Just Three (Fast) Blokes
The voiceover introducing the start of the ITV series TT Legends, being broadcast in half hour slots on Monday nights tells of 'ordinary men doing extraordinary things'. It follows the Honda motorcycle TT Legends Team of John McGuinness, Simon Andrews and Cameron Donald as they tackled their demanding (2012) race programme.
Demanding because they are signed up to compete in the world endurance road race series and, in almost complete contrast, 'real' road races; the NW200, Ireland's largest sporting event, and the the Isle of Man TT races.
The programmes are an insight into the spectacular high risk world of motorcycle racing, and put the three racers personalities out there for us to observe and enjoy, because in one sense they are 'ordinary men'. They come across as humble, unassuming and free of the clichéd language beloved of many sports people – think mostly footballers – and commentators. They could be your mates.
'This shouldn't be happening to me'
Mark Weber the Formula One driver and bike racing enthusiast, showed up at the TT to support the team, and in one sequence John McGuinness tells of a suggestion Weber made for them to fly out to Valencia to watch Moto GP. He was up for this and happy to book Easy Jet tickets. Whereas Weber had in mind for them to take to the skies in his private jet. McGuinness's 'this shouldn't be happening to me' reaction is priceless and a measure of a man still close to his Morecambe roots and the fans that want to be around him.
The cameras also followed McGuinness and Andrews as they gave a mini-tour of their motor homes, and divulged with some humour the contents of their fridges. John Mc, with some stereotypical northern fare, while Simon is obviously a man who gives more consideration to 'healthy options'.
Cameron Donald and his girlfriend Kaz stashed themselves in a small N Ireland seaside town for the race season. Handy for the NW 200, but a dramatic climate change away from the warmth of their home city of Melbourne. But they laughed and concentrated on the positives of the welcoming atmosphere of the people around their new location.
Ordinary men? Not really
In one sense these are 'ordinary men'. But people who race at this level are very different in the way their biological and neurological make up allows them to risk, race, crash, recover, see friends seriously injured and die, and still continue to get on that bike and go for the win.
Simon Andrews, still recovering from very serious race injuries, but able to carry out his commitments in the team, crashed at 140mph on the mountain at the TT; and from his hospital bed his comment was that he would know how to ride that section better and faster next time. This was not said with bravado; just the way your brain has to function at this level of racing. Not really 'ordinary men' at all.
Motorcycles on TV
It's always good to see motorcycle related programmes scheduled at peak viewing times (8.30pm), and ITV4 put in their stint of programming with TT and NW200 coverage and the Motorbike Show. I don't want to seem ungrateful that the sport we love is being exposed to a wider audience, but editors have a tendency to try and cram too much into the time available. The result being that the programme edit flashes scenes before you for seconds with breathless commentary. Quick sound bites from current and ex racers, team mechanics and managers hardly gives the viewer time to assimilate it. Whether it's the vastly experienced and interesting team manager Neil Tuxworth or gabbling Guy Martin with his hybrid northern vowels. Less is more, editing people, and viewers not initiated into 'our world' would gain more insight from a less frenetic presentation.
Suzuka Eight hour race - coming up
Criticism over. If you haven't caught up with this series, go to ITV4 next Monday evening at 8.30pm; the next edition is about the Suzuka Eight Hour race from Japan (warning: it's not repeated on the catch up service...I've tried as I missed the episode from the Bol D'Or).
By John Newman
By John Newman