The Peel Explorers
How not to have a holiday in the Isle of Man
After playing at racers on the motorway on Friday (I won as the Seddon lorry I was driving had the edge over the Leyland artic the other bloke had) Phil and myself set out for a much wanted rest in the Isle of Man. The weather which had been quite fair all week before decided to do its usual trick and drizzle all the way up to Stoke and the M6. Still Liverpool was the goal and it was safely reached in plenty of time for the boat. Well, as you may well know, the IoM Steam Packet Company like to drain out your petrol before loading the bikes and so we had aimed to leave as little petrol as possible in the tanks when we arrived at Liverpool. However the best of plans can come amiss as I ran out just coming into Liverpool and had to complete the journey on reserve while Phil ran out altogether on the quayside. He had to push onto the boat and off to the garage at Douglas.
The major catastrophe of the holiday was to happen later on the Saturday actually on the island when, on the first lap of the course, a tractor driven by a notable stupid Manx driver decided that even after looking directly at me he still couldn't see the bike and so he pulled out right in front of me. Damage to the machine was quite considerable though we were fortunately able to straighten the bike sufficiently to ride it home. Yes, I can confidently report that Norton's don't make 'em like they used to, more's the pity.
This rather put the mockers on the first week as most of our time was used in looking for places to straighten things and so on. However the weather was at least fine and we took breaks to watch all but one of the practice sessions - one of the two morning ones actually - we made one morning stint. As we discovered later, the practice was to provide some of the finest dicing as during race week itself either mechanical breakdown or bad weather seemed to reduce all the races to a case of the hare and the tortoise. I know that reliability and speed don't always go together but I do think that if more reliability isn't built into the bikes then spectator interest will eventually begin to wane. For example, in the 500cc event, though all the super fast Yams and Suzzis were out, the old Arter Matchless could have kept up with the eventual winners in the right hands (eg Peter Williams) as all the fast boys eventually retired.
The rest of the holiday was rather quiet, not surprisingly since bent frames and buckled front wheels don't actually encourage 100mph laps. The number of bikes over this year was greater than ever even though few top stars were to appear. Again thoughts are confused as to the possible future of the event though personally I'm convinced the meeting will continue to be held to attract a large crowd even if it loses its world status; it's just too good a bike holiday to worry to death about world status.
As for our fortnight, we have eventually persuaded ourselves the IoM beers are OK and so we spent a quiet time in a certain Peel hotel drinking bitter at 14p per pint, which can't be bad.
Dave Smith & Phil Freestone