One of the biggest and eagerly anticipated events in the biking calendar is just around the corner – the Isle of Man TT Races and Festival.
Before it kicks off on 26 May, we take a look at the thrills, excitement, and rich history of this most prestigious event, running until 8 June.
Simon Hargreaves, senior editor of Bike magazine, says: “The TT – the island, its laws, its roads and its racing – represents a haven, the last refuge, for the sporting motorcyclist who wishes to be free to ride without hindrance.”
A rich heritage
The story of the TT began in 1904 when Julian Orde, secretary of the Automobile Car Club of Britain and Ireland approached the Isle of Man authorities for permission to hold races on their roads.
This was in response to the 1903 Motor Car Act, which placed a 20mph speed restriction on automobiles in the UK, effectively forbidding any competitive races on public highways.
He was right to try his luck on the Isle, because in 1904 the Manx local authorities passed the Highways (Light Locomotive) Act, giving permission for the Gordon Bennett Eliminating Trial on the 52-mile Highlands Course.
This race was for cars, but it paved the way for motorcycles and in 1907 the first Isle of Man TT race was held.
Since then – bar a couple of breaks during each world war – the races have been drawing motorbike enthusiasts from far and wide.
We’ve made this video infographic especially to celebrate the TT and its history:
The thrill of danger
The Mountain Course is notoriously difficult and has a reputation for injuring and even taking the lives of intrepid riders. Its narrow lanes and sharp bends, often flanked by stone walls and buildings have been the downfall of many a biker over the years.
The Isle of Man has no overarching speed restriction, so speedy bikes are commonplace on the roads during the event, and on Mad Sunday they can even ride part of the mountain course for themselves.
But those who attend and ride the TT are aware of the risks and the thrill of danger is one of the main draws for them.
On safety at the event, Hargreaves said: “From a riding and a spectator point of view, there is a balance to be maintained between the fundamental attraction in the first place – the risk, the thrill, the inherent danger – and safety.
“I believe this balance must – as it does – include effective medical emergency response strategies and sensible spectator management, but must also include an acknowledgment and understanding that without risk and danger, the TT is not the TT.”
What’s in store this year
This year the TT is packed with loads of events, entertainment and of course, racing.
In terms of the biking action, practice week (mostly qualifying events) is from 26 May to 1 June, then the competitive race week follows from 2 to 8 June.
Entertainment highlights this year include comedian Rich Hall and a TT Paddock Walkabout, where fans can meet the riders and collect autographs or have a picture taken before the first race.
You can find the full racing and entertainment schedules on the TT website here.
Hargreaves is eagerly anticipating a particular aspect of the TT this year: “I'm looking forward to all the races – but the new Supertwins class has interest because it introduces a different class of bike to the TT.
“Hopefully it will pave the way for more classes – say, naked 600cc bikes, or a 'classic' TT featuring bikes built in the 1990s… hell, even bring the two-strokes back, or run a one-make race! The TT needs more racing, and more variety of racing.”
Are you going to the TT this year or just a massive fan? Let us know what you’re looking forward to or what you think of the event in the comments section below.