MIKE HAMMONDS TT 2023 BLOG SEVEN
TT 2023 Reflections
The dust has settled and rain has fallen since the fastest ever solo and sidecar races seen at the TT
TT 2023 was blessed with tremendous weather throughout the period without a single drop of rain. Track conditions were near perfect for all of the races and improved daily as more rubber was laid down. The considerable road improvements prior to the TT also added to creating faster speeds.
The new schedule for TT 2023 meant that every class would have two races. It would be the biggest race week programme on the Mountain Course since 2002
Was the new schedule a success? All ten races were brilliant, many with lap and race records and to all intents and purposes everything went to plan. What would have happened if the weather was inclement? The jury is out on that but overall it was a brilliant race week.
Is the TT trying to become a 'Road' version of BSB? Sadly I think the answer to this is yes. That is not to say that the TT didn't need to change and will need to change again to stay relevant in the future. The format is very short circuit based i.e. an untimed session, followed by qualifying sessions and then warm up laps and racing, even the Race Programme is similar to that at a BSB meeting..
In reality the change in terminology from practice to qualifying is just semantics, the riders are still going around the course. I am told that the 'Warm up Laps' were requested by the riders but only 14 went out before the Senior TT and one of those broke down and missed the race.
Grid sizes: The maximum grid for the Supebike and Superstock races is 50 machines, this wasn't achieved in any of the four races. Likewise the maximum number to start a Supersport or Supertwin race is 60 and again this wasn't met in all four races this year.
It was very noticeable during the qualifying week of the lack of riders circulating and during the races. How can this be addressed? Certainly with the speeds the top guys are now reaching they don't want to catch a slower rider during the race. With the GPS tracking system it wouldn't be too difficult to predict as and when to flag a slower rider off.
There should be no compromise on the qualifying times but more riders could be invited to enter the event. Non-qualifiers could then have their own race of 2 or 3 laps. This would not be classed as a full TT but maybe the TT Cup or even a revised Clubman's TT. The time for this being made by reducing the number of warm up laps. It is just a thought!!
The sidecars are an integral part of the TT however the class appears to be in decline. The organisers need to react quickly and engage all stakeholders to find a way of reinvigorating the class before it is too late.
Sidecar Centenary: No disrespect to the three crews who took part but as a celebration it was an insult to the sidecar fraternity. I found it embarrassing. Where was the display of sidecars through the ages at the back of the Grandstand for fans to view and read about the history? The answer is there wasn't one. The apathy of the organisers towards this celebration was a massive own goal.
Competition: For the first time the same three riders, Michael Dunlop, Dean Harrison and Peter Hickman, appeared on the rostrum for six of the eight solo races. Dean being the only one not to win. The consistency of all three just had to be admired. Dunlop and Hickman climbed the steps a magnificent seven times.
Records: Lap and race records were set for all four solo classes as well as for the sidecars. Ben & Tom Birchall were the first sidecar crew to achieve a 120+mph lap. Michael Dunlop was the first to lap the course at over 130mph on a Supersport machine and Peter Hickman set a new outright lap record of 136.358mph on his Superstock bike. Both classes used slick tyres for the first time.
TT 2023 wins: The ten races were won by just four riders. Michael Dunlop and Peter Hickman won four solo races each and Ben & Tom Birchall won the two sidecar races. Peter Hickman went home with eight silver replicas and Michael Dunlop went home with 7.
Total Wins: Michael Dunlop has now amassed 25 TT victories and is now just one win behind Joey Dunlop's all time haul of 26. The Birchall's now have 14 victories which equals Mike Hailwood's total. They are now just 3 wins behind Dave Molyneux who holds the sidecar record number of wins with 17. Peter Hickman increased his tally to 13.
Official Qualifying & Race reports: I do not know if it was a conscious decision by the organisers or if reporter Phil Wain decided not to include qualifying and race incidents in the official reports. From the outside it appears that the reports were sanitised from reporting crashes and injuries, neither were any updates reported on how the injured were progressing. An official statement was released after Raul Torras Martinez's fatal accident.
Celebrating Success: This is something that the TT doesn't do other than at the presentation evenings. There is nowhere on the TT website to find a comprehensive list of who won the trophies. How many people would know that Michael Dunlop would have won the TT Supporters Club Tray for having the best combined result in the Monster Energy Supersport Races? Who received the John Williams Trophy or Jimmy Simpson Trophy? Surely these successes should be celebrated rather than say a fastest sector time?
Radio TT Coverage: The negative social media comments about former riders Jenny Tinmouth and Mike Booth were uncalled for, they are not professional commentators. They did, however, give a rider insight as to what the rider's thought processes were at any particular time. They also had to answer some quite banal and off the wall questions from the commentators in the Control Tower. Chris Kinley was the standout presenter, knowledgeable and informative. His description of Rennie Scaysbrook's pitstop was nothing short of brilliant. Beth Espy also performed well with her pre and post race interviews.
Ashley House showed his lack of knowledge and inexperience of the TT and Mountain Course by incorrectly pronouncing or identifying places on the course, I am sure that will improve with time. I am not a fan of Ashley and Chris Boyd continuously referring to sector times or is this the new world just like references to 'Shake Down' laps? Do I now need to get down with the kids?
Merchandise: There appeared to be a lot less selling space in the Grandstand area for the official merchandise. The product in the two outlets was expensive and I doubt if the sales matched that of previous years. Time will tell if and when the sales figures are announced.
National Press Coverage: The Sunday Times published an article prior to the TT and The Independent published one during the TT as to the way the racers return year after year? They were interesting articles and a far cry from the likes of the late Ian Woolridge's annual articles in Daily Mail that were very subjective and anti-TT.
Sadly there was limited race coverage in the national dailies. One journalist who was reporting on the TT was Zoe Burn and her race reports were printed in the Daily Express, Mirror and Star. I have no idea whether the reports appeared in just the northern editions of the newspapers or if they were nationwide. Motorcycle racing and the TT are seen as minority sports. It won't be until the TT attracts a mainstream TV channel to show prime time coverage that the TT will then get the corresponding newspaper coverage. It may be a case of 'be careful what you wish for'!
BBC Television: The exploits of Dunlop and Hickman not only made the northern sports news but also the national sports news on breakfast TV. A step forward for the TT.
Overall: The positives of TT 2023 far outweigh the negatives but there are issues that need addressing. A word of caution for first time visitors, don't be lulled into a false sense of security with the weather. Pack for all 4 seasons if you are returning for TT 2024!!
THANK YOU ALL FOR READING MY 2023 BLOGS