Buckle Up for the Greatest Show on Earth: The Isle of Man TT

Move over Hollywood, there’s a real-life spectacle that puts all others to shame. Every May and June, a tiny island nation in the Irish Sea transforms into a pilgrimage site for adrenaline junkies and motorsport aficionados. This isn’t your average racetrack; this is the Isle of Man TT, a legendary motorbike race where the course is not a sterile circuit, but the very public roads that snake across the island.

Imagine hurtling down narrow country lanes at breakneck speeds, leaning into corners that wouldn’t look out of place on a Formula One track, all while surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of the Isle of Man. The thrill is palpable, not just for the riders who test the limits of human and machine, but for the spectators who line the course, mere feet away from the thundering engines.

The Isle of Man TT is more than just a race; it’s a festival of courage, camaraderie, and pure, unadulterated speed. It’s a testament to the human spirit’s yearning to push boundaries and defy danger. For over a century, the “Mountain Course,” a 37.73-mile monster of a track, has claimed the respect (and sometimes the lives) of the world’s bravest riders. This unforgiving course demands respect, precision, and a touch of madness, making every victory a hard-fought triumph.

So, if you crave genuine excitement, ditch the staged pyrotechnics and expensive CGI. Set your sights on the Isle of Man TT. Witness the bravery of riders who turn public roads into their personal racetrack, and feel the raw energy that makes the TT the greatest show on earth.

A local heritage

The TT is ingrained in the souls of most motorcyclists, more so for those of us from the north of the UK and Northern Ireland. It feels like a very local and personal event despite being revered worldwide. This makes it all the more strange that having followed the TT for years and living so close I have never made the trip, until now.

That’s not for the want of trying. I attempted to put on a trip for the ill-fated 2020 TT. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of several American friends, everything was booked but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. The trip included a TT veteran who had offered to show us the ropes and all the best viewing spots.

As we all got back on our feet after the restrictions, the plan never re-emerged as personal circumstances inevitably got in the way. For the following years, I settled down to the TV shows and the excellent TT+ live race coverage.

This changed when the opportunity arose to leave the motorcycle behind, skip the ferry and fly out to the Isle of Man for a few days during race week.

What to expect this year

The buzz this year was all about Michael Dunlop who had the chance to equal his uncle Joey’s record 26 TT wins. Furthermore, he could then go on to extend that record.

I was personally keen to see Peter Hickman and Davey Todd on the BMW M1000RR. Hickman had enjoyed a lot of success and wins over recent years on the BMW and while the machine had moved on considerably, I still had an affinity to the RR since my S1000RR days.

The weather had been changeable and wet during practice/qualifying week but race week showed signs of improving. It would not be a perfect week in a meteorological sense but enough of an improvement to get some races off and completed. At least that was the hope as the weekend and race week approached.

Race week

The races kicked off on Saturday with the Supersport TT Race which gave Dunlop the first win of the week TT win on his Yamaha YZF-R6.

The victory came in a thrilling Supersport TT race, where Dunlop battled from third place to take the lead and secure the win. This achievement held even greater significance as it came 40 years after Joey’s first TT victory, solidifying the Dunlop family’s legendary status at the iconic motorcycle race. Watching on the TV from home it was clearly an emotional moment for him.

The following day was the Superbike TT race over six laps. I hadn’t given Dunlop a chance of victory given the strength of the field on the Superbike, particularly Peter Hickman. I had expected the Hickman on the M1000RR would romp to victory but by mid-race Dunlop had a commanding lead.

Leading by a comfortable margin, a mishap occurred during his second pit stop. The visor on his helmet was incorrectly fitted, causing issues as he exited. Despite attempting to fix it on the fly, Dunlop was forced to pull over on the side of the course, visibly frustrated, to make a proper adjustment. This stop cost him valuable time, dropping him from first to finish the race in fourth place.

I was quietly pleased as selfishly I had planned on his getting the 27th win on the second Supersport race. This was scheduled for Wednesday when I would be at the TT grandstand. Fate had dealt me a bonus, just had it had done Hickman who had won the Superbike race due to Dunlop’s misfortune.

To the island

The sun was shining as we arrived on the island and took a taxi ride over Fairy Bridge.

Located on the A5 road between Douglas and Ballasalla, this quaint white bridge spans the Santon Burn. While its appearance might seem ordinary, the bridge holds a special place in Manx tradition. According to legend, it’s a crossing point for the island’s fairies, the Mooinjer Veggey, or “Little People” in Manx Gaelic.

To ensure safe passage and good luck, tradition dictates that visitors utter a friendly greeting to the fairies as they cross the bridge. We all said “Hello Fairies” and carried on to Douglas.

Union Mills

The Superstock and Supertwin TT races had been scheduled to be run on Tuesday. After dumping our luggage at the hotel in Douglas, we headed out to a pub at Union Mills before the roads closed.

Nestled in the heart of Union Mills is the Railway Inn, a quintessential pub steeped in local charm. The pub was buzzing and heaving with bodies, both in and out, as race fans anticipated the imminent racing spectacle.

The sun was shining although there was a stiff breeze. It was cooler than previous years which had slowed the drying of the roads from the occasional earlier showers. After a warm-up lap consisting of the supertwins and some side cars, it became clear that the conditions up on the mountain weren’t the best. The scheduled races were cancelled and would be rescheduled.

The TT Grandstand

Our Wednesday would be spent at the TT Grandstand. It was hoped as mentioned earlier that we would see Dunlop win the 27th in the Supersport race. This however had been moved due to the weather rescheduling. Luckily Dunlop would be racing in the Supertwins and while not a nailed-on win as the Superstock, a win is a win. There was a good chance that we would see that historic 27th win.

Again it was breezy but the sun was shining and the sky was blue with just the occasional cloud, as we explored the paddock. It was quite something to see the grandstand structure in person with its tower and flags. The sight of the rows of gravity-fed fuelling in the pits just enhanced the anticipation. It conjured memories of past racing having long seen these in use over the years.

The fervent pre-race activity in the garages was very similar to that seen on my frequent visits to Oulton Park. This however had an additional atmosphere. It was the Isle of Man TT races.

Mercury Club

If being at the TT was not enough we had also been extended an invite to the iconic Mercury Club. From there we could watch the racing from a stand at the end of the pit lane. The outdoor enclosure also bordered the rider’s return road which would allow much high-fiving with the returning participants.

Michael Dunlop’s 27th TT win

As expected, Michael Dunlop rewrote history with a dominant performance in the Supertwin race. This victory secured his place as the most successful rider in TT history, surpassing his legendary uncle Joey Dunlop’s 26-year record of 26 wins. Dunlop led from the start, putting on a masterclass on the unforgiving Mountain Course. 

Despite a mid-race challenge from Peter Hickman, Dunlop upped the tempo on the final lap, narrowly missing a new Supertwin lap record. He crossed the finish line a commanding 20 seconds ahead of Hickman, etching his name as the undisputed king of the Isle of Man TT.

We had positioned ourselves perfectly in the Mercury Club garden on the corner of the return road and the winner’s enclosure and were treated to a perfect view as Dunlop, Hickman and Dominic Herbertson (with his first-ever TT podium). It was a box ticked just as we had hoped as we witnessed first-hand history being made.

The weather strikes again

The Supertwin was the only race possible on Wednesday as the changeable conditions struck. Despite the earlier sunshine and blue skies a band of clouds, showers and then heavy rain rolled in from the west. This meant all racing was cancelled until further announcements.

Catching the weather a cab was grabbed to get back to Douglas. We could entertain ourselves with beer, food and discussions of the racing that we did see.


Our flight would return us to Manchester late on Thursday afternoon after a day of sightseeing. The weather however had dealt us a hand of racing as cancelled races had been rescheduled. A plan was formed to arrange a viewing location along the course that would give us easy access to escape to the airport later in the day. The decision was made to get to Quarterbridge.

Quarterbridge is the first significant challenge for riders on the Isle of Man TT course. Located just over a mile from the start line after the long Bray Hill straight, it’s a sharp right-hand bend that forces a hard deceleration. 

This corner comes at a critical time, as riders haven’t yet built up tyre temperature and their bikes are still carrying a full fuel load. Despite its relatively slow speed, Quarterbridge demands full concentration and precise handling to navigate safely and set up for the faster Braddan Bridge complex that follows. It’s also a popular spot for spectators, with the iconic Quarterbridge pub offering prime viewing and a lively atmosphere.

Davy Todd’s first TT win

The racing schedule was to see three races on Thursday. Sidecar Race 2 reduced in distance to two laps. This would be followed by Superstock Race 1 over three laps. Finally, the Supersport Race 2 would conclude the day’s racing again running over three laps.

We took up our position overlooking the Quarter Bridge Road and looking down to the roundabout at Quarterbridge in time for the slightly delayed start of the Sidecar race. After the usual silence and air of anticipation, the sidecars were soon thundering past, braking hard for the right-hander and accelerating off into the distance. However, this would only last a lap as Sidecar World Champions, Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement, on their TT debut crashed at the Waterworks after what looks to have been a great opening lap. The race was red-flagged before an announcement that they would re-run the race later.

RL360 Superstock TT Race

I was mostly looking forward to the Superstock race and seeing the BMW M1000RR’s out on track. There’s something very accessible about the Superstok over the Superbike. You only have to rock up to your local Motorrad dealer with £30 – 40k and then ride an M1000RR home before spending a boatload more on race parts… only.

The race got off to a good start and Davey Todd got an early lead and held off Hickman, even over the mountain section that is a Hickman speciality. Todd claimed what was his first victory at the Isle of Man TT Races. On the Milwaukee BMW Motorrad, he edged out Hickman on the Monster Energy BMW by FHO Racing by just 2.2 seconds after a thrilling race. Michael Dunlop bagged a third-place finish on his MD Racing Honda.

I predict quite a few more mullets and ‘tashes will make an appearance on his fans. I might even go for one myself.

That pretty much concluded the day’s racing. We headed off for our taxi and the heavens opened giving the race organisers and the clerk of the course yet another weather headache.

A very short flight

The flight back to Manchester was brief. I mean, it was really short. At least on the way out I was served a drink before immediately being asked to put the tray up and prepare for landing. On this homeward-bound flight we had just levelled off from take off when the pilot announced that he had already started his decent into Manchester. Literally up and down.

I suspect however, that my next TT adventure will be by ferry on two wheels. We will see.


I have to credit and thank Synapse 360 for facilitating the trip, arranging the Mercury Club and being such fantastic hosts. Thank you guys.

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