Characteristically damp and windy weather greeted the first group of aspiring newcomers at the first of this year's two familiarisation weekends.
19 riders took advantage of the chance to complete laps of the course with experienced ACU Coaches who explained the finer points of riding a smooth and safe lap. The ACU now insists all Newcomers complete at least six guided laps of this kind before being allowed to race on the Mountain Course.
The visit also gives riders a chance to meet Manx Motor Cycle Club officials, Clerk of the Course, Gary Thompson and each other. Some time is also devoted to bike set up and preparation which needs to be more rigourous to withstand the greater mileage, compared with a circuit race meeting.
Mr Thompson told the riders: 'Don't try and break any records. It's all about doing as many laps as you can. Peter Hickman did around 87 laps before his first TT and look what he achieved three years later.'
Club chairman, Peter Maddocks, thanked the Mike Hailwood Foundation, which supports the Newcomers' weekends, and all the volunteers involved in making the event happen. 'This is all about being safer on the course and we hope you enjoy your experience,' he said.
Some visitors had travelled many miles to attend the weekend. Ivo Ladde, 26, from Switzerland, was making his first ever visit to the island. 'It's a fantastic track,' he said. 'Very beautiful but very hard. It's so fast. You watch on-board DVD laps but seeing the real thing is something else.'
Ivo, who has just completed a university course in complementary medicine, hopes to ride his R6 in the Newcomers' A race. He also has an illustrious mentor in the shape of TT rider Horst Saiger.
Russell Dodds, 34 from Bedale aims to ride his Suzuki SV650. It's not his first visit to the Isle of Man: 'I've been to the TT and the MGP and I've also taken part in the Two-day Trial.
'It's interesting seeing all the little markers that people have put around the course and being talked through it all by someone who has raced here a lot,' said Russell, who is a new projects manager for an automotive company. Fellow Yorkshireman, David Stiff, from Pickering has also visited the island before and has an SV650.
Frenchman, Nicholas Robert, from Magni Cours, competes on a Yamaha R6. 'This is my first time here and this place is legendary in the motorcycling world,' he said. His compatriot, 33-year-old Quentin Limousin, a mechanic from Tours, is also a first time visitor, aiming to race his Suzuki GSXR600. 'My first impression? Wow!' he said.
Glaswegian Chris Stuart is a design engineer and analysist who came to England to university before working for Rolls Royce in Derby. He said he was amazed by the depth of knowledge needed to ride the course. He has visited the island before and competed in last year's S100.
'I'll need to completely change my riding style, plan ahead and set up each corner. I think the 13th milestone is a section that will need special attention,' he said. Motor cycle racing is not his only sport: he's also keen on Muay Thai boxing..
The second Newcomers' weekend is on 29/31 March.
Photo Credit: Jeff Kirby