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

  1. colin grayson said on 4th June 2010, 12:26

    I won’t watch anymore ; the deaths of joey , and dave jeffries finished me

    the problem in my mind is that young men know it won’t happen to them , they are immortal ; I remember the feeling ; dave jeffries father was crippled motorcycle racing , but dave still went on until he was killed
    the fact of the matter is that by the time they realise they are not immortal it is too late , they are addicted to the ‘rush ‘ they get

    • HG said on 5th June 2010, 0:43

      yes, but that is life. What should we do? Put a minimum age of 40 on it? That is true, but it is part of human nature to want to take risk. Civilization has only gotten to where it is today because people have taken risk. WE cannot, nor we should not, ban risk taking.

  2. Ned Flanders said on 4th June 2010, 12:37

    I really want to go to the Isle of Man for the race now… congratulations Adam, your article has won me over!

  3. Mike said on 4th June 2010, 12:48

    It will be the first time I’ve watched it, not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I’ve never had the change, for People in Australia, It will be shown tonight on one.

    • Mike said on 4th June 2010, 16:55

      Sadly, My dad was watching TV, can someone confirm that it continues more than just one day?

      • Not exactly sure on how the TV coverage is working down under but I get the impression that they’ll be running highlights until the end of next week.

      • Brake Bias said on 5th June 2010, 13:01

        sounds like your dad needs to get his priorities right there Mike lol

  4. Call me a prude, but I don’t condone any event which has such a high death rate and it’s only because the Isle of Man is a self-governing state that it continues to run.

    At an average of 2 deaths per year it’s been running, I would argue for its demise.

    But then, the Isle of Man does well out of tourism, so I can see why they let it continue. Anywhere else, this would have been stopped yonks ago.

    • Robert McKay said on 4th June 2010, 16:23

      Google says there are 30-40 deaths from skydiving per year. Is that due a demise too?

      I’m not asking the question to be inflammatory.

      I’m just interested in your “deaths per year” comment, it rather suggests some sort of threshold, i.e. you’d approve it if the death rate was less than 0.1 per year (1 per decade) or whatever.

      • Mike said on 4th June 2010, 17:05

        Dank does have a point though, That’s quite a few deaths. And in the defence of skydiving, That’s not 30-40 deaths at one event is it?
        …. Is it possible that the whole group forgot the parachutes? Oo

        (flying through the air after jumping from the plane)
        I think we forgot something!!!

        The deaths do make me feel, somewhat bad, about wanting to watch it, But, I wouldn’t mind competing….. hmm… Odd, Considering I’d really rather it wasn’t me who died…..

        • Robert McKay said on 4th June 2010, 18:52

          All I’m saying is that there are numerous extreme sports where people can be and regularly are killed.

          People do so knowing the risks: they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

    • beneboy said on 4th June 2010, 19:23

      A study by David Ball of Middlesex University showed that between 1988 and 1992, 315 out of 708 sporting fatalities in the UK (or 44%) were from drowning.

      Second place was taken by motor sports, with 65 deaths, closely followed by horse riding, with 62. Equal fourth were mountain climbing and air sports, including hang-gliding, parachuting and flying light aircraft, with 51 deaths. In sixth were non-drowning accidents from all water sports, which accounted for 49 fatalities.

      The average adult swims on eight occasions each year but indulges in a motorcycle race or rally car trial only 0.3 times a year. To get a true sense of the danger involved, we must multiply the fatalities in the latter by 26.7 (26.7 x 0.3 = 8) to achieve parity. The result is that if we had spent as much time on the racetrack as in the swimming pool, there would be 1,736 fewer of us living to tell the tale.

      Giving the same comparative treatment to other sports means we could expect 620 deaths each year from horse riding, 1,020 from climbing and a monstrous 13,600 from air sports.

      On average, 163 people die in sporting accidents each year, which is a low figure when put into context: in 1992 alone, there were 4,628 deaths on the roads.


      To really put the danger of the TT into some perspective, 467,000 people died an early death due to smoking in the US alone last year, over a million more died an early death due to obesity/lack of exercise/poor diet.
      Ronald McDonald kills more people each week than the TT has in its entire history…

      Nobody is forced to enter the TT, they do it because they love it. Nobody wants to see anyone die and a great deal has been done to reduce the chance of riders and fans being killed but ultimately motor sport is dangerous, especially on two wheels.

      The idea that the event should be banned because of risk is absurd, everyone taking part knows the risks and they’re happy to accept them and take every precaution to avoid them.

      My grandfather raced motorbikes for 40 years and suffered nothing worse than a few broken bones, a couple of years ago he was killed riding on the road because some guy didn’t use his mirrors when changing lanes on the motorway. This is not an unusual story amongst the other racing families I know, even though I know loads of people who have been racing motorbikes for decades I only know one person who has ever died on the track, it’d take me a while to list all of them I know who have been killed on the road.

      This isn’t some abstract argument for me, there’s normally at least one person I know racing at the TT each year and a good friend of mine will be entering as a rookie next year. I’ve also seen somebody die less than twenty feet from where I was watching from a few years ago. It isn’t nice and we all do everything we can to prevent it but for some of the people I know not being able to compete at the TT would be worse than death.

      If you don’t want to take part then that is your choice and I’m more than happy to support you on it, could you please have the decency to allow us the same choice.

      If I had the talent I would be out on the track practising with all of the other riders right now and I would hate to see it brought to an end because people who aren’t involved think those who are aren’t able to to decide for themselves if they want to compete or not.

      Apologies for the length of the post, I think I may have got a bit carried away…

    • simon said on 5th June 2010, 2:24

      The death rate? What has that got to do with it? Either you understand the event or you don’t. The people who understand know the event is the ultimate challenge for man versus bike versus environment. The danger is the ultimate leveler. These people accept the challenge and choose to live life in a way that engages all of their abilities and senses. They aim to challenge themselves and live LIFE.

      People who don’t understand often live most of their life trying to avoid death and risk missing out on alot of what life has to offer in the process.

      I am not saying that one way is right or wrong, rather that people should be free to choose how they live, as long as it does not hurt anyone else. This principle has nothing really to do with motorsport, but is expressed marvellously in an event like the TT.

  5. Bartholomew said on 4th June 2010, 13:24

    This onboard view from champion Steve Hislop is the most frightening of all :

    There is also a small racing track in England called Oliver´s Mount in Scarborough :
    This one is a lot shorter and very charming, but the final downhill section with trees and bumps looks quite scary.

    Yes sir Keith, this is the best recommendation you can make. This is truly the best form of racing of all.
    However, it is really frightening to consider the risks. And how about doing this with rain …. There is also a very important race like this in the Ulster.

    This type of racing separates the men from the boys. Only the British have the courage to do it. With men like this, no wonder Britain ruled the world – even now Britain rules the world through the universal use of the English language.
    Cheers !

    • Bartholomew said on 4th June 2010, 13:33

      A final wish for the safety of the riders !

      • Bartholomew said on 4th June 2010, 23:18

        Que el Señor los proteja – may the Lord look after them so we have an uneventful weekend

    • Mike said on 4th June 2010, 17:09

      What us Australians and those icky Americanas have done to the language suggest that in fact they world ruling days are over…

      Actually My mum is English and has passed on somewhat of an accent,
      Which leads to a funny situation where Aussie’s greet me by saying “Are you english?” and brits “Watch out, he’ll pinch your wallet”

      Worst of both worlds :(

      • Bartholomew said on 5th June 2010, 0:01

        I thought you Aussies are very high in the status order of the Commonwealth. Everyone loves the Australians,,as far as I am concerned.
        I used to live nest to Gibraltar and for sure these people are something else. They speak a mixture of the Queen´s English plus the local Spanish dialect. The result is outrageously funny.
        John Galliano is from Gibralatr but hides this fact
        LOL did you think he was from Chelsea ?

  6. Dr. Mouse said on 4th June 2010, 14:02

    I have always considered Car vs Bike racing to be similar to Football vs Rugby. Footballers fall over clutching their ankle regularly with the slightest contact, whereas I’ve seen Rugby player on the pitch, bleeding from a mass of bruises which used to be a face, sent to the blood bin and come back with no more than a bit of Vaseline smeared on to stop the bleeding.

    Similarly, a slight knock will often end an F1 drivers race, but I have seen motorbike races where riders have slid 100+ yds along the gravel, picked their bikes up and carried on, often not pitting and holding broken fairings in place with their knees.

    Never seen the TT, but I have always wanted to go. Didn’t realise they had highlights on ITV4. YAY! Gives me something to watch when the other half’s watching Corrie and Britains Got (no) Tallent. Great stuff!

  7. Ade said on 4th June 2010, 17:09

    Guys, watch this:

    I can’t stop replaying it.

    • haha thats litteraly 30 seconds down the road from my house and I watch there all the time, as Guy Martin puts it, Gorse Lea is a “propper man’s corner for men”

    • Bartholomew said on 4th June 2010, 22:52

      Holy Moses this is too frightening to watch

  8. DaveW said on 4th June 2010, 17:51

    Sorry, K, can’t watch this. It’s like televised Russian Roullette. I think this thing has claimed more lives than Mt. Everest.

    • More people die every year climbing Everest than on the Mountain Course no one calls for a ban on climbing Everest.

      • DaveW said on 7th June 2010, 19:20

        Who said to ban it? I said I can’t watch. The law does not and should not reach plenty of patently foolish and dangerous activities.

        But the Everest comparison is useful. In this case, every possible technological and operational means is applied to permit a climber finish the task alive. With Isle of Man TT, not so much. Padding strapped to telephone poles?

  9. STRFerrari4Ever said on 4th June 2010, 19:03

    Ah the Isle Of Man TT one of my favourite events in the entire world! It’s so amazing the speed and courage these men have going through these roads at break-neck speed. Guy Martin I respect that guy a lot he’s got some big cojones believe me! I wonder how an F1 car would be like through the TT course, It’s unlikely to ever happen but it would be a sight to be hold.

    • beneboy said on 4th June 2010, 19:47

      I think a rally car is probably the only real racing car that would be able to make it around the whole course at anything near to racing speed.

      It’d be great to see a modified F1 car giving it a go though…

  10. Icthyes said on 4th June 2010, 19:57

    My grandfather told me about the excitement he witnessed as a young boy at the coming of the Ulster TT. I imagine it must be the same for Man residents today. I have to admit I’m not naturally a superbikes fan, but the TT is something I have to witness at least once in my life :-)

  11. schooner said on 4th June 2010, 23:58

    Anybody here seen VFour Victory? Probably one of the best on board films of a full lap on the Mountain Circuit (with commentary) ever! Joey Dunlop in his heyday, with a massive camera strapped to the tank of his factory Honda 850 V4, back in 1983. Very cool!
    Unfortunately, there is NO coverage of the event here in the US.

  12. DavidS said on 5th June 2010, 5:16

    Of course Murray Walker loves the Isle of Man, it was really his first exposure to motor racing, and his first commentary gig. He does talk quite a lot about it in his autobiography, which is recommended reading for all F1 fans.

    It’s not hard to see why he loves it, it is absolutely crazy what these guys do. Flying over a crest at great speed, getting airborne, rolling out of the throttle just enough to stop the bike slipping out from you but not enough to lose time is par for the course…several times a lap.

  13. the races are very danger … some of the races are very harmful to the life ..some of the race some of them lost there lifes

  14. dsob said on 5th June 2010, 9:10

    Excellent article. Makes me wish I could get to the Isle of Man to see it.

    For those on the North American continent, there is Targa Newfoundland, being run this year Sept 11 thru 18. It’s for autos, not bikes, but it’s similar to the TT and a lot of fun.

  15. Our Nige said on 5th June 2010, 9:19

    If you are a motorsport enthusiast going to see roadracing on the IOM or in Ireland has to be on a “list of things to do”. Living in Northern Ireland I have been to road racing and it is unbelievable -you are sitting literally feet away from bikes doing 190mph…. You need to be quick as the smaller races – Tandragee etc are struggling to survive with costs rocketing. The North West 200 is probably safe but even the Ulster Grand Prix is under threat…

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