Isle of Man TT Races

storyThe world’s biggest and boldest motorcycle races kick into gear this weekend on the Isle of Man. Recently we caught up with Welsh rider Rhys Hardisty for his thoughts.

What is your own ethnicity?
I am a Welsh speaking Welshman; born in Newport, South Wales, and I now live near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. My mother and maternal family are from the Welsh valleys – Gilfach, Bargoed – and my father and his family were from Harrogate, North, Yorkshire, so I have a strong Yorkshire background also.

When and why did you first get involved with racing?
My father was an avid motorcyclist and competed in circuit and road racing. I went with him and my mother to watch Dad race from a very young age. I have been obsessed with racing at the Isle of Man for as long as I can remember – Mum and Dad used to take me over in his sidecar every year since I was tiny. I was fascinated with likes of Joey Dunlop and ‘Mad’ Phil McCallen. I remember thinking that I wanted to be like them.

Are they the same reasons you do it today?
I am the same person now, although a little older and a little uglier….I’m still none the wiser, however, and I still am determined to aim high and reach that goal. However, it has also become a soul-seeking personal… life has a funny way of mentally changing certain aspects…for me, it has made me more so determined to try for it.

What are the challenges of the vocation?
Definitely financing – and the amount of commitment that it takes. It costs us thousands of pounds every year; just to compete at the Manx Grand Prix costs in excess of £5000. It means that my partner and I haven’t been on holiday for over 5 years. We are still driving ancient cars, and even the race van has seen better days.  Local businesses, including Kaymac Marine Engineering, REPS Motorcycles, Hicks Logistics, Willson and Wilding, Team BWR, and Phil Anslow Coaches have been fantastic and have allowed us to continue pursuing the sport. Racing is a vocation and an obsession; it can be a very selfish sport, as it takes so much commitment.  Every weekend is spent either in a race paddock or building bikes, training or trying to raise funds, and every spare penny needs to be spent on entering races or developing the bikes. “Late nights, early mornings, work, race, repeat…”

What are the rewards?
Racing is like therapy; freedom… happy place. There are a lot of up and downs to every aspect of the sport, as I’m sure is the same for any sport, but for all the lows the feeling and satisfaction not only for me on the bike, but for all those people involved in making it happen from my team – my ever supportive and long suffering partner Becky, my mum, all my family and friends, sponsors – when we get a good result or a podium it’s the best feeling. I cannot thank them all enough. All the hard work from all involved, including officials and marshals, make it all worthwhile. Like a kid in a sweet shop at Christmas with a pocket full of pocket money, that’s how a win at a prestigious meet such as a podium at the Isle of Man feels to me.

How has the sport evolved in recent years?
For me, the Isle of Man TT and the Manx is still very much now the mustard. However, the popularity and amount of money involved in the sport has definitely made it more difficult for lads on a shoe string budget to get in on the action; big teams, lots of money, expensive machinery makes it very difficult to compete at high level. 250 and 125 classes were pure…all the bikes were very similar, so it was down to rider precision, and set up on the day, making for a wide field of more affordable and competitive racing. Throw in the rain, and you could see some boys up front you’d never even heard of… when men where men and racing was run in the rain. That was the real TT for me. It is also very important to remember that everything evolves, and the whole aspect of the TT and the MGP truly is the world’s best spectacle and should be promoted to the hills and back to the officials, marshals, the great people you meet in the paddock, the riders, the spectators…the winners and the binners…to all the fallen hero…they have all made the TT what it is today. So all in all I would say it’s both the same and better.  Recently there appears to have been a bit of a revival, owing to personalities such as Guy Martin and the Dunlops, so hopefully the popularity of the Isle of Man mountain course will continue to increase.

What are your thoughts on the Isle of Man TT Races generally?
It really is everything to me – it’s a personal thing…lots of good memories…some bad; my father lost his life in the 98 production TT. But to be honest, the Isle of Man is my happy place, and I’m happiest on the bike in my ‘Neverland’. The TT is the pinnacle of road racing. The best thing since sliced bread; it’s the mutt’s nuts, the bollocks, cheese on toast!

What else do you have on tap for the remainder of 2016?
More of the same really – as much road racing as possible.