Laps of the Legends - 1992 Isle of Man TT

Steve Hislop and Carl Fogarty's 1992 Senior TT duel in the Manx sunshine arguably remains the finest Isle of Man TT races in history

Laps of the Legends - 1992 Isle of Man TT

Almost two hours of racing, the pair couldn't be separated by more than eight seconds. And with any great encounter, the tale of the 1992 Senior TT is intertwined with intriguing subplots.

The rivals remained contrasting characters throughout their careers. Fogarty, who would go on to become a four-time World Superbike champion, remained unashamedly vocal about his ability. Arguably the fiercest competitor ever seen in motorcycle racing, Fogarty made no friends on his way to the top.

However, his respect for Hislop was absolute. Fogarty believed Hislop to be one of the finest to race the Isle of Man TT. Scotsman Hislop was softly spoken, understated and devastatingly quick with a record few could match up against until his tragic death in a helicopter accident in 2003.

In 1992 Fogarty had been toiling to fund a privateer effort in the World Superbike championship but a breakthrough maiden victory at Donington Park put the Brit in high spirits heading to the Island - despite initially expecting not to return to the TT after his 1991 efforts.

But a call from Yamaha changed that. With £7,000 from Yamaha and £7,000 from the Isle of Man tourist board, and an expensive World Superbike campaign to pay for, Fogarty agreed to return once more.

As would unfortunately remain customary for Hislop, his route to the 1992 TT involves a trail of broken promise and compromises.

Honda had assured Hislop of a Honda RC30 ride in the British championship and at the TT for 1992. But Hislop was dumped, making way for Simon Crafar, leaving Hislop in the cold with no ride and precious little time to secure one.

'The Flying Haggis' then signed for Yamaha. Keen to profit from Honda's snub, Yamaha were eager to sign a multiple TT winner. A £10,000 retainer to race at the TT was offered but Hislop, angling for racing beyond the TT, it meant a package was agreed including the British championship under the Tillston's Yamaha banner.

After initial promise and excitement, Hislop's relationship with Yamaha quickly deteriorated. With preferential equipment going to Rob McElnea's Loctite Yamaha team, Hislop was once again left disappointed.

Determined not to waste his chance at succeeding in the British championship, Hislop gave an ultimatum: no promised British championship equipment, no Steve Hislop with Yamaha at the TT.

To their cost, Yamaha dismissed the threat.

After just one round at Oulton Park, 'Hizzy' got motorhome curtains twitching, arriving at Donnington Park in Kawasaki leathers and it would signal the premature end.

Senior TT day was blessed with sizzling sunshine. Joy for the bands of fans lining the mountain circuit, but hellish conditions for Hislop's screaming Norton Rotary

With Yamaha searching for a replacement for Hislop, one rider stood out. Mr Carl Fogarty.
Discovering Hislop's free agent status for the TT, Norton team boss Barry Symmons immediately pounced to securing the hottest property in road racing. No one, including Hislop, believed the Norton could survive the onslaught of the TT.

But with no other options, Hislop agreed to ride a white Norton in the 1992 F1 and Senior TT races. With one month to go, the small matter of raising £25,000 remained a hurdle for Hislop and Norton.

Abus locks and EBC brakes gathered £10,000 but with funds and time in short supply the Isle of Man tourist board stepped in with a further £10,000. Following some anxious calculations, Symmons declared they could go racing.

The 1992 TT race week began with a prologue ahead of the Senior TT battle. In the F1 TT, Fogarty charged into a commanding lead, with Hislop suffering on his overheating Norton, but neither would don the winner's wreath.

Fogarty's blistering pace eventually proved too much for the Yamaha's gearbox, leaving the Lancashire man devastated to miss out on victory. Honda's Phillip McCallen inherited victory following Fogarty's mechanical failure, while Hislop eased home his Norton in second place.

With no budget to make radical changes, Hislop's Norton team took to the Jurby airfield to make rudimentary modifications to the 588cc machine. To avoid 'Hizzy's' diminutive frame being pushed back on the bike, a taller screen was fitted. Wider handlebars improved stability too, a key element to a successful TT bike. To encourage vital airflow to the overheating engine, the front mudguard was binned.

These rudimental modifications proved vital.

Senior TT day was blessed with sizzling sunshine. Joy for the bands of fans lining the mountain circuit, but hellish conditions for Hislop's screaming Norton Rotary.

Each rider charged off in the customary ten second intervals at the start with Fogarty out of the blocks fourth on the road and Hislop 19th meaning the Scotsman had to fight through slower traffic as the race progressed.

12 months earlier in the F1 race, Hislop broke Fogarty's resolve by engaging maximum attack from the initial drop of the clutch. For this encounter, a different tactic was required. Hislop employed his "older style of riding" and settled gently into a rhythm to take a narrow 2.8s lead into the pit stops.

In a tactical masterstroke, Hislop opted to change his Michelin rear tyre to give himself tyre performance when engaging in the last lap dogfight. Fogarty dashed out the pits without changing a tyre to pinch Hislop's lead.

Hislop utilised every inch of the road between the walls and hedges from Douglas to Ramsey. Fogarty wound up the Yamaha over the mountain section. Hislop swept the perfect line in his trademark elegant style. Fogarty wrestled the Yamaha's handlebars like a prize bull fighter. Two deeply contrasting individuals, inseparable on the timesheets.
By lap 4, Hislop stretched a 7.4s lead. However, a pit lane blunder eroded the advantage. Fumbled fuelling meant Hislop's lead fell to one second but Hislop held his nerve to rebuild his lead to 6.4s for the final lap.

Fogarty and Hislop never considered each other bitter opponents and weren't driven by hatred

What ensued in the final lap of the 1992 Senior TT, encapsulates both men's style. Fogarty's Yamaha was far from healthy. With a blown exhaust, fixtures rattling free and leaking fluid, Fogarty displayed his uncanny grit to stun the paddock by beating Hislop's previous lap record by three seconds.

Hislop, with Fogarty furiously chasing, exhibited composure that few possess. Without the luxury to back off and a battle-weary Norton, Hislop's calm temperament proved crucial.

Due to their respective starting positions, a near three-minute wait for Hislop agonised every soul on the Island. Eventually, the white Norton howled into view as the clock ticked down. By just 4.4s, Steve Hislop had made history. A new race record and the first to win the Senior TT on a British motorcycle since Mike Hailwood in 1961.

Hislop later declared the 1992 Senior TT "probably my greatest race," which is a gracious assessment for a man who won over a third of the TT races he started.

Fogarty and Hislop never considered each other bitter opponents and weren't driven by hatred. They elevated their speed fuelled by mutual respect which left everyone else trailing. The nearest finisher behind the top two? Robert Dunlop, a whole two minutes behind.

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