A brief look behind confirmed everyone else was out of their seats, using their legs for extra suspension, but Thorpe, ever the gentleman – sigh – stayed seated so I could see where the hell we were going. Which was largely through huge muddy puddles, along muddy, gravel and slate lined tracks over the hills, buffeted at every corner by strong winds and driving rain.
Oh and fog.Did I mention the fog? We tried to take a shortcut across to join the TT mountain course on the other side of the island. After 20 minutes of riding straight into a white blanket, with perhaps two white striped lines at a time for guidance, we found the road ahead closed, marked by a Mustang GT police car – only at the TT. So we turned round and rode back through it, with a brief emergency stop for a sheep emerging nonchalantly from the white-out into the middle of the road. That alone would have had me off the bike, but Thorpe just laughed and carried on. Only when we rejoined the road did he comment that it was the worst road conditions he’d ridden in.
Back on the slippery stuff, on a horrifically steep downhill track that tumbled over loose rocks and impossible sections of wet slate, Thorpe simply told me to hold on and rode slowly down it, controlling the rear wheel on the throttle, feeling the bike, letting it find its way. Such was the gradient, I was practically on his head, apologising profusely for not being able to extricate myself from his back. It was only when we reached the bottom and I turned to watch the others descend, I realised how hard it was. If I tell you that BSB rider Jennie Tinmouth came off at least once and even the god of motorcycling, Hope-Frost, had to put his feet down on several occasions, you’ll get an idea. It was horrific.
Still, all in a day’s work for Thorpe, who five minutes later was taking everyone’s orders for a fish butty and pint of coke at the pub by Ballaugh Bridge on the course. Imagine an F1 world champion doing that.