Road Racing News

Gavin Lupton Racing – Press Release

Just 2 weeks after his scorcher at Terlicko, Gav was once again literally setting sail to his next event, The Manx GP. Held on the exact same thirty seven and three quarter mile course that’s used for the world famous Isle Of Man TT.

The team arrived fully kitted with the Suzuki 750 that was fresh and ready to do battle in the main race of the fortnight, the Senior race. Gav had also brought over his own Honda 400, the very machine that had gained him much success in the past and was now in the new livery of the Shay ‘D’ Racing team colours. This bike was to be entered into the first race of the week for Gav, the Lightweight race.

Just like the TT, the first week is traditionally used for practice and with road closures every evening, it enables the riders to get to grips with the course and gain a good bike set up. Gav was confident that by mid practice week, he would have good lap times and two bikes that were ready to race. Unfortunately, he was about to find out how wrong he was.

The day before the first practice evening, Gav travelled with the 750 to the north of the Island to give it a test run at an old airfield which is now a circuit called Jurby. Along with everything that went into preparing the bikes for the toughest, most demanding, motorcycle race on the planet, there had been a slight electrical issue with the 750 and so the team wanted to make sure that all problems had finally been ironed out. The bike pulled away well and the power was plentiful with no hiccups what so ever. The only thing that concerned Gav was the how the bike handled, or rather didn’t. On the last lap of the test run Gav managed to save a huge high side which caught him by surprise as he wasn’t really pushing that hard. He just shrugged it off and blamed it on the cold tyres and blustery side winds.

A pleasant sunny evening greeted the riders for their first evening of practice and Gav was itching to go out give it plenty down Bray Hill. By the time he had got to Greeba Castle, which isn’t even a quarter of the way into the course, Gav had experienced two scary moments due to the bike becoming very unsettled when entering fast corners. Things didn’t improve and after 2 laps he had had enough and called it a day rather than risking a serious accident.

After a day of going over the bike, the team could only find a faulty steering dampener that could be to blame for the poor handling. With a new one on its way over for Wednesday, which was being brought over by the bike owner and team boss Seamus Dobbin, Gav concentrated a little more on the 400 for the Tuesday evening practice. Although it was a steady run and nowhere near race pace, he was surprised to find that he was the fastest in the Lightweight class.

Wednesday and with a new steering dampener fitted, he was hoping for a more enjoyable ride on the 750. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and he was still struggling to get the bike round in a decent time. Gav then went out on his 400 for his 3rd practice lap which would qualify that bike for the race. The plan was to put the 400 away ready for the race and just concentrate on the 750 for the rest of the practice week.

Days of hope were followed by nights of disappointment which were to tarnish the rest of the practice week. Sometimes it wasn’t just the handling that hampered things, in one session the bike cut out and stopped at Kirk Michael. Another time, Gav was lucky to escape a horrible crash when the rear wheel alignment bracket broke going over Ballaugh Bridge. This caused the rear wheel to move to one side and the chain to come off, wrapping itself around the rear sprocket carrier and grinding things to a loud and solid halt, very quickly. Adding insult to injury the bike suffered a split crank case in the process.

Whilst sat outside the Raven pub with a broken bike, one slight upside to that evening was getting a pint bought for him by one of the many spectators and getting asked by the marshals to sign an old table top. Doing this entered him into a hall of fame with the many other past TT and Manx GP riders that had also signed this now old and worn out looking table top after they had retired at this iconic part of the track that sees every bike air born over the bridge. Behind his smiles and polite banter Gav was very much down in the dumps about how this year’s event was turning out. Never really being superstitious in the past, he was now starting to think that getting given the number 13 for the Senior class was maybe behind all of this bad luck.

Race week soon came around and on the Wednesday it was time for the Lightweight race. There was only one thing on Gavs mind and that was an outright race win to give a much needed boost to moral in the camp and at least make this year’s visit to the Manx worthwhile. The flag dropped, Gav received the famous tap on the shoulder and off he set in great anger. Most of his rivals had set off in front of him in 10 second intervals, so the racer inside him was eager to send on and pick off his rivals one by one. By the end of lap one he was up to second place and only 5 seconds behind the leader. During his pit stop after lap 2 and mid race distance, he got the message from his crew that he was still laying in 2nd place but the gap was now down to 2 seconds. Gav put the hammer down and led the race going into the last lap, he knew the next 37 miles at this pace was the only thing in the way of victory.

Just when things were starting to go right for a change, up the road and over the mountain section laid more challenges for Gav. Unfortunately, some riders ahead of Gav on the road, but not in the race, were having poor luck of their own and the hand full of crashes ahead hampered his progress. Plenty of waved yellow flags and debris on the road meant he had to slow down through these sections. Along with him knowing that his much wanted win was now probably out of reach, his pit crew got confirmation from the live timing that showed after his slowest time of the race over the mountain section, Gav was now 2nd and loosing time to his rival who was ahead on the roads and in the clear. As he crossed the line he had maintained his 2nd place with a 10 second gap.

A podium finish and fastest lap of the race put a smile on every team member’s face, something that had been in short supply all week.

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Photo by Road Racing News

The next focus was the last day, Friday, which traditionally plays host to the blue ribbon race of the meeting, the Senior race. Due to torrential rain during the night, the race was postponed for a couple of hours to allow the roads, especially under the trees, to dry out fully. There was still a strong wind with gusts on higher ground plaguing the course, but apart from that the race was good to go. As the time ticked down for the first bike to get away, Gav got his head in gear and prepared for the challenging 4 laps ahead. Gav didn’t really have a plan in mind other than to finish the race, preferably in one piece, and he echoed this in the pre-race interview for Manx radio.

Away he went in his 13th place start position and as he wobbled, bucked and scraped through lap one, he was surprised to see his pit board telling him he was up to 8th place. Lap 2 and as the fuel load lessened, making the bike lighter, it became practically un-rideable in places due to huge tank slappers which either entertained or scared the marshals and spectators. As the pit crew could clearly see how bad things were, they gave Gav the option of retiring during the pit stop. However, it just isn’t in the Yorkshire man’s nature to give up like that and he insisted on seeing the race to the end in whatever position he could finish. On lap 3 the decision was taken out of Gavs hands and just on the approach to windy corner the bike cut out like it had done in practice and so a retirement was looking likely as he slowly free wheeled the bike onto the grass verge. Other bikes flew past and his position in the race plummeted, but before he removed his helmet and gloves, he tried starting the bike again and after a few coughs from the engine, she fired back into life again.

With a little help from the marshals to get the bike back onto the road he was away again, although now with thoughts of pitting in and retiring as it was clear things really weren’t right with the bike. As he approached the line his stubbornness kicked in again and he decided to push on and see where he could get. Unfortunately, it was not long till the race was red flagged due to a serious accident which involved 3 riders on a fast part of the course. The clerk of the course made the wise decision not to re start the race and called it a result, with Gav finishing in 20th place. Unfortunately, later that afternoon one of the riders involved, Gary Firth from Barnsley, succumbed to his injuries and lost his life. This placed a dark shadow over the days racing, as did the loss of Gavs fellow competitors, Tim Moorhead and Stephen McLlvenna, who also lost their lives during practice week. Gavin and everyone at Shay ‘D’ Racing wish to send their sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the three riders who were out there chasing their dreams.

The team are now glad to be back home safe and making plans for the rest of the season. Gav would like to give special thanks to MIS Insurance for their recent support, without which it was unlikely he would have been able to compete in the Manx GP.

Words by Gavin Lupton racing

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