Pleasure Island - 2003 TT Test

We took the four road-going versions from 2003's TT winning bikes together with two TT specialists, back to the home of road racing

Posted: 5 November 2003
by Jon Urry

Driving the 37.73 mile TT course with three-times TT winner John McGuinness com- mentating, is a sobering experience, but it also shows the absolute dedication and fanatical attention to detail that is required to come even close to mastering the island course.

He knows every bend by name, every bump in the road, every brick that sticks out of every wall, every natural spring that creates a permanent puddle of water on the road and every small imperfection in the tarmac that has to be avoided.

But it's when he starts talking about the friends and fellow racers that have lost their lives to the island that the dangers of the course are brought home, very sharply. At virtually every corner McGuinness mentions the name of a rider and points to a spot where they, or their bike, ended up. To someone like myself who doesn't know much about the history of the TT and has only been there once before it's a scary ride.

But this year's TT was harder than most for the racers. During the Thursday afternoon practice session TT legend, and one of the most liked riders in the paddock, Dave Jefferies was killed when he hit some oil and lost control of his GSX-R1000 at close to 160mph. The man who had set the out-right lap record of 127.29mph was gone.

McGuinness was the first rider on the scene and quite how he managed to carry on racing that week let alone win a TT race having seen the body of one of his best friends lying in the road demonstrates the mental toughness needed to compete at the TT.

Joining TWO on the Island nearly two months after the close of the festival was the first time McGuinness had returned to the scene since the racing finished, it was also the first time Gus, another of DJ's closest friends, had been to the site. On the first night they both spent a few quite minutes at the scene in Crosby to pay their respects.

But in the bar afterwards the sadness is forgotten while Gus and John swap stories, many too rude to repeat, involving DJ and the times they had raced together and the shenanigans that they had got up to afterwards. Both myself and Evil Jim were left in hysterics as a more and more drunken McGuinness and Gus kept reeling off the stories until late that night. But it was the antidote we all needed because not only were we remembering DJ but also another TT legend Steve Hislop, who was meant to be joining us on the test but was tragically killed just a week earlier in a helicopter accident. Two of Britain's greatest racers who will be sadly missed.

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