This blog is a tad late but better late than never…….
This was our 3rd visit to the historic and beautiful Isle Of Man over the two week long TT (Tourist Trophy) Festival, others being 2011 and 2014. Arriving on 30th May and departing on 13th June it was another thrilling two weeks in motorcycle heaven. The TT has a long history with the first race taking place way back in 1907, the circuit has changed over time and has grown from it’s original 15ml’s in 1907 to the current length of 37.73ml’s or 60.73Km’s. Considering the islands size, being only 52 Km’s long and 22 Km’s wide it is one long lap.
Over the 100+ years of the TT’s existence motorcycles have advanced in so many ways and the outright speed of todays TT bikes is breathtaking. While safety improvements have been made it’s difficult for road type circuits to keep up with the safety innovations seen at MotoGP circuits and many dangers remain in countless forms such as buildings, bridges, poles, stone fences, rough surfaces, animals, its just an everyday road. Many riders have sadly lost their lives chasing the dream of competing on the worlds most challenging and dangerous motorcycle circuit. The TT was removed from the Grand Prix motorcycling calendar following the 1972 event when multiple world champion Giacomo Agostini said he would never race at the Isle of Man TT again following the death of a fellow competitor and friend. The TT is now a stand alone event and the Island’s largest tourism drawcard.
This short video clip was taken sitting on top of an old rock fence on a farm approaching Ballacraine Corner at the southern end of the TT circuit, it was this location we first witnessed the unbelievable experience of “close to the action” spectating, hope it gives you a small sense of what it’s like!!
Arriving on the ferry from Heysham England in fine but cool weather we sailed into the now familiar sight of the Port of Douglas with its wonderful promenade running between the seawall and the city. We left the ferry with a number of other motorcycles and ventured around a few corners to a meeting point where Dave Milligan historically greets his Get Routed Bike shipping customer’s. Hoping to sneak by without being noticed Dave spotted us so we headed over to meet other Australian’s who had shipped their bikes to the TT. Here you could sense the excitement of the unknown for the IOM first timers, its a great feeling not knowing what to expect and some nervousness riding with bikers from all over the globe.
Our lodgings were with Dave and Maggie in a 3 bedroom apartment on the waters edge in the beautiful village of Port St Mary, a quite and sleepy village, that is until TT fortnight when it comes alive with the sounds of bikes and people from many different countries.
The locals look forward this exciting time of year, its now a 100+ year old tradition and a great time to make some hard earn’t dollars. The island was once a busy tourist destination for Britons but now with low cost air travel the Brits prefer to holiday in warmer locations and in some cases less expensive locations like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Croatia etc.
It was great to get to the apartment and kick off the boots and relax, it was here that we met another Australian couple staying in the 3rd bedroom for practice week of the TT. Dave & Di Ashworth who were also touring Europe for 3 or so months on separate bikes, Dave on his Triumph Adventurer 1200 and Di on her trusty Triumph Sprint. With a bike each I looked at it two ways: 1. They both enjoy riding their own bikes or 2. Di’s not that keen on sitting on the back…..
Practice week brought some pretty average weather and allotted practice days and times had to be shuffled around on a day to day basis to give all classes much needed track time. Having some knowledge of the track we offered to lead Dave and Di to some of our favourite viewing locations. The following video’s are from some of those locations around the TT circuit taken during practice and race weeks.
Start/Finish Line – Riders sent off in 10 second intervals to start their timed laps, they don’t race each other side by side but rather by individual time. Whoever gets from the start to the finish quickest win’s..
Near Ballacraine – This is where we saw our first glimpse of bikes at speed back in 2011. It’s a cracking location on a little farm, park the bike in a paddock and walk across to an old stone wall that stands around two meters high. The farmer has a number of ladders along the wall to climb, the wall is about 150 mtr’s in length (give or take a centimetre…). Once your up there the road (circuit) on the other side is around one meter down and being a slight right hand sweeping bend. When the race bikes have been let loose there’s no better spot to get up close and personal, in fact you just can’t believe how close you are to bikes. The video’s tell the story !
Hawthorn Pub – This location gives the feel of speed through suburbia with the Pub a great vantage point to watch while enjoying a beer, the bike sounds like a rampaging mosquito approaching…
Ballaugh Bridge – Probably the most identifiable location around the TT course
Sulby Bridge – Another good vantage point, slow enough to get a good look at bike and rider after one of the faster sections along Sulby Straight
Secret Garden – One of the most spectacular locations, this video is from our 2014 trip when we we’re lucky enough to be invited to this location, watch closely the first two bikes come through with their front wheels well off the ground
The “K” Tree – This is another great location where you appreciate the mind set needed to ride 6 laps at this pace, John McGuinness was unbelievably quick through this section..
Ramsay at Parliament Square – A great location to watch sidecar outfits working hard to set themselves up for the next corner…
Practice week also belongs to some old-time racing at a much shorter road circuit at the southern end of the island. It has a very laid-back feel but it’s as competitive as any big time race and there’s some very interesting bikes to look at while loitering around the pit paddock. Unlike the more upmarket TT races these guy’s and their families put the tent up and camp on site rain, hail or shine.
Qualifying arrived quick enough and we made our way to the race paddock, there’s a grand stand there and didn’t look to be many people in it so we made our way over to ask security if we could go on up, we’ll blow me down when we got to him he was busy talking so instead of interrupting him we walked straight passed and up into the stand. We went to a section with the least amount of people (none to be exact), there were plenty of seats and went to the top row. Qualifying started and the sections either side started fill up, we started to feel a little like a sore tooth perched there by ourselves and thought this location might be for important people that paid dearly for the honour. We tried to be inconspicuous as possible in our bright blue Aussie hats and dark glasses…
Good friends Julie and Rob arrived to fill the now vacant room with Dave and Maggie and us for TT race week, it was their second visit to the TT after spending practice week here in 2014. Julie is English and Rob’s a Kiwi and both have a great sense of humour and when we catch up (as Julie says..) we Larff and we Larff in her Very English accent, good times….
We also had a wonderful surprise when we got an email from some Australian friends telling us they were at the TT and told us what Hotel they were camped at, Gary & Jackie Abrehart had flown over to tick the TT off their bucket list. We had trouble communicating with them so we visited the hotel but no luck, we left a note with the Concierge to say we called in and also stuck a KooWeeRup MCC sticker near the entry to the hotel. Well the Concierge didn’t deliver the note but Gary and Jackie spotted the sticker on their return and the rest is history….
This wonderful island has so much more than just the TT, having spent six weeks in total now we feel we’ve seen and done enough to satisfy our curiosity and met some lovely locals along the way. Here’s a sample of this special Island..
One of the nice things about the Isle Of Man is the casualness of the pit paddock, your free to roam and not restricted as in comparison to MotoGP standards which makes for a very relaxing time. Here’s some random photo’s from around the pit paddock and circuit with a few from our 2014 visit to give a more complete picture..
This photo was taken at the IOM ferry terminal at the wee hours of the morning, 2am to be exact. A very early start to catch our ferry to Belfast Ireland and thats another story coming soon!
And last but not least…..