One short quote stood out while speaking to experienced TT sidecar racer Wayne Lockey about his career: “As hard as it is to ride a TT, it’s even harder to get the financial backing.”
It’s almost a perfect encapsulation of TT racing, this incredible, white-knuckle form of motorsport, where the risks are incredibly high, but where the public interest and prize money does not come close to matching the danger levels.
Even the infamous Isle of Man TT, where Lockey is set to ride for the 12th time, is a financial strain for the majority of its competitors.
It’s renowned for being one of motorsport’s most dangerous routes. Three riders died during the 2017 event, which sadly is not an unusual occurrence.
Riders reach speeds of 200mph while weaving through tight hamlets and navigating winding public roads.
The Isle of Man TT draws plenty of national television coverage every summer. But it’s estimated that only the top three from each discipline actually make any money at all from the event, when you consider travel costs and the expensive habit of maintaining and improving a high performance motorbike or sidecar.
But you’ll do well to find a field as passionate and devoted to their sport than your average TT grid. The majority of TT racers, Lockey included, hold down regular jobs for most of the year, using holiday and weekends to pursue their love of speed.
“You can’t explain it really, obviously we all wish there was a bit more money in it, and it’s always a challenge to get sponsors together, but we do it out of love,” he says.
“If you want to earn a load of money, it’s not the sport for you, but nothing comes close to the thrill of it.”
Lockey, stock and barrel
Lockey and his sidecar partner, Mark Sayers, make up Real Racing F2, a veteran team that has been racing up and down the UK for well over a decade, making steady progress despite some occasional bumps in the road.
‘We do it out of love… nothing comes close to the thrill of it’
“I started out in 2001 in Formula 2, and won the Best Newcomer award in the North Gloucester Road Racing Championships at the end of that season,” says Lockey.
Since then, despite the constant issues with funding, Lockey’s talent and determination has led to him winning his fair share of silverware – most notably an East Midlands Racing Association title in 2011 and a prestigious British Motorcycle Racing Club Championship in 2013.
“Our first Isle of Man was in 2006, and we weren’t one of the big-name newcomers going into it that year,” recalls Lockey.
“But we did well enough to get a 101 mph average lap which was great going for the time. We ended up winning Best Newcomers there as well, in a year where there was a lot of strong competition.
“We never stopped coming back after that, and in 2016 we cracked a 110 mph lap which was our quickest ever.”
And despite suffering from fuel issues throughout a year that proved troublesome for Real Racing, the team had another solid outing in 2017, with the 14th quickest lap from a field of almost 50.
Real Racing were even more impressive in the Southern 100, another challenging race set on the Isle of Man, finishing second and third in their two outings — all while using a borrowed engine.
“Hopefully we can improve again this year, but as a team, our only goal is to finish every run we start and just do our best. You take what you’re given on the island, because it’s the most difficult race there is,” says Lockey.
“If we ride as hard as we can, we will be chuffed with that, no matter where we finish.”