“Thirty-four, going on fourteen” was the reply on questioning Chris Kinley about his age – not so, whilst there is certainly the exhuberance of youth about his commentary, he possess a full grasp of the personalities and technicalities involved in motorcycle racing on the Isle of Man. In the very short time Chris’s voice has been heard over the microphone at the TT and MGP, he has commanded the respect of both the listeners and competitors with his perceptive analysis during dramatic pit stops and his incisive, but non-intrusive style of interviewing, at all times in a manner which shows he is thoroughly enjoying the job in hand.
Like many youngsters growing up on the Island, Chris was in the “love it, or accept it” position – obviously, it was former ….”growing up and living next to the Billown Circuit in Castletown was my introduction to road racing, getting up at 5am to watch the practices; then, as I got older, helping the Southern 100 Club with setting out the circuit and marshalling at the TT, MGP, Jurby as well as the Southern.”
Chris is now in the full time employ of Manx Radio, combining the roles of presenter and producer, often assisting with the editing of shows to make a programme, which will hold the listeners attention. How did he become a broadcaster? “I used to work DJing at various places on the Island and the then Programme Director at Manx Radio, Stu Lowe, asked if I would like to have a go at presenting, so after months and months of practice – actually, it was more like two hours notice, I was on the air.” Chris has moved on from that day when he was thrown in at the deep end to present well-structured sports programmes as well as his commentary and interviews from the pit lane, a task requiring much research into the history of the events, new technologies and rule changes as well as being on the ball in terms of identifying personalities. Preparation for TT 2005 commenced soon after the opening of roads after last year’s MGP.
Chris has seen many men and women pit their skills against the Mountain Course at close quarters, so, who, in his mind, stands out? “As a local man, for me, Dave Molyneux stands out for his desire to win and his willingness to try out something new. On the solo side, Steve Hislop may not have won as many times as Joey, but he always tried his nuts off as that win on the Norton proved. Many others come to mind, I could go on and on, but the only wish I have is that I would have loved to have interviewed Joey Dunlop, the Master.”
Speaking of riders, how does Chris think top quality competitors could be attracted to the TT? “Prize money always comes up with this sort of question, but I think there are not many short circuit stars who could do the TT. Michael Rutter is an example of one who can do both admirably, but the rewards offered at short circuits far outweigh the rewards on the roads, but with a new crop of youngsters coming through, lets hope that the Lavertys of this world will switch to do the TT and the other big road events.”
Tines are certainly changing; Chris, like many of us firmly believe that the TT needed to be subjected to detailed scrutiny, so what about the changes, in Chris’s eyes, that have already been made? “I’m sad to see the smaller classes go from the TT – what will happen when someone wins the 125/400 class at the Manx? Move to the TT and have to learn the circuit all over again on a 600? That’s the main thing concerning me; as for the 250s, they are back at the North West 200 and the Ulster, so why not the TT? The powers that be have not said they won’t bring them back, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Some people have stated that the TT won’t be around after the centenary of 2007, well, that may have been true, but with the Manx Motor Cycle Club now at the helm, I think things can only get better.”
Our sport, as everyone is very much aware, has its ups and downs – what have been the highlights of Chris’s broadcasting career from the pit lane to date? “Seeing Nicky Crowe and Darren ‘Fast Hands’ Hope win the Sidecar TT overall in 2003 and fellow Manxmen, Nigel Beattie and Gary Carswell securing podium positions last year.” There is, sadly, a down side, so how does a commentator, who is privy to the fact that there’s been a bad accident, cope? “I think the hardest part was at last year’s Manx Grand Prix when I was learnt about Tommy Clucas’s awful accident at Ballaugh Bridge over the headset, but told not to mention anything and then having his friends and mine coming up to ask what had happened….having to say nothing was the hardest thing for me. Also, in 2003, it was difficult to deal with DJ’s accident as I had had a long conversation with him on the first Saturday of practice week; the way he talked to people in the crowd at Ballacraine after he’s broken down, so friendly and very, very funny”.
We, as spectators, are making final plans and looking forward to our annual trip across the Irish Sea, meanwhile, on the Isle of Man, the likes of Chris Kinley are also making plans, which will make our TT experience all that more enjoyable. Chris illustrates the new breed of young people involved in the road racing on the Isle of Man, a breath of fresh air to take the TT towards its centenary and beyond. The TT needed a shot in the arm, Chris is part of the mix, which will ensure a firm base on which to build the future of the event, his communication skills holding interest and keeping us all informed.