MGP proposals cause “war” to break out on the Isle of Man.
Malcolm Offline

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MGP proposals cause “war” to break out on the Isle of Man.
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Opposition is growing to the plans of the Isle of Man Government’s Department of Economic Development’s (DED) planned changes to the Manx Grand Prix. A demonstration was held outside the island’s parliament yesterday. The plans which are detailed below are intended to improve the economic return from the event; but are considered likely to do the exact opposite by most of those involved in the running of the event.

These new proposals will see the event focus on motorcycling nostalgia as well as providing a training ground for future TT riders, newcomers to the Mountain Circuit and existing MGP riders.

The race programme being proposed includes three races for classic machines and two further races for modern day bikes. It is designed to ensure that competitors enjoy the optimum amount of track time whilst at the same time reducing the impact on local businesses and residents by maximising road closure opportunities at weekends and the August Bank Holiday.

These proposals are also designed to ensure competitors receive increased value for money whilst delivering an event that will generate a greater economic benefit, commercial revenues and media coverage, ensuring its long-term viability. How reducing riders’ opportunities to race will encourage greater participation is something only an accountant could explain; no doubt there is a fancy formula in Excel on a desk in KPMG.

It is proposed that practice for the 2013 event will commence on Saturday 17th August, with the opening untimed free practice session starting at 18.20hrs. Timed practice will begin Monday 19th August at 18.20hrs, continuing through the 20th, 21st and 22nd August at the same start time.

Timed practice will again take place during the day on Friday 23rd August with a further session for the classic machines and newcomers in the modern classes due to get underway at 10.30hrs. The proposed race programme itself will open on the same day with the four lap 350cc Classic Race scheduled to get away at 14.00. Bear in mind that the 2012 Classic Junior attracted only 41 entrants.

Saturday 24th August’s proposed race programme features the Lightweight Clubman’s TT Race for 650cc TT Supertwin specification machines followed later in the day by the 500cc Classic Race, with both races to be held over four laps of the TT Mountain Course. The 26th August, Bank Holiday Monday, will bring the curtain down on the race programme with the Supersport Clubman’s TT Race in the morning and Classic Superbike Race in the afternoon.

It is planned that each of the three race days will also include a closed road Parade Lap, with the Vintage Motor Cycle Club Rally, a Lap of Honour for former TT and MGP competitors and the Yamaha Classic Racing Team all taking part during the event. I would love to see the economic argument for paying for the wonderful Classic Yamaha team to attend. They provide a great site and wonderful sounds; but will not, I believe, add one person to the visitor numbers.

Entries for all classes will be open to any rider with an ACU national license or equivalent with a maximum of 90 starters allowed per race. Entry fees for the 2013 event will be free to all competitors with the cost being covered by generating commercial income streams and by making budget efficiencies with the newly defined festival. What is going to happen to the Mountain Course licence; or has that little conundrum not been considered by the accountants or the DED.

The Lightweight and Supersport Clubman’s TT Races will be run to existing TT technical regulations, with dispensations given to allow older machinery to enter. The regulations for the Classic races will be drawn up in due course and a final draft of the regulations for all classes is expected to be released by the end of August 2012.

Both Clubman’s TT Races will also feature a number of scholarships, which will be awarded at the end of the event by an expert panel of judges, which will see young riders offered a guaranteed place in the following years TT Races as a junior member of one of the TT’s leading professional teams. This idea I like; but simply do it for the promising newcomers in the existing race programme.

Any previous TT or MGP rider will be eligible to take part in the Clubman’s classes, provided they haven’t qualified to race in the TT during the previous two years and have not lapped faster in race conditions than the new upper speed limits of 118mph for Supersport and 108mph for Lightweight classes.

The Department hopes to attract existing MGP classic bikes riders, contemporary TT riders and other classic specialist from around the world to compete in the three Classic Races. It is hoped that these races will over time become the most prestigious set of classic motorcycle races in the world attracting leading classic racing teams and machine owners from around the world. The Department has been pleased to have already received significant positive interest in the proposals from classic competitors and owners of classic racing motorcycles.

All three Classic Races will feature ‘sub classes’ to ensure riders compete against each other on a level playing field in terms of their machinery specification. These sub classes will be used to determine the awarding of trophies and replicas, with current day TT riders not being eligible for replicas. Further consultation will take place to determine the detail of the various sub class eligibility.

The publishing of what was allegedly just a proposed race programme has infuriated the Manx Motorcycle Club (MMCC); not least because it was published prior to an open meeting organised by the club to discuss what were according to the DED just proposals. In a public relations disaster Motor Cycle News had the details on the street before the MMCC had even had the courtesy of a hint of what was going to happen. The club is incensed that DED has used inaccurate figures provided by KPMG to try to substantiate its case. Accountants appear to be self appointed experts on everything; it was they who controlled Enron, Long term Capital Management; RBSI and other banks that were forced to go cap in hand to the public to bail them out when the economic downturn proved the folly of overly leveraged balance sheets. The overwhelming view on the island is that accountants (the CEO of DED is an accountant) should keep out of trying to organise events about which they know very little. Whilst I am also an accountant I have been a marshal for 40 years and for 25 of those years was either Sector Chief Marshal or Deputy for the TT and MGP and have considerable experience of running sporting events; including a World Championship.

Former travelling marshal John McBride is one of those leading the campaign against the majority of the proposed changes. His posting below sums well some of the main concerns.

“The big problem with trying to run the races over a shorter period is giving sufficient practice time to all the classes. Particularly with there being the strong possibility of weather interruptions. Also, don’t forget that most of the riders are clubmen and not professionals and need the additional track time.

I am not against the idea of promoting the classic side of the event more, nor using the TT brand to do it. I am concerned that the Tourism people are under the illusion that classics are growing in interest outside of the Manx, they are actually in decline due to the enormous costs and risks to machinery. They also think that there are crowds of pro riders lining up to ride them, they are not, and certainly not around here.

The costs of the Manx have risen dramatically only due to the interference of the Tourism Dept and the number of people they pay to interfere with it. They also pay TT riders by giving them a greater start money deal for the TT deferred until the Manx. What they fail to see is that nobody is interested in seeing Michael Dunlop or Ryan Farquhar riding a classic bike, it’s the machinery that is the attraction. These guys are only stars at the TT and maybe the Irish races, they hold no appeal to the classic enthusiast. The great days of classics actually had riders from that era battling with modern riders. They have all long since given up or died, except for Phil Read!

The MGP proper should still be a major part of the event and not relegated to ‘a couple of minor races’ as insultingly stated by Colin Kniveton. In that comment alone he has displayed his complete contempt for the MMCC and all riders who have ever competed and given everything and sometimes died at the MGP, including some of his beloved ‘stars’!

By paying a few TT riders to ride the best machinery and leaving everyone else to fund themselves they will soon split the field and cause resentment. When Ryan Farquhar was riding similar machinery to everyone else he was dicing in both races with a little known local rider, Graham Taubman for 5th place in both of his races. Then along comes expensive exotic machinery and a big pay packet and he’s winning, so along comes Michael Dunlop for another two weeks pay. But where is the money coming from to pay more of these riders, if they can find any willing to do it?

The MMCC have organised the races since 1923 on a totally voluntary basis, they are being backed into a corner by political might with the usual political arrogance and total ignorance of what people want. If they mess around with the MGP too much, they will lose the goodwill of the fans they have with no guarantee that they will attract the new ones they are after. The MGP is growing year on year by their own figures, it only needs tweaking. There are too many classes for example in both classic and modern races.

If the Tourism crowd lose the support of the Manx people, loyal fans, local volunteers and supporters of the MGP, they will lose it for the TT as well. Then the voices calling for an end to the whole thing will be swelled with nobody to support it! Perhaps that is the long term plan?
Personally, I think that swelled with the deserved success of the TT, they want to do the same with the MGP but don’t realise it’s a different animal with a different appeal. Many people come to the Manx because it is not the TT. Yes it could do with a revamp, but not at the expense of its unique atmosphere and appeal.”

The comments directly below are typical of those sent in by opponents; these come from a member of the MGPRA.

“I read with dismay the reporting of the proposals for the 2013 MGP. I’m not against change, but am against change that is not properly discussed with all interested parties. In this case primarily the MMCC, the competitors, and reading the report, even some of the small traders on the Island who rely on events like the Manx to boost revenue. It is ironic that the reason the original Clubman’s TT was scrapped was because of perceived lack of direct spectator support, and now it is being re-introduced because of a perceived lack of similar direct support for the MGP. My belief is that the MGP has always been a combination of two ideals: one, that it represents the biggest challenge (and therefore the primary goal) of the majority of club racers, which enhances grass-roots club racing, and the second that it provides a training ground for future stars of the TT. The two are different but complementary. The bean-counters of the Manx Government (and they are no different now than ever they were) cannot see value if it is not measurable in hard cash. The TT makes money, therefore keep it, the MGP makes less, therefore scrap it. Simple. Until you ask the question about where the future TT riders learn the most demanding course in the world under race conditions. It cannot be done in TT practice, it is simply too dangerous to mix newcomers and top-line riders. This training (and a degree natural rider selection) has been the function of the MGP since before the war, and still should be. The TT and the MGP are forever linked, but the value of the MGP should be measured also in its contribution to the high standard of the TT, and not just in its direct cash revenue. The original Clubman’s TT was introduced to allow the average club rider the chance to sample TT racing on his sports bike. With the standard of modern sports bikes that is still possible, and indeed is happening, through the MGP. ‘Rebranding’ the MGP as the Clubman’s TT is just a cheap ruse to ‘leverage the economic value of the TT’. To say that ‘the Manx Grand Prix name does not currently carry any commercial weight’ is deliberately and cynically missing the point. On the basis of ‘if it doesn’t bring in revenue, scrap it’, the football Premiership should be supported, but all divisions below forced to use rock hard leather test tickles, employ over-40 year old players, and wear old-fashioned strip to recreate the ‘nostalgia’ of the past.”

Former MGP winner and TT racer Barry Wood is perhaps the most knowledgeable man with regard to the history of both the TT and MGP. When he speaks it is with authority; his comments are copied below.

“I am dismayed and angry, although not particularly surprised, at the D.E.D. proposals for a radical change to the MGP format. I would like to make a few comments and I would urge the D.E.D. to consider them. I acknowledge that the financial climate is not good and that the government needs to make everything as financially accountable as possible, and I further accept that some changes to the current format need to take place and many people may not be very happy about them. But I feel that there is no need whatsoever to completely wipe out almost 90 years of Manx social history and heritage in so callous a manner as their statement endeavours to do.

Firstly, the proposed timetable is unsuitable. Trying to cram the racing in around a holiday weekend could end in a fiasco in the event of bad weather. I do acknowledge the reasons for this but I feel it is unnecessary. Certainly at the TT, people tend to come and go at different times with the main emphasis being on the “middle weekend” ie; Friday through Mad Sunday. Most of the people I know who come for the MGP on the other hand, tend to come Saturday to Saturday. They can take in the final practice, have a night out, Jurby Day on Sunday, then racing Mon, Wed and Friday with a Classic club event or just a day out around the island on the other days, subject to favourable weather. I feel such a format is essential to give people time to do what they want, plus a bit of breathing space should bad weather postpone racing. I feel that by ending everything on the Monday, a feeling of anti-climax will be very evident, especially around Douglas.

In the case of the proposed classes, again I would like to make some comments. Firstly the Classic races. I can understand the theory about top TT stars having a race on exotic Classic machines, but I fail to see how this could happen? Just WHO is going to be on the grid? Where are the bikes going to come from? Competitive Classic machines can cost anything from around 20K up to nearer 100k and require specialist engineers to look after them. Even starting them is a special technique to the uninitiated. Will there really be 30 or so owners of such machines who will be prepared to lend them out to someone who they probably have never even met? And are those same owners / sponsors going to pay for their own boat fares and accommodation? Even if this DID come to fruition, are not most of those top-line TT stars committed to much bigger events at that time of the year? BSB, Irish Road racing championships, European Endurance championships etc? Would their major sponsors really be that enthusiastic about their riders racing a Classic bike around the TT course a few days before a major event? I have heard before of such situations and the rider has had to toe the line to the demands of his sponsor / employer! Although I feel the idea has some merit, it needs to be brought in alongside the MGP and not replace it. It is most encouraging that North Point are interested and enthusiastic enough to get involved in it, but they would hopefully encompass the whole MGP atmosphere and ethos, and that in turn would help to raise the profile of the Manx to race fans the world over, who hopefully would be encouraged to come and see it for themselves.

I am happy that the proposed format will include some modern class racing, but this is woefully inadequate, indeed most insulting to a great many MGP riders of many years standing and their families. Some of these people have been competing for over 30 years and their commitment to the MGP and the amount of money spent on the island during that period of time is unquantifiable. To propose one 600cc “Clubmans” race and one Supertwin “Clubmans” race is nowhere near sufficient. The current regs restrict entries to 80 per race. Nearly twice as many as that, including 30 to 40 newcomers would be equipped with 600cc machines and attempting to gain an entry in this race. It follows then, that, potentially, fifty-plus riders will be refused an entry?

Disgraceful! There MUST be TWO 600cc races, whatever title is attached to them. After 90 years the Manx Grand Prix name is big enough to stand on its own without a fancy name change. The MMCC should be consulted as to the best way of allocating entries to these two races. Note…..I accept that we should discontinue 750cc machines (4 cyl), also 400cc and (reluctantly) 250cc classes have had their day. So, two 600cc races, a Supertwin race as proposed, then last year there was an experimental 3 lap Newcomers race on the Saturday evening. This was a great success and was finished within an hour and a quarter of starting with little disruption to the general public. This MUST be allowed to continue in similar guise, in order to allow newcomers to gain course knowledge under race conditions, without the pressure of very fast riders coming up from behind them as in the TT. A course newcomer may well be suitable to enter the TT straight away, but it should be the riders’ decision and not courted straight into the TT by Paul Phillips which has happened on occasions.

Now to the Classic classes themselves. I think that in a bid to make the Super Classic idea succeed, that it must be the final race of the meeting but with the second 600cc race (Senior) immediately prior to it. Could a Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday race day format be considered? That would save an extra day at the end of race week giving fans and riders an early option to go home but a weekend of events and activities for those who wish to remain.

The Classic races themselves—indeed the proposed Classic theme

I cannot really appreciate how this could be successful. There has been a large capacity Classic class during the last two years which, quite simply, has been a flop. Last year only one rider finished. This class needs to be part of a new formula in some way. The 500 class, ten years ago, could boast a full grid of over 100 starters, now we have less than 50 and I don’t ever see this figure increasing again. Likewise the 350cc class has barely 30 starters and the 250cc less than 20. There is a reason or reasons for this demise in entries but I need not expand on this now. So it would appear that far from Classics being on the increase, in fact quite the opposite is the case. In fact the 250cc class was seeing speeds of over 100 mph laps a decade ago, nowadays an average of 92 mph will win the race! So just how are these grids supposed to comprise the most prestigious Classic races in the world? I feel that some re-writing of formulae / eligibility needs to be considered if we intend to progress. If the Super Classic TT riders idea failed to materialise and only around a dozen were available to race, don’t expect the quality or quantity of Classics or Post Classics to bail you out D.E.D! I am a major supporter of these classes but things need to be looked at.

There are many, many more points I could bring up I suppose, but these are just a few comments and observations from my own perspective. I would like to thank the MMCC very much for their efforts in negotiating with the D.E.D. on our behalf and I can imagine how painful and gruelling this must have been at times. I hope sincerely that further negotiations with government may well bring about more concessions which will enable us to continue to stage and enjoy this wonderful event, albeit in a slightly different way to which we know so well.”

I have spoken to many marshals about the proposals and just over 50% have said that they will not take time off work to marshal the event in its new form, this runs contrary to what DED has put into its business case. If the goodwill of the orange army is lost; the event is doomed. The unpaid volunteers are the life blood of both the TT and MGP.

Political meddling and the introduction of some highly paid “consultants,” who add precious little to the events, has caused quite a few very experienced volunteers to quit. The majority of marshals also oppose the running of the VMCC lap on the Mountain Course. The riders are in the main not former racers, nor are they experienced at riding on closed roads. The number of accidents has been far too high; the marshals resent being put at risk by riders out for a jolly, who ride at speeds far beyond their capabilities. The spectators do not appear to have much interest in seeing this lap and most leave their vantage points before the riders are let onto the track; yet the DE(a)D see this as a major attraction – dream on.

Another cause of resentment is the collateral damage that is to be inflicted by the proposals. The long established Manx Two Day Trial is to be shunted out of its place in the calendar to accommodate the new racing schedule. The chances of the organisers finding a new slot in the packed ACU calendar appear very slim; therefore the survival of the event must be in serious doubt. The loss of this event will dent the revenue stream that the DED is supposedly trying to enhance. Quite how a much shorter timescale for the MGP itself is going to generate more income is of course not explained by the accountants. The number of visitors to the event is going to have to rise significantly for the total income generated to merely stand still. With a BSB round certain to be scheduled for the August Bank Holiday it is difficult to envisage the riders who compete in BSB missing a round to compete in a classic bike race at the MGP. The lesser cost of attending the BSB round over that weekend will probably keep spectator numbers down at the MGP. The prospect of a week of racing over the world’s greatest circuit, with some decent night time entertainment thrown in, is more likely to attract fans to the island than a weekend of racing that clashes directly with BSB. I challenge the bean counters, Sir Humphrey and Jim Hacker to prove their case to the fans; so far they have scored nil points!

Richard Radcliffe

17-05-2012, 09:45 AM
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chris Offline

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RE: MGP proposals cause “war” to break out on the Isle of Man.
Well done to the three gentlemen who wrote the above, hopefully someone in the IOM DED reads it!
17-05-2012, 04:53 PM
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Tomcat Offline

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RE: MGP proposals cause “war” to break out on the Isle of Man.
As someone who has competed in the MGP many times between 1986 and 2010 - in recent years in the classics - I have mixed feelings about this.

1. "Back in the day" when the classics were first brought into the MGP programme it was popular for riders to do practice week then the one race on the Saturday and head off home - less cost, less time out of annual holidays. So to a certain extent the proposed new format may find favour with some of the classic folk who have become accustomed to being the poor relations of the paddock. In fact riders of the modern classes could also benefit to a degree from a shorter meeting and consequent cost/holiday savings.

2. One of the big problems in practice week has always been availability of marshals, the selfless boys and girls who stand out in all weathers and keep us safe, using their own holiday time and their own money while receiving few thanks for their efforts and personal risk. Running the races over a week and a bit could also help them with the money/holiday cost and make it easier to fulfill the obligations for minimum numbers of marshals on course at all times.

3. The MGP has already developed quite a large 'classic following' among spectators and it is worth noting in many cases classic bike enthusiasts are relatively wealthy and willing to spend money on a holiday on the IoM. Developing this source of spectators can only be good for the economic wellbeing of the Island, though it should not be done at the expense of losing out on all the younger types who enjoy seeing the modern machines.

Before too many folk start getting hot under the collar, there are negative points too.

4. The 2-day trial has always been a good one to watch, and the 'festival' events more recently staged for the non-race days also generally entertaining, giving an incentive for spectators to come for a larger experience than just the bike racing. This would be lost, along with the related spectator appeal.

5. I don't see limiting modern classes to 600cc as any sort of advantage. Is this proposed as a safety feature? Because from my own recollection very few accidents have been a direct result of engine power, and the consequences of an accident at 160mph and 180mph are not very different. Disallowing the bigger bikes will make the whole event less attractive to riders of modern machines as many used to ride their 600s in the Senior class with good effect, and would now be faced with the whole of the expense of attending the meeting for only one ride.

6. I question the wisdom of allowing any rider to enter the TT and having to qualify against the likes of McG without first having served an apprenticeship in the less extreme environment of the Manx. This is surely a recipe for disaster.

7. Nothing has been done about some of the biggest reasons for lack of rider nvolvement - the cost. Entry fees continue to rise, as do ferry prices, and it can cost £1500 before turning a wheel. Add on the costs of the Course Licence whose benefits on safety have always been unproven and riders who know the course like the back of their hands can be faced with costs of another £1000 just to get a licence.

8. I am disappointed with the lack of take-up of the 750 Classic event, having supported it myself in its first year (before finances forced me into retirement), but I believe it still has a place, along with the traditional Senior, Junior and Lightweight classes, and of course the Post Classic which is booming on the mainland. It has been suggested that the graceful (or not so graceful!) ageing of riders in these classes is the reason for their reduction, and while this is A factor it is certainly not THE only factor, as the continued popularity of classics and post classics on the mainland proves. I suggest cost is a far bigger factor, including the cost of gaining the course licence for riders who might only otherwise race a few times a year (or riders who don't easily have access to UK short circuit meetings). It should be noted that amalgamating classic races would have the same disincentivising effect on riders who currently enter 2 classes, as with modern bike riders.

9. As noted by other writers with a shortened programme and no gaps in the race calendar, any disruption due to weather could not be clawed back the following day and riders may find themselves having paid a lot of money for one race which was then cancelled. Furthermore practice has already been severely cut back over the years with the cessation of morning practice and the long Thursday afternoon session. It can already be hard to qualify if faced with sessions cancelled for bad weather and mechanical issues at other times. This puts more pressure on riders which is an inevitable safety concern if they are pressured into pushing before they or the bikes are ready, as well as being a source of disappointment for any who fail to qualify through no fault of their own. Such let-downs would surely dissuade riders from entering again.

In summary then, I feel the proposals are not all bad, but there are enough negative points to raise serious questions about implementing the proposals.

From a rider's perspective and more recently a spectator's, the organisers have made a lot of positive moves in recent years to improve the event, both interms of its organisation, the paddock facilities and the programme of entertainents that run alongside the racing. With more development and more active selling of the "Festival" I am sure more spectators could be brought over, and with attention to the cost many more riders could be brought in or brought back. In my view the duration and format is now about right, and running a reduced event runs the risk that both riders and spectators will be deterred from coming over. Should the MGP enter a death spiral all the costs for preparing the course for racing will fall on the TT, a far greater money-spinner for the Island, and a great tradition and visitor attraction will be in danger of being lost also.
08-06-2012, 01:28 PM
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Gstarron Offline

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RE: MGP proposals cause “war” to break out on the Isle of Man.
Well, there is a BIG question that remains unanswered... and that is, will the current format be left alone for at least two more years, to give time to re-think it all out..??

My next thought... based on ZERO knowledge of the Manx Government, is when are the next elections that would give the IOM folks a chance to vote for those that want to save the MGP, and boot out those that have evil thoughts in their minds..??? Yes I know the DED are not elected, but can't the Ministry people replace them..???

09-06-2012, 02:50 AM
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FCM Offline

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RE: MGP proposals cause “war” to break out on the Isle of Man.
Costs ????

We have been distributing leaflets in Dutch and German for trips to the MGP with prices starting from 390euros single person for travel and Hotel from Europe. The Travel company involved with this specialises in motor sports events and after speaking with them I was told that the IOM Government have not been very helpful with their efforts to promote the event.
09-06-2012, 10:20 AM
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ammo Offline

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RE: MGP proposals cause “war” to break out on the Isle of Man.
(09-06-2012, 10:20 AM)FCM Wrote: Costs ????

The Travel company involved with this specialises in motor sports events and after speaking with them I was told that the IOM Government have not been very helpful with their efforts to promote the event.

Well, surprise, surprise !!!!

09-06-2012, 06:14 PM
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Bill Snelling Offline
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RE: MGP proposals cause “war” to break out on the Isle of Man.
(17-05-2012, 04:53 PM)chris Wrote: Well done to the three gentlemen who wrote the above, hopefully someone in the IOM DED reads it!

It appears the DED only reads - and talks to - MCN!

I'm on the Great Flapjack Foray of Life - can't you tell!
“You don’t stop riding because you get old. You get old because you stop riding”
13-06-2012, 05:30 PM
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