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The secrets of a TT win, by Dean Harrison
This year's Senior TT winner on how to beat the Isle of Man
Dean Harrison won the 2019 Senior TT, and is the second quickest person around the Isle of Man following a tense battle with Peter Hickman in 2018. Here’s his insight into one of the world’s maddest motor races…
The Isle of Man TT is the best track in the world. There’s nowhere else where you’ve got 37 and ¾ miles of closed roads all to yourself.
I like it because it’s a time trial so I can do the lap times by myself, whereas some lads prefer to set off as a mass start. In the smaller classes in Moto GP you see people loitering around waiting for a tow to get the slipstream to find that bit extra in their lap time. It makes it look a bit crap to be honest.
I like to be able to do it under my own steam. The three-minute board comes, the tyre warmers come off, you wheel straight to the front… it doesn’t bother you. You’ve got to adapt quickly because you set off that line and by the time you’re at the top of Bray Hill you’re at the top of fifth gear, which on a superbike means a good 180mph. You’ve got no choice in the fact: you’ve got to dial in quickly because you’re going so fast.
The tyres are brand new, so you’re almost steady until you’ve gone through Union Mills three miles up the road. Once you’ve done that you know in your own mind that your tyres are scrubbed in and you’re ready to go.
On the first lap the bike’s quite heavy. You’ve got a bigger fuel tank to do the TT than in circuit racing – to do two laps you’ve got a 24-litre tank whereas in the British Superbikes you’re only allowed 22. When you’ve got a full tank you know you’ve got 24 litres on board. Especially when you go into Quarterbridge after a pit stop; you’re so used to the bike being low on fuel you struggle to get it stopped. It massively changes the balance.
We have special tanks that try to lower the centre of gravity a bit, we do play around with stuff like that. But we’re restricted on space. You run the tank down to a couple of egg cups of fuel, so when you come in for a pit stop you’re literally touch and go. We could actually get more performance out of the bike if we could have more fuel, but it becomes a balance of how much fuel can you carry?
As a rider you’re not really into setting the lap record. Peter is the same as me, to be honest. A record is always going to be broken. What you want is a race win, because nobody’s going to take that away from you. It’s like getting the Senior win this year; my name is on the trophy, and nobody’s taking it off.
The record will only be broken when the conditions are right, though. There has to be two or three people so close together that they’re pushing each other in a battle to get the win. To do it under your own steam you’ve got to ride so hard. You wouldn’t go that fast if you didn’t have to. It’s dangerous enough as it is, so you’ve got to minimise the danger. We all know the craic, we all know how dangerous it is. We’ve been going for years, we’ve been around bikes all our lives. You can’t have the thrills without the downsides.
Doing the short circuits via BSB helps the team work better. When the team is racing at the short circuits you’re trying to fault-find, find your set-up, then when you get to the Isle of Man or the North West 200 you hit the ground running. The roads are so much faster than the short circuits, you’re at prolonged speed for so long. But when it rains I struggle, I don’t like the roads then. When it’s dry and I know the grip’s available I’ll quite happily push as hard as anyone else.
It takes at least three years to learn the track to a good point, but it depends on the weather. It’s like 2018 when it was sunny all fortnight, the young lads went and they must have got two- or three-years’ experience in one year. I’m still learning now. Every year you go back the track is slightly different; there’s something new, some tarmac’s got worse, there’s tree roots. You’re constantly adapting.
People ask me to describe the TT but the problem is there’s not enough words. You have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate it, there’s nothing like it anywhere in the world. To me it’s the best place in the world.