FROM PEAK TO MOUNTAIN
Rennie Scaysbrook is the reigning Pikes Peak International Hill Climb champion and record holder. Road Test Editor for weekly US magazine Cycle News and son of former TT racer Jim Scaysbrook, he’s the latest in a line of talented Antipodean riders to take on the TT Course, following in the footsteps of Bruce Anstey, Cameron Donald, Josh Brookes, and good friend David Johnson.
The man himself tells us about his journey to TT 2022 where he will race in the two Monster Energy Supersport Races for PRF Racing:
It’s amazing what can happen with a single text message and a determined friend. A couple of weeks following my win at the 2019 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, I fired a text off to my good mate David Johnson and sheepishly enquired about my chances of scoring a ride for TT 2020. ‘Pretty good, I’d say,’ was Davo’s reply. ‘Want me to ask the organisers?’
The best times of my life have often come after uttering the phrase ‘f**k it, let’s do it’, and within 48 hours I had a reply not just from Davo but an invite to chat with Paul Phillips [ed. - TT Development Manager, who oversees rider recruitment] about the very real possibility of fulfilling the lifelong ambition of becoming a TT rider. That was in the summer of 2019, which seems a lifetime ago now.
Almost instantly, the world became unrecognizable to what it was when my TT stars started aligning, and the announcement of the 2020 TT’s cancellation came as sadly predictable. But I, like the rest of the TT paddock, held hope for a resuming of action for TT 2021. No go, of course, and the dream of Glencrutchery Road kept getting pushed further and further into the future. At times it felt like it wouldn’t happen at all.
Having the support of PRF Racing head honcho Paul Rennie (that’s for sure a sign as I’ve never met another Rennie), has been a huge motivating factor to stay sharp and ready for action, as is Paul’s easy-going style.
When I heard of the 2020 cancellation and then again for 2021, he said the same thing each time - “Don’t worry, mate. Your name is on the bike.”
There’s been no handshake, no contract, but I can tell Paul is a man of his word and this has put my mind well at ease. It’ll be a special moment when I sit on the PRF Racing Suzuki GSX-R600 for the first time.
The best times of my life have often come after uttering the phrase ‘f**k it, let’s do it’- RENNIE SCAYSBROOK
Since the announcement of the 2021 TT’s cancellation at the end of last year, I’ve been racing more than ever in everything from road racing to off-road and supermoto. With the support of Pirelli and American Honda, I have been racing a Honda CBR600RR in the Chuckwalla Valley Motorcycle Association Winter Series in Southern California - the plucky little supersport and I with a combined age of 53 years. That number served as a great source of satisfaction when we’d occasionally grab a win against a number of MotoAmerica riders on 2021 machines, and we finished the 2020-2021 CVMA Supersport Championship third overall. Admittedly, the Honda was a properly built bike originally made for the 2009 Daytona 200, but it quickly earned the nickname of “Vintage” around the Chuckwalla paddock, which made the wins even sweeter.
Predictably, the Honda cried enough at the final round of the 2021 series and has thus been put into permanent retirement, and I’ve got a new machine on the horizon which will be built up in time for the next winter series start at the beginning of September. I’m a full time Road Test Editor at Cycle News in the United States so racing needs to fit in around the job, hence having a couple of months off from the green light, but it also gives more time to focus on the mental side of the preparations.
Back in 2019, I accepted an invitation from Paul Phillips to visit the Island and complete a number of initiation laps and to make sure that, yes, this was something I really wanted to do. Coming from Australia and living in the U.S., it’s hard for rookies to get to the Island and complete the required laps and have satisfactory knowledge of the 37 ¾-mile Mountain Course, but after 28 laps in five days, including eight with John Barton and one with Milky Quayle, the place started to feel somewhat familiar.
It’s the same for the TT. There’s absolutely no excuse to not know exactly where you are at any given point on the course- RENNIE SCAYSBROOK
Much of this was thanks to the good ol’ Playstation. When I was tattooing my brain with the information needed to race at Pikes Peak, my daily routine was to do two runs on the Sebastian Loeb Rally Evo game, watch one run on YouTube, pack it away and come back tomorrow. I did this every single day for a year, and by the time I turned up to America’s Mountain in 2016 I knew where I was going and more importantly, what was coming up.
It’s the same for the TT. There’s absolutely no excuse to not know exactly where you are at any given point on the course. A trick I’ve taught myself is I look at a picture of a corner or section, and I need to remember what was before it and the two sections after. Even if I can’t remember all the names of the corners (which I could never do at Pikes, anyway), at least remembering the road itself is the main thing.
Bruce Anstey’s opening lap from the opening 2011 Supersport TT is on my phone, and when I have a bit of downtime I wind the video to a random spot and watch it. Granted, he’s going way faster than I could, but it’s not as mind-warping as watching, say, Peter Hickman’s lap record in which my phone screen looks like it’s about to melt. He’s going so damn fast I can’t tell where one part starts and another ends, so I’ll stick with Bruce’s lap for now.
There’s still a lot of preparations to go but I’m on the right track to have a fast and safe TT debut. I have no shame in admitting the TT is a bucket list item, and I’ll be 39 by the time the race starts so it’s my last chance to do it before the 40-year-old rookie cut-off. The TT is one of those things I thought I’d missed, but thanks to a good mate and modern technology, the dream is almost a reality.
I can’t wait for that tap on the shoulder…