Part of the TT’s charm lies in its unpredictability and Monday’s racing proved just how quickly fortunes can change here on the island. In a day filled with drama, we were given a glimpse of the tremendous highs and devastating lows that this unique event can reach.
The Supersport race kicked off the day and the anticipation of taking these nimble bikes out meant the riders were in good spirits. As smaller siblings of the Superbikes, these 600cc beauties make up in agility what they lack in brute horsepower.
The sound at the start line was slightly muted compared to Saturday’s start, although the sight of these bikes reaching speeds of over 160mph as they hurtle down Bray Hill is by no means less impressive. Lap one completed, the race leaders burned past the Grandstand just 18 minutes after the start – not bad for the ‘junior’ machines.
Then suddenly, nothing. The minutes ticked by but the eerie silence brought with it the realisation that something was very wrong, confirmed quickly afterwards by news that the race had been red flagged.
It can take a while for details to filter back round the track and eventually, we glimpsed the strange sight of bikes riding the wrong way up Bray Hill as they were recalled from all around the course back to the start line. The tragic news reached us that Irish racer, Derek Brien, lost his life in an accident at Gorse Lea.
Although the race was later restarted over a shorter 3-lap distance and won by Kiwi, Bruce Anstey, the loss of one of this close-knit community’s riders was keenly felt by all. The mood was a sombre one and I was taken aback at how the paddock unites, not only to celebrate victories but also in mourning fallen comrades. But these racers are here to do a job and, inevitably, their thoughts have to return to the task at hand.
In the long wait until the next race, crowds were treated to a Subaru demonstration lap and practices by the sidecars and TT Zero bikes. Finally, the Superstock race got underway and the start line was once again engulfed by the growl of the big litre engines. These bikes are allowed only a limited amount of modification so they are the closest things you’ll see to road bikes in this competition.
From early on, Michael Dunlop established a firm lead and saw a much slicker pit stop than the disaster he had in Saturday’s race. The young rider from Ballymoney notched up his second TT win, with McGuinness and Martin returning for another podium finish in second and third places respectively.
In a day that saw sadness and glory, Dunlop dedicated his victory to Derek Brien, demonstrating that any sporting rivalries that exist between the competitors are quickly put aside when it counts. For now, it’s business as usual on the island but this will always remain the tightest of communities.