couple of weeks ok 🤞

The TT practice sessions are now starting and we’re glued to Manx Radio, which does wall-to-wall coverage of all things TT (schedule and online streaming here). They also keep everyone up to date with the practicalities of what’s happening around the island such as road closures – both planned and unplanned. There are lots of unplanned road closures at this time of year, always down to an “incident” (which is TT-speak for “something sh** just happened but it wouldn’t be right for us to recount all the details on the radio”).

For the moment, we’re keeping busy down in Castletown with a full afternoon of classic bike racing scheduled here today. Let’s just hope the weather holds…..

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