This year’s Isle of Man TT has been pretty unusual for what concerns newcomers. As it is known, getting an entry directly to the TT nowadays is not as easy as it was in the past and, unless you are a well known rider like Josh Brookes or Peter Hickman, or you have some road racing experience, the debut at the Manx Grand Prix is almost inevitable.
There were a few riders coming from the Manx GP during 2017 TT, though the real newcomers were just three, and very young: 18 years old Joe Thompson, 21 years old Adam McLean and 25 years old Paul Jordan. And due to their age the organizers decided to restrict their efforts to the 600cc and 650cc classes.
Adam McLean proved to be the best newcomer of the three, carrying on the brilliant 2017 season he is having after a few years with the wee bikes: he started with an astonishing win in the Supersport Race at April’s Cookstown 100, then clinching a 5th place in the North West 200 Supertwin Race and a highly creditable 4th place in the Supersport Race at the same event, ahead of many top riders.
The pressure started inevitably to grow approaching the TT, but the 21 years old from Tobermore (Northern Ireland) kept his feet on the ground and his mouth closed about his Isle of Man targets. After only three days of practice, Adam achieved an amazing 120.5 mph lap from a standing start on the MSS prepared ZX-6R Kawasaki, gaining a 18th place in the race and bettering his lap times to 120.644 mph. Some astonishing results considering the very few track time and only one 600cc race, with the second Supersport cancelled due to the bad weather. He is now the fifth best newcomer on a 600cc at the TT, behind Steve Plater, Keith Amor, Derek McGee and Jimmy Moore. Adam was a bit unlucky with the Roy Hanna Motors Supertwin though, being forced to retire from the race but lapping at an impressive 115 mph average speed.
Adam, you really impressed during your first North West 200 both with the Supersport and the Supertwin. Can you describe the feeling of finishing ahead of many top riders at your first attempt?
It was nice to be up at the front, I just treated it as another race and I’m really happy with the results we’ve got, it really helped my confidence before I came here at the TT, so I really enjoyed that.
Which were your impressions about the North West course, especially the controversial chicanes?
I like the circuit, it’s the same for everyone and the chicanes are there so we have to get on with it and it doesn’t bother me.
Was it something different from what you were used to ride at, the Nationals?
Not really, obviously the speed down the straights was a lot higher. As for the chicanes, a lot of circuits have got chicanes so they didn’t really bother me. The speed of the place, especially the run down to University is so fast and the slipstream as well.
Let’s talk about the TT now. How did you phisycally and mentally train for the Mountain Course?
Just my usual training, cycling and stuff. You can’t really prepare mentally for something like this. It is a very physically and mentally demanding place. For the physical side of it I was grand and I was alright, but it’s the mental side that I did find more difficult because you are not really used to race for one hour and 15 minutes. It was a bit of a culture shock, you could say, but now I’m really enjoying it.
Did you have any target for your first TT (position, mph)?
My target was 120 mph and that’s what I wanted to do and with the Supersport race run in not very good conditions we did 120.6. So as far as it goes I reached my target, I’m more than happy with the result for the Team. In the Supertwin race we had to retire from 9th position, it was down to a gasket problem. It’s just one of them things. It was a bit of a disappointment, we did 115 mph on a Supertwin so I was definitely on a good run as well.
You could have done a lot better in the second Supersport race I think!
That’s the thing, too. With the lack of track time during practice and the fact that we didn’t get the race two, if you count up all the laps it doesn’t amount very much. Aye, I know I could have been quicker but with the track time we have had I’m more than happy with the speed we reached and the results we got.
How many times did you come to the Isle of Man before the TT?
6-7 times. I did a lot of homework, I did over 100 laps in the car, watched a lot of onboard videos. I really put a lot of effort into the homework, which I think it helped me even with the lack of track time in comparison to the other two newcomers. Maybe they did, but they possibly didn’t do as much homework as me and then just with the lack of track time they didn’t do them as many favours as it did me. Doing a lot of homework, doing a lot of laps in the car really paid off.
Did you ever use Play Station games to learn the course like other newcomers in the recent past did?
No, I didn’t bother using that, just onboards and laps in the car.
Are you a professional rider?
No! I am a bricklayer, unfortunately I have to work to pay for the racing.
Is it hard to find sponsors for pure road races?
It’s always difficult to find sponsors but fortunately we have a lot of good sponsors to keep us going on and helped us getting here. Locally it’s difficult but we get by.
Why did you start with road racing?
All I saw growing up was road racing, I went to see road races at a very young age and of course when I grew up this was what I wanted to do. I did short circuits for some years, British 125 Championship and some of the European stuff as well but then my attention turned to road races.
Ulster Grand Prix. The TT is pretty close but definitely the Ulster.
Whate about your future programmes?
Southern 100, Armoy, Ulster Grand Prix, Classic TT , Scarborough Gold Cup, possibly a couple of short circuits on the Twin, we just have to see how we get on and how the finances are. Finances are the main thing! Hopefully the finances will be alright, we just have to regroup after the TT an see what we have and what we can do.
Which bikes are you going to ride at the Classic TT?
Yamaha TZ250 and BSA 500.
So you don’t have to wait for one year to come back on the Mountain Course!
Exactly! It will be good to come back in August and get a few more laps done and building what I have planned here.
We wish Adam all the best for the season and we are very proud to support him with RoadRacingCore on his helmet!