Talking Motors: TT races remain the jewel in the crown

It's a fact the Isle of Man TT is dangerous.

Thursday, 16th June 2016, 10:14 am
Updated Thursday, 16th June 2016, 11:18 am
Wigan TT rider John Ingram

The best road racers in the world hang themselves out over six 37.7 mile laps on the famous course, averaging in some cases more than 130mph. Averaging.

That’s like driving from Wigan to Blackpool in 17 minutes without using a motorway, with tight corners, climbs, stone walls on the edges and the odd jump to get the bike’s wheels to protest as the rider fights for grip.

I’m in awe of these riders and their machines - and you wouldn’t catch me trying to replicate what they do. I don’t have the bottle.

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Of course, the risk involved in pushing man and machine so close to the limit at such speed is huge.

The consequence of this risk is sometimes death. Everybody knows that. Riders in the paddock on TT morning know in all likelihood one or more of them won’t be there in the evening.

And as the dust settles on last week’s TT, calls from certain (and ignorant) corners for the event to be banned surface - arguments as old as an unfinished tin of Manx Knobs - and just as boring.

Let me be loud and clear - such calls are garbage.

Yes, you need to go back to the year 2001 to find the last year the Snaefell Mountain Course didn’t claim a life - and there was no racing that year thanks to foot and mouth.

Since 1911, 252 people have died in the pursuit of speed and glory.

And this year, four more lost their lives on the Mountain Course: Dwight Beare, Paul Shoesmith, Ian Bell and Andrew Soar. And Dean Martin died in the pre-TT Classic at the smaller Billown Circuit.

Death in motorsport is heartbreaking. Healthy (often young) people flipping down a visor and going off down the road with the roar of a throttle should come back at the end.

But, on two wheels instead of four, the risk is amplified. These days, the safest place to be when a Formula One car crashes is in the cockpit of a Formula One car. The safest place to be when a bike crashes is as far away from the bike as possible. But riders know this. No one sets off on a lap of the TT with a gun held to their head. They know the risks. It hasn’t been a championship race for decades - there is no pressure to go other than a rider’s own desire.

And that isn’t to say the close community at the TT - spectators, riders, pint pullers, media and team members - don’t feel a loss. Trust me, they do. But they know the riders risked everything to achieve something mega. Something none of us sat behind desks getting fat could do. There’s comfort in that.

People take risks in life to achieve greatness. It’s what makes heroes. And to suggest banning an event which created heroes in the likes of John Surtees, Bruce Anstey, John McGunniess, Ian Hutchinson and of course, Joey Dunlop is as ignorant as it is ridiculous. If it were easy we wouldn’t be interested.

More people have died in the last 100 years trying to climb Mount Everest than racing a bike on the Isle of Man. That’s not even counting deaths from the 2015 earthquake. Shall we call for that to be banned too?

The TT is a wonderful event with thousands of bob-on people descending on an island over a fortnight to appreciate racing. And what better way to do that than by watching the finest and bravest racers in the world do it on the most famous course?

Its Grand Prix status was taken away in 1976 so there are no championship points at stake, no motive to enter except to fulfil a dream, yet it has retained its status as the crown jewel in racing on two wheels.

So have a think about your heroes, and the risks they took, before saying ours shouldn’t be given the chance.

My weekend was spent admiring the two and three wheeled variety of motors last week - as well as getting sunburnt.

I’m not sure how you manage to end up with legs so raw you can’t put them in bathwater from sitting at the top of a mountain on a cloudy day, but I managed it.

Our spot at the Bungalow section of the Mountain Course was perfect for getting the most out of being close enough to the action to be made to jump by bikes and sidecars speeding past, leaving their sweet-smelling scents of burning oil.

There were more varieties than even the most well-stocked ice cream


I was so drawn-in by the event, my usual weekend routine of looking at car parts and rusty Minis for sale was replaced by my researching what I need to do to get on a bike, and trying to convince the people with a vested interest in my wellbeing that it’s a good idea.

But even among the densest population of bikes imaginable, there was still the opportunity to take in a bit of car spotting.

Two Morris Minors, a Ford Anglia, a VW Camper and a couple of MGBs totted up the scores nicely.

Aside from attending the most famous road race in the world (and the best crowd of people I’ve ever been in, I have to add), I had the joys of seeing seals climb on rocks off the coast, a climb up Milner’s Tower and a walk to the Sound where the peaceful sunset kissed the Calf of


I got home with a full memory card of videos, pictures and stories to


I barged through the door after a 20-minute flight home to a girlfriend who I’d missed and wanted to tell my stories to.

She asked: “So what was the highlight?”

My reply?

“On the front at Douglas I saw a Trabant.”