The International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, better known as the Isle of Man TT, is a motorcycle race that has taken place on the island for over one hundred years. It’s often labelled one of the most dangerous races in the world and attracts thrill seekers from all over to spectate and take part. The event usually consists of one week of practise and another of races with a traditional unofficial event known as ‘Mad Sunday’ which allows the spectators to tour the course themselves on their motorcycles, which has been done supposedly since the 1920.
It all started in 1904 when motor racing was first brought to the island with the Gordon Bennett Eliminating Trial. As the Motor Car Act of 1903 was introduced it became impossible to race automobiles through both Britain and Island. The Secretary of the Automobile Club, Sir Julian Orde, instead proposed that the Manx authorities allow a race course to solve this problem. It worked and Tynwald (the Manx parliament) granted permission for the ‘Highlands’ course for the 1904 Gordon Bennett Car Trial.
The following year held the first trial race for motorbikes; however these early models were unable to complete the course due to the steep uphill climbs of the mountainous section. Instead a new course was plotted out which began in Douglas and travelled south the Castletown, then north Ballacrine and returning to Douglas.
On the 17th January 1907 a new race was put forward at the annual dinner of the Auto-Cycle Club by the current editor of ‘The Motor-Cycle’ magazine and it was later decided that the fist Isle of Man Tourist Trophy would be held on the 28th May that same year. The races were run in two separate classes, single cylinder and twin cylinder machines in order to test the road touring abilities of each. Races were run as time trials, the same way they are done today and regulations were put into place regarding peddles, exhaust silencers, saddles and mudguards to ensure both safety and fairness.
It wasn’t until 1911 that finally the Snaefell Mountain Course, the same course used today, was utilized. At the time the track ran for 37.40 miles and the two sets of races had transformed. The first category was the 350cc Junior motorcycles which ran a course of four laps whilst the second was for 500cc Senior bikes which ran a total of 5 laps. The race had become a hit, people had begun spectating from grandstands and travelling from across the world to see the marvel of the TT.
To this day, the TT generates a remarkable festival atmosphere all across the Isle of Man. Spectators can be found enjoying the views from vantage points all over the island and there are celebrations and live acts to keep everyone entertained throughout. However, it’s important to note that since that first race in 1907 there have been almost 260 deaths, an average of 2.2 a year so if you’re thinking of taking part, stay safe.