Jun 15, 2016

IT has been a gruelling past fortnight for Martin Jessopp, both physically and mentally.

The Yeovil racer has been at the iconic Isle of Man TT, competing in five different classes and coming away with his first ever podium.

However, with practice included Jessopp has raced over 2,000 miles at the famous Snaefell Mountain Course - the equivalent of half of the season of the British Superbikes Championship that he also races in.

After a 17th place in the Superbike class, 14th in Supersport and third in Lightweight, the 30-year-old finished things off in the blue riband Senior TT by just missing out on the top ten.

"Looking back at it now I am happy with it, but as a racer you are never happy and always want more," Jessopp said.

"In the Senior TT my position [12th] was better than last year, I did a faster lap than last year and the pace was better.

"It is a seriously long race, over two hours, and when it is that demanding it is always going to throw up obstacles.

"I had a fuel leak on my screen on the fast lap and so for the first two laps I couldn't see through the screen and kept having to look over it. Mistakes in the pits then cost us time and a separate mistake later on lost even more time.

"The last lap they call the flying lap as it is the only one where you can set your true pace, so I took my brain out because I knew it would be the last time I was here for a year. I put everything into it and was on for a good lap before I saw the yellow flags.

"It is so dangerous that you knock your speed off and go slow because there are bikes and stewards in the track. I got through that and put the hammer down, but just missed out on 130mph with 129.2mph.

"It's ifs and buts, though, and the guy [Andrew Soar] who the yellow flags came out for didn't make it so it puts it into perspective when something like that happens. Missing 130mph doesn't matter if I'm fit and healthy."

The death of the 32-year-old took the number of fatalities at the 2016 TT to five, which included Jessopp's friend Paul Shoesmith, and he admits that it is tough for those around him: "It is a very selfish sport, but I am living the dream doing it and am thankful to my family for allowing me to do it.

Relief at finishing another TT soon turned to pining for Jessopp as the biggest fortnight of road racing ends for another year.

Unfortunately it is not until after the event that he can truly appreciate how much he enjoys it.

"It is the highlight of road racing, but you put yourself under so much pressure because it only comes round once a year," Jessopp continued.

"It is not just the media, the team, the sponsors, because you know that if it doesn't go well you have to wait a whole year.

"Before it you are counting down the days and practice is great, but once race week comes I dread it and I'm struggling to get down my breakfast each morning. There are nerves in British Superbikes to perform well, but with the road races there is the danger and if you put a foot wrong you pay a heavy price.

"It's all worth it when you get a good result; that's why we do it. The feeling is so good.

"You are sat round with your team at the end with a beer and you're almost relieved it's over, but sure enough the next day when you're flying home you are gutted to be leaving that island."

There is little rest for Jessopp, however, as he gets back on his BMW at Knockhill on June 24 to 26 in the fourth meeting of the 2016 British Superbikes Championship.

Yet although the TT has taken it out of him, he also believes that as one of only two BSB riders competing in it, it could give him an edge in Scotland.

"It is mentally draining at the TT and you can't switch off because that is how mistakes happen. But the amount of riding I have done can only be a good thing because it keeps the mind sharp," Jessopp concluded.

"How you race on circuits is I how I like to ride - on the front and aggressive - and I am looking to getting back into it."

Thanks to the Western Gazette for the use of this story.