2014 Isle of Man TT
THE GREAT RACE
The idea of the Isle of Man TT is so overwhelming that it’s hard to communicate the big picture. The island itself is situated between England and Ireland. Racing started there originally because motorsport was illegal in England and the IoM government welcomed the money racing brought into the economy. The first TT for motorcycles was conducted in 1907.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the TT festival swells the island’s population by around 40,000 between May 24 and June 6. Motorcyclists from around the world gather there for unique road racing. A 37-mile (59.54km) loop of public road is turned into a race circuit and it includes the bends, bumps, jumps, stone walls, manhole covers and telegraph poles that populate normal transport routes.
Unlike day-to-day traffic, though, racers reach 300km/h on the faster sections of the track. Some spectators do as well: on the non-racing days the circuit is open for visitors and the section over the mountain has no speed restriction. Does the idea of 10,000 riders of varying experience riding flat out on public roads sound a little dangerous? More than 240 racers have died in crashes since the TT started and each year as many visitors usually die as competitors. Approach with caution.
LIVING THE DREAM
Here’s how it can work if you’re a visitor. You load your bike on the ferry at either Heysham or Liverpool and join hundreds of other riders for the four-hour trip to the isle. A couple of pints on board and the making of new friends is part of the journey.
Disembarking at Douglas, you either head to the campground you’ve pre-booked or locate your more substantial accommodation in a rental house or pub. Maybe you paid the modest fee to have a camping business in Douglas set up a camp for you using their tents and gear.
You then do a couple of laps of the circuit so you can get a feel for what the racers experience and pick the best places to spectate.
Racing is every second day so on the off days you tour the island, probably factoring in an excellent counter lunch at the Peel Inn or the Glue Pot in Castletown. There’s the carnival in the main street of Douglas to keep you entertained in the evening and plenty of smaller rallies and events. Oh, you enter the street drags as Ramsay as well because we’re better at that stuff than the Europeans.
On race days you get to your preferred vantage point early, before they close the roads. Many of these, including popular Creg-Ny-Baa, are conveniently located either next to or in a pub so you don’t die of thirst. With the big classes, the bikes will flock past you and you’ll have to wait around 20 minutes before they pass again. This will happen six times but unless you have a transistor radio to hear the race commentary, you’ll have no idea who is winning. It doesn’t sound like it but it’s an exhilarating experience.
WHO TO WATCH
This year’s entry list contains 11 former solo race winners with a collective 57 wins between them while riders from all corners of the British Isles, New Zealand, Canada, Austria, Italy, US, France, Hungary, Portugal, Brazil, Belgium, Finland, the Czech Republic, Argentina and, of course, Australia, will be represented.
Familiar names include John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop, our own Cam Donald and Josh Brookes, Guy Martin, Bruce Anstey, Ian Hutchinson, Conor Cummins, Gary Johnson, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor.
Sidecar champ and IoM local, Dave Molyneux, will attempt to build on his already sensational 16 wins.
Threatening for 2014 is Michael Dunlop. He’s entered in six classes and is a contender in all of them. Dunlop won four races last year. This year he’s switched to BMW for the major races and may suffer slightly from not having enough track time to get used to the bike. He raced it in the first two rounds of the British Superbike series, finishing a modest 25th in a field of 31 at the Brands Hatch round. The bike will certainly be fast enough to win.
Always there is the legendary John McGuinness who was in Australia recently for the AMCN Phillip Island Classic. McGuinness has 20 wins at the IoM. He’s intimately familiar with his Honda superbike and hides tremendous talent and drive behind his self-effacing public profile. McGuinness is the one Cam Donald thinks we should be keeping our eye on.
Cam will be riding for Norton for the first time (see breakout) so it would be unrealistic to expect major results in the first year of his three-year development contract.
There’s also the serious return of Ian Hutchinson who won a phenomenal five races in 2010 and Guy Martin who has been pressing for years but, so far, has been denied a win.
NEXT BEST THING TO GOING
Being there is best. You can take your own bike (too late this year but start planning for 2015) from Australia via shipping providers like Dave Milligan from Get Routed (0412 689 849 or GetRouted.com.au). Many visitors choose to hire a bike (or buy one) when they get to Britain or simply jump on the ferry and use public transport on the Isle.
If you can’t make it, you can listen to live streaming of the races via the Isle of Man TT website. Visit the site for times and details.
The Isle of Man TT – when it comes to motorcycle racing there’s nothing like it in the entire universe.