I arrived on the island about a week ago, but the week went really fast as there was plenty to do and keep me occupied. I did a few laps in the car and one with Glenn Irwin which impressed me a lot – he knew more than me. Seriously, he was telling me braking points that I knew nothing about so thanks Glenn.
It was quite a nice, relaxed build up to the first practice session and I think it helped with it being on Sunday afternoon rather than in an evening. It didn’t seem to be as big a rush as normal but before I knew it, I was heading off down Bray Hill.
I was a bit disappointed initially when it was announced that we wouldn’t be setting off in pairs in practice as you could always have a bit of craic with your starting partner, but I actually enjoyed it last night. It was very calming. It was pretty cool and a real honour to set off the first, the first rider at the TT in three years.
I kept expecting people to come by me, but they never did, and it was great to have the entire lap and track to myself. There was a good crowd, and they were all getting really into it. Loads of people were waving at me so I can only presume they thought I was John McGuinness.
It all came back to me quite quickly, in a weird kind of way and my first lap was 121mph which was nice and steady. My second lap was actually more difficult as I was expecting more from myself, but I was more than pleased with the Bathams Racing BMW on its first night around the Mountain Course.
Conditions were absolutely brilliant, but you quickly notice how the course has changed. There’s a big, new bump at Ginger Hall which I’ll need to get used to and Sulby Straight was very scary. I swear it’s at least 70% bumpier than before. On the flip side, some parts are better than some of the short circuits we go to although that makes you want to go quicker than you should, so you have to rein yourself in a bit.
I did two laps on the Superbike and then two on the Superstock, so it was hard work. You always hold on too tight on the first night, which gives you arm pump, and it’s a night or two before you’re able to relax. You’re looking over the screen on the first day as well, checking where you’re going, and on the last lap on the Superbike through the Highlander, the pressure on my head was massive.
Jumping on to the Twin after that though felt really nice and I had a big smile on my face the whole way round. It was quite quiet on track for me as well and I didn’t encounter much traffic. I was smiling when I did catch people though as normally it’s the other way round!
Peter (Hickman) and James (Hillier) came by me, and they were both really clean, as expected, and it was good to see the entire session be trouble-free. I was a little bit surprised by the lap speeds as I thought it may have been quicker, but it was good to see everyone using their heads yesterday and just build into the event steadily.
I haven’t made any plans to change anything on the bikes yet as I need to get up to speed properly. It’s not until you start reaching 127-128mph that you need to look at changing all the settings.