THE ISLE OF MAN TT RACE

Biking aficionados know all about this annual race which made its debut in 1907. Non-enthusiasts will want to know more about this race which is deemed to be the most dangerous motorcycle event and probably the deadliest of the world’s sports. Regardless if you are an enthusiast or a neophyte in this area, this thrilling event is unique and you will want to read on. There’s just nothing quite like it anywhere else.

" To have your name inscribed on a TT trophy is to sit with gods" 

The Isle of Man sits in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland. Its land mass is about the size of Chicago (572 sq. km). Normally, its 85,000 residents go about their business which today consists mainly of offshore banking, tourism and some manufacturing… quite a change from its original occupations of fishing and agriculture. Quaintly  tranquil most of the year, the population swells to 130,000 during the period late May and early June. Every year since 1907, it’s all about the buzz and the frenzy of the Tourist Trophy (TT) race. No, this is not a prize for the best tourist to visit the island but is the name of the coveted trophy of the winner of this, the most hair-raising and spectacular motorcycle race in the world. The TT’s web site claims that “to have your name inscribed on a TT trophy is to sit with the gods.” I’ll go along with that. 

Harry Collier on a Matchless bike, Isle of Man Senior TT, 1912Harry Collier on a Matchless bike, Isle of Man Senior TT, 1912

The Centenary Isle of Man TT Race, 2007. The Centenary Isle of Man TT Race, 2007

What makes this race unique is that it is run over public roads which, by their nature, include all sorts of things that one would not expect in a regular racetrack. There are stone walls, curbs, trees, utility poles, buildings and other hard objects that riders do not want to meet or bang into when they are riding at speeds exceeding 320 km/h. Furthermore, the occasional stray cat, dog, seagull and other elements such as bumps, manhole covers, painted lines all add to the challenge of negotiating 260 bends over a 60.72 km course. As expected, many fatalities have occurred since the beginning of this event, the latest one being in the edition of 2015, upping the total to 248. Some people have questioned the wisdom of carrying on with this race but, as Connor Cummings, a local son and professional racer has said: “No one is forcing anyone to do this race. It’s because they want to.”  And this, after suffering terrible injuries in the 2010 race… but back at racing 8 months later.

 

Joey Dunlop takes off at Ballaugh Bridge, Iles of Man.

Joey Dunlop takes off at Ballaugh Bridge, Iles of Man 

The beautiful Snaefell Mountain Course sees top racers averaging speeds upwards of 210 km/h for timings of 17 minutes per lap, a long way from the average speed of 61.5 km/h clocked in 1907.  Eight categories of motorbikes are entered in the race, the latest entry in 2010 being the TT Zero (for zero emission) category, electric motorcycles. The top average speed reached this year by this category was 191 km/h. John McGuinness, AKA John McPint (you get it!) won his 23rd race last year. Which placed him second on the all-time list, just behind the legendary Joey Dunlop who won 26 times, the last one in 2000 (“King” Dunlop killed himself, at age 48, in a race in Estonia a month later). 

 

 

 

The exhilarating speeds reached at this event brought journalist Tom Peck of The Independent, after riding with a former champion around the course, to coin the feeling of doing “horizontal skydiving”. A few years ago, Valentino Rossi was watching this race from the front garden of a quaint cottage. After the first bike went past, three feet or so from his face, he yelled out “blady ‘ell, a blady ‘ell”. He was then asked if he wished to try racing in the event. He held his arms between his legs like he was carrying watermelons and said: “No. These guys, they have a bigga balls”. Love those Italians!

To get a good feel for what this race is all about, enjoy the few minutes of this 2015 video clip.