AN AMBITIOUS project to design, build and race a bike in next year’s TT races is being undertaken by a group of post-graduate engineering students at Huddersfield University.
Niall Shimmin, who comes from Onchan, along with fellow students Nick Castledine, Aden Shaw-Frost and Johnny Elliot plan to put together a Moto 2 specification bike using a Honda CBR600 engine in a chassis of their own design.
But there is a snag: to fund the project, which forms part of their master’s degree studies, the team has to raise between £20,000 and £30,000, by October, something of a challenge in today’s economic climate.
They have a small amount of money secured so far but are anxious to hear from anyone able to offer further support.
‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project so we are hoping a few people might offer a bit of personal investment and I’m willing to put in what savings I have too,’ Niall said.
To that end, they are approaching eveyone they can think of from the companies such as Manx Telecom and Manx Gas to their university’s chancellor, the actor Patrick Stewart.
Seeing the banger racing at Onchan Stadium gave a young Niall tne inspiration to study engineering and led him and his friends on to the project.
‘I used to see the cars and I liked drawing,’ he said.
‘At first I wanted to do car design then I developed an interest in engineering and in motorbikes.
‘The project came about because the students here are involved in the Formula Student project to design a car but we thought it would be more interesting to design a Moto2 bike that we could actually race.’
During the summer he brought friends to see the TT and they were inspired to take the project further. The Moto2 class their project is based on is part of the FIM MotoGP race series.
‘We thought it was important to do a project we were all passionate about. We got a bit of a mixed response from lecturers but if we can raise the money we can do the project,’ he said.
Bike shop owner Clive Padgett has already pledged his support on a non-profit basis and will let them use Steve Plater’s TT Supersport winning 600 engine.
All they have to do is design and build the bike’s frame, petrol tank, swinging arm, radiator, exhaust system and fairing.
That just leaves the minor questions of funding and finding a rider.
‘We’ve been in touch with Paul Phillips (government TT and motorsport development officer) and he is hoping to put us in touch with someone who might be interested in riding it,’ Niall said.
The team has also spoken to commentator and ex-racer Jamie Whitham who has agreed to help out where possible.
The team intends to design and build a trellis frame from tubular steel – which will be cheaper – and ideally will try out more than one version with things like adjustable steering geometry to decide which works best.
The plan is to complete the design work by Christmas and produce their first chassis by January.
The project should be in its final stages by late April ready for the start of TT in late May, just after their exams finish.
‘We are all really passionate about it and want to see the project succeed.
‘But I’ll still try out banger racing at some point in my life,’ he added.
Anyone who can offer some financial support for Niall and his friends’ project can contact him on 07722 089415 or email him on niallshimmin(at)manx.net.