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An American Dream Comes True!
"Its Beautiful" was the verdict of American newcomer to the Island, Alma Rocheleau after four laps of the course as a passenger in her husband Joe’s outfit.
"It’s so different from the tracks we have at home. They’re usually about 2.5 miles long with about 13 turns. This one isn’t half the work, but you need a lot more concentration.
" You’ve got to respect the course. You’ve got to take your time – you can’t just go slamming into corners. We were told to treat it like a Sunday drive, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We didn’t intend to push ourselves beyond what we could do. We told the friends who customised the outfit to make it look good because that was the only way we were going to get noticed!
"We never expected to get among the winners, or even in the first 20, but even coming here we achieved more than most Americans even hope to do. But we feel we went quite well considering. We were surprised at our times, which have been around the 31-minute mark.
"When you come here you’ve just got to forget everything you’ve done and behave as if it’s your first track. I don’t think it’s a dangerous course – I think it’s the attitude of the rider that makes its dangerous. It’s only when people try to do more than they’re capable of. You have to be careful to use your head.
"There are lots of little turns and blind spots. Back home, four times around and you know the course. But not here.
"Once you get into the Mountains everything looks the same – all the turns look alike and you can lose yourself very easily. There’s a lot to learn. There’s one section up there, for instance, where there are three or four left hand turns that aren’t marked – they’re not really turns – and I kept missing them.
"The course as a whole is very well marked, but the signs are further from the corners than you expect – lots of people obviously go an awful lot faster – so I tended to set up for the corner too early. But it’s better than being too late!"
Alma found the course bumpy in spots – and hard on her leathers. After the fourth practice lap she was well on the way through the third patch on her bottom!
As this was their first visit, the Rocheleaus decided to stick to one bike, a stock-engined BSA triple. "It’s reliable and that’s what you need," said Alma.
But the trip has fulfilled a great ambition for the couple. "In the States this is the ultimate. So few Americans get to come here," said Alma.
She has been racing for four years, and into the sport through a bet. She was watching a race one-day and told her husband that if he got a chair she would passenger for him.
Two weeks later he arrived – complete with outfit. "I just couldn’t let our friends, who bet that I wouldn’t dare get in it, win, so I rode it – and that was it. I loved it."
And in the four years they’ve been a team Alma and Joe have picked up a lot of awards. In their first year she was voted passenger of the year [an award that means she has improved most]; last year they came second in their club [the Canadian Sidecar Association] championship; this year they won the club’s Sportsmanship Trophy – and they’ve won the award for the best American team for the past four years.
Joe enjoys sidecar racing so much now that after ten years’ solo riding he has at last sold his solo machine.
"He wasn’t enjoying it any more because he was so worried he might get injured and not be able to ride the chair."
After their first TT Joe and Alma are determined to come back. "We love the Island and the atmosphere – it’s really fantastic. It’s going to take a few years before we afford to come back again to race – but we’ll be back next year just to watch," said Alma.
Motor Cycle 22nd June 1974
Sidecar Racers Association Championship: 1973 – 2nd; 1974 – 2nd; 1975 – 1st; 1976 – 1st.
Information provided by Joe & Alma Rocheleau.
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