Archive for June 2015
This is my take on the Isle of Man bike races, which are currently happening. It first appeared in 101 Beer Days Out, which was published by CAMRA. The book is currently being updated.
They must be mad. There is a harsh, precarious beauty to the screaming sound of a 999ccc Honda, throttle full open, hurtling down winding, twisting, rising, falling country roads, at speeds well in excess of 140mph. Astonishingly, the Isle of Man races take place on public roads, complete with drain covers, manhole covers, bumps, lumps and uneven surfaces.
The Isle of Man mountain circuit is without doubt the greatest challenge any racing motorcyclist can take on. Each year more than 500 riders arrive on the island in June for the TT races in June or the Manx Grand Prix races in later August and September.
It is a dangerous circuit 37.37 miles round, which astonishing the top riders can lap in 17min at an average speed in excess of 130mph.
The riders are the stuff of legend Geof Duke, John Surtees, Barry Sheene and Mike Hailwood have all raced here. Today’s heroes are multiple-winners Joey Dunlop and John McGuinness, names adored by their fans.
Motor racing first came to the Isle of Man in 1904 when the Gordon Bennett car trials were held, bikes first raced here a year later and they are still doing it.
The Mountain circuit begins on the front in Douglas and heads at a break neck pace west to via Ballaugh, Sulby to Ramsey some 23 miles away. Here the riders straining every sinew and rivet start the daunting mountain climb from sea level, rising some 1400 ft to the highest point at Brandywell
From here is almost down hill all the way down to Creg-ny-Baa and the return to Douglas. The circuit has been completed faster than most people can drink a pint.
Each evening the racing is on the road along the seafront in Douglas is closed for bike displays. Rolling burnouts leave black rubber marks across the road and over the tram tracks and the air fills with the sound of screaming, howling engines and the sweet smell of burning oil. It’s biker heaven. And then there is mad Sunday, when for a couple of hours the course is open for the public to ride bikes around at unrestricted speeds.
The Isle of Man is a beautiful and unspoilt place with a rich history and worth visiting even if the bikes are not racing. It has many gentle walks, horse drawn trams, some fine pubs, and four breweries – Bushy’s, Hooded Ram, Okells and Old Laxey.
Some pubs which offer a view of the TT
Main Road, Crosby, IM4 2DQ
Mountain Road, Onchan, IM4 5BP
Main Road, Sulby, IM7 2HB
Quarterbridge, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM2 1HB
Main Road, Union Mills IM4 4NE
Ballaugh Bridge, Ballaugh,
Sulby Glen Hotel
Main Road, Sulby, IM7 2HR Ramsey
Isle of Man RR race information
Isle of Man information