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Isle of Man TT: All to know about the world-famous event

The Isle of Man TT is a world-famous event that’s steeped in history and known as the toughest challenge in motorsport

Michael Dunlop Supersport

The Isle of Man is a small island between Great Britain and Ireland which comes alive across May and June to host one of motorsport’s most iconic events.

Thousands gather to watch the Isle of Man TT, which dates back to 1907 and brings approximately £37million to the local economy.

While it is a much-loved event by the Manx population, its undeniable danger makes it highly controversial - here is all to know about the Isle of Man TT.

Peter Hickman Senior

Peter Hickman Senior

Photo by: ttracesofficial/Pacemaker Press

What is the Isle of Man TT?

The Isle of Man TT is an event which happens annually from May bank holiday weekend to the end of the first full week in June.

Throughout the event, a series of motorcycle races take place where riders tackle the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course which has been used since 1911 and is a 37.7-mile public road circuit.

It taking place on public roads was the catalyst behind motorsport first heading to the Isle of Man in 1904. That’s because public road racing was banned in Britain while Sir Julian Orde, then secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, believed the Manx population would be more welcoming of the idea.

And then at an annual dinner party in January 1907, the editor of a motorcycling magazine proposed a new event which later became known as the TT. The inaugural edition featured two classes - single-cylinder and two-cylinder - and was won by eventual two-time champion Charlie Collier on the 15.9-mile St John’s Short Course.

The move to the much-larger Mountain Course ultimately improved the spectacle with the bikes achieving higher speeds leading to a popularity increase. Racing was then postponed in 1915 due to the first world war before resuming again in 1919, the year helmets became compulsory.

Racing continued to capture the hearts of the Manx population over the following two decades, which saw an improvement of road conditions, more races including the sidecar class debut at the event, while Stanley Woods emerged as a legend by winning the blue-ribbon Senior TT race four times from 1926 to 1935.

The second world war inevitably caused another stoppage from 1940 to 1946, but the TT soon increased its global presence by debuting in the Motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship (now known as MotoGP) in 1949.

Its stint on that calendar lasted until 1976 and is known as the TT’s golden era, because legendary riders like John Surtees, Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini all fought for glory.

Yet the event was often marred by the fatalities which happened annually due to the unforgiving nature of the circuit.

That was especially brought into the limelight in 1972 when Gilberto Parlotti died and his friend Agostini vowed to never race at the event again. More riders joined the boycott, leading to the event losing its world championship status over safety concerns.

The event continued to happen though, as Joey Dunlop dominated the 1980s with 12 victories across all classes, while Carl Fogarty, John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop and Peter Hickman have all become legends in the decades since.

Protests against the race still continue, with fatalities occurring virtually every year, yet the situation is extremely complex as riders compete in the TT at their own will.

Davey Todd, Superstock

Davey Todd, Superstock

Photo by: ttracesofficial/Pacemaker Press

Isle of Man TT course

The Isle of Man TT Mountain Course runs clockwise around the north side of the island beginning and ending in the capital city of Douglas. Its 37.7 miles consists of 219 corners and is not only used for the TT, because it hosts the Manx Grand Prix every August.

Hickman holds the TT Course lap record as he set a 16m36.114s tour in 2023, which had an average speed of 136.358mph on a layout which has remained largely unchanged since its creation in 1911.

Once riders have navigated the tight streets of Douglas, the lap proceeds west along the A1 towards the opposite coastal town of Peel while going through villages like Braddan, Union Mills, Glen Vine, Crosby, and Greeba. It then turns right at Ballacraine, taking riders on the A3 road up through the countryside and eventually towards the northern town of Ramsey.

The A18 then takes riders back down to Douglas, while going through the lap’s highest point of 422 metres near Hailwood’s Height. It is an incredibly unique circuit where daunting sections like Kirk Michael to Sulby Bridge or the Governors Dip leave little room for error.

Ben & Tom Birchall, Haith Racing

Ben & Tom Birchall, Haith Racing

Photo by: ttracesofficial/Pacemaker Press

Why is the Isle of Man TT so dangerous?

There have been 269 fatalities at the TT Mountain Course since 1911, which makes it widely regarded as the most dangerous motorsport event in the world. There are several factors behind this, for example the course does not have the runoff areas or safety barriers of a grand prix circuit despite riders approximately doing an average of 135mph per lap.

So riders could easily crash into a lamp post, tree or even a brick wall should they make just one slight mistake or suffer a mechanical issue. It’s also not rare for a rider to make an error because the circuit is so tricky where there are lots of fast kinks, while the bikes are often airborne due to elevation changes of up to 400 metres across the lap.

The unpredictable weather can also make things difficult, for example the 2022 Senior TT race was postponed until the following day because of rain, while hazards like an oil spill is another factor that riders must consider.

But what makes the risks even greater is that the Isle of Man TT is a motorbike event. Road racing is not exclusive to the Isle of Man because Formula 1 has street circuits like Monte Carlo, Baku or Jeddah, but cars offer much greater protection and usually absorb the impact of crashes.

That is not the case in motorbike racing. Riders are literally putting their bodies on the line and risk being flung from the bike should a crash occur.

Hickman, Dunlop Superstock 2

Hickman, Dunlop Superstock 2

Photo by: ttracesofficial/Pacemaker Press

How many races are in the Isle of Man TT?

There are six classes in the Isle of Man TT: Supersport TT, Superbike TT, Superstock TT, Supertwin TT, Sidecar TT and Senior TT.

The bikes differ from class-to-class. The Superbike (which includes the blue ribband Senior race) use the most powerful motorcycles with 1000cc engines which have over 200bhp. Superstock TT is also for 1000cc bikes, but the technical regulations state the machines must be kept close to showroom bikes.

Supertwin TT uses bikes which are less powerful, as the twin-cylinder 700cc engines produce up to 90bhp. The class uses road-going motorbikes which are fine-tuned for racing, yet are still more powerful than Supersport and Sidecar TT machines.

Supersport TT generally has a mix of 600cc four-cylinder and 675cc three-cylinder bikes generating up to 130bhp, which are also used by Sidecar TT but it has a 900cc parallel-twin engine as well.

Sidecar TT is perhaps the most unique class as it features a rider and passenger. The rider is at the front controlling the outfit, while the passenger is moving around at the rear and transferring their weight in accordance to the corner, as well as going forward or back to improve traction.

As the bikes differ per class the races are all held at varying lengths. For example, the Superbike and Senior TT hold the longest races at six laps, Supersport does four tours of the course, while it is three for the other classes.

Despite that, all Isle of Man TT classes run to a time trial format where the rider who completes the laps in the shortest amount of time wins. Riders set off at 10-second intervals on the road and race each other on corrected time. As such, the rider leading on the road may not actually be the leader on corrected time.

But special events take place at the Isle of Man TT as well. For example, Dougie Lampkin achieved an incredible feat in 2016 by completing a lap on just one wheel.

In doing so he became the first and only rider to officially wheelie a lap of the course and Lampkin set a time of 1h35m. That was also the year that rally driver Mark Higgins broke his own Isle of Man lap record by setting a 17m35s in a Subaru WRX ST1 Time Attack car.

2024 Isle of Man TT schedule

*All times in BST and subject to schedule changes

Date

Session

Monday 27 May

Free practice and qualifying 1 - roads close at 10am, final session starts at 3:20pm

Tuesday 28 May

Qualifying 2 - roads close at 6pm, final session starts at 8:10pm

Wednesday 29 May

Qualifying 3 - roads close at 6pm, final session starts at 8:10pm

Thursday 29 May

Qualifying 4 - roads close at 6pm, final session starts at 8:10pm

Friday 30 May

Qualifying 5 - roads close at 6pm, final session starts at 8:10pm

Saturday 1 June

Supersport TT Race 1 - 4 laps, 11:45am race start

Sidecar TT Race 1 - 3 laps, 2:15pm race start

Sunday 2 June

Superbike TT race - 6 laps, 2:40pm race start

Monday 3 June

Rest day

Tuesday 4 June

Superstock TT Race 1 - 3 laps, 11:45am race start

Supertwin TT Race 1 - 3 laps, 2pm race start

Wednesday 5 June

Sidecar TT Race 2 - 3 laps, 11:45am race start

Supersport TT Race 2 - 4 laps, 2pm race start

Thursday 6 June

Rest day

Friday 7 June

Superstock TT Race 2 - 3 laps, 11:45am race start

Supertwin TT Race 2 - 3 laps, 2pm race start

Saturday 8 June

Senior TT race - 6 laps, 11:45am race start

Most wins at the Isle of Man TT

Many riders have emerged as legends since the Isle of Man TT’s inauguration in 1907, with some dominating around the course. Joey Dunlop has the most victories across all classes with 26 from 1977 to 2000, which is one more than his nephew Michael who has continued the family legacy since his debut in 2007.

But, who has the most victories in the Senior TT race and who else has multiple wins?

Wins

Rider

Years

7

Mike Hailwood

1961, 1963-67, 1979

John McGuinness

2005-08, 2011, 2013, 2015

5

Giacomo Agostini

1968-72

4

Joey Dunlop

1985, 1987-88, 1995

Steve Hislop

1989, 1991-92, 1994

John Surtees

1956, 1958-60

Stanley Woods

1926, 1932-33, 1935

3

Alec Bennett

1922, 1924, 1927

Harold Daniell

1938, 1947, 1949

Geoff Duke

1950-51, 1955

Michael Dunlop

2014, 2016-17

David Jefferies

1999-00, 2002

Phillip McCallen

1993, 1996-97

Peter Hickman

2018, 2022-23

2

Adrian Archibald

2003-04

Ray Amm

1953-54

Howard R Davies

1921, 1925

Charlie Dodson

1928-29

Mick Grant

1975, 1981

Jimmie Guthrie

1934, 1936

Tom Herron

1976, 1978

Rob McElnea

1983-84

How to watch the 2024 Isle of Man TT

 Live streaming platform TT+ will broadcast every session of the Isle of Man TT in 2024. The TT+ Live Pass is available for £19.99 and grants access to all live coverage for this year’s event, including what’s on-demand.

A TT+ account also gives users access to a wealth of free TT content, including documentaries and behind the scenes programmes so the audience can delve deeply into the world-famous event. Fans can also follow the action via Radio TT.

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