At last the 2012 season is here, with my first race meeting on Sunday the 25th of March. I’ve got lots of going on at the moment and have been kept really busy after joining the ARA Club committee, it’s nice to get involved on a different level and put something back into the Club. I’ve also been really busy preparing myself for this season both mentally and physically, fingers crossed this year will see my roads racing debut, all my plans for 2012 revolve around my Manx Grand Prix Newcomers entry!
I should just add a brief overview of my story at this point, as I’m sure some folk reading this have wondered what BigMitch Racing is all about. I’ve been a bike nut all my life and got into riding bikes at an early age, I used to ride my Brothers Yamaha RD around when I was 12 (private roads of course), and by the age of 16 bought my own 50cc Suzuki TS. I moved to the Isle of Man in 1988 and got into cars for a while, but the bike bug never left me and by the mid 90′s had taken my bike test and bought a Honda CBR400-R baby blade. I owned several sports bikes after this moving up through the ranks from 600cc’s and eventually buying my dream machine the Yamaha R1, having a blast on the IOM TT Course couldn’t get much better. And then came the TT 2001 that never was, cancelled due to foot & mouth, however the celebrations on the Island continued. Sadly my enjoyment of the festival was to come to an abrupt end with a massive accident at the 26th milestone, I don’t remember much about it and thankfully nobody else was involved. I suffered some big injury’s, bruised lungs, torn spleen, a general beating and the dreaded nerve injury to the group of nerves that control the arm (Brachial Plexus). The first three years flashed by with hospital visits and further surgery at the specialist hospital in Stanmore, with nerve grafts and lots of physio etc with the hope of recovering some movement, unfortunately I didn’t gain any further use of the arm and continued to rehabilitate my life, with lots of support from friends and family. So I re-trained myself from Dairy worker to Accountant, but my love of motorcycles never left me. I’d already found the internet and was in contact with fellow Brachial Plexus sufferers, and I’d joined the NABD National Association for Bikers with a Disability and heard of one armed riders/racers who had overcome their injury’s and got back on two wheels. So in 2004 I bought a scooter and had it adapted thanks to Paul Dedman, it was a fairly simple job of moving the indicators over to the right. I quickly learnt the hang of riding the bike and was using it everyday for work, great being back on two wheels!
Of course the little 100cc scooter was never going to be enough, and after a couple of years riding to and from work I bought myself a Yamaha R6, its was an early 1999 model in red and white low miles and came with a quality steering damper decent exhaust and in good condition, it just needed a bit of tlc.
I found myself a local engineer, His business card read “Peter Moran – The Good Doctor – Awkward and Eccentric Engineering”! It turns out Peter not only had an impressive collection of CNC Milling machines & built His own British based Classic Drag bikes, but was also one of the Doctors used to help out during the TT, MGP and Jurby ARA Club meets. After some discussion and head scratching over several brews of strong tea we eventually came up with the idea of how my adaption would work. All I needed was the clutch lever on the right hand side of the bars, the inspiration came from the additional levers found on classic bikes like the Ariel, with the Clutch cable rooted down the clip on tube the lever exiting the bar end, and so the design was made and eventually I made my first test run outside Pete’s country home, eeek!
So after some fine tuning I was back out riding the famous 37.73 mile IOM TT Course while mastering the fine art of controlling the motorcycle with one arm. By the end of 2006 I had gained enough confidence to agree to go on a track day with friends from the Island to the famous race course Oulton Park in Cheshire. The trip soon came round in April 2007 and yes I was nervous, mostly of riding on and off the ferry and riding to our digs near the circuit, of course it all turned out to be no trouble. During the early session’s on the track day I grabbed one of the instructors and got Him to show me the lines of the circuit, by mid day I had got the hang of it, despite getting some funny looks we had a great time and before long we headed back to the IOM.
During the rest of the year I continued with my riding and took a couple more track days on the local IOM Circuit, Jurby Airfield. While on track I realised I was riding with some of the local club racers and wasn’t far off the pace. This got me thinking, could I take it to the next level and apply for my race licence, we’d have some hurdles to jump but by now I was used to that.
By early 2008 I had joined Andreas Racing Association, and sat my classroom ACU course, taken my eye test and filled out all the forms for my race licence. Because of my arm I was required to take an on track rider assessment by one of the ACU Instructors Gary Radcliffe, the date was set for one of the Race Schools during one of the early club meetings of 2008. I completed the course on my R6 road bike, we had to tape up the lights and have the bike inspected by the scrutineers, followed by the classroom course before the on track assessment. I can remember being really nervous thinking my riding wouldn’t be good enough and I wouldn’t make the grade. After the first track session I went for a chat with Garry who put my mind at rest and said I hadn’t anything to worry about, and by the final session I was given the green light and issued with the go-ahead to apply for my ACU road race novice licence. I was to take my first race meeting in June 2008 with a GSXR-600 K2 ex Tony Oates machine, with a baptism of fire in the 600 class!
The rest is history and with a change of class by the end of 2010 with a JHS Racing SV-650 Supertwin Built for me to start the 2011 season, with the dream of gaining my National Licence to compete in the Manx Grand Prix! 2011 was to be my best year yet, going much faster than I ever did on the 600. The 650cc twin really suited me, much lighter and easier to turn and the punch of the twin out of the corners really worked well, by the middle of the season I was starting to look competitive finishing the year with a battle with John Batty for 3rd place in the championship (sorry John) and gaining my National licence with it.
Here we are in 2012, this year really is all about my roads debut and competing in the 2012 Manx Grand Prix, to line up on the start line of the Mountain Course and see the flag drop with the tap on the shoulder really is a dream come true, something that’s taken lots of hard work and impossible without the help of Friends and Family, supporters and Sponsors, it really is a team effort!
To enter the MGP you need an ACU National licence gained by finishing within 110% of the race winner, you also need a Mountain Course licence, this requires a medical form filling out and you need to of competed in 6 race meeting’s within the time frame of June 2011 to June 2012, I have 2 of these signatures left to collect In 2012, so I have my entry in for the ARA Meetings on the 25th of March and 15th of April, fingers crossed that’s me sorted for the MTC Licence, will update on that in April.
If my entry is accepted I really don’t want my first ever real road race to be the Manx Grand Prix, so Ive entered the Post TT Supertwin Race on the 9th of June on the Billown Circuit down by Castletown, to gain some experience and use the event as a test for both the bike and rider. Hopefully plenty of fans will still be on the Island and come down to support the event, we can be sure of a couple of celebratory beers afterwards.
My preparation also started back in 2011 by working hard on my fitness, again with the focus all about the Manx Grand Prix, Ive been training hard with a mix of Mountain climbing, weights and Mountain Biking, and with giving up the booze for Lent I’ve lost a good 9Kilo’s! Of course Ive kept up with the on board videos and the Playstation TT video game while getting out for laps of the course on the R6 as often as possible.
March 2012 at last the racing season kicked off with my first track day of the year, a very cold Sunday up at Jurby, I used the day with as much track time as possible, the upgrade to the forks (Ktech) felt good but the cold temperature meant I couldn’t really push as hard as I wanted, still I felt happy with the bike. By mid March I was lucky enough to take part in the Manx Grand Prix Newcomers weekend, we had several experienced MGP racers give us advice and take us round for guided laps in a mini bus, with a pit lane chat from Big H on what to expect during pit stops etc a real eye opener. The Weekend was brilliant and great to meet with some of the other Newcomers from around the World, my dream to compete in the Manx was starting to feel real! Here’s a link to the MGP weebsite, lookout for the Newcomers video!
The first race meeting came round on the 25th of March, I was more than ready to get stuck in, and with support from Sponsors and friends and family the bike was looking a million dollars. The weather couldn’t of been better, genuinely like a Summers day with warm blue skies. Without the pressure of needing to finish in a certain position as all I really need is a finish to gain my signature I was feeling relaxed and looking forward to racing again!
My first qualifying session got underway, after the first sighting lap with warm tyres and good track condition I decided to go for it, half way into the lap exiting the bus stop chicane I flicked the bike right left as usual, except the clip on (handlebar) came loose in my hand and I lost control of the bike for a second, not good. I had to limp the bike back to the pits and abandon the session, with about 15 minutes to sort the clipon before my next session, thanks to my pit mate Quilly and Phil Gaunt who also came to the rescue we got sorted and back on track for the next session.
I had to put all that behind me and concentrate on the job in hand, I put some safe steady laps in and was soon heading back for the pits this time feeling happier with the bike. My times weren’t great but I was only really looking for a safe finish, I had noticed the bike wasn’t steering too well so had a think about making some adjustments for the race’s in the afternoon.
Lunch break gave us time to fuel up, get the kettle on and have a chat with folk who I hadn’t seen all winter. I had a look at my times and the first session I qualified 21/32 with a time of 1.23, and the second session 13/24 with a lap time of 1.21. By early afternoon the first couple of races got under way and the Ballaugh posse arrived to support, with some advice from Julian Wood who’s a bit of a suspension guru we made some positive changes to setup and got the bike steering much better steadily improving each time I went out to race, I finished the day with low 1.19’s consistent lap times with a 5th place finish against a strong field of riders, down to my best times of 2011. A good day had by all!
So I’ve got one more signature to gain my Mountain Course Licence which I should have by the 15th of April, and my online MGP Entry is in awaiting approval, I expect to make my roads debut on the 9th of June at the Post TT Races. The support I’ve had along the way has been fantastic, I’ve said it before but it’s true, I can’t do it without all the help. Mugs4u have started a line of MITCH48 Merchandise and I receive a small royalty from each T-Shirt or Hoody ordered, please take a look and make an order, the gear is quality and I think it looks dam fine!
Special thanks should go to Mrs Mitch and Mini Mitch, My Mum and all Family, Jock and Laura for all there help, Crew Chief Quilly, The Ballaugh Massive, RoadRacingSupporters.com, Mugs4U, New 2012 sponsors Unipress, Ross & all the supporters proudly wearing the MITCH48 merchandise!
Im mostly self funding and road racing doesn’t come cheap, if you feel you can help in any way please get in touch, loads more space on the bike. And please follow me on Twitter and Facebook, be sure to like and share my BigMitch Racing page, lots of pictures and regular updates!