Australian Sidecar Champion, Mick Alton (62) has been involved in sidecar racing since the late 1970s shared his enthusiasm for sidecar and his excitement at competing for the second time at the Isle of Man TT (May 27- June 09 2017); "The attraction of sidecars for me is the comradery of all the competitors. There is no other discipline like it, and I have managed to be quite successful at it being the current champion of F2 class in Australia and career highlights including holding the lap record (in class) holder at Phillip Island, Morgan Park, Hampton Downs in New Zealand." Alton said.
"Chrissy is one of the best passengers I've ever had. As a team, its excellent. We communicate well, she's a thinking passenger and she's always thinking how to make my life easier. Because, once we are on the bike, there is only two signals she can give me. One is to tap me and I'll shut it off with no excuses and the other is to squeeze my leg to let me know that there is a bike that wants to pass. At the TT, if you get caught by someone that started 10 seconds behind you, you let them pass, it is a gentlemanís agreement on the island. So there is a lot of intuitive communication that is required in a sidecar team.
"Our bike, the LCR, is actually over in the United Kingdom waiting for us at the moment. We want to go faster and do better this year obviously, however we are going to approach it a little more apprehensively than we did in 2016 as we are now ranked at 21st in the world at the TT. It's such a different event at the TT, you have to have the machine nailed the whole way round, every corner is blind and you have to have track knowledge to be in the game with all the curbs, walls, hedgerows, telephone boxes and spectators to watch out for!
"Training for the TT, we watch a lot of videos, read books and study maps together and write notes on every corner and every part of the track where we can pick up time. We both spend a lot of time trying to get the most out of the bike around the track. That's what were here to do. It's easier for sidecar riders to see what's going on as the road unravels in front, however the passenger can only pop their head up at certain moments and they have to know exactly where they are on the circuit. Memory and feeling is what it's about. Last year Chrissy, (passenger) was picking up land marks a few weeks before the TT when practicing the circuit when none of the trees had leaves, however a few weeks later the leaves were back and the land marks were gone, so our points of reference were gone too!
"We have different suspension and brakes this year, but the same engine (Suzuki 600 F2 Class spec as per Isle of Man TT regulations) that has been built for reliability rather than power. We went for reliability because we are only a five-person crew and we do all our own mechanical work." Alton finished.
Leaving the on the 15th of May, passenger Chrissy Clancy will spend weeks in a car with Mick Alton driving around and around the Isle of Man in a car to re-learn all the lines through the corners, the g-forces and breaking zones. "It's just to familiarise Mick and myself with the landmarks and my movements, and to see what Mick is going to do and where he will be breaking, because I won't be able to move while he does that. I need to either move before he breaks or well after he breaks. Practice week is straight after that, where all we will be focused on is qualifying and finish as normal and not get injured in between! And no secret agendas like last year when Mick sneakily wanted to break 105mph. We ended up at 108 without me knowing!
"Our past achievements include winning every single race we entered into last year. Mick was my mentor when I was riding years ago, and he was teaching me all the sneaky things like when to change gears, how to move and where all the breaking markers were. My achievement was when I beat him on track in a race! I was over the moon when that happened, it was the student overtaking the master!
"Next to winning the 'Kings of Wanneroo' with Leanne March, career highlights for me personally - The Isle of Man last year was the pinnacle of my total achievements. Having the right team and people around you helps so much with your journey in racing to get you through the highs and lows. This will be my 10th year in sidecar. Sidecar champ Terry Goldie got me into it at Winton Raceway, when his passenger fell off and he needed to win one more race to win the series. So I said to him that "I'd do it, but I've never done it before!" 18 months later we had our outfit. We bought it sight unseen in a box. We upgraded to a Post Classic that we race now. But it's the modern Suzuki LCR that we bought overseas that we compete in now.
"This is the second time that I will be competing in the Isle of Man and we are ranked 21 in the world after starting off 61 last year and 32 away, coming 13th, so we have landed the number 21 ranking and now the pressure is really on us! It will mean that we miss out on the Morgan Park round of the Australian Sidecar Championship this year, but somethings can't wait! We would like to thank Motorcycling New South Wales, who have been very helpful in our TT endeavours this year, and we are very grateful to them. We can't wait to get over there and out onto the circuit!" Clancy ended.
Stay up to date with all the latest news and highlights from Australians competing at the upcoming Isle of Man TT, including Mick Alton and Chrissy Clancy in their chase to top the 2017 rankings, via www.ma.org.au and the Motorcycling Australia Facebook page.
Photos: Courtesy of Mick Alton
Pictured Alton/ Clancy Isle of Man 2016