Isle of Man TT racers combine courage with breathtaking skills
The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, or TT, runs annually on 37.7 miles of closed public roads that twist and wind through towns and villages and open countryside, presenting enormous challenges to competitors who lap at average speeds as high as 133mph. There are over 200 turns to memorise and negotiate, ranging from tight hairpin-bends to the hair-raising curves of the Verandah section, that sweeps around a Snaefell mountainside slope. The names of corners and other features of the TT course are synonymous with legendary riders and magic moments in motorcycle-racing history. There's Bray Hill, Creg-ny-Baa, Cronk-y-Voddy, Greeba Dip, Sarah's Cottage, Union Mills, Ballacrye and Ginger Hall, to name just some.
Top speeds reach 190mph. Delays to practice, qualifying and racing are often caused by mist on the course reducing visibility, or heavy rain. Trees, dry-stone walls, telegraph poles, lamp-posts and the gable-ends of buildings are accepted for the hazards they are, and that's that.
British riders outnumber those from other countries. Leaders of the pack are Ian Hutchinson, Guy Martin, John McGuinness (a non-runner in last year's TT, due to injuries sustained in an earlier race) and Michael Dunlop. BMW-borne, airborne, Hutchinson is captured above at Ballaugh Bridge, en route to winning that year's Superbike TT race, while Martin and McGuinness are seen at left with their new-for-2017 Honda CBR-1000RR SP2 Fireblade, and Michael Dunlop is pictured below with the Suzuki GSX-R1000R he won 2017's blue-riband Senior TT race on.
When questions arise as to who’ll be next to join the pantheon of all-time British TT greats – taking their place alongside Stanley Woods, Geoff Duke, Bob McIntyre, Mike Hailwood, Joey Dunlop, Steve Hislop and the man McGuinness – consider Ian Hutchinson, who might well have notched-up many more TT victories had he not been sidelined for three years by injuries that would have spelled the end of any reasonable competitor’s career. Having been told initially that he would never walk again, let alone ride, he endured a staggering 30 operations and lost the fibula in his left leg – with amputation a distinct possibility at one stage – to rejoin the winner's circle in fine style.
The gritty Yorkshireman’s fightback characterises the way TT champions go racing. Last year, ‘Hutchy' exceeded the late, great Mike Hailwood’s career tally of 14 TT wins, scoring 16 to date.
For details of this year's event, visit the Isle of Man TT website: www.iomtt.com
All images this page courtesy of Isle of Man TT organisation, reproduced with copyright-holders' permission