In the spectacular road racing world there is a small group of people who donate their time to help up and coming riders. We are talking about “The People’s Bike Team”, which is outstandingly supporting road racers since 2009.
It all started from an idea of rallyists Mark and Eunice Cubbon to try and help a rider making his debut at the Isle of Man TT; the rider at the time was Steve Mercer, who was best newcomer in 2009 with a top finish of 25th in the Superbike Race. The following year the Team supported Northern Irish Stephen Thompson, who was back with the squad in 2013, while in 2011 and 2012 “The People’s Bike Team” backed the future TT Privateers Champion Dan Hegarty; Alan Bonner was their rider in 2014 and 2015, Seamus Elliott in 2016 and former Senior Manx GP winner Tom Weeden was backed during this year’s TT alongside Paul Jordan.
The chosen rider just has to bring his own bike, while the Team will do all the remaining efforts providing an infrastructure, supporting the newcomers in all the aspects of the big step that is the TT, seeking sponsors to cover fuel and tyres costs.
As the name of the Team suggests, people are the real core of this project: fans can actively be part of “The People’s Bike Team” with small sponsorship packages, thus helping riders and squad and getting involved in a real road racing team.
We got in touch with Janice Thompson, who, together with her husband Paul and their sons, is one of the very few members of “The People’s Bike Team”, that is also going to announce their first rider for next year’s Isle of Man TT.
What is the aim of The People’s Bike Team and why did Mark and Eunice have the idea of creating it?
The Peoples Bike Team came from an idea formed by a small group of road racing enthusiasts, namely Mark & Eunice Cubbon, and friends Andy Baldwin & Heidi Cockerton. The view was that after being a part of the TT through other ventures we could confidently form and run our own competitive team. The aim has always been to support up and coming riders who are relatively new to their road racing careers and who are more often than not newcomers to the TT itself. It was also the aim to provide not just technical support to these riders but also to guide them through the whole process of being a competitor at the TT, giving personal, emotional and financial support to help ease the pressure of competing on the Mountain Course for the first time.
How many people are involved in the team?
There are just a small group of us within the team. Mark Cubbon is still our team “boss”. He has the casting vote on who we choose as our rider and provides them with the support needed to deal with the whole process that is the TT.
I tend to manage all the day to day sponsorship details, the communication via social media and the liaison with the fans who become our sponsors. I generally organise all aspects of the team and also help with the selection of our riders.
My husband Paul Thompson and our sons Jake and Ben also provide mechanical support with the boys doing the dragging of trailers to parc ferme, fetching tyres and generally doing a lot of the running around the paddock. Paul is split between us and his regular role as a mechanic within another team but always supports us when needed (Paul is Leon Haslam’s mechanic for BSB and has worked with riders like Dan Hegarty and Jamie Coward at the road races).
Andy & Heidi provide technical support during TT fortnight along with general maintenance and support with sponsors. We also call upon several other close friends when pit crews are required or for more general technical support.
Is there a minimum budget for sponsoring the team?
We don’t fix ourselves a budget each year, however the number of riders we have determines the level of funds we try to raise. Generally speaking, the tyres for the fortnight can run to in excess of £2000 with fuel around £500, that’s per bike!
We offer several sponsorship packages, potential sponsors can buy laps of fuel at £15 a lap, contribute towards the cost of a tyre, buy a package for either £50 or £100 depending on the level of donation they’re able to make. All options and full details of what is included in these packages can be found on our website, www.thepeoplesbike.com
Do you have any support from Factories?
We had our first product sponsorship from Eazi Grip this year which was brilliant for both riders we were helping but we don’t currently have any other product or factory support. We would love to have some help from other product and equipment suppliers and continue to pursue these options, we’d obviously welcome the opportunity to speak to anyone linked to products who could help us out!
Do you already know which rider are you going to support at next year’s TT? How do the team choose its riders?
We have a couple of ideas for who we’d like to ride for us next year but haven’t confirmed this as yet. In the past we have relied upon the advice of the TT organisers as they had visibility of the list of newcomers each year so tended to point us in the direction of who they felt fitted best with the team. Last year we made our own rider decision and will continue to do this going forward. I think it’s important that we build the relationship with our potential rider fairly early on and also have a good idea of how that rider is set up in a race paddock and how they relate to race fans. As we attend a number of race events throughout the year it’s easy for us to pick out riders with potential and to ensure they fit with our requirements for the team.
Are you going to support any rider in other road races as well?
We supported a young rider as a newcomer to the Manx GP this year, we called this our “Rising Star” project. Stephen Parsons was our supported rider as we’d seen him several times at Olivers Mount and had been impressed with his potential. Stephen did us proud and placed 3rd in the newcomers race, our first ever podium as a team! With this project in mind we hope to continue to support Stephen in 2018 at the Manx GP and potentially at the Southern 100 & Olivers Mount in Scarborough. The idea then would be to step him up to the TT in year 3 alongside another rider. It would then provide a rolling programme for progression for newcomers through the Manx ultimately to competing at the TT.
The People’s Bike is now entering its 10th year of activity; which has been the best and most emotional moment in your opinion? And the hardest one?
I think as a team we’ve had plenty of highs. We’ve been lucky enough to help a number of riders who went on to be successful in their own rights, Stephen Thompson, Steve Mercer, Daniel Hegarty and Alan Bonner are amongst our higher profile riders who started their road racing careers with us. Tom Weeden & Paul Jordan were our supported riders this year and also have a good pedigree on the roads, we hope that this continues for them in the future. We have a relaxed and happy awning and lots of amazing sponsors who are true race fans, without them we wouldn’t even operate. They are the other reason we do this, their loyalty and enthusiasm is what makes me proud to be a part of this team, they really are amazing people.
Our biggest low has got to be the loss of Alan Bonner at the TT this year. Alan was a talented rider, he still holds the record for being the fastest southern Irishman around the TT course, a record he set when riding for us along with winning the fastest newcomer on his Supersport bike, also when riding with us. He was a really close friend to all of us in the team. His loss was tragic and hit us all hard. At the time we questioned our ability to continue but we all knew he’d want us to carry on the work that we do and that we needed to do this for him. We all know the risks involved with racing but it doesn’t make it any easier when you suffer a loss such as Alan.
We hope that over the years we have helped to fulfill the dreams of all of the guys we’ve helped, allowing them to compete on the world famous TT Mountain Course. We don’t plan to stop any time soon and will continue to provide the support and guidance to up and coming riders as long as we are able to. We thank everyone involved for all of their support and hope that this may help encourage some new sponsors to our team.