This weekend will see the engines rev for what is considered by many to be the most spectacular and most dangerous event in motorsport – the Isle of Man TT.
Every year, the tiny Island in the Irish Sea comes to life with the sound a huge range of motorcycles, with practically every class from Superbikes to sidecars covered across the 14 day spectacular.
The International Tourist Trophy, to use its official name, is the undoubted highlight in the British Isles’ motorcycle calendar. Ferries and flights are fully booked months in advance as bikers from the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the world make an annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Man, with the event worth around £6m to the island’s economy.
But what is it exactly that makes the TT so special? Well, for starters, it has been running since 1907 and soon established itself as one of the world’s most prestigious events. Between 1949 and 1976, the race was included on the Grand Prix calendar before the GP moved to Silverstone due to safety concerns.
And that is the other main attraction of the TT – the danger. The TT doesn’t take place on a track, with gravel traps and wide run-off areas. It takes place on the streets of the island. Starting in the capital, Douglas, the TT course twists its way through tiny villages and up into the Snaefell mountains, passing inches away from stone walls, houses, kerbs and post boxes. Whilst safety campaigners have long called for the event to be banned, on account of the danger to riders (there were 237 deaths on the Mountain Course between 1907 and 2009) it is that adrenaline kick that attracts riders and fans (who can also take their own bike on the circuit on ‘Mad Sunday’) to the TT year after year after year.
The undisputed legend of the TT is the late Joey Dunlop OBE, who won a record 26 races TT races before his death in 2000 -including three ‘hat-tricks’ (three race wins in one year).
The modern hero for TT fans however is Morecambe’s John McGuinness, who stands on 17 TT race wins so far and holds the all-time lap record for the TT. In 2009, he set a time of 17:12.30 – an average speed of 131.578mph. McGuinness has already enjoyed success this season in the North West 200, the traditional warm-up for the TT, so he’ll be expected to shine again.
If you’ve never shown much of an interest in biking, we’d recommend you catch at least some of the TT on television over the next fortnight. This event really does celebrate the best of biking, so sit back and enjoy the thrills and spills!