Retro Rewind: Cameron Donald bags dream Isle of Man TT double in only his third year of racing around the Mountain Course
Riding for Northern Ireland’s Relentless by TAS Suzuki team, Donald earned his maiden success around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course in the Dainese Superbike race.
In only his third TT, Donald got the better of team-mate Bruce Anstey to win by 10.7 seconds, setting a new race record at 126.82mph. It was Australia’s first TT success since Graeme McGregor won the Junior race in 1984.
Ulsterman Adrian Archibald made it a Suzuki 1-2-3 as he filled the final rostrum place on his AMA Racing GSX-R1000 machine. Pre-race favourite John McGuinness (Padgett’s Manx Gas Honda) was forced out with a mis-fire on lap two, while Guy Martin also retired from the race on the Hydrex Honda.
Donald made it a quickfire double as he dominated the Superstock race to win by 15 seconds from McGuinness, with Martin taking third ahead of Ryan Farquhar.
A memorable week for Donald was capped with a runner-up finish in the Senior TT showpiece behind McGuinness, who equalled Mike Hailwood’s record of 14 wins.
In the weeks after his TT success, I caught up with Cameron at a café in Cookstown in Co Tyrone, where he reflected on his rapid rise to the top.
“I went over to the TT in 2004 with Billy [Barron, of Barron Transport Services (BTS)] as a spectator and watched at Ballagarey,” Donald said.
“Bruce Anstey was one of the first riders I saw come through in the 600 Production race and I turned to Billy and I said ‘you’ve got to get me over here, I’ve got to race this place.’
“It feels like yesterday and to think that now I’m team-mates with Bruce (Anstey) – it’s just been a whirlwind and a fairy-tale for me.
“I took the opportunity to go there as a newcomer. I went over with the 600 in 2005 and I said ‘I’ll see how I go’ and I just wanted to finish the race to say I’d raced the TT,” he added.
“People say you either love it or hate it, but I loved it and after I went there I thought, ‘right, I’m going to stick at this and I’m going to give it three years and at the end of those three years, I’m going to see what I can do.’
“To be honest I thought that after three years I would have the knowledge to be able to challenge for a result, but when I was thinking of a result I was thinking more of a podium than a win,” said Donald, who missed the Centenary TT in 2007 after breaking his collarbone in a crash at the North West 200.
“So to get second on my second time there [in the 2006 Senior TT] and now to have won has definitely blown my mind.”
For Donald, like so many motorcycle racers, the challenges posed by high speed competition on the Isle of Man represent the sternest test of man and machine anywhere in the world.
“The TT is just the ultimate,” he said. “I was listening to Steve Parrish who said the TT was the Everest of racing motorbikes or the Olympics of motorcycle racing.
“It’s the pinnacle for a racing challenge because of the course knowledge required and the endurance and to me that’s why those wins mean more than anything,” he said.
“I could honestly retire from racing right here and now and be totally satisfied. It’s just the history involved with the TT, it’s phenomenal and to get a win...I can’t really explain how much it means to me.
“Even back home in Australia everyone knows about the TT and it’s probably only second to Phillip Island because that’s our home circuit, so it’s very special.
“The talent keeps coming through and last year I missed the Centenary and that was heart-breaking for me, but last year the Centenary was almost an anti-climax with the results; I’m not taking anything away from John (McGuinness) but he sort of walked it a bit,” Donald added.
“But this year the racing was just so close, especially that Senior race, which was just phenomenal. The organisers are doing a great job with the TT now and the event is strong.
“It’s the same with the North West 200 and the Ulster Grand Prix is coming through as well, although they’ve been so unlucky with the weather at Dundrod.”
His TT stock was at an all-time high, but Donald said he had no plans to approach the event any differently in the future.
“I never set my goals by talking about getting a treble or whatever like I hear a lot of riders saying, because I think you’re just putting too much pressure on yourself,” he said.
“Even though I’ve won two TTs, my approach will be no different next year. I’ll be going there to try and improve how I ride the course.”
Donald never won another TT although he went close on several occasions, including finishing second by only 0.77s to Anstey in a thrilling Supersport race in 2913.
He last competed at the event in 2016 but has worked at the TT as a television pundit and commentator.
- Retro Rewind - Steve Plater's dramatic 2009 Senior TT triumph- Retro Rewind - Guy Martin's final Ulster Grand Prix success- Retro Rewind - Three reasons why 2004 was such a special year for Ryan Farquhar- Retro Rewind - Young Portadown rider Wayne Hamilton was destined for the top- Retro Rewind - Michael Dunlop's first 'Race of Legends' win at Armoy- Retro Rewind - Special day for the Dunlops at North West 200* A message from the Editor:
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