Josh Daley treating this year's Isle of Man TT like his first
Blink and you'll miss them. Quite literally.
From this week the sleepy Isle of Man will be crammed with bike enthusiasts lining the edges of the Snaefell mountain course after a glimpse of the brave riders gunning for glory, and as they speed past at 200mph, most perfectly-framed camera phone shots are down to luck.
To put TT mania into context, around 45,000 people descend on the island each year for the TT, and its population is around 84,000 – it’s little wonder the atmosphere when clamouring for a pint is, erm, lively.
In those crowds will be Wiganers cheering on the town’s hopefuls this year.
Along with Josh Daley and newcomer Mike Norbury, there will also be an emotional return to the TT for Rob and dad Jim Hodson, 10 months after brother and son Jamie died in an accident at last August’s Ulster Grand Prix.
For each this year’s TT is significant and, even though this will be his third year at the start line, 21-year-old Daley is treating it like his first.
Having competed in the Superstock and Supersport races in his first two attempts, Daley will race a 1,000cc bike around the course for the first time in 2018, as well as competing in his first senior TT.
“I’m treating it like year one again,” he told Wigan Today before heading to the Isle of Man for practice.
“This year I just want to get used to this 1,000.
“On this bike I’ll be coming out of some straights 30mph faster.
“Where I was doing 165 last year I might be pushing 200 now.
“You can go through Sulby at 199 if the wind is right.”
Daley, who last year averaged an eye-watering 117.3mph around the course, will be riding a Kawasaki ZX10RR and a ZX6R this year as a privateer under the Daley Racing banner, before switching to a Kawasaki ZXR 750 and Honda CB500/4 – like one of his heroes, Mike Hailwood – for the Classic TT later in the year, where he will race for Primus.
And while he will be sharing the road with some of the biggest names in the sport next week, Daley insists he will be unfazed by the experience.
“When I was growing up everyone wanted to be Valentino Rossi, but I had no interest in Moto GP,” he explained. Sure if it came along I’d take it, but I always wanted to be Joey Dunlop or John McGuinness. I was invited to John’s house. I called round for a brew because I dropped him a text saying I was working up in Heysham and did he want a coffee...and he invited me round.”
McGuinness won’t be racing this year as he struggles with the legacy of a broken leg sustained at last year’s North West 200, but the likes of Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop will be there.
“When in leathers and helmet it’s just another person,” Daley insisted.
“I raced against Guy Martin in 2015 – he’s good for the sport, people see him on the BBC and Google him so become aware of road racing. It’s good publicity.”
More important to the air conditioning engineer from Hawkley Hall is his army of fans, including his parents, sister, uncle Paul, auntie Deb, Dill and Terry
Denton, Ant Maher and girlfriend Ashleigh, who he admits gets nervous before a race.
“Leading up to it Ashleigh is worried but once we get there she loves watching,” Daley said.
Qualifying has already started for next week’s action, which will finish with the Senior race on Friday week (June 8).
And with 63 TT laps under his belt before this year, Daley’s aim is simple.
“ I’d like to improve it’s only year three and they say it takes three to five years to learn track,” he admitted.