Isle of Man TT – Practice Day – The Engines are Roaring

After a very dreary Monday and Tuesday morning, everyone was only mildly optimistic about having practice last night. By mid-afternoon there was still a light rain in Douglas and fog up on the mountain. And then – the skies cleared. I mean REALLY cleared not a cloud in the sky.

I headed up to the Grandstand area about 4:30 in anticipation of the 6:20 practice session. I had time to see a few friends, grab some coffee (the first order of business) and a bite to eat.

I asked more than my share of questions about where I could be and where I shouldn’t be. At one point one of the Marshals told me, the best one to ask about that is Paul Phillips. I of course said, but I am Paul Phillips. With a smile, he pointed to the other Paul Phillips, who is one of the main organizers at the TT.

It is only natural that I want to be close to the start. The question was how close? Well it was close enough that I could feel the exhaust on my jeans. I was in the grid area right before the individual riders rolled out to the starting line, where they were sent off on their practice run two at a time.

The grid was high energy, organized chaos. There were drivers, mechanics, officials and guests, all wanting a final word with or look at the riders. I wanted to see the look in their eyes right before the flipped down their face shields. I have seen that look before at the start of races. Trying to stay relaxed and yet, the intense concentration for what comes next.

Typically I see athletes before they enter the water for a triathlon, but here within a few seconds they would be reaching well over 100 mph, with the front wheel of their motos popping up as they shift gears and get more power.

After all of the first group of riders had left the line, I started to make my way down pit lane to find a spot to shoot. Ultimately, I was near the end of the pits leaning out, just a bit against the steel guardrail that separated the course from the pit lane. As the riders came by on their 2nd lap, I could feel the guardrail vibrate against my leg.

Although just a bit too late, I quickly put my ear plugs in. Being there was a total sensory experience. The colors streaking by, the sound and the vibration.

Earlier in the day I had met prior TT champ Milky Quayle and asked what two bits of advice he had for me as a first time TT Photographer. Milky smiled and said:

  • Hold on to your hat; and
  • Buy a race radio!

Both were spot on advice. The race radio is one that only receives one station and has the live updates and is about the only way to know what is going on out on the course.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Even for the practice sessions the grandstands were filled.  An estimated 40,000 visitors are expected for race week.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

The first riders off were the ‘newcomers’ signified by the orange vest.  They were led around the course by a marshal for a controlled speed familiarization lap.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Although driver Tim Reeves is a TT veteran, his passenger Mark Wilkes is new to the TT.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

TT favorite Micheal Dunlop chats with another driver prior to the start.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Right off of the start line, the engine whines, the driver shifts gears and keeps his weight back for traction and the wheel pops up.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

As drivers enter the track for their second session the intensity does not diminish. Concentration and sweat!

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Guy Martin is known for his ‘look’ and concentration.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

With the course map over his shoulder there is little time for visuals when at 140 mph you are traveling at more than 200 feet / second.

As expected the evening ended with several riders exceeding 120 mph for an average lap speed.

Tonight I am off to the Quarter Bridge where I think they will slow down a bit for me, well for me and hard right hand turn.

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