| TT Website Interviews -
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!?"
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
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!!
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
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
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
.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 !!
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Do you think you can still win a TT
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.