Norfolk biker’s bid to make history at Isle of Man TT foiled

Phil Armes with the Triumph Daytona 675 he had hoped to ride on the Isle of Man TT parade lap. Photo: Paul Sewter. Phil Armes with the Triumph Daytona 675 he had hoped to ride on the Isle of Man TT parade lap. Photo: Paul Sewter.

Friday, August 29, 2014
6:30 AM

A biker aiming to be the first paraplegic to complete a lap of the famous Isle of Man TT course has been foiled once again - but vowed to return next year.

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Former international rider Phil Armes broke his back in a racing accident almost 20 years ago, but has been determined to once again ride around the Manx track he raced around during his career.

Last year he slid off his specially-adapted motorcycle about 25 miles into the 37-mile ride and this week the fickle finger of fate once again got in the way of his plans.

This time around, the 55-year-old, from Hellesdon, was denied because of the weather, with low cloud and rain cancelling all track activities on Monday, including the parade lap which Mr Armes had been due to take part in.

He had been due to ride a adapted Triumph Daytona 675, courtesy of Lowestoft-based MotorLings. The machine is modified with a handlebar-operated gear change, dual brake lever and specially-adapted footrests.

But a series of problems - including one of the team who was meant to be working on his bike being called up for jury service and the need to make repairs to the motorbike following an accident - meant Mr Armes had barely been able to ride the machine before he arrived on the Isle of Man.

He eventually got to put it to the test when he took part in the Festival of 1000 Bikes, on a circuit he had never ridden before, in front of nearly 10,000 spectators.

He said: “The first time I got the bike out of second gear was on the Festival of 1000 Bikes. That was really successful and I had to stop because I was getting excited and going so quickly. I’d ridden the bike, I was comfortable with it and I was ready.”

However, even then Mr Armes faced a challenge, when a coolant leak caused by a modification to the motorbike led to a desperate search for someone on the Isle of Man with a part to fix it.

Mr Armes said: “We found a guy called Chris Proctor who ran a workshop full of everything. It was an Aladdin’s Cave of motorcycle parts.”

Fixed and raring to go, Mr Armes woke up to miserable weather on the day of the parade and it was cancelled. “I was gutted,” he said. “The organisers had cancelled the day’s activities and we were told the parade would be cancelled.

“Later in the day we found out it was being rescheduled, but unfortunately, we couldn’t find any accommodation, so we came back. With so many things going the way they did, I think it was fate that it didn’t happen this time.”

But, with MotorLings agreeing Mr Armes can keep the motorcycle until next September, he vowed to return to try again next year.

The father-of-three, who co-hosts Sports ‘n’ All on Mustard TV, was paralysed in a crash at the Ulster Grand Prix in 1995.

In a racing career which started in 1981 on a modified 250cc road machine, Mr Armes progressed through the ranks to ride in the 1988 and 1989 Formula 1 world championships.

In 1984 he won the newcomers’ Manx Grand Prix, taking part in seven TT races on the Isle of Man in total.

• Sports ‘n’ All is on Mustard TV (Freeview Channel 8) on Fridays at 7.45pm.

• Have you battled back from adversity? Tell us your story by calling reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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