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Four-horned sheep, the best view in the UK and lots (and lots) of motorcycling; here are seven reasons why everyone needs to watch the most exhilarating, extreme and downright mad motorcycling event on Earth: the Isle of Man TT.
It’s an equation for entertainment. Isle of Man TT is the most dangerous motorsport event in the world, period. “Why?”, you ask? Maybe because it’s a twisting, turning labyrinth of blind bends, narrow roads and sharp corners. Maybe because the TT track, Snaefell Mountain Course, isn’t so much a ‘track’ as a series of public roads, barely a few feet wide. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because racers scream along at speeds of over 200mph, passing homes, spectators and even cliff-faces by mere inches. You’ll be glued to your seat, guaranteed.
Over 100 years old, in fact. TT’s hosted motor racing from as early as 1904, but it wasn’t until 1907 that motorcycling made its debut. Honda racing legends Joey Dunlop OBE, Mike Hailwood and Steve Hislop have all tackled TT, so taking part today is like taking part in history; it’s an honour, and a privilege
Since its inaugural race in 1907, 248 riders have lost their lives at Isle of Man TT — roughly the same death toll as Mount Everest. No surprise, then, that riders regard TT as the pinnacle of competitive motorcycling — and, just like Everest, reaching the pinnacle could be fatal. But while the risk is undoubtedly great, so, too, is the reward.
Here are four weird and wonderful reasons why the Isle of Man is worth your attention (other than the motorcycling, of course). First: you can see all of the UK from Snaefell Mountain’s peak. (No, really; on a clear day you can see England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man from the top. It’s quite a view — not that the riders would know, going 200mph and all.) Second: the island’s home to the Manx Loaghtan, a breed of extremely rare four-horned sheep that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. Third: the Bee Gees were born there. And last but not least: you can take a selfie with the late, great comic Norman Wisdom. (Well, a statue of him - see below)
Every year, TT opens the Snaefell Mountain Course to the public for a special one-off event known simply as Mad Sunday. Anyone with a bike can participate, so it’s no surprise that it’s popular — very popular, in fact, with over 55,000 people taking part. Check this out.
The story behind Honda’s TT debut is the stuff of racing legend. It was 1959, only 14 years after the end of WWII, and the team were seen as outsiders. To make matters worse, when they arrived on the island they realised a horrible mistake: they’d been learning the wrong track for months. (The standard 37.75-mile Mountain Course had been replaced by the much shorter — and completely different — Clypse Course.) But in spite of the team’s tremendous challenge, they finished sixth, seventh, eighth and 11, thus securing Honda’s very first world championship point and the coveted TT team prize. Incredible.
Launching TT today would be a health and safety nightmare. The course is lethal, encompassing winding roads, bumpy straights, tight hairpins and even jumps — in a public area, with houses and gardens and pubs just a hair’s breadth away. Crazy. But if that sounds nuts, just wait till you see what it looks like from the perspective of a rider — specifically, Honda’s John McGuinness. Ladies and gentlemen: hold on to your butts.