4 stats that show the insanity of the Isle of Man TT

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For two weeks each year, a sleepy little island in the Irish Sea transforms. Hundreds of thousands—both spectators and motorcycle racers—make a pilgrimage to it in search of speed. Local roads become, with just a few strips of plastic tape and a few cones, one of the most formidable challenges in all of motorsports: The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, TT for short.

The week-long calendar of races has been running annually since 1907—with a few exceptions, of course. But that figure merely scratches the surface of what makes The Isle of Man TT so special.

Course length: 37.73 miles


The longest track in the Formula 1 calendar is the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, where a single lap is 4.352 miles. Germany’s infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife, or Green Hell, is 12.9 miles.The 219-turn Mountain Course for the Isle of Man TT is 37.73 miles. Learning it takes years.

F1 ran 44 laps last year at Spa for a total race distance of just over 190 miles. The Senior TT, a single event in the Isle of Man TT calendar, runs six laps of the Mountain Course for a total race length over 226 miles. That requires pit stops, which regulations intentionally slow: The pumps that a crew uses to pour fuel into each bike’s 5 gallon tank must operate using gravity alone.

IOM TT Race Honda Racing Superbike pit stop
Front tires last long enough to go a full race, but most riders will change the rear one while refueling mid-race. Honda Racing UK

Average speed: Over 135 mph

One reason why it takes so long for a rider to master the Isle of Man course is how fast they are going. Even the smaller bikes average well into 120+ mph per lap. That is average speed over the course, which, again, has over 200 corners. The race setup only increases the intensity: Racers are released on time intervals, competing against the clock rather than handlebar-to-handlebar with other riders. This arrangement requires each rider to push their pace every second rather than to keep with the group.

Honda Racing UK put the pace into perspective with a recent tweet: Veteran TT racer John McGuinness holds the throttle of his Honda wide open for over 30 percent of each lap. In the superbike race that took place this Sunday, McGuinness rode to a sixth place finish with a time of one hour, 46 minutes. He spent over half an hour on the throttle-stop, all while riding on what amounts to public roads.

Highest win count: 26 victories

Experience rules everything on such a high-consequence and daring race course. Newcomers rise slowly, and those at the top tend to stay there. The winningest rider in TT history is Joey Dunlop, shown above, with 26 victories in various classes. His TT career started in 1977 and ended with his tragic death in 2000. Tied for second are Joey Dunlop’s nephew, Michael Dunlop, and John McGuinness, both of whom have 23 victories.

The pointy end of the field is both small and highly competitive. At 51 years of age, John McGuinness has competed in over 100 TT races and continues to put in top ten finishes and to compete for the lead. He said this year that there was no place to hide in the top ten places, meaning anyone of those riders had the pace and prep to win overall.

Any racer has a specialty. Some TT racers focus only on this event, but most run other large road-race events like the Macau Grand Prix or the Northwest 200, both crazily high-risk tracks.

Years held: Over 100

Joey Dunlop's funeral GettyImages-830419710
Joey Dunlop’s funeral procession in 2000 shows the dedication these racers have. Getty Images

The stunning acts of heroics among the TT’s best riders have a dark side. The TT is one of, if not the, deadliest motorsports event in history. Since its inception in 1907, 265 participants have lost their lives. The number grows even larger when you count spectators and officials.

Death is ever-present for those who choose to follow or to take part in the Isle of Man TT races, but the event’s legacy is much more complicated. A TT purse does not make a rider rich, and sponsorships are sparse. Riders race the TT for themselves, fully aware of its risks. Yes, they create a spectacle, but the drama is the by-product.

In the past, stateside TT enthusiasts have had to resort to YouTube clips, but there is now an official streaming platform that includes replays and highlights. 2023’s races are almost over, but do yourself a favor: Watch some replays, and let them capture your imagination and your awe.




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    Of all the racing in the world this is the one true life and death race left. While all forms have risks this event is still the one that hold more risk than most ever saw even in the past.

    I fear at some point someone will put the plug on this event. I hope not as all those running are doing so with full knowledge of what could happen. As long as the fans are safe let them run.

    There is little you can do to make this safer as bikes just have no real protection.

    E yep let’s not go to the Moon !
    Let’s not go after your dream !
    Let’s stop this nonsense of going for the dream and shut it down….sarcasm
    I have the utmost respect for any and all drivers.
    We all know what the prize is about.
    It’s about doing the best that one can.
    My heart goes to the families…
    I won’t pretend that I can ease the pain of losing a loved one.
    But they went after their dream, a star in the sky!
    To that is an amazing tribute.

    The on bike cameras show the insane amount of concentration needed to do this. I saw a rabbit run in front of 2 riders flying. They missed him and my heart stopped for a second!

    The TT bikes are the very definition of insanity. It is the most amazing thing to watch. The truest test of endurance and courage to go flat out on those crazy roads.

    And you really do have to KNOW the course. At those speeds you can not wait until you see the turn to set up for it. Astonishing!

    With apologies to the Indy 500, which is an awesome event in its own right, the Isle of Mann TT is the true “greatest spectacle in racing.”

    I met a guy years ago whose hobby was bike racing. He had two major crashes at the TT but lived to tell the tale despite serious injuries. Couldn’t decide whether he was really brave, a hero or nuts. BTW his day job was in the medical profession – go figure!

    There were six deaths at the Isle of Man TT in 2022. Not certain, but I think there has never been a year with no deaths. Seems a bit over-the-top

    This year they only lost 1 rider, pretty remarkable considering the risks involved. In 2022 there had been no racing on Man for 2 years and several changes had been made to the paving in a variety of places.

    Historically there have been a couple of years without a death but as a rule 3-4 is not extraordinary. With the newer airbag riding suits we will hopefully see fewer deaths and a reduction in severity of injury.

    To give a different point of view, I recommend that everyone whether fan or enemy of the TT, watch a documentary from the series Religion of Sports, “The Space Between”. It’s 1 hour long and examines 2 racers and the world around them with some very interesting views, in particular those of the Vicar of St. Ninian’s church, John Coldwell.

    This is the last true race in the world I think. Rally sport comes close, but even in it’s heyday – the Group B cars – it was still relatively sane… Godspeed to those who’ve gone out doing what they loved.

    Joey Dunlop died in a road race in Estonia shortly after his 26th victory at the IOM. Tragically the Dunlop family lost 4 of their members; but none of their deaths occurred at the Isle Of Man

    En route back to the US from my 2nd TT and was delighted to find this article in my inbox. Everyone needs to see this event at least once—it can be appreciated by anyone regardless if they’re a motorsports nut or not. No other race is more thrilling and gets fans as close to the action. I filmed my wife’s reaction to seeing it in person and it’s priceless: https://youtube.com/shorts/JrZ6r0tWNQI?feature=share

    In this clip you can even see riders literally flying with both wheels off the ground at over 180mph. Do yourself a favor and put this on your bucket list!

    Standing at the bottom of Bray Hill as I did a couple of years back your mind boggles at the speed and commitment of the riders. There is a tiny patch of road to hit to be on the right line and literally a few feet away is a lamppost with a bit of foam wrapped round it! Awesome is an overused word in America but it truly fits the Isle of Man.

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