They’re called the Diamond Races and will be ran over a 12.4 miles stretch of the Isle of Wight. A team of people including Gary Thompson (Clerk of the Course at the Isle of Man TT), Neil Tuxworth (ex racer and former manager of Honda Racing), Steve Plater (he’s Steve Plater, if you don’t know who he is you’re probably on the wrong website) have been working on this over the last 12 months.
The 12.4 mile circuit is properly exciting, we rode it in an exclusive look with James Hillier a month or so back. There are sections of the course that reminded me of the Southern 100 in Castletown and there are sections that reminded James of Macau. There is also the mother of all straights where we can expect to see 200mph plus for a very (very) long time.
There was talk of the anti-clockwise laps taking about eight minutes, I think they’ll be faster than that based on our laps at very legal speeds. I was riding my longterm Ducati Multistrada 1260 GT, James Hillier was teasing himself on a BMW S1000RR. Most of the lap was spent in second or third gear, respecting the speed limits. Once onto the ginormous straight, we were up to the national speed limit for just under five miles. Yes, a brand new road race taking place within two hours ride of London with a straight that’s nearly five miles long. Goodygumdrops.
I had a chat with James not far from where the start finish line is expected to be, “There isn’t one particular corner or section that feels exactly like any other road race that I’ve done. It’s a unique layout that will be challenging and exciting. I get the feeling there’ll be more than a few areas where the bikes will be in the air, sometimes with direction changes immediately afterwards. I think spectators are in for a real treat.”
Obviously there’s still a huge chunk of work that needs to be done, including removing 1050 cats eyes, 2500 white lines, dressing 177 manhole covers, cutting back hedges and shifting telegraph poles out of the way but the road surface is already incredibly good. Racing speeds will be much (much) higher than we managed but bumps and lumps in the road were hard to find and there’s a very healthy budget for road maintenance indeed.
Speaking to Gary Thompson and event co founder Paul Sandford, the plan at this stage is to run a four day event from a Wednesday to a Saturday, within weeks of the last round of BSB finishing at Brands Hatch. This means that logistically, a lot of the teams that will be attending the Diamond Races will already be down south, making travel to the Isle of Wight easy. October sounds late in the year, but seems to be a good month weather wise for the Isle of Wight.
It’s proposed that there will be three classes in the first year. Superstock 1000’s built to superbike spec, supersports and a mini twin class. There’ll also be demo laps from a sidecar.
At the minute, there’s talk of grids between 30 and 36 riders strong, with riders being set off one at a time rather than a mass start. I think if anything they will be 30 maximum, possibly smaller due to the need to have cleared the start line before the first rider gets back round after lap one. There’ll be another press event later this year where the event organisers are hoping to be able to close parts of the roads off to the public, giving everyone a chance to see just how fast the course will run.
In the interim, 240-250 marshals are being recruited and trained, all of whom will give line of sight safety across 80 marshalling posts around the course.
In broadcast terms, those that don’t go can expect to see some of the racing online and on television. I wouldn’t expect Isle of Man TT levels of coverage in year one, but there is a plan to work towards this kind of broadcasting.
Among many questions, I asked if there would be a Mad Sunday style chance for spectators to ride a lap of the circuit under closed or one way only conditions. The response was veiled, it sounds like there might be an opportunity to ride sections of it behind a traveling marshall but this will be a paid for opportunity, rather than the beautifully chaotic free for all that Mad Sunday is.
The Isle of Wight council is keen to bring new faces and new money to the island, a road race within striking distance of London and Dover is a fantastic way of doing this. There are currently 44,000 beds that can be used by visitors, there’ll be pop up villages, campsites, a couple of race villages and hospitality dotted around the course. These guys aren’t messing around and have committed around five million pounds to getting year one to the start line. The ferry from Southampton takes just under an hour and there are lots of ferries available. I wouldn’t expect Steam Packet style prices. Red Funnel are currently charging just £18.50 for a day return ticket on their boats. Bargain.
The Diamond Races wont clash with the BSB calendar, it adds another road race to the calendar and opens up the chance to get away for either a day or a long weekend to bikers that don’t fancy the ride to Heysham or Liverpool for the ferry to the Isle of Man TT. Given that it’s 2020 and health and safety seems to dictate almost everything we do, I’m amazed and incredibly exited to see this event come together. It’s being planned with genuine military precision, the event team has some of the best possible people from the Isle of Man TT onboard and the circuit looks incredible from what I’ve seen of it. If you’re one of the 10-15k people I think will attend in year one, you’ll be watching history in the making, as well as seeing some very, very fast road racing indeed.
Check out www.diamondraces.com for more information.