MANX Grand Prix newcomers from as far afield as Perth and Portugal descended on the Isle of Man at the weekend for the first of this year’s two scheduled visits.
Organised by the Hailwood Foundation, the weekend was a chance for 17 potential newcomers to take a guided tour of the TT Mountain Course.
Performing the role of MGP ambassadors were several old hands at racing the course, including Chris Palmer, Mark Castle and Mark Parrett.
With the benefit of bright sunshine, the visitors spent much of Saturday touring the course in small groups. The guides explained the fundamentals of tackling different sections, paying attention to things like road positioning and special landmarks to look and aim for in order to achieve the fastest and smoothest passage through.
The weekend was in stark contrast to last year’s trip when the Mountain Road was closed because of snow meaning the visitors had to make a diversion from Ramsey to the Creg-ny-Baa via Laxey to complete their laps.
Kane Dalton, 42, from north west London was one of the visitors considering tackling the challenge this year.
‘The weekend was an incredible experience,’ he said.
‘When you are racing with a local club in the UK some of them treat you like dirt, organisers can be really off hand.
‘By contrast in the Isle of Man we were so well treated it was awesome.
‘Everyone was so passionate about the races and so welcoming, even picking us up at the airport.’
Kane currently races a Honda CBR1000 Fireblade but plans to use a Triumph 675 if he decides to race in the Isle of Man this year.
After his visit he proclaimed himself inspired and daunted, perhaps in equal measure.
‘We ride fast on our road bikes but we do it where there are no walls or houses,’ he said. ‘In the built up areas we are doing 30mph. I simply can’t imagine what it would be like to race through somewhere like Kirk Michael.
‘As we drove round I kept on thinking I knew where I was then realising we were in a different place altogether.
‘This was my first visit to the island and at the moment my heart’s saying “yes, do it” and my head’s saying “you must be mad, am I really equal to this?”
‘But when I’m 65 and heading for the old people’s home, I want to be able to say I did it!’
Joel Donohue, from Formby, near Liverpool, sees the bikes heading to the Isle of Man ferry every year, but until now had never visited.
‘I was always worried about watching the racing and being put off doing it myself,’ he said. ‘But I would really like to race my 125 on the roads while there is still a class for two-strokes before they disappear. Unfortunately the numbers are dwindling.
‘I was inspired by heroes like Joey and Robert Dunlop. I’ve watched them a lot so now I have to do it!’
The Hailwood Foundation is a charitable organisation which arranges the visits and co-ordinates a network of MGP ambassadors – experienced racers on the Mountain Course who offer advice on racing in the Isle of Man.
The second newcomers’ visit is on March 19.