JAMIE WINN - The Chairman’s View

We’ve featured profiles of many top sidecar drivers in the TTSC Magazine during the last few years, but it’s some time since a passenger’s view of the TT appeared. To redress the balance, who better to talk with than Jamie Winn? In just four years, he has proved himself one of the top chairmenin the business. Four TTs, eight races, eight finishes, on the podium in his second year, and in2007, he and his driver, Nige Connole lapped at over 110 mph. So, how do you get to be a sidecarpassenger and in particular, how do you approach being in the chair at the TT? Read on!

 Jamie, tell us about yourself and how you got into the sport.

I was born in Harrogate in 1973, now living at Sherburn near Leeds. I’m a builder by trade and am married to Debs. I’ve always been interested in motorcycles; first bike when I was 9. Years later,I’d go with my mates to Scarborough and the North-West 200, but was fascinated by the sidecarson seeing Steve Webster at Donington. Eventually, I decided to have a go with Steve Pullan at Elvington in 2001. Also did Gedinne in Belgium with Dick Tapken and obviously you learn a lot beingwith experienced drivers. After Steve had an accident at Mallory, I paired up with young Ben Birchall and went F1 racing with him. Then I was asked by John Holden, so that meant going to the TT!

How did you prepare and what were your first impressions?

When I knew that I was going, I watched the various videos religiously but also decided to learn the names of all the corners – not just the right-hander after the hairpin, etc! My wife probably knows it as well as I do! But, as everyone will tell you, it all seems different when you do a lap. Our first was at 97mph+, we’d qualified - I thought the lap was fast, bumpy and frightening but John wanted to go faster!

You finished both races - still a great memory?

Well, we slipped back to 34th after engine trouble in Race A, but got 7th in Race B, so yeah, I
was delighted, but that isn’t the overriding memory. Debs and I purposely got married before the TT, so we could have our honeymoon there. The local press heard about it and we got a spread in the sports pages, not the marriage section! And so, the Island will always be a special place for us, we love it and have a great respect for it. Now that I’m used to the course, I can honestly say I love it all with just the one exception, the 13th Milestone, I must be superstitious! No, it’s just a bumpy off-camber right-hander!

2005 and on the podium...

Great! - John’s first time on the podium as well. It was only my second TT but he’d been
going there since 1988! We were well ahead of Phil Dongworth in 4th but a minute or so back from Nick Crowe and Steve Norbury. In the second race we were just four seconds slower but down in seventh.

You paired up with Nige Connole in 2006. Does it make a difference for you changing driver or for them, having a new passenger? You’re tall, presumably
(a little!) heavier – an advantage?

Passengers come in all shapes and sizes; my wife calls me ‘Elastic Man!’ I think being tall, 6ft 2in, is an advantage as I don’t need as many hand holds, so I feel smoother moving about. With such a small area on the platform for my frame, I’m told I still manage to curl up, sometimes better than the shorter passengers! As for drivers, there are no differences between John and Nige – they are both safe, solid drivers who know the course well and respect it. I believe I do as well and so if you both have trust in the other person, you approach the TT with confidence, which is very necessary!

2007 has seen you and Nige achieve a 110+ lap speed, finish 6th in both races. You’ve also had runner-up places at the Southern 100 and Jurby, and wins at Olivers’ Mount. Do you prefer the roads?

I definitely do, it’s another level of racing, much more exhilarating and more precise. We do the British Championships to fill the gaps in between road racing events!

The TT is developing – do you agree with the changes, anything new you’d like to see?

In the four years I’ve competed, it seems to be getting safer, more marshals, air fences
etc. I think the blue ‘overtaking’ flag would help with respect to safety. This year, being stuck at number.25(!) we got caught behind someone for about 10 miles which may have cost us two places. More practice would be good and also more entries – the more the merrier!

Would you prefer to be British Champions or TT Winners?

I would obviously like to be British Champion - we were runners-up last year, but more than
anything in the world, a TT winner!!!! I’ll never stop trying.

You enjoy your racing, any funny stories along the way?

Yeh! Cutting my ‘pot’ off after the Mallory accident to go F1 racing with Ben Birchall – my wife’s face was a picture, poor lass! Winding Steve Pullan up is always good fun! And George (aka Simon Neary) – ask him about the frog’s legs. And Simon slowing down in a Euro race thinking it was being red-flagged – it was someone putting up a deck-chair!!

You and Nige are very much a team on the track, but who is in the ‘squad’ off the track?

My biggest help without a doubt is my wife, Debs. I couldn’t do any of this without her support.
Her family have always helped and backed me. I’d like to mention here the help that the marshals give and all the lads in the paddock, as well as Nige’s wife Anne, Anton and Dennis – although how the hell we wound up with him I’ll never know! Also our sponsors are invaluable, Screwfix Direct Ltd, Eddy’s Motorcycles of Leeds and TJF (Dick Fletcher).

Thanks to Jamie for agreeing to this article and I look forward to seeing him back on the Island in 2008!

John Newton