|Storia: le motocicliste del
Beryl Swain, Francesca Giordano, Sandra
Barnett & Kate Parkinson, Roy Hanks, Julia Bingham, Wendy Davis, Gwen Crellin, Linda
Trophy, Isle of Man
The business of
Motorcycle Rood Racing is generally perceived as being the domain of men. Quite rightly
so, after all it is our men in the main who take the risks as riders, invest many hours as
tuners and mechanics and provide the 'Know-How' which brings the whole 'Racing' end-result
to the chequered flag.
Amongst this bastion of the sport and the Isle of Man TT in particular, and amongst this
'Exclusive' Island 'Men's Club', there hides many unsung 'Heroes'. This particular group
have one special factor in common - theu are ladies; they are the TT women! As committed
as their men to the philosophy of the TT, wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters have
all offered their support and skill over the years. With their particular input, perhaps
the quality of the project on offer has enjoyed the 'Female' touch lighting-up two weeks
of Island racing every year.
Can you imagine the stir that was caused around the Course when in 1962 an entry was
received far the 50cc race from 'Good Heavens'! a Lady competitor. Beryl Swain was
to become the first solo rider in the history of the TT races, riding a 50cc Itom. In
Practice she wore a highly-coloured patterned sweater over her leathers, with her blonde
hair streaming-out from under her helmet. Finishing 22nd out of the 25 finishers, Beryl
set the precedent which would see names such as Hilary Musson who rode in the Formula 2
races between 1980 and 1983 on a 347 Yamaha, often competing against, but never beating
her husband John, and West German Margaret Lingham who received publicity when a
photographer captured her coming-off at the Quarterbridge in the TT Formula 1 event, plus
Italian, Francesca Giordano.
More recently, two ladies have carried the female solo 'Rider' banner with distinction, Sandra
Barnett and Kate Parkinson. Having served their apprentiship in the Manx Grand
Prix, both women turned their attention to the challenge of the TT. In 1995 Sandra
averaged aver 108mph in both the Junior and Senior races, while last year she achieved the
accolade of the fastest woman around the TT Course with a lap of 114.63mph in the Junior
event on a 600 Honda, finishing in 15th place overall with a bronze replica. Sandra is
passionate about the TT - surely she must be to compete at this level.
Are there any real differences between the approach of a 'Male' rider and a 'Female' rider
to the rigours of the TT Course? Sandra is sure that women can offer the same as the guys,
after all her first F1 race was on a Honda RC30 weighing over 300Ibs and pushing-out
nearly 125bhp far six laps! The mental approach is almost certainly the same as the men,
perhaps though o little more glamour is on board!
Physically, upper-body strength can be a problem so Sandra spends a lot of time and effort
in the Gym, leading up to the TT, to improve her stamina. Pete Barnett, TT rider, Sandra's
husband and manager, is often asked if it feels bad to be beaten by his wife? 'Not
really', he replies, 'She's beaten male riders a hell of a lot better than me!'
Kate Parkinson also achieved a Bronze Replica in the 1995 Lightweight Race with an average
race specd of 104.66mph, while in 1996 she finished 24th, just missing a replica, and then
followed-up with her second Bronze last year, finishing 16th at 108.13. Her fastest lap of
the Course stands at 110.16mph.
31 years of supporting both the TT and Sidecar Driver husband Roy Hanks, is only a
small part of the involvement of Rosetta or 'Rose' in the event. She runs the TT
Supporters Club Hut behind the Grandstand, supporting the TT competitors, who in return
support the Club. Rose organises the 'Tea' Tent, which is 'Ufe-Blood' for many TT
competitors and a meeting place for just about everyone involved who needs a 'Private'
thought, a taste of the camaraderie, or just a decent 'Cup of Tea'.
For Rose this is all a major part of her life! In 1967 she rode as a TT passenger with
brother-in-low Norman, and then in 1968 this pairing finished second on a 650 BSA when
Rose also achieved the accolade of being the first woman to stand on the TT rostrum. As
part of a famous TT family there are many memories, such as when Roy was presented with
the replica Sword of State by Isle of Man Tourism Minister Tony Brown for 30 years service
to the TT, and in 1997 when Roy won the Sidecar 'A' race after 31 years of TT competition!
Rose worries sometimes, about all the hours of work, the risk of breaking-down (she
chooses not to listen to the race reports on the radio), and has experienced pretty well
every facet of the TT. As she says, "it's easier to be out there doing it, than
watching". And the "Polite" message Rose would like to send to the men is
"Please don't forget the efforts your wives and girlfriends put in, so that you can
enjoy the TT".
rose to the challenge of the Course on three-wheels, as passenger to husband Dennis in
the 80s when they achieved four seconds and e third. In the 1982 'B' race they were
runners-up to Jock Taylor and Bengo Johannson, while in 1987 they finished second, far the
second time, to Mick Boddice and Dave Wells.
Another young woman made history last year when she become the first lady Sidecar driver
at the TT. Wendy Davis, with passenger Martyn Roberts in the chair, finished in
both races, taking 42nd place in the first race at 88.11mph and 41st in the second at
'Tea' is again on offer at one particular Island home during TT
fortnight. Gwen Crellin MBE learnt her beverage-making skills back in 1954 when her
late husband Charlie opened a cafe at Ballaugh. With the formation of the TT Marshols
Association in 1960, Gwen was eventually persuaded by the then Deputy Chief Constable to
become the first female Marshal. "In 1962 I was on duty with a flag in my hand,
entirely on my own, praying there would be no accidents - and it worked!" Gwen
remembers, "1 continued on my own for seven years until Charlie decided to join
But where does the tea come in? Gwen's home has always been 'Open-House' to all the riders
and their families. Such famous names as 'Chas' Mortimer, 'Ago', and Mick Grant, and all
enthusiasts, whether Monx, from Britain or Europe, ore welcome to drop in far a drink, a
few reminiscences and perhaps some thought-provoking words from this exceptional lady.
"Choose your partner wisely", she advises the riders, "Make sure that they
know that it's not all glamour!". And what of the riders who don't make it far tea -
well they get a wove from Gwen - she is famous far it. A personal acknowledgement from
Marshal to Rider - a depth of understanding that only they may know.
There are so many names renowned far their port in creating TT history - Agostini, Duke,
Grant, Hailwood, Hislop - the role of honour is endless, the credits all noteworthy.
However one name must be engraved very deep on the Course, not only far the obvious skill
and talent brought to bear, but also the 'Ideals' that have been represented by the name
'Dunlop'. Younger brother Robert returned to the Island in '97, after fighting a personal
battle to compete once again; by his side was Louise. Older brother Joey, his wife Linda
Dunlop and their family hove been part of TT for the past 23 years.
Linda sees her
role very much as closely supporting Joey as he deals with the pressures of his very
visible racing involvement on the Island. The 1977 win on a 750 belonging to close friend
and mentor Johnny Rea, meant a great deal to them both, as this was the first time Joey
had ridden a 750. He soon got the feel of the big machines though, with a victory in the
1980 F1, his first time with Honda Britain. More success followed with a treble in 1985
and again in 1988. "The celebrations just went on and on", Linda remembers,
"The fans were amazing".
In 1982 Joey had to delay going to the Island far two days, to await the arrival of his
first son Gory Joseph - even the Isle of Man could not take him away from that event!
However, as ever, Linda arrived to support Joey while baby Gory, at just seven days old,
was also present to support his dad. I asked Linda what Joey felt she had to offer to his
celebrated involvement, and she replied, "Joey says he couldn't do it without
me!" Did she think women could offer more at the TT? "Yes, I think women already
play a big part behind the scenes, but this could be brought more into view".
Of course, whilst men and women are riding, there are many others who are working
tirelessly in the Pits, on the Course, in Race Control, the 'Tea Tent', the TT Supporters
Club, in the Teams and in the Garages. The list is endless, the variety and
diversification of their involvement vast.
Marie Armes has been lending an arm around a shoulder far many years as Welfare Officer;
her role can be very difficult and often heart rendering, but a very necessary part of the
TT network. Anne Trollope and husband Dennis are both regular long-standing supporters and
sponsors of the TT. Anne is quiet and hard-working, but there when you need a spore-part:
or some technical advice. Freda and Jenny Potter always manage a smile as they serve that
famous "Tea-Tent Tea", even on a breeze, cool 'Morning' practice. Sharon
Courtney, wife and supporter of James, believes the TT event is unique. "It is the
highlight of the year for most racers, as long as it is run properly - long may it
continue!" The list of ladies who offer their backing at the TT is endless.
In 'Pit-Lane' many women often sacrifice the chance far an Island 'holiday', choosing
instead to stand very much physically by their men, in their pursuit of the best that can
be achieved. Yvonne Ward has been involved with the TT for 31 years. Her involvement has
seen her as part of her husband Steve Ward's rising racing career on the Island, which was
tragically cut-short when he was killed in Sweden, three weeks before TT 1996. In 1995,
Steve aboard a Honda Britain AC45 with handling problems, put in the fastest lap of the TT
in the Senior event, finishing third overall - sweet memories for Yvonne. Perhaps she
could be forgiven for wishing to look for new interests in the future, but no, 1997 saw
her back in the Pit-Lane, part of the 'Teams' identity, supporting Ian Lougher in his 125
challenge. Another sweet memory was waiting. As Yvonne recalls, "Ion Lougher winning
by 2.2 seconds, after being two seconds down at Ramsey on the last lap! I always try to
approach the TT as professionally as possible, as the TT is no holiday; in fact it's the
hardest two weeks work of the year. I will help in anyway I can".
Many, many people are involved with the racing product that takes place every year in
June; the men and women involved work together, side-by-side, with the some aim in mind.
"We all have a place in the team or a job to do, to come up with the best results we
are capable of", expressed one of the rider's girlfriends. Perhaps the biggest
satisfaction to be gained from any involvement in the Isle of Man TT, as you travel home
by ferry or plane, is the knowledge that this particular event allows 'Anyone' to find a
niche far their skill, and a chance to use their talent to add to the whole. Riding,
spectating, organising, building or planning, whatever your personal role, we are all,
everyone of us, part of this magic that is called 'TT'.
TT Isle of Man, 1-12 june