Isle of Man TT: Top 10 Greatest Races
IoM TT Racing History
More than 100 years later and world’s most fearless motorcycle racers still venture to the Isle of Man every summer for the same reason the riders did in 1907, the Tourist Trophy more commonly known as the Isle of Man TT.
It was the spirit of speed that brought the original TT motorcycle-racing competition to the Island as racing in Britain was forbidden by a 1903 Act of Parliament that introduced a speed limit of 20mph.
The Secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, Sir Julian Orde, set off in February 1904 for the Isle of Man because he had a fairly shrewd idea that the Manx authorities would adopt a more conciliatory attitude toward TT racing on public roads.
He was right. The Highways (Light Locomotive) Act 1904 gave permission in the Isle of Man for the 52.15 mile “Highlands” course for the 1904 Gordon Bennett Car Trial, the British trial for the fledgling European racing championships.
The result has produced some of the world’s most spectacular motorcycle road racing action. Below is a list of the top 10 IoM TT races as conceived by the Official Isle of Man TT governing body.
1935 Senior TT – Woods vs Guthrie
Stanley Woods beat Jimmy Guthrie by four seconds after a masterful tactical stroke during the closing stages of the 1935 Senior. Norton-mounted Guthrie led the race by 26s going into the last lap but his team, seeing Woods’ Moto Guzzi crew preparing a pit-stop, signalled Guthrie to ease his pace – only for Woods to flash past the pits without stopping. Woods set a new lap record to win the race by three seconds.
1967 Senior TT – Hailwood vs Agostini
Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood fought out arguably one of the greatest races in TT history in the ’67 Senior. Ago – riding an MV Agusta – broke Hailwood’s lap record on the first lap but the Honda rider fought back, with another new record of 108.77mph but was still down by 8.6s. But after the pit stops, there was virtually nothing between them and the closest TT finish ever looked on the cards until Ago’s MV chain snapped on the penultimate lap.
1976 Senior TT – Herron vs Williams
John Williams smashed Mick Grant’s lap record by 27s and took the speed up by 2.65mph to 112.27mph in a stunning charge on the works Texaco Heron Suzuki RG500 in the ’76 Senior. Going into the final lap he had a three-minute lead over Yamaha-mounted Tom Herron but Williams’ Suzuki had to push his out of fuel Suzuki in from Governors and wound up seventh while Herron won the race. Not a close finish but a typically dramatic TT race.
1977 Sidecar TT Race A – O’Dell/Arthur vs Greasley/Skeels
With the demise of World Championship races at the TT, the Sidecars were given two races and capacity limits upped to 1000cc. On the first lap of the opening race Dick Greasley and Mick Skeels broke the 100mph lap from a standing start on their Yamaha but George O’Dell and Kenny Arthur – also on a Yamaha-powered outfit, upped the ante and with a record-breaking 102.80mph final lap, to beat Greasley by 50s.
1979 Classic TT – George vs Hailwood
The Isle of Man celebrated its millennium in style with an epic, six-lap Classic race in 1979. Alex George led the first four laps, riding a 1000cc Honda Britain four-cylinder, four-stroke. Mike Hailwood, riding a four-cylinder, two-stroke Suzuki RG500 fought back ad going into the final lap led by 0.8s but George was stronger over the Mountain and won the race by a mere 3.4s – at a new record average of 113mph
1992 Senior TT – Hislop vs Fogarty
Carl Fogarty and Steve Hislop were riding unfamiliar bikes at the TT; Foggy on a Loctite Yamaha OW01, Hizzy on an Abus-backed Norton rotary. But it didn’t stop them delivering one of the greatest-ever Senior showdowns. Hislop broke his own lap record. Fogarty raised it to 123.61mph but Hislop took the race by 4.4s and set a new race record of 121.38mph in Norton’s first TT win since 1973, their first Senior victory since 1961.
2000 Formula 1 TT – Dunlop v Jeffries
Joey Dunlop was riding Aaron Slight’s WSB Honda SP1 1000cc v-twin. David Jefferies was on the V&M Yamaha R1. Joey revelled in the tricky mixture of wet and dry conditions around the 37.73mile course and while Jefferies briefly led on the fourth lap, Joey was back in front thanks to a slick pit stop by the Honda team. Jefferies was eventually sidelined with engine failure. Joey won the race by almost a minute.
2008 Senior – McGuinness vs Donald
The 2008 Senior was the kind of close-fought scrap that defines the modern era of TT racing. Early on there were five riders in contention. On the last lap it came down to two: Cameron Donald, on a Relentless Suzuki, had five-second lead but John McGuinness was charging on the Padgetts Honda. Donald’s bike sprung an oil leak while McGuinness’ last lap of 129.517mph ensured him the victory to equal Mike Hailwood’s TT win record.
2010 Sidecar TT Race 2 – Klaffenbock/Sayle vs Holden/Winkle
Former World Sidecar champion Austrian Klaus Klaffenbock and passenger Dan Sayle made it a Sidecar TT double by winning a dramatic second race during the 2010 TT. Thanks to a spirited run over the Mountain on the final lap, Klaffi recorded the fastest race lap at 114.15mph to defeat Suzuki pair John Holden and Andy Winkle – clinching victory by just 1.12s after being some 10s down going into the lap. Klaffi was the first non-Manx winner of a TT sidecar race since 2003.
2010 Superstock TT – Hutchinson vs Farquhar
Ryan Farquhar went into the fourth and final lap of the 2010 Superstock TT with a 5.54s lead but Ian Hutchinson was on a mission and, by the time they had reached the Bungalow, was up by 1.29s. Hutchinson crossed the line to win the race by 1.3s thanks to a stunning new lap record of 130.741mph – the first-ever Superstock 130mph lap. The Padgett’s Honda rider won a record-breaking five solo TT races in the week.