With practice well underway for the 2018 Isle of Man TT we caught up with two-time Lightweight winner Ivan Lintin, currently on the island preparing for this year's event. Like many competitors Lintin has a day job, in his case as a maintenance fitter at a factory in his home town of Lincoln.
Lintin made his debut at the TT in 2011, and in 2015 claimed the first of his two victories to date on the mountain course in that years Bennetts Lightweight TT, a feat he repeated in 2016.
The lightweight class for twin cylinder machines of up to 650cc is where Lintin has excelled. In first practice for the class on Saturday Lintin, on his Defabet Devitt Racing Kawasaki, was second-fastest behind Michael Dunlop. He then went on to better that in Tuesdays session by posting the fastest time in the class that Lintin sees his best chance of success.
“We’re competing in each class [excl. sidecar] this year and we’re especially looking forward to the Lightweight with our Kawasaki Z650,” he said. “After coming fourth last year, I’m racing to win this class. Like other riders across the classes, I’ve done it before – twice – and I’m going for it again.”
“Personally, I love the Lightweight or Supertwin class as it’s also known. It is my strongest class and certainly a fantastic feeder class to the larger bikes. I feel it’s very important to have such a class so people can learn the IoM circuit at a slower pace – it’s this pace which means you have to ride with more precision.
“That said, everyone loves the Superbike class. The thrill of seeing 200hp plus machines racing at 200mph is just something else. Some people get on with the larger capacities better than others but the feeling of riding and watching a Superbike race is absolutely second to none. As a rider, you never quite get used to the speed, but you learn how to deal with it.”
At the time of writing, 255 competitors have lost their lives since the TT’s inception in 1907, something that is not lost on Lintin. “There’s so much crashing at the shorts and the British Championships. A lot of riders are pushing as hard as they can to achieve championship status but you can’t race that hard at the TT. You have to back down that little bit because you’re racing along a fine line between success and disaster. Pushing beyond that line can be deadly for even for the most experienced riders.”
When asked if you would change anything about the TT, other than the unpredictability of the weather Lintin was resolute that the event should remain as-is. “The TT has stood for over a century and is an absolute classic battle of man versus machine – with a time trial. That's, the prestige – the significance – of the race. Changing the concept ruins it, so you’ve just got to hold on and enjoy the ride.”
The TT has built up an almost mythical status amongst racers, media and fans, it truly is difficult to describe the event in words. There are very few events which deliver anything like the TT experience. Spectators are literally feet away from 200mph projectiles, they experience sensory overload. Yes you can hear the machines, often from miles away as they approach, but also you get to feel them as they literally fly past. Imagine walking along the pavement on your local road and the traffic going by at four times the normal speed. Fans go back year after year, and almost every TT racer cites the TT as their favourite circuit, something which Lintin is in agreement with.
“I would definitely rank the TT as the number one circuit. It sets itself apart because, for one thing, even finishing it is a challenge. Running for over 100 years, the race has a unique prestige to it. As a rider, it’s the event you’re always remembered for. Then there’s the special nature of the race which means you can’t discount anyone, so it’s an exciting event for the teams and spectators alike. And everyone – or at least anyone who has some understanding of motorcycling – has heard of the TT.”
Talking about the history of the event Lintin said “I would love to go back to the early 60s, when the manufacturers had open rules on development of their machines. Bikes like the Honda 250 6, Moto Guzzi 500 V8 were so complex for their time and they pushed the boundaries of what was possible in that era. Eventually, cylinder capacity was limited in various classes, probably to reduce costs, but this would have been an incredible time to ride.”
While conscious of the history of the event when asked about what part electric powered bikes would play in the future Lintin said “Yeah I think it [electric] has to be the future. Basically we’ll run out of oil but will still be drawn to race something. Formula E is a fantastic series. I know they have a pit stop half way through a race, but it adds to the excitement and it is good, close, competitive racing.
“All it takes is for the manufacturers to get interested in electric and to start building bikes. Battery technology could improve rapidly over the next couple of years too, meaning we could have a load more power for a lot less weight. Among all motorsports, this is an especially big issue for motorbike racing. Ultimately, I think we will always be petrol heads but we will have to evolve with whatever happens in the future.”
The lightweight races take place Monday 4th and Wednesday 6th June. Lintin can be found tweeting @lintinracing.