Going to the races: Isle of Man TT
The 2012 Isle of Man TT Races are drawing to their climax this week and I’m reminiscing about a trip I made to experience the Isle of Man TT a few years back. Now I’m not a motorcycle fan, or a motor racing fan, but perhaps that makes it even more of a recommendation when I say I wholeheartedly enjoyed the event, and my visit to the Isle of Man.
If you’re a bit hazy on where and what the Isle of Man is, it’s in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland. It’s part of the British Isles but not part of the United Kingdom. Jubilee girl Queen Elizabeth is the head of state (by holding the title of Lord of Mann) but it has its own legislative assembly. Confused? The Isle of Man is what is known as a self-governing Crown Dependency.
The International Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) Race is infamously dangerous, seeing many crashes, injuries and fatalities over the years since the first event in 1907. It’s a time trial event that takes place on public roads, which are obviously closed to normal traffic. Watching the bikes slide around corners next to old stone walls I had my heart in my mouth. I saw one rider spin out and slide into the wall, fortunately he walked away.
Nowadays the racing is part of the Isle of Man TT Festival and the whole island welcomes masses of visitors to enjoy the atmosphere and scenery of the Isle of Man, as well as the days of racing.
It’s easy to travel to the Isle of Man TT on the ferry from Liverpool. I joined thousands of “motorcycle enthusiasts” making pilgrimage to the motor racing capital of the world. There were people from all over the world of varying sexes, colours, ages, shapes and sizes, but all dressed in leather and packing helmets.
Even watching the practice racing was exhilarating. Displays of amazing speed and skill on those narrow, winding roads. The week I was there three people died in the practice week! There were lots of articles in the papers while I was there describing accidents but I don’t think anyone died in the actual racing. It’s street racing and if something goes wrong, you’re looking at meeting up with a tree, power pole, stone wall etc.
It was easy enough to find a good vantage point on the race track. I decided on a grandstand spot in front of a beautiful old kirk/church at Braddon. This had one of those amazing old graveyards full of leaning tombstones, yew trees and long grass. Note the ‘three legs of man’ symbol on the far right tombstone.
I was nice and early for a front row seat and sat down to wait. Basically it was a similar experience to going to a cricket match. It rains a bit, then it stops and they announce over the loud-speaker that if it doesn’t rain any more they’ll start in an hour, then it rains a bit more and they push back the start time again etc. Perhaps some of you know what I mean? Finally they managed to squeeze in two laps of the production race.
The day of the grand finale of the week’s racing, the Senior TT, dawned sunny and clear. The conditions were perfect and they just seemed to glide around the corners on those amazing machines.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you been to the Isle of Man TT races?