Isle of Man TT: the deadliest race in the world

The Isle of Man TT, the deadliest race in the world, returned this weekend after two back-to-back COVID cancellations. Unfortunately, so do the dead.

Driving the news: Five competitors died in this year’s event, the second largest ever behind 1970 (six). Among them were Roger and Bradley Stockton, a father-son duo from England. Bradley was only 21 years old.

  • There are calls for the race to be banned, but competitors say they know the risks – and even the families of the deceased want it to continue.
  • The family of Mark Purslow, a 29-year-old man who died at the weekend, said they take comfort in knowing that “if he had to go, it would be as he wanted and he would smile”.

The big picture: A total of 265 competitors have died racing the island’s infamous 37.7-mile mountain course since the TT’s debut in 1907.

  • The race lost its world championship status in 1976 after a particularly large death toll (20 from 1970 to 1975), but the participants’ love for the event has kept it going 50 years later.
  • Another key to his survival is the economic boost he provides to the small island nation. 46,000 visitors spent $46 million on the 2019 event, about a third of the country’s annual tourism revenue.
Screenshot: Google Maps

How it works: This year’s event featured eight races in six different vehicle categories: five single-rider motorcycles and one with a passenger in a sidecar.

  • The format for all races is time trial, with each competitor’s start staggered by approximately 10 seconds. Schools are closed during race week and Senior TT Day is a public holiday.
  • Prize money is paid based on how well you complete each lap, with more money awarded later in the race. If you win all six rounds of the most prestigious race, the Senior TT, you get $22,000.

Between the lines: Many motorcycle races feature riders at speeds that rival the 200mph competitors can reach at the Isle of Man TT. So why is this one so much deadlier?

  • The main reason is the course itself, which is not specifically designed for high-speed motorcycle racing.
  • It’s a 38-mile circuit through the mountains filled with blind turns on tree-lined roads and stone walls, leaving little room for error.

The bottom line: “The concept of mortality underlies everything here,” according to the NYT. “It gives the race its prestige, opens it up to criticism, makes it exhilarating, makes it terrifying. It puts the island on the map.”

About Lillian Coomer

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