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 Post subject: For the love of speed
PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 15:30 
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Just thought some might be interested in this.

BBC News

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For the love of speed

The Isle of Man's Tourist Trophy motorcycle races are celebrating their centenary. They've claimed dozens of lives but are seen as a symbol of freedom of choice in an increasingly regulated world.

To see a competitor flash down Bray Hill at the start of the TT is an extraordinary thing, even to the non-motorcycle fan.

The roar of even a single 1000cc engine can be heard as much in the solar plexus as in the ears.

We all think we know what racetracks look like - squiggly circuits of beautiful flat road, courses littered with safety features like gravel traps and tyre barriers.

On a normal road elsewhere, you would immediately go to jail or kill yourself

But the TT - the longest and oldest motorcycle course in the world - is 37.73 miles of closed public road. It is narrow country road, with overhanging trees, whitewashed cottages fronting directly onto the track and tricky corners bordered by solid dry stone walls.

Hay bales are often all that separates a miscalculating rider from serious injury or death.

Element of danger

Morecambe rider John McGuinness holds the current lap record at an average speed of over 129mph. Riders, who race against the clock, can exceed 200mph on some stretches.

"It's the longest circuit in the world by far. It's part of history, almost where motorcycling started. The speeds are unbelievable.

"On Bray Hill, you go from 0-180mph down a straight. On a normal road elsewhere, you would immediately go to jail or kill yourself.

"It looks ridiculously fast and mental and insane, 200mph on a road looks like absolute madness. But I leave a little bit, my safety buffer."

The Isle of Man has always been prepared to close the roads

There's no escaping the element of danger, and many riders who died pursuing the sport they love are remembered in the names of corners and milestones.

Birkin's Bend remembers Archie Birkin, killed avoiding a fish cart in practice in 1927. The Graham Memorial is dedicated to Les Graham, killed on the second lap in 1953. The 11th Milestone is a tribute to Reuben Drinkwater who died in 1949. Joey's is for Joey Dunlop, perhaps the greatest rider, who died in Estonia in 2000.

In all, more than 200 riders have died in the TT and its sister event the Manx Grand Prix over the last 100 years.

Frozen to bike

As another of the race favourites, Lincolnshire rider Guy Martin, explains: "The danger is a big thing why I like it, that's my main thing. It is thrilling. People think you are mad for saying that."

TT riders were always made of tough stuff. John Surtees, the only man to have been motorcycling and Formula 1 car world champion, remembers racing in 1959 in appalling conditions. He had to be lifted off his bike at the finish.

"I had hail and I had rain. The hail was so strong it took paint off. I sort of got frozen on the spot. Worst weather conditions I've raced in. The Isle of Man can throw everything at you."

TT FACTS

25,000 attend annually
50-55,000 this year
Average helicopter time to fallen rider - six minutes
Section of course open one-way to fans
More than 200 deaths in TT and grand prix

The TT races had their genesis in Britain's fear of speed and danger on the roads.

The 1903 Motor Act imposed a 20mph speed limit on cars, and the legal impossibility of closing roads for racing meant car and bike enthusiasts had to look for a more liberal regime. They found it in the Isle of Man.

The island, with its own legal system and distinct culture, is a very different place to its near neighbour, Britain.

On the island, aversion to the idea of speeding enforcement is so great that a "safety camera" was attacked by arsonists soon after installation.


In Britain, often referred to simply as "across" by islanders, the newspapers like to paint a picture of a manic wave of health and safety zealotry forcing kids to wear goggles to play conkers and "nannying" citizens with excessive regulation.

Long controversy

"There is that much government legislation on health and safety these days, but it ain't quite got to the Isle of Man," Martin, who also races lawnmowers, notes.

By the post-war era speeds had jumped massively
Stuart Barker, author of TT Century, lost his friend Gus Scott, who died in 2005 after colliding with a race marshal who was on the track. The marshal also died.

"You can't argue that it isn't dangerous. How much longer it can last in today's society, I don't know. Even in the 1920s it came in for flak, with people saying the bikes were too fast and it had to stop."

But the ultimate decision has to lie with the riders, and the Manx people who host the event, Barker says.

"It is a breath of fresh air to get away from the crushing environment of regulation."

To McGuinness, the safety groups who would see the race diluted are a "bunch of do-gooders".

"Everyone wants to kick it in, but we all know that we accept the risks. Maybe we are hard-nosed bastards."

Risk remains

There has, however, been a drive for better training of marshals in recent years, and more money spent on safety, but riding the course remains a risk.

Bikes have changed dramatically

David Jefferies, killed in 2003, put it succinctly to a reporter.

"No-one is forcing me to go, I'm doing it completely off my own back. I enjoy doing it. There are so many things in life that you aren't allowed to do for some pathetic reason that some bloke in a suit has decided because it's dangerous or some other reason."

But the risk is not just confined to the competitors. Unlike virtually every other motor race in the world, in the TT, the fans can taste the danger too.

One of the most notorious features of the TT fortnight is "Mad Sunday", a tradition that sees a large section of the track - from the Ramsey Hairpin to Creg-ny-Baa - made one-way to the public for one day. Fans get to be racers for a day.

Mad Sunday

There are no speed cameras on the island's A-roads. They'd be pointless. There is no island-wide speed limit, although there are limits in towns and accident blackspots.

When the government decided to extend the Mad Sunday concept to the full fortnight of the TT festival for the centenary, critics said it would be both inconvenient and an encouragement to fans to travel at unsafe speeds.

But the authorities take the view that by avoiding head-on collisions the prospect of deaths will be greatly reduced.

"They can ride the mountain course one way. Sometimes you are going to get the odd accident. They take it at their own risk," McGuinness suggests.

The TT's supporters point out it has been important in pioneering techniques to keep riders safer.

Richard Fairbairn, of Motorcycle News, says it is the world's biggest safety laboratory. Non-slip road marking paint, high-grip road surfaces and flush cats' eyes have been all been tried on the island and then adopted elsewhere.

The event is the major tourist draw to the island. This year at least 20,000 motorbikes will be brought to the island as well as many fans travelling by plane.

For every islander who despises the noise, inconvenience, crowds and danger, there is another who recognises an emblem for a little-thought-of island.

And for motorcycle fans, the TT will remain a symbol of adults being free to pursue a passion, even at the cost of risking their own lives.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2007 15:35 
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Unfortunately, I can't make the TT this year - maybe next year...

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 22:54 
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I'm just back after my third year there. Went a bit early this year as it's mental with 50k+ tourists!

I love it. As the article above says, it's one of the few places where you are expected to take responsibility for yourself without nanny telling you what you can and can't do (within reason).

Add a huge visible police presence, with manned speed traps at entrances to villages all over the place, and car drivers who actually expect to see a bike coming up the road, and it's nowhere as dangerous as the doom-mongers say it is, but I still prefer to ride around the circuit clockwise!

Long may it last! (but there won't be another centenary, I'm sad to say. :( )

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:36 
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Quote:
Long may it last! (but there won't be another centenary, I'm sad to say. )

Why not?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 18:10 
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Because nanny will eventually take over the IOM as well.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 13:18 
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MrsMiggins wrote:
Because nanny will eventually take over the IOM as well.


They've an independent government which means it won't be our nanny

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 22:55 
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Daily Mail

Quote:
Rider and two spectators killed in Isle of Man TT race
Last updated at 22:07pm on 8th June 2007

Comments (3)

A motorcyclist and two spectators have ben killed in a horrific crash in the Isle of Man TT race.

Rider Marc Ramsbotham is thought to have lost control of his bike and left the road at the 26th Milestone on the Mountain, killing himself and one onlooker immediately.

A second spectator later died in hospital from injuries sustained in the accident.

Two other members of the public were injured.

The fortnight-long Tourist Trophy - run at speeds in excess of 200mph on narrow public roads - is crucial to the island's economy, attracting about 50,000 tourists.

However it has an unenviable safety record. The all-time race death toll on the island now stands at 226.

Eight people died during the 2004 fixture - some of them fans - while seven were killed in 2000.

Another accident left a former winner, New Zealander Shaun Harris, in a critical condition in hospital and Mr Ramsbotham himself had undergone X-rays after a crash earlier in the week.

The triple fatality was only the third story on the news section of the event's official website, behind the announcement that a rider had become the first to complete the circuit at an average speed of 130mph.

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