I arrived on the Isle of Man from my race in the Czech Republic (see Part II of my Isle of Man blog) and hopped in my rental car. My phone GPS wasn’t working, so I was using an actual paper map to find my hotel. Yes, they still offer paper maps in some parts of the world.
9am: I met IOM Rider Liaison Johnny Barton. There are nine newcomers this year including Moto3 rider Danny Webb. Of 140 riders registered, 90 were selected based on being a big name racer, or racing for a big team, or were simply… FAST! You must qualify within 107% of the top three lap times to race.
My first ever lap around the TT course takes an hour in a car while the roads are open. After 7-8 miles, the corners all start to look the same yet every one of them needs to be taken differently. What Johnny was saying wasn’t making any sense. “Flat out in 6th, aim for the mushroom looking tree and immediately tip in for a late apex and flick it down to 5th, immediately back into 6th, take a breath and immediately tip it in where the cream coloured cottage appears.” This went on and on for the entire hour. He knew every inch of the 38 mile long course. I did two more laps in my rental car alone with map in hand. If you really want to get a sense of what it is like, go to a city you have never been to, drive 40 miles and make sure you take at least 200 corners, then memorize every inch of it, understanding that if you miss a corner, there may be a cliff.
Still jet-lagged from China and the Czech Republic race and mentally exhausted as well, I simply passed out on my bed at 7pm.
I met Milky Quayle for a lap. The one hour car lap was not to be; we spent an hour in the car before we even left the start line! I was told that I should have been here over six months ago and several times to prepare, and I was seriously behind the other nine newcomers (with some already logging 100 car laps around the circuit). I planned for 15 laps before the start of practice week. Six hours later, we had finished one lap in a car, the same lap that takes just over 17 minutes on a race bike.
Milky stopped every 20 feet to talk to me about the most intricate details. I have never met a guy so passionate (and knowledgable) about anything as Milky is about the TT. I found the energy to do one additional lap on my own that evening. When I got to the mountain section the local police were tailing me over the mountain. They finally passed me aggressively and disappeared into the horizon. I figured it was safe to speed up and got my little Fiesta up to 75 mph and wasn’t comfortable going any quicker. I couldn’t even keep up with the police! It was later that evening that I was told there is no speed limit over the mountain section… EVER! I went back to my hotel and immediately passed out again, mentally exhausted.
I did two laps on my own, met up with Johnny again and did another lap with him. He dragged me on an errand which turned out to be really cool. He had to drop off his Supertwin race bike at the legendary tuner Slick’s shop to get it dynoed and prepped for his entry in the TT. Slick was Carl Fogarty’s main tuner/builder in World Superbike for many years. What a nice guy, and what a cool shop he has. Another simply amazing experience on my road to the TT.
I then met up with Milky again for another lap. We did a typical hour long car lap but Milky’s passion was the same on this lap as it was on the first lap we did. I think it is in his DNA. He then did something that surprised me – he offered to give me his Kawasaki ZX-6R street bike to do a couple of laps of the course that evening. He politely asked me not to crash and to play stupid if I got pulled over by the police. He then took me to a local shop to have my mandatory ‘dog tag’ made up with my name, date of birth and blood type. Just another reminder of how brutally serious the TT is (the loss of life each year continues to be a black cloud over the event).
Later that evening, I found myself inside Milky Quayle’s house alone, changing into his leathers, staring at his trophy case and looking at his very own Senior TT trophy. Was all of this really happening? I took out his bike, did a couple of laps, scared myself to death on a number of occasions and started wondering if this was really something I was ready for. I got up to 110 mph; during the TT, we will be hitting 190 mph. I just couldn’t see it. The course is insanely bumpy with endless blind corners.
5:30am: I went out and did my last two laps in a car and went straight to the airport. That brings me to now as I write this. After the last four days, I finally had a chance to review some onboard camera footage on this flight and realized that I am nowhere close to being ready to take on the TT. It is bigger, fiercer, and more intimidating than you can ever imagine. The consequences are also very very real. Getting my entry accepted into the TT was a huge accomplishment on its own. Getting a ride with one of the biggest teams was even more impressive. Qualifying for it is going to be most likely a 2+ year process due to the average speeds the top guys are doing. I now realize that this is nothing like a short circuit race where you can fudge your way through and still get by with decent results and remain safe. Road courses are dangerous. I am told you need to forget about much of the way you go about a short circuit race. You can’t speed up the knowledge and experience it takes to get through a TT.
Dan Kruger would like to thank his sponsors: Penz13.com, BMW Motorrad Motorsport, Franks Autowelt, Nature Power, Pirelli, Motul, RK, Spidi, SK Support, Vemar.
— Dan #71