Friday, June 12, 2009

Isle of Mann TT 2009 Recap - The Driver You Thought Was Going To Win Didn't

So the big race, the Isle of Man Senior TT, went off today with a few hitches.

First, Cameron Donald lapped the course in Thursday's evening practice faster than McGuinness - or anyone else for that matter - ever has, at 131.457 mph (unofficially). That was on his Suzuki. Unfortunately he crashed up on top of the mountain at Keppel Gate in practice, dislocating his shoulder and injuring his back, excluding him from the start of the Senior TT race.

Then came the rain, so the race was delayed half an hour.


Then the race started off with a bang, namely, John McGuinness (above) breaking his own lap record by over 3.68 seconds from a standing start, on a wet course - 130.593 mph. The second place rider, Manxman Steve Plater (below), was also ahead of the old record and on the same exact bike - 130.490 mph. Then McGuinness went ahead and proved why he has won 15 times, resetting his lap record to 131.578 mph on lap two - the lap where he had to slow down for his first pit stop. That record currently stands. By lap four he was 20 seconds up on Platter then the unthinkable happened - he didn't show up at the Ramsey Hairpin. A couple of tense seconds while people frantically looked for him or the wreckage, then news broke that it was a snapped chain out at Cruickshanks - McGuinness was fine but his bike was broken. That was the end of the race for the master, and Steve Plater certainly took advantage of his absence.


Down by only 20 seconds when McGuinness retired - a damn good job for any rider to be that close to McGuinness after more than an hour of riding, even on the same bike - Plater was up by 10 seconds over third, and he put on more speed and pulled out ahead. Ian Hutchinson, also on the Honda, was scheduled to take the overall championship, but had a huge wreck at the Quarter Bridge and Plater's good day turned better. Winning both the Senior TT and the Isle of Man Overall Championship in the same day in your home town? That's a damn good day. Especially for a Manxman. Congratulations to Plater!

With six retirements in the top ten, there were huge place changes going on all over the pack. Congrats to Carl Rennie for his 5th place finish - I've got a soft spot in my heart for privateer teams, and he finished highest out of all of them, after starting 10th. Louis Carreira started in 26th and ended the race in 18th, after taking five riders on lap two to start lap 3 in 21st. The rain returned late in the race and some riders were unable to finish.

My condolences go out to the family of John Crellin, age 55, a racer whose life was cut short this year during the Senior TT. But what a race he was putting together! Starting in 60th he made it all the way up to 43rd before fatally crashing out in lap five, at Mountain Box. Earlier in the morning he had taken a podium, 3rd place, in the TTXGP. It is a tragic loss of life, but at least he went out doing what he loved: racing on the Isle of Man. His last interview is here.

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On the other side of things we had a fantastic TTXGP - or exhibition electric motorcycle race. Some beautiful bikes showed up and raced. However, with most of these bike's top speeds not even close to McGuinness' average speed over his winning lap, the fastest electric bike came in at 87.434 mph. However, turn your books of TT lore back to 1904, and what was the Isle of Man TT originally? Oh, that's right, an exhibition race for new technology, and the average speed was 34.33 mph. 7 hours and 26.5 minutes to do 255.5 miles. That was damn good then, and 87.434 is damn good now.

These are the first electric bikes to be raced. So you've got brand-new, untested technology (most of these bikes weren't finished until the last couple of weeks) and they pull off a time 66% of what the current height in motorcycle engineering can do. Fuck yeah. Now those are some racing teams right there.

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Also, just a reminder that the TT will be broadcast in HD on Discovery through the months of July and August, every Monday night at 9:00PM.

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