The weather disruption at this year’s Isle of Man TT has been unprecedented in recent times.
Going into Monday’s scheduled Superbike, Sidecar and Supersport races, only three practice sessions were successfully completed, incorporating the first qualifying stint last Sunday when the focus was primarily on the solo and Sidecar newcomers.
The Superbike machines, which traditionally require the most set-up time, had a mere two sessions last Tuesday and Sunday to prepare for the RST Superbike race.
Some riders completed just a handful of laps, including outright lap record holder Peter Hickman, whose two laps on his 2019-spec Smiths Racing BMW on Sunday were the sum total of his Superbike mileage prior to the first blue riband race around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course.
Northern Ireland’s Lee Johnston was also in the same boat, managing two laps on his Ashcourt Racing BMW.
To put things into perspective, by the Saturday of the first races in 2018, a total of 1,578 practice laps had been completed.
On the corresponding day this year, that figure was only 685 laps, illustrating the lack of on-track action for the riders.
It is a situation that could play into the hands of those riders who have the benefit of more experience of the TT course.
However, for the event’s newcomers, it is far from ideal as they contemplate an already difficult challenge in their maiden year of competition at the toughest road race meeting in the world.
Ultimately, it shows that the TT organisers – and indeed all motorcycle road race bosses – are entirely at the mercy of the weather Gods.
The prospect of wet TT races is no longer entertained and this has been the norm since Scotsman Keith Amor crashed out of the Supersport race at Union Mills in 2011 when rain began to fall on lap two, forcing a stoppage when Michael and William Dunlop were disputing the lead.
A decision was taken to run the race the following day over three laps and it goes into the history books as the last TT race started in predominantly damp conditions.
You have to go all the way back to 2000 for the last TT race run in completely wet conditions, when David Jefferies clinched victory in torrential rain in the Production race at an average speed of 96.61mph.
The qualifying backlog this year has caused a deep sense of frustration and placed extra pressure on Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson, although it is rare that the weather has such a chaotic impact on the schedule.
After two weeks of largely warm and sunny weather in 2018 when everything seemingly ran like clockwork, this year’s weather woe has come as a shock to the system.
Rain, mist and fog has conspired to pile on the misery, with four days throughout practice week from Wednesday to Saturday passing by without a wheel being turned.
When wet races or qualifying sessions are not an option, the situation that we have watched develop over the past nine days is always a possibility when the weather refuses to play ball.
It is an exasperating state of affairs for the organisers, race teams, riders and fans, but there is nothing anyone can do other than wait for a window of opportunity to became available.
No one will be more frustrated than Clerk of the Course Thompson, who must have heaved a sigh of relief on Sunday when the mist cleared significantly to allow some qualifying to go ahead.
Had that not occurred, Monday would in all likelihood have been utilised as an additional practice day, and with Tuesday’s forecast looking particularly grim, it would be nigh on impossible to run the full TT race programme.
We were spoiled by last year’s glorious weather on the Isle of Man, but now it will be a bonus if we manage to see most of the races run.
It hasn’t been great so far and there may not be the same sensational lap speeds witnessed 12 months ago, but there is still the potential for this TT to be remembered for the racing, rather than the weather, as the stories unfold over the remainder of race week.
THE tragic news on Monday that English competitor Daley Mathison had died following a crash in the RST Superbike race cast a dark cloud over the opening TT race day. My thoughts are with Daley’s family, friends and team.