If you came here from Part 5 – Final Race Prep, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had survived a 2-day thrash to replace the blown engine with a used street motor they found on eBay, gotten it running reasonably well after finding and fixing two mistakes (an upside-down shifter and a disconnected spark plug wire), and received a gift from the race officials when they got credit for a full lap after their last-chance practice session was red-flagged for a civilian medical emergency.
Meanwhile, back in the states, my alarm is set for 3:00am – the race is scheduled to start at 3:30am my time (11:30am, UK time).
9:30pm Tuesday night (my time): Text from Rich – “hi ho hi ho it’s off to war we go” (7:15am his time)
Yeah, not much chance that I’ll sleep tonight.
Friday 8/29 – RACE DAY! (all times are my time, PDT)
Learned from Twitter that the start time is delayed by one hour because of wet conditions – expected to clear in time because of high winds. That’s a mixed blessing for sure – dry=good, windy=bad. I found this web cam view of Douglas Harbor on Race Day morning on the Manx Radio website. Looks pretty gloomy!
At this point, I’m following the race on three devices pointing to three independent sources of electronic updates:
- iPad following Twitter feeds from @iom_tt, @manxgrandprix and others
- iPhone streaming live radio feed from Manx Radio
- Laptop browser connected to the electronic timing check points so I can “watch” Wade progress around the course
In addition, I have two close friends who are awake and following it with me: Terry K., who got invested in the event over beers and dinner earlier in the month, and Sarah J., who assisted with Wade’s rehab from his ankle injury. They both had the same resources as I and we were communicating via text.
Race is underway!
4:30am – 1st rider has left the start line.The riders leave in 10 second intervals (in numerical order) to avoid crowding on the course. Wade is #89, so he’s scheduled to leave 880 seconds (roughly 15 minutes) after the first bike.
4:45am – Wade left the start line as scheduled (confirmed by electronic timing). Here is a YouTube video of the the start line. Skip ahead to 14:44 and you’ll see Wade leaving, right on time. The eBay engine sounds rather healthy, all things considered!
Now I’m obsessively refreshing my laptop browser so I can watch for Wade’s transponder to trigger each of the 6 checkpoints around the track. What a cool system this is. On the live timing website, you choose the rider(s) you want to follow. When the dots appear on the maps, your rider is highlighted in yellow. By the time Wade got to the third checkpoint at Sulby, it occurred to me to take screen shots so I could later document my stress with a time-lapse video. Keep in mind that Rich had none of this technology available to him – he just had to wait 25 minutes per lap and hope that Wade showed up again.
5:08am – Wade completes his first lap.
By this time, the leaders (who are 15+ minutes ahead of Wade) have not only completed their first lap, but are well into their second laps and are capturing most of the attention of the Radio TT announcers. They do to their best to throw in mention of the back-markers, hence this AWESOME moment from the radio feed: “Here comes #89, the bike with the eBay engine.” THAT’S US!!!
5:30AM – Wade completes his second lap and enters the pits for his mid-race fuel stop. This photo is taken during that pit stop. Rich is the guy behind the rear wheel.
5:37am – Wade’s transponder registers at the Glen Helen checkpoint
5:37am – Red Flag (Twitter and Live Radio)
5:40am – Two separate incidents between Glen Helen and Ballaugh (Twitter and Radio)
Wow, now the stress level kicks in for real. The last place Wade’s transponder checked in was Glen Helen. There are two crashes between there and the next check point (Ballaugh), and we don’t have any idea exactly where. Is he one of the crashes? Did the engine blow and cause one of the crashes? Is he ahead of or behind the crashes? I refresh my browser compulsively, hoping #89 will check in at Ballaugh. No such luck.
5:49am – Race will not be restarted, results will be based on two laps (Twitter and Radio)
6:05am – Crash details: 3 bikes at 11th Milestone, 1 bike at Bishopscourt, all riders transported to hospital (Twitter and Radio).
This helps a little, because both locations are much closer to Ballaugh than to Glen Helen. Since the red flag was thrown so soon after Wade’s transponder check-in at Glen Helen, I dare to raise my hopes that he hadn’t had a chance to get nearly that far.
6:13am – text from Rich “still no news, think it may have been the leaders”
6:21am – text to Rich “This is agonizing, I can’t even imagine how you feel.”
Reply: “Kind of like the ground crew at a WWII fighter base must have felt.”
6:30am – text from Rich: “Every time someone walks toward the tent my heart stops but I also would like to know WTF is going on”
6:50am – Rich finally got word that Wade is OK and got the sense that he’d be able to ride the bike back to the pits after the roads reopen
Let me recap these 73 minutes of hell:
- Wade was somewhere between Glen Helen and Ballaugh
- The two crashes were somewhere between Glen Helen and Ballaugh
- He is running an untested used engine that we bought on eBay and installed two days earlier
I was doing my best to (a) keep Rich informed during this 73 minute information gap and (b) maintain my own sanity, and I’m extremely grateful that despite the hour on the west coast, I wasn’t alone – Terry and Sarah were right there with me, texting and hoping and wringing their own hands.
Here’s what it looked like on the live timing site (Wade is the yellow dot). I added some sound effects to enhance the experience (after all, I was listening to the live radio feed) and I obviously compressed the time frame – each photo (5 seconds) roughly equals 4 min in real time.
7:50am – I’m still waiting for confirmation that he’s actually made it back. Hoping that they’re just too busy packing the shipping container, and assuming no news is good news. My second biggest fear even after I knew he wasn’t IN the crash, was that the replacement motor had also blown and CAUSED the crash. That’s why it was so important to know that he was able to ride it back to the pits.
10:15am – finally, a text from Rich: “Got the bike thru post race tech we are finishers and can you believe it were minor heroes for sticking with it and prevailing. Bike is in the crate and we’re off to the awards dinner to meet the folks that run the island.”
1:50pm – “Wade hobbled up to the stage and got his finishers trophy. For 64 out of 96”
OMG, THEY DID IT!!!
Facebook post, Friday afternoon, August 29
“Short story: they finished. 64th out of 96. With an untuned stock motor from a wrecking yard that they found on eBay on Sunday, picked up in the UK on Monday, delivered to the pits at 7am on Tuesday, thrashed on Tues/Wed, and got running in time for practice on Wednesday afternoon. Which was critical because they still needed one more lap to meet the qualification requirements. Minor hero status amongst the other teams for persevering and prevailing.”
“Slightly longer story: race was red-flagged two laps into the four-lap race (each lap is 38 miles) because of two serious incidents on the track. Both were in the multi-mile segment immediately following the checkpoint where Wade’s radio transponder had last pinged. We had 73 minutes of true terror before Rich was finally informed that Wade was not involved. Sadly, one rider was killed. Tragic.”
“Much longer story will come in a week or two when I have time to put my thoughts together in a blog. For now, I’m going to rest. I’m still shaking from relief and joy.”
Next up: Part 7 – Aftermath, Race Photos, and What’s Next?
Start Line and Pit Stop – Anthony Robert (Photo Mannx)
Douglas Harbor – Manx Radio Web Cam