The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is undoubtedly one of the most famous motorsport events on the planet, with more than 100,000 spectators visiting the small island during the two-week event-more than double the population. This year saw an increase yet again in spectator numbers, with almost 20% more using the airport alone than in 2022.
The team would arrive at the Douglas paddock en masse on the Wednesday preceding the event, with a race truck, 5 fifth-wheel RVs, two vans, a 1000+bhp Audi R8, and more bikes & pushbikes than you can shake a torque wrench at. Whilst we all worked hard during the 18 days we were there, it would be a crime not to make the most of not only the incredible weather we were blessed with, but the beautiful scenery and landscape of the island.
The event would be split into two distinct weeks – Practice & Race, with the former seeing all 5 classes (Superbike, Superstock, Supersport, Supertwin & Sidecars) take to the circuit throughout. Bank Holiday Monday would see Practice take place during the day, with the remainder giving fans the opportunity to bask in the glorious summer evening sunshine, watching from the banks, walls & pubs that line the course.
For those that haven’t had the opportunity to visit the TT yet, and are wondering if they should – do it. You won’t regret it. Every year we meet hundreds of interesting people, all of whom are there for one reason – to watch the world’s bravest riders battle it out around the fearsome 37.73-mile circuit. The Snaefell Mountain course, with its 219 corners, sees riders have their throttles wide open for more than 30% of the lap time, meaning during the Senior race, which covers 6 laps and in excess of 220 miles, the top riders spend more than half an hour on the throttle stop. All this on public road, complete with all the usual obstacles, such as kerbs, lamp posts & drain covers.
Each rider needs to complete a minimum of 6 complete laps on the bike they’ll be riding in each class during Practice Week, hence the “Qualifying” moniker. This meant our rider, former winner James Hillier would have to do 12 laps minimum for LAMI OMG Racing, on board the Yamaha R1 Superbike & Superstock machines. That may not sound a lot, but with each lap taxing both bike & rider to the limit, and an additional 6 laps to tick off on the Supersport R6 he’d be racing for another team, we had a lot of work to cram in during the limited sessions.
Qualifying week would prove fruitful for James & the team, with numerous settings changed and experimented with netting us the 11th fastest time in the Superbikes & a fantastic 6th in the Superstock, the latter of which James cracked the 130mph average lap barrier on, a first for a Yamaha on the island. It wouldn’t be the first record broken during the event for the team, though.
This TT would see us use the Bitubo suspension that we’ve seen massive success with at the Bennetts British Superbike rounds for the first time. We were joined by Bitubo Senior Engineer and team fixture “Barry” (his real name is Manilo) for most of both weeks, for his first TT, and he was invaluable in working with Alan, Dale, JB, Daz, Bill and the rest of the team in ensuring James’ suspension setup was at the absolute optimum for the tricky (and very bumpy) course.
As Race Week dawned, the paddock saw a marked increase in the number of fans, all of whom were there to meet their favourite riders, and watch some racing. It’s always great to meet the fans of not only us as a team, but James too, and hundreds of you visited our Merch Tent as time went on, grabbing teamwear (sorry that we ran out of smaller sizes so quickly, we’ll order more next year!), the super-cool limited edition T-shirts that Tommy Hill designed for us, and some of James’ Fast Track 2 Hell chilli sauce, made from finest Carolina Reapers. Many of you have seen the video of the American chap downing a bottle, but those of you that have tried it will attest that it wasn’t exactly the sort of thing normal folk can chug.
Our first race of the week, on Sunday, would see the riders complete 6 full laps, meaning a total racing distance of 226.38 miles – this would equate to more than 90 laps of Donington Park’s GP circuit, and see James go through some serious physical challenges on his Yamaha R1 Superbike.
His opening lap would prove to be a lap record, with the 38-year-old recording 132.358, the Fastest Ever standing start lap of the island on a Yamaha! This would see him P5 at the start of Lap 2, just 0.5 seconds behind Davey Todd, and him gaining yet more ground on the Padgetts star throughout the lap. He would record P3 through the speed trap on Sulby Straight, hitting more than 192mph, before a slow pit stop caused by a poor fuel feeder would see him 10 seconds down. Laps 3 & 4 would see him make up ground, battling Jamie Coward on both the track & board, before another slow pit stop saw him 8 seconds down on his closest rival coming into lap 4. By the end of sector 2 though, he would be 6.3 seconds up, pulling 194mph through the speed trap, to eventually finish the race P4, missing out on a podium by a matter of seconds.
Monday was a bank holiday, meaning a day off for the team, so the second race wouldn’t kick off until Tuesday, taking place on the team’s Yamaha R1 Superstock bike across 4 laps. Lap 1 would see James make a blistering start, cracking 190mph on Sulby Straight and the sacred 130mph average lap barrier, as well as the team securing the fastest pit stop, refuelling and changing visors in just 33.9 seconds. As he crossed the line on Lap 3, he would have bagged P5, as well as taking the Fastest Ever Superstock Yamaha Lap Record with a 132.328mph average speed.
Our next race wasn’t to be until Friday, meaning slightly more relaxed days for the team. In the meantime, James would take on the Supersport class with Boyce Precision Engineering, on a Yamaha R6. Unfortunately, despite finishing P6 in Race 1, Race 2 would see him drop off the timing screens early into the first lap. After a few tense minutes, it would be reported that James was safe and had been forced to retire after a mechanical failure on a remote section of the course.
The second & final Superstock race would take place on the final Friday of the event, also a bank holiday, and see James again set off fifth on the course, with a ten second interval between each rider. It was to be a shortened 3 lap session, and by the close of Lap 1, thanks to another slow pit stop, through no fault of the team, he would have dropped to P6, albeit less than 3 second behind the Honda of Coward. He would eventually cross the line P7, 17 seconds back, grabbing another silver trophy for his ever-expanding cabinet.
Saturday was the Main Event. The Big One. The one everyone wants to see; The Senior. Taking place over 6 laps under glorious sunshine, it was to be the perfect end to the weekend for everyone there. James would hold his starting position in Lap 1, before Brookes taking it on Lap 2 with a 10 second lead. Lap 3 would see a mistake drop him back to P8, behind the legendary John McGuinness & former teammate Davo Johnson, before battling back to secure P6 by the close.
Always one to end the event in style, he would run out of fuel in the return lane, pushing his bike home to rapturous applause from the massive grandstand crowds, before learning that he’d broken yet another record, averaging 132.7mph on the final lap, making him the Fastest Yamaha Ever around the course.
Special mention has to go to OMG sponsored rider Dominic Herberton, who was brought to tears when he cracked the elusive 130mph barrier, as well as bagging a number of Top 10 finishes during the week!
On a less positive note, the community unfortunately lost TT-stalwart Raul Torras Martinez this year during the event, and the thoughts of the team go out to his friends, family, and team.
For the team, the 2023 TT was yet again a glorious escape from everything in the outside world, spending almost 3 weeks in one of the most beautiful places in Britain, under glorious blue skies, surrounded by bikes, and meeting some incredibly interesting people. What could be better?