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  TT Website Interviews - Roy Hanks

Roy Hanks

Roy, what are your plans for the forthcoming season ?
I'll be doing the TT along with the British Championships, both FI and FII, partnered by Dave Wells. We'll be running the FII machine in the FI rounds of the British Championships, purely because both rounds are run at the same meetings. You can often get away with racing an FII machine against the FI outfits, as long as you make a good start; if you make a good start, you can have some good dices on the track and realistically come away with a top ten finish. If you don't make a good start though, you've had it.

You have been racing at the TT for over 30 years; do you still get the same excitement out of racing here as when you first started ?
Oh yeah, definitely. No two races are ever the same, and there's always something new to learn on the TT course, it's the nature of the track. I also think there's a lot more pressure on me nowadays than there was back then, but that's pressure I put on myself to perform. I enjoy racing now as much as I've ever done and at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. I've got a great way of psyching out the opposition 'cos I always walk around with this daft grin on my face and sunglasses on, even when I'm nervous myself. The other riders must think "What on earth's he so happy about!?"

Roy Hanks

So how did the Roy Hanks/Dave Wells partnership come about ?
It came about last year, and it's funny because I actually turned him down at first. When Tom (Hanks, Roy's nephew) went off to ride in the Sidecar World Cup, it left me without a passenger. Dave approached me about a ride, but I turned him down because I prefer to have inexperienced passengers rather than the experienced ones. With an inexperienced passenger, you can "mould" him or her into the sort of passenger you want them to be. OK that takes a bit of time, but the end result is worth it. Dave is probably one of the most experienced passengers around and I thought that things wouldn't work out with us. Anyway, the TT is fast approaching and I still haven't got a passenger, when Vince Biggs phoned me up to tell me he had two passengers, did I want Dave ?

As I said, I had my reservations, but now me and Dave get on really well. We've gelled on the track and are good mates off it as well. It amazes me really, but as a passenger I can't fault him: he's brilliant.

Who's the best passenger you've had ?
There are people who can ride as a passenger without thinking, it just comes naturally. Then there are passengers who have to work hard at being good and there's those who just hang on. I'm not knocking the hangers on because I couldn't do it! The best passenger I've had is a bloke called Donny Williams, who used to ride with Michael Boddice, Trevor Ireson and Nigel Rollason. Donny wasn't the sort you could go out and have a pint with, because he would always get you in trouble. We were in a crowded bar in Liverpool and I thought "Christ, he got those drinks in quick" then someone comes following behind saying "I think you've just picked my drinks up". I later found out he didn't even have any money with him!!

Vince Biggs was a bloody good passenger, but he had to really work at it. We had some good times together, me and Vince. Still do in fact ! And young Tom was probably as good as Donny. People who can walk a tightrope would probably make good sidecar passengers: it's something about balance, and having a feel for what's going on.

Roy Hanks

You were involved in a serious accident at the 33rd Milestone in 1988…
(laughing)Yeah, that was Tom's fault. End of conversation!!

Did you think twice about returning to the TT after that accident ?
I crashed because I was treating the TT Course with contempt: I'd been coming for a long time even then. I'd caught up with the eventual winner and there were three outfits in front of me coming into the 33rd. I could have passed one of them coming into the 33rd, and all of a sudden I was thinking about glory and about how good it would look outbraking the lot of them on the run down to Creg ny Baa. Suddenly they all turned left-and I didn't! I should have been concentrating on what I was doing, but I was getting ahead of myself, already at the Creg thinking about how good it would look on camera. And that was it, we crashed.

If something goes wrong in a sidecar, you get up and hit the passenger even if it's not his fault, because then at least the crowd think it was his fault! But I'd shot Tom so far off down the side of the mountain (he'd broken his femur) and I had two broken ankles, and all I could think about was getting the bike ready for Monday's race! Since then a lot of people have said that the wind caught us and blew us off the road, others have said I was using the wrong tyres, but I have to say now, hand on heart, if I'd have been concentrating on what I was doing we wouldn't have crashed.

With 20 minute laps, is maintaining concentration a difficult thing to do ?
If I was getting around in 20 minutes I'd be doing alright! The thing with the IOM is that it's not a physical thing, although you do need to be reasonably fit. It's all in the head: you have to be thinking about what's coming 3 miles down the road without doing what I did at the 33rd! I don't really have a problem with concentration, although if you catch up with someone and decide to follow them then that starts up a whole new game and things start to go wrong.

To the crowd, it seems as if we're having a race, but the race is when you're on your own: you concentrate much harder when you're on your own. When you're following someone, you lose all the perspective because all you're looking at is the back of his machine.

You and Vince Biggs won the overall sidecar title in 1982 with a third and fifth place, but what was it like to finally win a race outright in 1997 ?
That's what dreams are made of. Winning is just the dream, the ultimate. Dave Molyneux won the race in 1996, but didn't return in 1997, and the only way you can get the number one plate normally is if you've won the race the previous year. I asked the organisers if I could start at number one if there were no objections, which was fine. When it came to the day, I wished I hadn't because it was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. Even getting married was easier! But all eyes were on us, everyone was waiting for me to start, it was ever so strange.

When you finish a race, you've normally got an idea where you've finished. Norman, my elder brother, knew it was so close that a win was possible. I got a sign at the Bungalow on the last lap with a two and question mark beside it. What they were trying to tell me was that I might be first, but of course I thought it meant I was second or third. I've always said that people can put what they like on the pit-boards, I'm already trying my best, so it doesn't make much difference. So I just relaxed and drove as normal and it paid off. I know from Vince (Biggs, 2nd placed man) that he made some mistakes on the last lap because he was being distracted over what was written on his pit-boards. As I drove up the return road at the Grandstand, I was put straight into the winner's enclosure and I was amazed that I was the only one in there, because Rob Fisher passed us early on in the race. We passed Rob after he'd broken down, but I was concentrating that hard I didn't even see him. From there on in, everyone was congratulating us and it was amazing. Even Mick Boddice did, and we're not the best of mates, me and Mick. He came up and said "About bloody time!" and walked off again: that's all he said !! And then we stole the trophy, but that's another story….

….We're all ears….
The ACU and the TT organisers were really upset with us because we took it home with us. Usually, you get given a replica to keep because the original trophies are so valuable, but we stole it and caused a lot of trouble. I said "Well I've won it and I'm taking it home". I won't tell you how we got it out of the Villa Marina, but it was a good laugh !!

Roy Hanks

In your opinion, who is the greatest sidecar driver around the Mountain Circuit ?
I suppose everyone would say Dave (Molyneux), and he would be the obvious choice. If they were all on the start line and all the outfits were going to finish, Dave would be right up there, I've no doubts about that. He's a proper professional. Deubel, Schazu and Enders are all on a par, they were all brilliant riders, but I think Dave Saville is the greatest rider ever around here. If you could line up all the greats, and they were all on the same machinery and they were all going to finish, my money would be on Dave Saville, with Moly right behind him. Probably the most enjoyable to watch is Rob Fisher, but he always beats me so I hate him!

Dave Saville set the 350cc lap record round here at 103mph, and two years later I came to within three seconds of beating it. I thought "That's impossible to go around at that speed!" But Dave used to do laps like that year in, year out. He was incredible.

Who on the current FII Sidecar scene impresses you most ?
Actually a lad that not many people will have heard of. His name's Phil Dongworth, and he's going to be a real talent. Ian Bell is probably the person most likely to win a TT, but he just needs to take the edge off his engine to make it more reliable for the TT. Once he does that, he'll win easily. Moly is the best of the current crop of riders.

You are a member of the TT Riders Forum; what exactly does this entail ?
It's basically a group of current riders who sit down with the organisers and say "We think this section is getting too bumpy" right down to "We think the toilets aren't clean" and everything in between. It's really trying to make life for the riders more comfortable, more acceptable.

Do you find that the powers that be act on what you say, or do they drag their heels ?
They usually make their minds up about most things before the meeting, then they tend to float the ideas at you when you get there. But they do listen to what you have to say. I don't attend that many meetings because I have to run the business, but I usually write to the organisers after each meeting to give my opinions on the decisions they have reached.

For example, there's always chaos by scrutineering, especially when the solos are practising and the sidecars are being scrutineered. Between us we have come up with a compromise whereby during practice sessions the sidecars will come straight from scrutineering and be held in pit lane before setting off from pit lane for the session. That's going to be introduced this year, so you can see that they do listen.

Why do you think sidecar racing is not as high profile as solo racing ?
Because manufacturers don't see a profit in it. I know that sounds a bit mean, but it's the truth of the matter. It doesn't sell bikes-so Yamaha, Honda don't push it so much. So Dave Molyneux wins a TT: it ain't gonna sell motorbikes. In the past two or three years things have maybe started to change and now Honda are putting their name to Dave's wins, whereas before his bike was known as a Molyneux. Sidecars are their own worst enemies in that way. Our machine for example, is entered as a Rose Hanks, because the manufacturers aren't interested: why should we put their names to the bike ? But things are starting to change a little bit now.

Roy Hanks

Can you explain the strong camaraderie that exists between rival sidecar teams, whereas with solos this is not generally the case ?
It's families. The sidecar racing fraternity is just one big family. All the families get involved with each other. I mean, if Ian Bell blew one of his engines up and he didn't have a spare, he'd borrow one of mine. Now at the end of the day, you're better off not lending him an engine at all, because he'll just beat you, but that's not how it works. It's like: "The lad wants to go out and race, this is what he needs: give it to him."

Most of your family are involved in sidecar racing in one way or another. Are they pushed into sidecar racing, or is it just a natural progression ?
My father, Fred, was the first in the family to go racing, then Norman and Peter (my brothers) and myself started racing. We were never pushed into it, but we never knew anything different, so we just went racing. I'm sure if it had been horse racing or whatever, it would be just the same.

In fact, almost the opposite is true where your fatherly instincts take over and you make it almost difficult for your kids to get involved because you want to protect them. At least then if they do make it, it's because they've made the effort and they're doing it for the right reasons. My daughter Julie is hoping to do the TT this year as a passenger, but at one stage she wanted to drive. That would have been the end of the world because we'd have run out of outfits! But we've not made it easy for her to do the TT: it's a headache I could do without!!

Do you have any ambitions left that you would like to achieve ?
I'd like to be young again! I suppose in some silly way I'd still like to win the British Championships. Even if every other team dropped out, I'd settle for that. Every year I manage to win a few of the races, but I've never managed to win the title. It's not that important any more; the TT was important, and I've won that, so the main thing now above all else is to enjoy my racing. Go, do your best, have a laugh and come home-that's what it's all about.

Do you think you can still win a TT then ?
Yes I do. Given the right day and the right bike, and certain people failing to finish, I think so! But yeah, on the right day I reckon I could give Moly a run for his money, but in his case the right day would have to be pissing down with rain !! The longer the race the better as far as I'm concerned. But yeah, I definitely still reckon I can win-I wouldn't be racing if I didn't.

Thanks for being such a sport Roy, and best of luck to all the family this season.
You're welcome.

Roy Hanks

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