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Mixed fortunes for local racers

By James Driver-Fisher | Grassroots | Published:

The Manx GP showed the extremes of road racing – because while Ben Plant was fulfilling a childhood dream racing around the iconic mountain course, Wayne Martin was nursing broken bones.

The dangerous nature of the motorsport brings with it plenty of highs and lows, and on this occasion is was time for Plant to shine while Martin admitted 'it's just what happens in racing'.

Plant, 33, from Wem, was entering the Manx as a newcomer while Martin, 38, from Telford, had more experience around course and was racing in the lightweight class.

Plant said: "Practice week started off with my very first lap around the TT course with a marshal on the Saturday.

"It was an amazing experience but just showed how much there still was to learn.

"Unfortunately from there on the weather didn’t play ball and practice kept getting cancelled until it broke on the Wednesday evening.

"But just before roads closed there was an incident on the mountain, which the police had to clear resulting on only us newcomers getting sent out for one lap. It was very frustrating for everyone."

Practice resumed on the Friday and Saturday, and after completing a total of eight laps, Plant was getting to grips with the track and had increased his average lap speed from 93mph to 102mph.

"Everyone was in the same boat with lack of laps so with the weather again not playing ball our newcomers race was moved to the Tuesday afternoon," he added.

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Starting 14th, Plant admitted to being the most nervous had had ever been on a bike while lining up on the most famous start line in the world.

"My dream was about to come true, everything I had worked so hard for," he said. "I was desperate to do myself justice.

"We set off in 10 second intervals and, heading into Ramsey, there was three of us all together battling away and couldn’t stop myself from smiling."

Plant, still racing a broken back and ribs sustained during an earlier race on the Irish roads, brought his bike home as the 12th fastest newcomer, again increasing his pace to 105mph average.

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"I was more than happy with that and I must admit three months ago, after my accident at the Tandagree 100, I didn’t think I would be even there – let alone finishing my first race.

"The weather was so much better race week and the paddock was buzzing.

"The junior and lightweight races were on the Wednesday and my next race was the senior on the Friday afternoon, starting at the back, number 74 to get away.

"I was just there to enjoy it and take it as more practice laps.

"The weather was brilliant and the crowds lined the track all the way round.

"It was very special to be part of it and despite finishing 50-something, I lapped at 106mph, which included slowing for the pits.

"That didn’t matter though as I had finished safe and sound, learned so much about myself and it helped to get the bike ready for next year when, all being well, I will be 100 per cent fit.

"Massive thank you to Sean Meakin and Paul Hunter for giving up two weeks of their time to come and help me.

"We did it because, as the saying goes, there’s no 'I' in 'team'.

"Thank you to all my sponsors who again I couldn’t do this with out. They include Car Colour Express Mobile Body Shop Repair, R Greaves & Co, Shrewsbury Family Chiropractic, The Fox pub, Ian Cliff Garden Repairs, J K Coatings Ltd, Motorlink, Mobile Towbar Fitting and Vinal Destination."

For Martin, however, the race meeting was one to forget as first his Suzuki SV650 began giving him problems before he crashed – on the final lap of his final race – breaking his arm and wrist.

"Because of the weather and mechanical issues, we'd only had managed to complete about six laps of practice all week," he said.

"After messing around with setting and the suspension we eventually got a couple decent nights of weather and we were able to go a bit quicker.

"Everything we did this year was geared towards the Manx and I managed to finish 23rd in the opening lightweight race, which I wasn't too pleased with.

"But I sort of used that one as practice for the final race. However, we weren't going to well in that either really because the bike kept cutting out, which cost us a lot of time.

"Once it got going again it was fine but coming into Glen Helen I just made a mistake, took the corner too quickly and then hit a false neutral.

"I tried to lean into to it but it was too late and I headed straight into the fence.

"I cracked my wrist and broke my humerous, but it's out of the cast now. There's also some tendon and muscle damage.

"There will be no racing for the rest of this year but I'll be back in 2019."

James Driver-Fisher

By James Driver-Fisher

Motorsport journalist and entertainment and food reviewer for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star.

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