SELECTED ARTICLES FROM THE 2011 SUMMER ISSUE OF THE
TT SUPPORTERS CLUB MAGAZINE
Paul Phillips, TT & Motorsport Development Manager
replies to our questionsÖ
The 2011 TT sees a reduction in the numbers on each start grid Ė down 10 to 70. Can you explain the reasoning behind this...is it a health & safety issue or perhaps something to do with financial constraints?
Itís nothing to do with financial constraints; in fact it makes very little difference financially. Itís a purely safety driven change following feedback from competitors at both ends of the field. In the 1000cc classes, the leading guys are lapping in the low 17 minutes now, which means that the later starters have only just left the line as the leaders complete their first lap. Riders are being caught and lapped too early through no fault of their own, and the speed differential is causing concern.To what extent are you able to guarantee that 70 competitors will actually be on the Glencrutchery Road start line for each race?
Nobody is able to guarantee the number of starters, but with the facility to introduce reserves following qualifying, I am confident that we should be in and around 70 starters for all of the solo races. We will have a high calibre of credible reserve entries ready to step in.Recent years have seen a decrease in the number of competitors in sidecar races. Surely this must be a concern for the continuation of the Ďbalancedí race programme as it stands? Why has the sidecar field diminished and what can the Organisers do about this decline?
It most certainly is a concern, but the question about
what the organisers can do to address the
decline is a difficult one. Sidecar racing on a global level isnít
thriving. It isnít relevant to the motorcycle
industry so industry brands donít support it; by and large sidecar
racing takes place at low profile events
making it difficult for teams to attract sponsorship, and less
attractive to potential newcomer competitors
to the sport. You canít walk into a dealership and buy a bike to go
racing on, something you can do easily with a
solo machine. The TT Sidecar Races are the
most high profile in the world, of that I have no doubt. We are trying
In the beginning we worked hard to attract a high calibre of rider to come and experience the event. We were focussed on creating a compelling sporting property, with close exciting races featuringinteresting personalities, representing a wide range of international territories.As time has gone on, these new riders have acted as ambassadors for the event and other guyshave seen the success they have had and heard about their positive experiences riding in the TT and more and more, we find talented young riders coming to us looking to get involved. The TT has a positive effect on a riderís career again, providing a leg up for some riders, and that is something that we are very proud about. International territories are an important part of what we do when we are pulling together the entry. It ties into our overall marketing strategy, particularly our TV distribution. Often we bring on board a well known rider from a particular country, and we are able to leverage TV coverage on the back of their participation. Riders such as Rico Penzkofer from Germany and Luis Carreira from Portugal are two cases in point. However, riders compete in the event on merit and just having an international passport doesnít make it any easier to enter.
When the TT fan opens that yearís race programme for the first time, it is often to see which riders will be making their Mountain Course debut. Who are likely to be the newcomers of 2011?
One rider that has already confirmed is Simon Andrews who is well known on the BSB circuit and who has also participated at that level, not to mention performing really well in Macau which hopefully will stand him in good stead for TT this year. He was unlucky to be squeezed out of a podium finish at Macau last October having been running in the top 3 for most of the race. Likewise, Jimmy Storrar who has been a front runner in British Superstock in recent years as well as impressing at the Macau GP, is also lining up for the first time. We also have a long list of young British riders wanting to be involved in the solo classes, and some of them will make it onto the starting grid this year. Most of these guys are not particularly well known, but given their potential and what we can add through our Rider Liaison Team, we feel that we can help them reach their goals and progress to have a successful TT career over a long period of time. Guys like Dan Hegarty, Daley Matheson, Lee Vernon, Robert Wilson and Dan Frear, all whom are interesting to us because of their ages and the potential they have already shown. We are also in final negotiations to bring a newcomer French rider across for the first time, a guy who is truly world class and could go on to have a fabulous TT career given his age and CV. In the sidecar class, we have plenty of interest from newcomer crews, but we already have most of the leading World Championship guys on the grid, so I canít imagine there being any really high profile additions for 2011.
There has been a reduction in the number of practice sessions Ė can you explain the reasoning behind this? Will there not be resulting problems from this decision, if, say, for example, a newcomer fails to complete the controlled lap on Monday evening meaning that more time is lost for general practice the following evening or a session is completely lost due to inclement weather
The reason for the removal of the opening practice session is quite simple, and is a direct result of consultation with the riders and teams competing in the event. We have had an almost unanimous view from across the entry that the cost of being on the Island for so long is a major problem, and given the ongoing economic pressures, we had to act this year. OK, yes it puts pressure on everyone if we get bad weather, but you canít legislate for that completely. The track time per machine available now, far outweighs what it was like say six or seven years ago, with so many classes having to be accommodated for back then, so we are comfortable, as are the competitors, that this is going to work and be beneficial for all concerned.
To what extent do the Organisers feel there will be an increase in the number of competitors in this yearís TT Zero?
The IoM Government is very focussed on developing its position in the global clean tech arena and sees TT Zero as an opportunity to showcase the Island as a destination for clean tech investment. Therefore, considerable resource is being put against this project and it is seen as a long term initiative. It isnít a race in the traditional TT way of thinking and is more about the incredible developments and technical advances that the teamís make. We are using the TTís profile to leverage something the Government has ambitions to develop going forward. Activities such as these help the Motorsport team to provide quantifiable evidence of the return on investment that the event delivers to secure its long-term future. We hope to bring 20 machines to the start line this year, an increase on the previous year and look to build upon that year on year. This year could see the first 100mph lap recorded this year as well, which is a real achievement and great PR opportunity. Interest is building from some major players in this area for the future, and people may be surprised who and what roll up onto the Glencrutchery Road start line for this race in the years to come.
To what extent is the format of the solo classes set in stone Ė the 2011 MGP sees the introduction of a Super Twin race; 450cc single cylinder machines will also be seen Ė is there potential for such initiatives at the TT?
The core race classes will continue to be influenced by global trends. We are currently a one-off event, not part of a championship, and we also acknowledge we are an expensive event to take part in. We canít afford to run classes that will incur more expense for competitors, which have regulations that are specific to the TT. Recent history has shown that this doesnít work with the old TT Production regulations and classes like the Single Cylinder event. We need to put race classes on that can attract a large, good quality entry, are commercially viable, so sponsors will be prepared to invest and TV stations will be willing to broadcast them and that are interesting and exciting for people to want to turn out to the hedgerows or switch on their PC or laptop and follow the action. Nothing is ruled out and the race programme will continue to evolve and change over the years ahead. We consult with many of the leading manufacturers, teams and competitors as well as privateers to ensure that we get their views on the most appropriate schedule.
ITVís coverage of TT2010 received rave reviews. What new initiatives has North One Television got planned for this yearís event? Do you for see the day when spectators will be able to view live footage from vantage points around the course, Creg ny Baa, for example?
The major development that the Department (of Economic Development) is keen to deliver is live TV coverage of some or all of the event. There are major commercial benefits to be realised from having your event shown live on a good channel in good countries. Sponsorship revenues can increase massively. To do this there are a number of challenges including event scheduling, road closure legislation and the economic downturn, which is stifling commercial broadcasters and the subsequent budgets they have to invest in products. A significant investment in technology is also required. It is a priority though and being investigated with ever increasing urgency. If it is realised, that will allow pictures to be broadcast trackside to various spectator areas, which would increase the visitor experience no end.
Website forums frequently tend to foster negative views, sometimes about the organisation of the TT. Do these bother you? Presumably, you are quite high profile in the Isle of Man Ė are there occasions when, out socially with family or friends, you are pestered by others wanting to express their thoughts about the TT? How do you deal with such occasions?
In the past this has been something I have found difficult, but not so much now. I think that is down to a mix of us being able to be very clear about our objectives as a Department for this event and the incremental progress made against these objectives being fairly clear for people to see. People get what we are trying to do and it is a difficult argument to go against the objectives of generating benefits for the economy, increasing commercial revenues and providing opportunities for local com-panies to do business. So I donít get too much of this kind of thing to deal with, but of course, there are always some people you canít please and you just have to accept that and move on. Iím only a small part in a big machine, basically doing what I am employed to do, to the best of my abilities, with a fair bit of passion thrown in, as this is very much a labour of love for me. Itís a sign of the interest in the event that so many people take an interest and no one in the organisation is so arrogant that they canít listen to what people think. It is, after all, an event that couldnít take place without fans, not to mention the volunteers who fill the official roles such as marshalling.
The ĎRidersí Whoís Whoí in the MGP is popular and certainly informative; would it not be possible to compile a similar feature for the TT programme?
The programme for the TT is operated through a contract with the Department by local company Mannin Media. They have the responsibility for the content and without wishing to repeat myself, they have to do whatever they feel is most appropriate regarding the content, to sell as many copies of the publication as possible.
The MGP is now Ďunder the auspicesí of the Department of Economic Development Ė how do you think the format of the meeting will develop / change in the short and long terms? Perhaps some would-be TT entrants, particularly newcomers, might now be guided towards the MGP as the starters at the TT are being limited to 70?
Iím not sure our involvement will have any significant impact upon guiding riders to the MGP. If a rider wants to race on the TT Course and asks about TT, when perhaps they are not ready, we would try and direct them to the MGP anyway. Our role is to ensure that the return on investment that The IoM Government makes on this event Ė on behalf of the Manx people - is maximised. Currently it is doing OK putting around £4 into the economy for every £1 spent, but it is accepted that a) it could do a lot more and b) if it doesnít the return on investment will decrease due to the ever increasing costs of staging the event(s). This would
jeopardise the future running of the event, a situation we must do everything to avoid. We are very optimistic about the Manx Grand Prix Festivalís long term potential and feel that the motorsport nostalgia USP is something that can go on to deliver significant incremental benefits for the Islandís economy and position on the international motorsport map, particularly with strong heritage that the island has.
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