Why you should watch?? Isle of Man TT

Bikers race on public roads in the Isle of Man TT

Bikers race on public roads in the Isle of Man TT

The Isle of Man TT bike races are held over this weekend and next week. But why should an F1 fan care about bike racing? Guest writer Adam Corlett explains.

You might expect veteran F1 commentator Murray Walker to pick Monte-Carlo or Silverstone as the home of the greatest race on earth. But no:

The Isle of Man TT is the greatest motor sport event of any kind in my opinion. Nowhere else has the tradition of the TT.
Murray Walker

What’s so special about the TT? Read on to find out.

If, like most F1 fans, you are tired of sanitised racing at soulless Tilke-dromes with all challenge removed by acres of tarmac escape routes – the Isle of Man TT could be for you. Instead of run-off areas, tyre barriers and gravel traps think dry-stone walls, trees, hedgerows, telegraph poles and houses.

The Tourist Trophy began over a century ago in 1907 as a time trial for the primitive motorcycles of the day and rose to become the most prestigious event on the World Championship calendar. Once witnessing motorcycling greats such as Hailwood and Agostini, it lost World Championship status in 1976 due to safety concerns but the event survived to its centenary in rude health.

To many the TT is an example of motor racing in its purest form, to others it is a dangerous pariah in a world that has moved on. What is for certain is that there is nothing in the world of motor sport quite like the Isle of Man TT.

The circuit

The world famous Mountain Course, first used in 1911, is made up entirely of closed public roads and is nearly three times the length of the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Modern superbikes complete laps at an average speed of 130mph through sleepy villages, narrow country roads and over the windswept mountain section.

Riders have to negotiate a hump-back bridge, tram crossings and begin the lap with the terrifying 160 mph run down Bray Hill in suburban Douglas. The entire course features exactly what you?d expect of public roads: manhole covers, pavements, and numerous bumps and camber changes that make this track extremely challenging to learn and even harder to master.

The races

Unlike the North West 200 and other road racing events, the TT is strictly speaking a time trial rather than a race. The riders are set off at ten-second intervals, racing against the clock with spectators being kept informed of the positions on corrected time by radio. Although this means there is no racing for position, it can still aid the spectacle, as fans wait in suspense between each timing point to discover who?s in the lead.

This years TT will feature two 600cc Supersport races, a Superstock race for production bikes, and two six-lap, 226-mile long races for the 1,000cc superbike:; The Superbike TT and the Senior TT.

But the racing is not only confined to the solo bikes as the worlds best sidecar riders, including former world champion Tim Reeves, race in the less-than-imaginatively-named ??Sidecar A? and ??Sidecar B? races.

Continuing the same pioneering spirit that The Isle of Man began the 20th century with, the beginning of the 21st century again sees the Isle of Man TT as leading promoters of motorcycling technology with the first ever ??TT Zero? being held this year. Electric bikes will be pitted against the gruelling mountain course providing a huge challenge for the new technologies that may well provide the basis for motor sport in the future.

The danger

Racing on public roads is fraught with danger. No amount of straw bails or other safety features can make road courses completely safe, it is tragically the case that fatalities are unavoidable in the TT. The Mountain Course has claimed 227 lives since 1911.

There has been an important and subtle change since the event lost world championship status – no one is forced to compete. During the world championship era riders were often contractually obliged to compete even if they thought it was too dangerous where as today everyone who competes is doing so because of their love for the sport and the thrill of taking on the greatest challenge in motor sport; fully aware of the dangers. Many of the riders have lost close friends in road racing but their passion for the event remains too great to give it up.

The attitude of the riders is explained best by fan favourite Guy Martin ??When you’re touching 200mph and there’s a drystone wall up ahead, let’s just say it concentrates the mind. That’s what gets me going. I like the idea that if you get it wrong you could end up in a bloody box.??

But when Valentino Rossi visited the island last year he had one word for the TT: ??Crazy.??

How to follow the event

British fans have several ways to follow this year?s TT. For the past few years ITV4 has been providing excellent coverage of the event with nightly highlight programmes covering each of the races. Coverage is presented by Craig Doyle, Steve Parrish and Jamie Whitham and is equally suited to veteran fans or those watching the TT for the first time.

Highlight programmes will be shown every night at 9pm from now until the end of race week. The TT will also be getting more high profile TV coverage in Australia on Network 10 beginning on Friday 4th June. For details on TV coverage elsewhere check the TT?s website.

There is talk of live TV coverage for the TT in the near future but for now the only way to follow the TT live is by radio. This can be done world wide from the Manx Radio website, and if you?re able to receive Manx Radio broadcasts where you are in the UK you can listen on AM 1368.

Although the TV and radio coverage is excellent, nothing can ever match the thrill of sitting on a hedge or a garden wall only a few feet from a motorcycle racing past at 200mph. There are few motor sport events in the modern era where you can get so close to the action and with the mountain course being so long there is no shortage of vantage points to see the action.

I?ve lived on the Isle of Man all my life and am still finding new places to watch the races out on the course and unlike going to see a Formula 1 race, which can cost a small fortune, at the TT you can sit within touching distance of the action free of charge.

Whether you choose to watch at the bottom of Barregarrow where the bikes bottom out at 140mph, brave the elements at the high speed Windy Corner up on the mountain, or prefer the comforts of the Creg-ny-Baa pub seeing the bikes come down the hill from Kate?s Cottage, witnessing the TT in person at some point in your life is a must for any true motor sport fan.

Isle of Man TT onboard video

An onboard lap of the track in two parts:

Isle of Man TT links

What motorsport would you recommend other F1 fans to follow? If you want to put the case for your favourite non-F1 category write a guest article and send it in. More information here: Write a guest article for F1 Fanatic

Why you should watch…

Image courtesy of Jonathan Camp on Flickr

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81 comments on Why you should watch?? Isle of Man TT

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  1. Marc Connell said on 4th June 2010, 9:02

    nice article! i remember they used to race superkarts around the isle of man.
    Wouldnt mind seeing F1 cars go around :D

  2. I know the couldn’t get an F1 car up the mountain course, although of course they probably should, but I’d love to see some sort of Kart race round the track.

    An when is another of the current teams going to do a Nick Heidfeld.

  3. Rob said on 4th June 2010, 9:18

    I have been enjoying watching the TT coverage on ITV4 the last few years – just watching a bike flying through a chicane millimetres from the kerb of the pavement is enough to suck you in, even without wheel-to-wheel racing.

    It is nice to see that this race is still allowed to go ahead even with the danger: all the competititors know the risks, and the organisers have managed to ensure the risk to spectators is minimised.

  4. Alex said on 4th June 2010, 9:30

    Why is it that the FIA won’t let f1 drive on these circuits because it’s unsafe, yet they still organise things like this, where the circuit is a lot less safe, and bikes are also a lot more dangerous than a f1 car. And ofcourse indycar, where they race at 360km/h with no runoff.
    In other words, why are there different standards on safety?

    • OEL said on 4th June 2010, 9:36

      Because F1 drivers want to live.

    • Millsique said on 4th June 2010, 10:11

      I don’t believe the Isle of Man TT or Indycar are regulated by the FIA.

    • Magnificent Geoffrey said on 4th June 2010, 10:13

      The Isle of Mann TT is not a FIM sanctioned event and, as such, the organisers are not bound by safety regulations other than their own.

      • Alex said on 4th June 2010, 10:55

        Well yes they are different regulators. But still, why do different regulators have different safety standards?

        • I think part of it’s a different outlook on motorsport. Those at the TT are prepared to risk their life trying to take on most challenging event in motorsport. Those in MotoGP and F1 beleive that you shouldn’t have to risk your life to prove your ability.

    • Rob said on 4th June 2010, 12:24

      There has to be a point where a sanctioning body makes a trade off between safety and running an event – if the TT was to suddenly implement the standards that F1 (or even MotoGP) currently use then the whole circuit (and all the villages that the course runs through or near) would have to be torn up and rebuilt, and the character of the whole race would be totally changed, in which case I would ask “What is the point in running it?”

      • leon said on 5th June 2010, 0:00

        There is an unspoken but very powerful machismo attached to the TT races.

        In effect, what is says is…’ OK boy, you’ve shown us you are bloody fast on circuits all over the world, but you ain’t proved how good you really are till you’ve conquered the Mountain Course…’

        And though I’ve lived here in IOM for more than 25 years I still can’t get my head around what drives these guys to cover over 37 miles through countless towns and villages at an average speed of more than 125mph.

        To watch them do it is simply mind blowing.

  5. rampante said on 4th June 2010, 9:32

    This is one race I have always wanted to go to. History and tradition cannot be bought in any form of racing and this one has it in bucket loads. It is up there with Le Mans,Mile Miglia and Brooklands to name a few. Long may it continue and there be enough lunatics to compete. I take my hat off to all involved.

    • MigueLP said on 4th June 2010, 12:07

      and on nothern ireland theres one race like this aswell the North West 200 road race which i watch this year

    • Spartacus said on 11th June 2010, 17:21

      Just come back from IOM again. Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant. Standing a couple of feet away from bikes and sidecars travelling over 150mph. Astonishing. Who wants to watch cars on a scaletrix track?
      Not me.

  6. irishlad (@irishlad) said on 4th June 2010, 9:41

    Great article, must go sometime, im not too far away over here in ireland :D

    • Well as they say on the Isle of Man, there’s a boat in the morning :P. You go to any of the road racing in Ireland?

  7. Lustigson said on 4th June 2010, 10:07

    Although undoubtedly a great spectacle in itself, it is almost unthinkable that such an event actually survived post-WWII, let alone until the 1970s in World Championship form, and even until present day. The fact that it is situated on Man likely helps — any other location in Western Europe would probably have seen it scrapped any time in the 1950s, like the Mille Miglia.

    • I agree just look at back in 1907 the TT began because we had a motor sport enthusiast as governor of the Island and our own parliament to authorise the races at a time when much of Western Europe was cracking down on inter-city races and other early motor sport events. The races remain because they’re a huge asset to the Island and is still supported greatly by the Manx government.

    • leon said on 5th June 2010, 0:10

      And presumably you strongly believe that it should have been killed off ?

      Yeah….lets make sure everybody conforms to the standard pattern…can’t have any danger attached to motor racing, now can we ?

    • HG said on 5th June 2010, 0:38

      So Lustigson, for you the risk are not worth it? Well good for you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, that is your personal choice and yours alone. However, we should not enforce that on other people. If i wanted to do that, why should anyone else say to me “that is too dangerous” – well good for, but go away, my life, my choice.

  8. Magnificent Geoffrey said on 4th June 2010, 10:08

    I’ve just figured out the solution to Formula 1’s ‘dirty-air’ problem: get rid of the driver and stick a TT-rider in the car.

    You could then take away all the aerodynamic parts like the wings and the double diffusers and the cars would still produce the same level of downforce due to having to carry the enormous weight of these riders’ balls.

    • lol so many people talk about the massive balls of the riders I thought I’d put a word in for the two female riders in this years TT. In yesterdays Superbike TT Jenny Tinmouth finished 46th out of 53 beating Maria Costello who finished 50th both clocking avergae race speeds above 110mph.

      Both riders also have a decent chance of becoming the first ever female TT winner as they both take part in the TT Zero race being run on Wednesday, with Jenny riding on one of the top bikes.

  9. Andrew said on 4th June 2010, 10:25

    For those of us down under, OneHD in Melbourne and Sydney are showing an hour of the TT for the next 4 or 5 nights.

  10. Alex Bkk said on 4th June 2010, 10:36

    I always think of Mike Hailwood, and Joey Dunlop when I think of the TT. Strange how they survived the mountain and were both killed by vehicles of the 4 wheel variety.

    Geoffrey got it right…

    Thanks Adam.

    • Joey was actually killed road racing on two wheels in Estonia, only weeks after getting 3 wins at the 2000 TT aged 48. But they were both remarkable men, its hard to beleive that its ten years since Joey died.

      • Alex Bkk said on 4th June 2010, 11:02

        You’re quite right and thanks for that correction Ads21. That was a major brainfart on my part.

        Cheers

  11. spawinte said on 4th June 2010, 10:37

    Bikes…. :( I thought it was going to be about Le Mans

  12. Pablo said on 4th June 2010, 10:47

    Why should you watch?

    Because no were else would you find mad enough people to race around a road at averages speeds of 120mph and top speeds of near to 200mph. In a race were one mistake and you have had it really! exciting.

    Keith also a note for next year but you could post a thing about the NW200. It is a proper road race with all the guys who do the TT, on the triangle circuit between Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart. (just around the corner from were i live). I think you guys can maybe catch it on the net some were, the coverage was on the iplayer but it is gone by now i am sure.

    Both races are gripping. Highly recommend watch.

    • Yer I agree I love the North West and hope to get over and see it some time, shame they butchered Mathers cross though isn’t it? The BBC coverage was excellent as well, managed to see some of it live, I do hope they can bring that kind of coverage to the TT some time soon.

      • Pablo said on 4th June 2010, 11:02

        I agree with mathers cross. It is a pitty. There was a great video that was on the NW200 website (not there now) with guy martains response to the chicane at mathers cross. He is a extremely funny guy.

        But yes do get over for the week, lots going on, great event and its all free if you just stand by the track. Grandstand tickets only 18 quid. Cant beat it.

        Yeah it is also a pitty about TT coverage.

        We could get an F1 Fanatic NW200 trip arranged :)

  13. Howard said on 4th June 2010, 11:06

    Its a scary course – have only driven a car around the roads after the TT and the thought of riding at high speed makes the blood run cold but the adrenaline rush must be unbelievable!

    However the regular fatalities are a good reason to keep it off live TV. Its one thing going there understanding the risks and another flicking the TV between soap channels and watching some poor competitor running into a stone wall. The resulting outcry could finally stop what is one of the few remaining true classic races.

  14. For me, road racing is the very essence of motor racing, on two wheels or four. The on-board from the NW200 or the TT is real heart in the mouth stuff, as it should be. It’s a shame the Targa Florio and Mille Miglia have been so eroded from their heyday, but it was the close proximity (and so vulnerability) of the public that did for them. Riders or drivers accept and thrive on the risk, becoming towering heros in the process, but I fear an accident that kills members of the public, even if they too were there willingly and in full knowledge of the risk. In today’s claims culture society, it this type of racing seems financially unsustainable from an organisers point of view. Here’s to a safe one…

  15. Keir said on 4th June 2010, 11:56

    That online lap actually terrified me. Crazy riders!

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