Isle of Man Race: Most Dangerous Race on Earth?

Most likely, and long may they ride. There’s an interesting opinion piece on Guardian UK’s blogs about the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race, which turns 100 years old this week and has claimed 223 lives. I’ve enjoyed many videos of this crazy beautiful race, and I’m pleased to see that riders are strapping cameras on their bikes, riding the Isle and uploading them to YouTube. I’ve got a good “Mad Sunday” video embedded after the jump, but if you like this as much as I do, watch this 8-minute insane solo ride, with *lots* of high-speed overtaking on the windy two-lane roads. Stunning! (But: bad music warning on the videos.) Snip:

As such, the Isle of Man TT races are an anachronism: a throwback to the days when men were men, and danger was a face to be laughed in. Because the TT, 100 years old this week, could well be the most dangerous sporting event on earth. Just ask Richard ‘Milky’ Quayle.
The races are held on the 37.7-mile Mountain course. It goes from sea-level to 1,300ft, and contains over 200 bends. At its centre is Snaefell Mountain, from which local legend states that one can see six kingdoms: Man, Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland and the sixth, Heaven.
Racing began on the island in 1904 with the Gordon Bennett car trials (a precursor to the Cor Blimey Guv’nor Road Race, surely?). The TT began in 1907, with the island chosen for its lack of speed limit, a quirk that survives to this day. The first race, on a shorter course, was won by Charlie Collier, with an average speed of 38.21mph. Last year, John McGuinness won the event’s blue riband event, the Senior TT, with an average lap speed of 129.45mph. That’s an average speed. Over a course of hills, bends, stone walls, lampposts, houses, hamlets and villages. Bikes regularly reach speeds of 200mph on the straights.
Between 1949 and 1976 the TT had World Championship status, until deemed too dangerous. Surely riders would stop coming to such a perilous event that carried no official status. But still they came, year after year.
TT fans, 55,000 of whom will be there this week, are among the most passionate and knowledgeable at any sporting event. For them, names such as Daytona, Monaco, Silverstone, Indianapolis and Le Mans are irrelevances. The true home of motor sport is the Isle of Man: a place where the greats are remembered at every bend and milestone, with names harking back to the era of 14-time winner Mike Hailwood, the great Jimmie Guthrie, or John Surtees, still the only man to win world championships in both motorcycling and formula one. In 1959, Surtees won the race in horrendous conditions, and had to be physically lifted from his bike at the finish. “The hail was so strong it took paint off,” he remembered. “I sort of got frozen to the spot.”


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