Think back to all of the world’s greatest motor races. You think of Monaco or Spa for Formula 1. The Indy 500. Gainsville NHRA races. The Dakar. LeMans. Mille Miglia. The Nordschleife. These tracks, these races represent some of the best racing possible. They offer, close street circuits, dangerous hairpins, a crowd always on their feet, and the home of the greatest racing drivers in all of history. They are storied races, storied tracks. Infamous at times. To some, these races inspire greatness. For others, they inspire fear. These races are what separate the brilliant from the potentially dead.
The real question is one that is debated throughout the car world, in pubs, in garages, and in the paddocks. Which is the best? Which race takes the quintessential “best ever” crown? How can a person even begin to think they can answer this question? And in retrospect, I would have thought it very difficult, but knowing the answer now, it seems almost obvious. The Isle of Man TT.
For those out there that think “two wheels bad,” stop it.
For the uninitiated, this is a flying lap of the Isle of Man on a faster-than-needed motorcycle. Let’s break this down for a second. The Isle of Man has been going on for the last 107 years. Racers cover over a 37 mile track on what is essentially a mountain in the UK. The bikes reach speeds of almost 200 mph. And there are jumps. At the infamous Nurburgring Nordscheilfe, the course is 14miles long, and features 170 corners. The Snaefell Mountain TT course is twice (and some change) longer, and features over 200 corners.
Think about all of this for a moment, we are in 2014, safety regulations have all but neutered some of the best racing around, and this race still has jumps. Not to mention, there are no safety barriers, and no fences to protect spectators from bikes going well over 140mph. These riders are essentially going flat out through towns and up a mountain with almost no safety barriers at all. And it’s not like they are racing by soft bushes and grass. No, they are racing through tight street courses lined with brick walls and 100 year old trees. If you go down at speed, you are probably not walking away. This race is fraught with peril and no one should take it lightly. Throughout the history of the race, 242 riders have lost their lives on the course. Even this year saw two riders pass.
In a world that’s obsessed with doing things the new way, the TT soldiers on in the old way. And while this might be called insane, or stupid, when you watch this race unfold you can’t help but be stunned at the level of skill these riders have. The TT isn’t about a championship. It isn’t about politics. It isn’t even about safety. It’s about the world’s best riders proving to themselves and to those that show up that they are Kings of this mountain. The race, in my opinion, is a vestige from a bygone era of motor racing, where riders and drivers clung on to the ragged edge of what was technically and physically possible. It is simply brilliant.
Every year, when I sit down to watch this race, I can’t help but feel a shiver go down my spine. As if I am watching a race from the past, something great, something special, something that shouldn’t still be here. And every year, I am thankful it’s still around. If you have never watched a TT, go to YouTube and find some videos, you will be hooked immediately. I hope this race lives on forever, because in the technically obsessed world we live in, where everything needs to be controlled, it’s good to still have something so analog.