The VMCC Manx Rally of 2010
(Click any photo to see a larger picture - then just follow the slide show.)

I suppose that it all started for Jean and I earlier when I heard that a good friend of mine from the USA, Stacey, was going to be able to make it over for a visit to the Isle of Man with us. During November last year I wrote and told him that I was going to make him 'green with envy' as I was going to the Island in my capacity as club President, for the Manx Rally. All his life he'd wanted to make the pilgrimage, so this time he became determined to make the effort. Stacey landed in Brussels on Monday 16th August and stayed with Pierre for the week before we collected him at the end of the OKP weekend. Soon we were all at home and sorting out our things for leaving on the Wednesday.

I had arranged a B&B for the Wednesday night near the Heysham ferry as I didn't want to risk missing our booked Thursday sailing due to traffic holdups on the way. I had a few things to arrange - extra room for Stacey at the B&B that we used near the Heysham ferry, extra passenger and seat on the ferry. All an easy job, I must say. Now, as I'd been told for years, 'If you haven't got your digs booked the previous year, then don't bother'. That's not quite true, of course, but has been one of the major reasons for me not making the effort to go in the past.
This time arrangements were made by one of our fellow section members for Jean and I to stay at the same place as him - what could I sort out for Stacey with only two days to go? Briefly, I rang Shirley, our landlady and asked if she had a neighbour who could put Stacey up. Miracles happened and Shirley sorted out another bed for Stacey to be able to stay with us all. So we were all set.

Wednesday 25th - I'd decided that we were not going to use the M5/M6 with all it's problems and that we'd travel up through Wales and meet the M6 at Manchester. Might take a bit longer but it would be a much more pleasant drive. We set off up over the Beacons and at Builth Wells I took the A470 and headed to Snowdonia - just wanted to show Stacey part of our wonderful country.

We reached our B&B and settled for the night. The following morning dawned dry and bright as we set off for the ferry. The crossing was very calm and we were soon on the front at Douglas. I don't know why, but the stop/start queue along the promenade was worse than those found on the M6. By the time we found our road up and out of Douglas the circuit had been closed and we were stuck on the wrong side. 'You'll have to use the Access road' a marshall told me. 'What's that?' was my reply. After getting instructions from several locals we found it. Basically it went under Bradden bridge using the old railway line. We found our digs and were soon settled in. Shirley and Jimmy were our hosts and two nicer people you couldn't wish to meet.

Friday 27th - We were to be tourists today. We spent the day on the Electric railway, built in 1897, if I remember correctly. It took half an hour to get from Douglas to Laxey, where, after a coffee, we took the mountain railway up to the top of Snaefell. It's one of those mountains where clouds can very quickly hide any view - but not when we were there, thank goodness. Gotta include some of our 'holiday' pics, haven't I?

Friday evening after our excursions we decided to watch the practice and went up to the Creg-ny-baa hotel, where we sat in the famous cage to watch the bikes come down from Kates Cottage. We followed that with an excellent meal in the hotel and when we returned to Jim and Shirley's, Doug had arrived.

Saturday the 28th
- Glyn plus Terry and Dilys were due to arrive today. They were staying in a cottage up near Ramsey, so by the time they were settled in, Terry had missed the first of the VMCC runs. However, this was the first of the VMCC events for Jean and I with the Indian. After picking up fuel we headed for Laxey old harbour along the coast road. There was one hell of a steep hill to get down to the harbour where we found most of the 200 odd entrants and many more spectators modern machines. I was surprised to meet Peter Benger there - he was just a spectator and over for the racing. Peter was our section secretary from 1972 for four years before work took him off to live near Andover. Anyway, the run was around 70 odd miles and terminated in Port Erin, so after signing on we set off and enjoyed the route very much as it wound it's way along the coast. Arriving at Port Erin, and after a coffee, the event dispersed. My problem was that I had no idea where we were as I was not familiar with the Island at all. I stopped a lady who was walking along the front and had a map in her hand - 'May I have a look at the map please', I asked. 'Of course' she said, and added 'you may keep it'. As soon as I saw where we were I was able to orientate myself and we set off back to Douglas. A good day, the bike ran well, and the weather was glorious. What a shame that I didn't take my camera. Whilst we were out on the bike, Stacey walked down to the grandstand and took the following few pictures.

Sunday 29th - was the day of the Jurby festival. I hadn't entered the Indian for this one as I just didn't fancy riding around the track and being buzzed by all the other bikes - so, we were spectators for the day and were able to take Stacey along with us. Doug had arrived on Friday so he was also a passenger in the car. Entrance to the circuit was free and already there were hundreds of motorcycles lined up on site, all bathed in glorious sunshine. It all was quiet some spectacle and only in it's second year.

Monday 30th - I needed to be at Quarterbridge by midday to have the bike and documents and clothing checked prior to the closed roads parade at the end of the days racing. After completing all the formalities I returned to our digs and then went back nearer the start time. There were over 200 machines signed on to ride the 'closed roads parade'. It was emphasised time and time again that it was a parade and not a race. We were to set off in batches led by a travelling marshal who would not exceed 60mph. We were instructed that we were not to pass the marshal under any circumstances. I really had to push my way out on to the track and set off for Bradden Bridge as fast as I felt the Indian could manage - probably a max of 40mph. Everyone was soon gone and I was on my own and the very last rider. Somehow I just couldn't get myself to use the whole of the road so kept to the left on instinct. I had waves and clapping from all the marshals and spectators that I passed. We had been let loose from Quarterbridge at 16.25 and I knew that the roads opening car would leave the grandstand at 16.30. He would be doing 90 and there was me hoping to get around the whole 37 mile lap at 40mph before he caught me. No such luck, I'm afraid, I was passed at the 13th milestone, just before Kirkmichael. Hey, ho, I now had to obey the ordinary road regulations.

Onwards I went and on entering Ramsey after 23 miles in 40 minutes was stopped at Parliament Square along with many others also on the parade lap. There had been an accident going up the mountain and we were all fed off along the coast road to return to Douglas - just a little bit deflating, I must say. Our lap had been spoiled by someone coming off - I did hope that he was ok, of course.

Subsequently I learned that there were three people injured. Noriyuki Kato from Japan riding a Gold Star had managed to miss the right angle turn on Sulby Bridge and had managed to go straight on through a fence and hedge. He was ok but had scratches to his face that required stiches, and a badly dented pride. Nori is a really nice guy and I'd spoken to him twice before the parade - someone said that it had cost him 2500 just to fly his bike over for the event. The accident at Ramsey happened on the right hand bend at the bottom of May Hill, several hundred yards before the famous left hand Ramsey hairpin. The rider concerned had thought that he was at the left hander hairpin and not on the right hander May Hill bend - sounds a bit of a feeble reason to me if he wasn't exceeding 60mph. Anyway, he suffered a broken collarbone and fractured pelvis whilst his bike bounced off the wall protection back into the roadway and took another rider off. Just a bruised toe was his result.

That evening we were to attend a BBQ at Tony East's house in Kirkmichael and when we arrived, there was the Crosby Brass Band playing. As we queued for the food I chatted with Sammy Miller who was quite talkative, I must say. Meanwhile the band played 'the Rose' - a lovely piece of music, in case you haven't heard it do try and find it to listen to. After eating and having a quick look around Tony's collection of bikes, Jean and I were invited to go for a drink and then to head back to David Plant's house for a coffee. Both Tony and David have motorcycle collections that are in excess of 90 machines each. However, Tony collects the classics while David has many veterans and a much larger spread of bike ages.

Tuesday 31st August - We were to be in Port Erin to sign on for a 60 mile social ride. The start was at 11am. Then we had to do 60 miles ending in Castletown Square for the 'gathering' and we were asked not to be there before 5pm. Ok, you work it out - 60 miles in 6 hours. So, Terry and Dilys, along with Jean and myself decided to do our own thing and we set off for Cregneash. It's a living folk museum village with many of the houses restored to the condition that they were in back in the 1800's. All designed to show what Manx life was like back then. We spent quite some time looking around and I did find it most interesting. No camera again, I'm afraid.

From Cregneash we headed to Port St Mary where I had one of the most fantastic custard slices with a coffee. Then we set off for Castletown. With the instructions not to get there before 5pm it was obvious that we were going to be early - but like all these things, if it said don't get there before 5pm, you can bet your bottom dollar that means that if you arrive after 5pm, you won't get in. Sure enough, we arrived at 4.15 and the square was full, however Terry and I did manage to park our bikes ok. The weather was lovely and at 5 on the dot a trad jazz band struck up. It was magic, with the only problem being nowhere to sit down.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch - Jimmy, who was a taxi driver on weekends, offered to take Stacey around the TT course and show him some of the sights. Doug joined them in the car for the trip, so the following four are pictures taken by Stacey's camera - thanks mate.

Wednesday 1st Sept - glorious weather yet again with no VMCC ride today. The Junior Manx race was on this morning with the Classic during the afternoon. I decided to volunteer to marshal with Doug and Jimmy so signed on by 9am and was in post at the bottom of Bray hill by the time the roads were closed at 9.30. Racing got underway at 10.15 and it was quite something seeing the bikes come down Bray hill and up over Ago's leap. I reckon they must have been heading for 200mph as they passed me. Not long after the leaders came through on their third lap the race was red flagged. There'd been an accident out on the course. It transpired that two riders had been killed at Alpine which is just the other side of Kirkmichael.

There was quite some delay before we were told that the afternoon classic race was postponed to the following day, so we finished early, more's the pity, as I did want to see and hear the Manx Nortons and Matchless G50's thundering past at the bottom of Bray Hill. Stacey had spent the morning watching the Junior MGP from the grandstand and he managed to get a few photos, two of which are here.

Thursday 2nd Sept
- Wall to wall sunshine as Jean and I set off on the Indian for Ramsey and the start of the time trial. We were issued with transponders and were soon off, out through Ramsey and along the coast. I'm quite sure that the re-arranged Classic race interferred with the route that we should have been on, however, Tony and his team had a back-up plan. I had no idea as to our time schedule and believed that we would be on 24mph average - anyway, what the heck, getting around in one piece was the important thing. At one point I missed a turning and headed on down the road to the next one that I thought was right, only to be redirected by the time check officials. Back in Mooragh Park, Ramsey I could hear the Classic race under way. We parked the Indian, ate our packed lunch and then went over to watch the Ramsey Sprint on the promenade. That was very interesting, with even two Bantams having a go.

meanwhile Stacey was in the Grandstand back in Douglas watching the classic race - and using his camera, of course.

The Evening happening was the Gala Dinner in the Villa Marina on Douglas promenade. We cleaned ourselves up and Stacey, Jean and I headed for the seafront. I had managed to get Stacey a ticket earlier in the week as there were one or two spare. Jean and I were sat on the table with the dignataries and found the meal to be an excellent one. In no time at all we were into the speeches - mine was short, compared with Nick Jeffries, Sammy Miller and the Islands Minister for tourism. Then came the prize giving and Sammy and Nick did the honours whilst the IOM Section Chairman took the role of MC. They eventually came to the award for Best Vintage in the time trial and announced that we'd won it with the Indian. Seems our average was 20mph and we'd managed 20.95mph - I was astounded, I must say. What a super way to end a very pleasant evening.

Friday 3rd September - The VMCC Manx Rally had ended with the Gala dinner so I headed to the bottom of Bray Hill with Doug and Jimmy to do some marshaling, whilst Jean and Shirley headed for the shops. The two races of the day were the lightweights in the morning and the Senior in the afternoon - all went off without a hitch, I'm pleased to say. Another great day with glorious sunshine. That evening we took Shirley and Jimmy out for a meal to the 'Cat with no tail'.

Saturday 4th September - Doug needed to be at the ferry for 06.30am so I rose early to give him a lift as he was a foot passenger. That done, Stacey, Jean and I became tourists again. The weather had turned a bit and it was a touch drizzly. I'd arranged with David Plant to take Stacey to see his collection of bikes and a leisurely drive saw us there at around 11am.

Regarding the picture above, I knew this bike when Percy Evans used to sprint it - he lived in Chepstow and I provided him with a twin-float chamber carb for it way back in the 60's. I was amazed to see it in David's collection as it must be 45 years or so since I last heard of it.

We must have spent at least a couple of hours looking at the bikes. I was interested in one in particular - a1903 Terrot that was fitted with a Givaudan engine. David had helped me with my Givaudan in the past as I needed information regarding the Longuemare carb - all another story. Anyway, it was nice to see the Terrot, in the flesh, so to speak.

From David Plants we headed down the West coast and stopped at a place called Jurby Junk. Gee, what a shop, stacked to the roof with end of line products and other second hand things. It was a large building with one half being dedicated to books only. A short walk and we were able to visit a small transport museum. Mostly containing buses, but there was a brighton run eligible Turner-Meiss steam car. Stacey got talking to the owner who had recently purchased a doble steam car engine from someone who lived not far from Stacey in the US - small world, isn't it..

From here we set off to Tony East's place in Kirkmicahel to have a look at his collection of machines - all beautifully restored - I've never seen a set of 1937 Triumph Tigers before - T70, T80 and T90.

After leaving Tony's collection we headed for Peel and a bite to eat on the sea front before heading back to our digs.

Sunday 5th September - This was our last day and Stacey, Jean and I decided to take a ride on the Island's preserved steam train from Douglas to Port Erin. One hour there and one hour back. Here's the last of our tourist photos: -

Back to Jim and Shirleys and we loaded the Indian on the trailer and prepared for our ferry the following day. There was a bad weather forecast for the following day and one neighbour told me that the sailings to Liverpool and Northern Ireland were cancelled, but that the boat to Heysham should be running. The following day we headed for the ferry and there was a queue of bikes and cars that had not gone on the earlier sailing to Liverpool, so our boat was sure full when we left. Jimmy said that we should be alright as the Ben-my-chree, the name of the Heysham ferry, had a 99% reliability. The crossing was a bit rough to begin with and we made Heysham about half an hour late. Soon though, we were on the road and heading home, down through Mid Wales, of course.

Since all this, Stacey has made a safe return to the USA and taken many memories with him as well. We sure won't forget our visit to the 'Road Race Capital of the World'.

Bill P.