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Speed, Danger, and History at the Isle of Man TT

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Between Great Britain and Ireland, in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man rises proudly from the water

Known to locals as Mann, the island is picturesque, yet rugged, and home to less than 90,000 residents. Many tourists visit the island for relaxation in a quiet cottage, for some, the pilgrimage to the Isle of Man is about something else. It is about speed, power, and the daring bravery of the world class motorcycle riders in the Isle of Man TT.

The Isle of Man TT: Motorcycling’s Crown Jewel

The Isle of Man TT is an institution. The Motorcycle race that has been held since the early 1900s is synonymous with the island, and there’s no wonder why. The race has attracted world class talent, and provided a thrilling spectacle for over a century. Even if you have only a fleeting interest in motor racing, then this is one event that you’ll want to get up to speed on.

  • The very first motorcycle race at the Isle of Man, was held in 1907, barely more than 20 years after Gottlieb Daimler invented the first internal combustion motorcycle.
  • The race may never have begun if it weren’t for the heavy speed restrictions enforced by the UK Government. In 1903, the UK passed an act which limited road speeds to 20mph. This led some racing enthusiasts to seek permission from the Manx authorities to race on the island. The first races were automobile races, setting the stage for The Isle of Man TT.
  • The Isle of Mann has always been a multi category race, even in the early years. The first two riders to win were Charlie Connor, who maintained an average race speed of 38.21 mph, and Rem Fowler, who maintained 36.21 mph. These speeds are far removed from what you would see at a race today.
  • The Isle of Man TT is officially sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), which is the highest governing body in Motorcycling.
  • Races at the Isle of Man are time trials. Although riders may have the opportunity to pass each other, they set off in 10 second intervals, much like in rally car driving. The rider with the quickest time is the winner of their category.
  • Before the roads were modernized, the race went through private land with farming fences and gates. It was the first riders responsibility to open all the gates, and the last had the job of closing them again.
  • At the pinnacle of any motorsport, there is always an element of danger. Today’s superbikes that compete at the Isle of Man would be considered rockets compared to the bikes of the past. The very first death of a competitor was when Victor Surridge crashed his motorcycle in a 1911 event. The death was also the first time that anybody on the Isle of Man had lost their lives in a road accident.
  • In total, 246 riders have died over the 108 year history of the race. The most recent was Franck Petricola in June 2015. He crashed his BMW S1000RR at the Sulby Crossroads during practice. The deadliest year was 2006, when 9 riders lost their lives while competing.
  • Thankfully, the event has been predominantly safe for spectators over the years. Until 2007, no spectators had been involved in fatal accidents, and that year was the first and last time that any spectator was killed at the Isle of Man TT.
  • The Isle of Man race was the catalyst for the growth of some of the world’s most famous performance bike manufacturers, including Italian manufacturer MV Agusta.
  • Some of the most successful names in world motorsport have competed at the Isle of Man TT, including John Surtees, a Formula One World Champion and Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing World Champion. Surtees was the first to win three Isle of Man events in succession, in 1958, 1959, and 1960.
  • John Dunlop holds the record for the most race wins, with 26 titles between 1977 and 2000. John McGuinness (McPint) is a close second, with 23 wins.

The Isle of Man TT is one of the most exciting events on the motorsport calendar. With such a rich history, and some of the world’s best riders on track, it’s an event that any fan of motorcycles and speed would want to follow.

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