Parade Lap

Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling

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I first went to the TT in 1972 with my Dad as he was the Michelin Service Manager covering all the GPs, National races etc. It meant, without realising it, I had access to all the top names of the time: Ago, Read, Grant, Charlie Williams and so on - however at the time, to a spotty 10 year old they were just blokes in leathers racing bikes.

But the event had affected me deeper than I knew; it was in the mid 90's while I was at my height of my Supersport career that the bug to do the event showed its head again but injury just weeks before both the 96 and 97 TTs prevented me from riding there.

For some reason career wise the need to do it went away but I guess like any addiction when you don't do it or stop doing it you've never actually given up - you are just in remission.


This year riding the Ripley Land G50 the team owner Ian Garbutt and I chatted about his Manx Classic TT campaign, he takes his 350 Drixton Honda K4, 350 AJS 7R and  Seeley G50.

Ian kindly said there would always be a machine there for me to do a lap on.


Also my long term friend Col Morris was taking a few RC45's over and knew the organisers well and they allowed me to use one of Col's allocated parade spaces, so all the infrastructure was in place, but did I still want to do it?


Hell yes!

Getting to the Isle of Man (AKA Alcatraz) is another story.

We took the ferry from Heysham with the van and had three trail bikes in the back so we could get around over there.

As soon as we arrived we all did a lap in the van it was only then the enormity of the event started to hit home, I had done the home work of studying the circuit layout before my 96 campaign but that was almost 20 years ago and now was a distant memory.

I still had the basic layout with some major landmarks as my reference points but all the detail was gone!


Over the next few days we managed one more lap in the van and a couple on the bikes which only reinforced exactly how much I didn't know.

Best get a few laps in driving the van to resurrect the memory from when I learnt the track twenty years ago.

As I understand it Mike, remember to turn right at Ballacraine...

Anyway Monday soon came around but the weather was awful and as we suspected the whole days events were cancelled and re-scheduled for Tuesday.


This meant losing out on the flights home, and having to repay as foot passengers on the boat, and then organising a lift home from Liverpool - plus finding another place to stop for the night but Bruce Baker sorted us a night at the Rutland Hotel on the sea front; ironically the first place I stayed with my dad back in 72.

It was the correct thing to do, postponing the parade lap, we went for a look on top of Snaefell, and as you can see, you couldn't see...

I just wish we could just get going...

Tuesday was a great day, the sun was out the wind had died down and it all looked like it was going to happen.


'Sally' the 7R was prepped and wheeled through into the holding area ready for the off, I was 35 on the road out of almost 150 riders in the parade so was called up in the first wave of riders.


We were lined up roughly in rider number order so the commentators could give a brief review of each rider, and before I knew it I was being waved into the start box.


I was very nervous and was thinking of exactly why I was doing this but before I could talk myself out of it I was away down Bray Hill.


Riding last years 350 Classic winning machine Ian's beautiful AJS 7R I rode off for my first ever closed roads lap.

Johnny Corrin kept it quiet that he was having a run round as well.

The last time I saw 'the bad news tour' waving from the bushes was in 1994 at the Bol d'Or - hanging from a tree opposite the start and finish line!

Occasionally waving at the large crowd I tried to focus on where I was going, however it was all coming towards me so much quicker than I was used to. Sections I had a basic idea of where I was going I could semi relax but a lot of the time I was simply riding as fast as I thought safe, vey frustrating as you come out of a corner and realise you could have gone flat out but hey I was enjoying myself too much to worry too much.

On to the mountain mile over the railway tracks at the Bungalow Sally was running sweet as a nut, "from here is mostly down hill" I thought and was thinking I was almost home.

Then just before Windy Corner the engine started to falter, shit I was running out of fuel.Rolling to a halt I stopped at Windy very disappointed but still smiling.

Then two great chaps riding Enduro machines offered me some fuel from their bikes and with the help of a Lucozade bottle we transferred enough fuel to get me and Sally home.


Everyone was waiting for me back in the pits and were relieved to see me finally roll into the pit area, helmet off and I couldn't stop talking about my lap and what a lap, one I will remember forever.


Will I do it again?

-watch this space!