Tourist Tropy 2009

At the end of a three year’s break here we are again: Equipe37 takes part in the TT on the Isle of Man – the Road Racing Capital of the World. Team boss Axel signed on for the classes Superbike and Superstock, although many hurdles had to been cleared. With the new Yamaha R 1 we seemed to be well prepared.

Logistics at Formula 1 level

But it needs a lot of organization, before the Clerk of the Course will send our rider on his first practice lap in front of the Grandstand in Douglas. The same weekend Equipe37 will take part in the German Speedweek at Oschersleben. Fortunately this season we have a T-Bike and more spare parts than ever before! Incidentally our traditional accomodation has been fully booked - the ACU’s confirmation came at short notice - and there was no other lodging available for the whole fortnight. So we will have to move after practice week and still look after a B & B for the very last night!

So on Friday during the German Speedweek the T-Bike has to be converted from Endurance to Road Race after the last practice. The dutch mechanics Laurens, David and Feiko show their highly recommended competence and build up a bike, which is much more than just „basic“ for the mountain course. Saturdy morning team factotum Smoke leaves Oschersleben with the packed team van towards Holland.

The TT is divided in a practice and a race week; this makes the planning for the mechanics team a bit sophisticated. We did it the following way:

Saturday: Smoke travels to Rotterdam for the Hull ferry
Sunday: Arival in Hull; transfer to Heysham; crossing to Douglas; check in at the Old Lonan Church Farm; erection of the team stand in the TT paddock
Monday: Arrival of Gary „Dazler“ Dalzell from Belfast and rider Axel from Hannover by plane; Smoke departing to Berlin; first evening practice session
Friday: Arrival Nail and Smoke by plane; last practice session
Saturday: Moving from Old Lonan Church Farm to the Ballavarteen Farm; Superbike race
Sunday: Depart Dazler to Belfast
Monday: Race Superstock
Tuesday: Arrival Tati and Emilia; Holidays …
Saturday: Moving to the Sulby Glen Hotel (Nail, Smoke); return to the Old Lonan Church Farm (Tati, Axel, Emilia)
Sunday: Crossing to Heysham; Transfer to Hull; check in for the ferry to Rotterdam; return flight for Axel, Tati und Emilia to Frankfurt
Monday: Way back to Germany via Duisburg (Smoke takes the ICE to Berlin); arrival Nail at the team base in Roßdorf

First of all this means: Smoke will be the first team member to get this extremely missed „Isle-of-Man-feeling“. This feeling unfortunately had to wait, because at Europoort harbor a dutch customs officer wanted to see the vehicle documents for the racing bike. Which do not exist, much less they are in the van! Long discussion, short check, whether the bike is stolen, and the ferry may be entered.

Equipe37 is very well known inside the Endurance racing scene for comfortable voyages: en-suite cabin, dinner and breakfast included! Freshen up first and then entering the buffet: fish, Chicken Vindaloo, cheese, salad, desserts: everything you like and all you can eat. Afterwards with a Shandy on the Sun Deck, watching sun set and in the end rocked to sleep by the waves and the ship’s engine. The next morning starts with a traditional full english breakfast, followed by a trip straight through England.

Arriving in time at Heysham harbor, Smoke had one typical marvellous experience, which makes the Isle of Man worth living and endearing: the vessel „Ben-my-Chree“ puts in and the Governor of the Isle of Man (or better: his driver) drives with a Rolls Royce Phantom (new model) with a „Three legs“ guidon off the boat. World economic crisis translated into Manx! On board taking a TT-programme, having a little sleep and here we are in Douglas. While on the Isle of Man the time has stopped, many things changed in the Paddock for the better. The campsite is pretty well organised, but without paddock pass you have a problem, but no permission to enter. Karsten „Schmitti“ Schmidt has enough tickets, so Smoke can put up the tent. Which is already wrecked and not used to the storms coming from the Irish Sea. Fix everything with tape and cable ties and weigh down with tires.

After this driving to Baldrine for our first self catering flat: a converted shed with a Snooker, Jacuzzi etc. After the long and exhausting week in Oschersleben it’s possible now to wash the whole lot of clothes. The drying tumbler runs on „sensors“ all night long and at 7 a. m. all Equipe37 shirts are shrunk to size M!

Monday Dazler arrives from Belfast and Axel from Germany, both by plane. Dazler talks about his Huskies and Laverdas, Axel about the Speedweek: after three crashes from MaTThijs we ran out of fairings; also an endurance fuel tank got smashed. But this shows precisely, why we professionalised our equipment just in time: one year before we hadn’t been able to finish the race!

Practice week

Axel’s first practice session sets place under perfect weather conditions. In spite of this for him it’s difficult to come back to the 36 miles on the mountain course after 3 year’s interruption. The track has changed and Axel has to learn the course almost like a newcomer, starting at the very beginning. Equipe37 this year just has a reserve starting permission and by that reason no stress with qualification times. Axel decides to refrain from experiments with set up and tires. Increasing the track knowledge is in the focus.

The Weather is brilliant all practice week long. Dazler and Axel use the spare time for sunbaths on the cottage verandah. But the scrutineers with their daily check ups on our R 1 take care of the crew not to be bored too much. As a privateer, especially a foreigner, you have to stand the arbitrariness of the TT officials. Contradiction is useless, may cause disqualification in the worst case. So Dazler reluctantly becomes a good customer at the awesome expensive Ernie Coates racing service.

Tuesday our R 1 caused quite a stir under the marshalls: after two practice laps Axel came under investigation by 5 (five!) scrutineers, checking the rear wheel. They are upset with the cable ties fixing the sprocket to the rim! A wide spreaded method in the Endurance scene to prevent the sprocket from dropping when the wheel gets changed. Nevertheless the scrutineers never saw something like this before and demand an immediate removal, otherwise Equipe37 will be excluded! TAS Suzuki won’t be bothered with such a ridiculous argument.

But Axel had lot’s of fun anyway. Although the lap times are not satisfying. Because Axel promised his wife and his daughter not to drive at or over the limit.

Race week

Friday night the mechanics Nail and Smoke arrive by plane, the pit crew at race week. But they are confronted with two bad news: due to the bad weather the schedule has been changed, so the Superbike race will take place on Mad Sunday and - even worse - Axel, who is just a reserve rider, got no starting permission.

Everyone knew, what the „R“ meant in the competitor’s list; but of course everybody hopes, that enough entrants abstain from racing and the own team can move up. But it didn’t work like this. Shit happens.

So we had a compulsory holiday, we enyojed a lot. Gary had to leave the island early, which was a pity, but the rest of the crew relaxed in the sun, ate Manx Kippers and drank Guinness. Tuesday the female branch of Equipe37 arrived; in particulat Emilia, at an age of 10 months the youngest team member, kept us in a good mood. We met Dagmar and Christian, two german immigrants on the island, who cooked for us and we cooked for them. P. S.: Christian is a BMW rider, but he’s OK?!

Regardless of being just spectators at the TT, Axel has been involved in a race incident. What happened?

The Onchan Raceway Club every year during the race week organises a pocket bike sidecar race, in which a TT sidecar rider takes part to enjoy the upcoming racers. But the rider, who confirmed his entry for this year, had a crash in practice, so they needed a substitute rider. They asked Axel, who accepted at once. Nail did the same, too, so Equipe37 took part with two riders. The Onchan Raceway is an ultra short stock car oval. Two races are on the schedule, one in each direction. This is quite sophisticated, because once you have right hand corners, once left hand corners, but both times with a side car on the left! Then happened, what had to happen: For the reason Axel could do the practice just in one direction, he dropped the side car on the warm up lap to the first race (direction vice versa) and broke his collar bone. Our tough endurance racer finished the race, of course. Both équipiers got lapped quite a few times because of the bike’s heavy load and took the first two places (viewed from the back of the results). After the event the ambulance took Axel to the hospital for an X-ray, just in case. And the surgeon verified the suspicion. Axel got deeply frustrated, because he didn’t even hurt himself in a real race incident, which could be used for sponsor negotations. Tati herself developped the theory, that Axel gets injured every time, when she’s with him at the race track. After quite a long time queueing in the emergency unit we went back to our shed.

In spite of all those adversities Equipe37 had a bright stay with traditional tourist activities (Manx Electric Railway; Snaefell Mountain Railway), but many new things could be explored like the Grove Museum in Ramsey, which is hghly recommended, while Smoke especially urges the fans of Equipe37 to visit the Grove Museum Café! The Red Arrows were on the schedule, too, and a visit in the Liverpool Arms as well as Fish’n’Chips at Rosie’s Sulby Glen Hotel. Rosie granted asylum to Nail and Smoke for their last night on the island; so both could drive the team bus relaxed to Douglas for the ferry.

Although Axel couldn’t get some Finisher’s medals this year, in the end it was a fantastic thing to be back on the Isle of Man; for the most of us a Déjà-vu - for Nail the first trip to the Irish Sea indeed – and immediately he has been fired with enthusiasm!


Smoke’s point of view

After quite a while my brother takes part in the Tourist Trophy again. He likes the Isle of Man, too, but I believe he has no idea, what it means to me coming back here. I am the driver of the team’s Ford Transit and the closer I get to my final destination, the happier I am! Also Nail from Germany and Dazler from Northern Ireland will be there as well as Tati and our (female) up-and-coming rider Emilia.

A great team that you want to have around you while on holiday! Although everything had to be organised very shortly, Axel found two really nice b & b’s to stay; the last night Nail and me will spend at Rosie’s Sulby Glen Hotel, where I fell in love with the Isle of Man! Axel would ride here for the last time, which made us melancholy, but the melancholy will fade away and the beautiful remembrance will stay.




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