There can be little doubt that the famous Isle of Man TT mountain course is the most demanding race circuit in the world, pushing both man and machine to their absolute limits.
So imagine for a moment, if you will, having to complete a four lap, circa 150 mile race on a road bike, with the lights removed and some race fairings bolted on. Well, after a severe lack of practice time, that’s exactly what Manx veteran Steve Moody had to do after his CBR400 NC29 succumbed to mechanical issues in the build up to race week.
Last year Steve narrowly missed out on the ultra-lightweight podium on Erin the Honda, named after the town of Port Erin, as he was forced to pit for fuel which saw him drop from 2nd to 5th. With hopes high, and budgets low, there was certainly a lot of optimism surrounding the Dilligaf team as they headed to the Isle of Man for 2019.
Alongside the NC29, Steve was also hoping to race the team’s newly acquired 1991 Honda VFR 750, which was purchased earlier this year for the princely sum of £350 and turned into a classic superbike by Andy Hoare for around £1000. The team would also be raising money for the Bridge The Gap charity, based at Nobles Hospital.
First practice was cancelled due to bad weather, but when the VFR finally hit the road, Steve logged a 98.63 mph lap which gave the team something to work with. With the weather cancelling further practice sessions, testing was carried out at Jurby and with a few adjustments to the setup Steve set a 103.82 mph lap in qualifying to make it on to the grid for the Classic Superbike TT, fulfilling a lifelong dream. While things were looking up with the VFR, they were certainly not looking positive for the NC29 who was clearly in need of a new engine, and the team had to hope it would arrive on the island in time.
In the meantime, mechanic Steve Gilkes allowed the team to convert his CBR400RR road bike into something resembling a race machine, as they bolted on the race fairings to get things ready for practice in less than 24 hours time.
Eighty bikes had entered the Classic Superbike TT, but only fifty made the start line, with Steve and the VFR the very last to head off down Bray Hill. One by one, the classic bikes began to retire,but Steve kept on plugging away on the Honda. Hearts were in mouths on lap three as Michael Dunlop looked poised to lap Steve at The Bungalow, but Dunlop’s retirement shortly after meant that Steve reached the grandstand just in time to complete his final lap before Davo Johnstone crossed the line to take the win. With a fastest lap of 105.71mph and all four laps completed, Steve did indeed make it to the finish line and claim that all-important finishers medal.
Back to the 400, it would transpire that Moody had done just enough to qualify for the lightweight race despite the various bike issues that had plagued practice for the team. Starting from the back of the queue on what was essentially a stock road bike with race fairings, Steve fought his way up from 23rd to 12th to bag himself another replica for the trophy cabinet. They would replicate that success in the final ultra-lightweight race by finishing 13th on Steve Gilkes’ road bike to add another replica to the silverware collection.
In the team’s post-Manx report, Steve’s wife Elaine commented:
“The team may not have won races, but their determination not to give up despite the hurdles and mechanical issues they had to overcome saw them win the hearts of so many in the paddock, and demonstrated the true spirit of The Manx!”
We would also like to congratulate the team at DS Racing, who took a well deserved podium in the Max GP Newcomer B Race with rider Dave Stiff coming home in 3rd place on their Suzuki SV650 behind Mark Kirkby and Robert Cairns.
Image credits – Martyn Parnell / Martyn’s Photos
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