TT Centenary: Legends on Legends

Many of the TT's biggest names have been taken from us, either on the Island or by other means. So here, an appreciation of three TT legends by those who knew them the better than most

Mike The Bike by Phil Read

"Mike was a great character and a great rider. Along with Ago he was one of the few guys I was happy to ride close to - he made his passes on ability alone. And he was great fun, an organiser of terrific parties, always with plenty of girls.

"My most exciting dice with Mike was in the '78 Formula One TT. Steve Wynn had cobbled together a Ducati with no real factory backing, but with Mike on it, it was fantastic. I had a Honda which was okay, heavier, but better accelerating.

"In the race Mike caught me on the roads and for three laps we diced. It was incredible and it was a pleasure to watch Mike, so perfect with his lines. When my bike blew I sat the rest of the race on a bank
listening to the radio commentary. When he crossed the line - just, the Ducati had blown feet before the
chequered flag - I had a tear in my eye. Mike had done it and the crowds' cheers were incredible. I often wonder if my engine had held and I'd harried him for longer maybe his engine would have gone earlier - and I would have been the most unpopular TT winner of all time!

"Mike was canny too. I remember back in the 60s when Gary Hocking and Mike were team-mates at MV. Gary had spent all practice with Girling creating what was the first hydraulic steering damper. He finally got it perfected and went out and set a new lap record. He came back in and Mike just pointed to the damper and said to the Girling man, "I'll have one of them". Gary was hopping mad. I told Gary it was his own fault, he should have stopped before the end of the lap and registered a slow time, then Mike wouldn't have known."

David Jefferies

DJ by McGuinness

"What can you say about the man? He was like a big loveable teddy bear. A straight talking teddy bear though, you knew where you stood with him. He came to the TT after it had gone through a quiet period and blew it to pieces, took it to a new level - he smoked everybody with that back-to-back treble. And he made it look easy.

"We got on well because we were both on the same wavelength, everything we thought, we agreed on.

"He helped me with my line on Bray Hill early on, told me to keep a good three foot off the kerb in the dip because the bump in there really hits the bike. It took some balls to stay that far out, you want to go for the apex, it feels wrong being out there. But he was completely right.

"DJ could ride or drive anything well. TT bike, car, truck, supermoto. He could be quite flamboyant. And he was far fitter than anyone gave him credit for. He had to be. He grabbed life, and the TT, by the horns. But he was a softy at heart."

Steve Hislop

Hizzy by Foggy

"Most people remember our 1992 Senior race, with him on the Norton and me on the Yamaha. But there were many, many other battles. In my first TT we had a great battle in the 250 Proddie flicking 'v's at each other, slipstreaming and all.

"We were good mates much of the time too. I do remember in '89 in the 750 Proddie race, I started with Dave Leach and Hizzy started 10 seconds in front of us. Well, me and Dave caught him and we had a three-way battle on the road. I remember trying desperately to hold onto him and Leach on the last lap. I was having to brake silly late at places like Ballaugh just to keep them in sight. But I remember getting to Ramsey and thinking, "now we're in my territory" - the Mountain was like a short circuit to me so I'd be four or five seconds quicker over it than Hizzy. And I remember pulling past Steve and signalling him to pull in behind me and not get involved with the scrap between me and Dave. He told me later he knew exactly what I meant. I finally got Dave on the run into Brandish, late braking. And I almost outbraked myself at Governors. In the end I beat Dave by just over a second. That was my first TT win and having beaten Hizzy and Dave I knew it meant something.

"We had this thing that I'd always start behind him and I knew he didn't like that. I remember coming into 1990 I was telling him and everybody I was going to beat him. It wasn't east for him as he was the man at the TT - Joey was still injured - and so it was tough for him to take the threat. Whit said to me, "Steady on Carl, you're doing his head in, come to that you're fookin' doing my head in as well!" But I wanted a TT double and I got it.

"It was a different story in 1991 though, it was Steve's all the way, I couldn't touch him that year.

"The 1992 Senior was a fantastic race. Both of us arrived at that Friday without a win. Steve had done a
fantastic job in getting the Norton sorted. My Yamaha I loved, it wasn't as fast as the Norton but it did everything else just right.

"In the race I remember leading the first laps but then Hizzy came back and on the last lap I had nine seconds to make up. I got five of them on the Mountain - and a new lap record - but Steve had it. It was great though, he won, I got the lap record. We were both really happy.

"I think being labelled 'the TT man' was a curse as much as an honour for Steve. He wanted to be a short circuits man too and that influenced him in giving up the TT. There were days, when on the right bike in the right frame of mind, he was unbeatable on the circuits. I was really pleased for him when he started making it in BSB and won the championship in '02. It was like, hey, he's the roads guy. He was so good on the Island though. He picked it up much quicker than me, a natural.

"I really miss him, there are many times I'd just like to sit down with him and reminisce over those years."