John McGuinness at the 2014 Isle of Man TT
Image credit: Honda Racing on Newspress

Isle of Man TT: Motorsport’s Most Dangerous Event

A flat-out thrill ride around an island in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man TT is the most dangerous event in motorsport, yet racers are infatuated by it. Here’s everything you need to know about the Tourist Trophy.

Every year, at the end of May, bikers from around the world make their annual pilgrimage to a small island in the Irish Sea. After several hours on a ferry, a fortnight of passion, excitement, danger and prestige awaits them.

This is an event so infamous that is has become the mecca for bike and racing lovers. This is the Isle of Man TT. It is so renowned in fact that, alongside the Dakar, it is one of the few motorsport events to get its own game. TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3 is the third iteration of the franchise and will release on Thursday 11 May.

But what is it that makes this event so special? And why is it increasingly submerged in controversy? From the event’s prestige to its fatal reputation; here’s all you need to know about the Tourist Trophy.

What is the Isle of Man TT?

Taking place each year on the Isle of Man, the TT is today a bike racing festival. It sees bike fans and racing enthusiasts pile onto this small rock in the middle of the Irish Sea in their thousands. All to witness the next chapter in the racing event’s history take shape.

The main focus of this coming together is of course the Tourist Trophy itself. It’s time trial race that sees the best bike road racers from around the world compete on a 37.7-mile, or 60km circuit. Using everyday country roads that circumnavigate the island, the layout is high-speed. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t twisty. As the race has its own dedicated title, players can useTT IOM: Ride on the Edge 3 to see just how technical the track is.

As the name suggests, the Snaefell Mountain Course makes its way up, over and down the largest mountain on the island. Rising from near sea level in Ramsey at the North-most point of the track all the way up to 400 metres at the mountain’s peak. However, with 60km of fast roads, there are plenty of spots for spectators to sit and watch from. Wherever they sit, they’re sure to see bikes at break-neck speeds. Especially given the average speed over the course of a lap exceeds the 120mph, 200kmh barrier.

The event takes place over a two-week period. The first week allows riders to acclimatise to the track with a number of practice sessions. The second week, however, is all about the racing, with a total of ten races to entertain the fans.

Currently, the event sees several classes taking part in their own races with the headlining show being the Senior TT. This main race runs for 6 laps using fully-fledged 1000cc racing Superbikes. A pair of mid-race pitstops allows racers to take a breathe from the unrelenting action. Elsewhere, less extreme Superstock, Supersport and Supertwin bikes take part in their own two-wheel races. Finally, passenger-driver pairings take on a couple of sidecar races. However, it hasn’t always followed this schedule. Whilst sidecars won’t appear in the upcoming TT upon release, a variety of Superbike and Supersport bikes will be available for players to take control of.

An Ancient Event

In fact, the infamous bike race on the Isle of Man hasn’t always used the current Snaefell Mountain Course. Back at its inception, it ran a much longer track called the Highroads Course which added a sprint to the Southern village of Castletown. Furthermore, its first few editions didn’t feature bikes, as cars were the initial highlight for Manx motorsport.

The TT start sends riders off one-by-one in 10-second intervals.
The TT start sends riders off one-by-one in 10-second intervals. Image credit: Motorcycle Live on Newspress

It was in 1905 that bikes first took to competition on the Isle of Man on a much shorter version of the TT course. Due to the lack of power in bikes at the time, they were unable to climb the mountain section. As such, the Southern part of the course running form Douglas to Castletown, up to Ballacraine and back to Douglass again was where bikes did battle. The 1905 International Motor-Cycle Cup Race saw an average speed of 30mph during the 4-hour contest.

The event officially gained the TT nameplate in 1907 when it became the International Auto-Cycle Tourist Trophy. The 10-lap race took place on the smaller, 15-mile St John’s Course using road-legal motorcycles. This St John’s Course will feature in Nacon’s next TT game alongside several other historic layouts from the race’s past. The list also includes the 10-mile Clypse Course which hosted the TT throughout the late 1950’s.

But the first time the TT used the modern Snaefell Mountain layout was in 1911 when two separate races made up the event: a 350cc Junior TT and the 500cc Senior TT. The latter is a name still used today for the jewel in the competition’s crown. Throughout the following decades, various other classes joined the fray, including the sidecar event which has been a fan-favourite since 1923.

Mitsuo Ito competing at the TT in 1963
Mitsuo Ito competing at the TT in 1963. Image credit: Suzuki on Newspress

After the war, the Isle of Man TT became a World Championship event as part of the Motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship. The equivalent of today’s MotoGP, this meant that the big names in bike racing would compete on the course. One that, even back in the 1950’s, was considered extremely dangerous, hence the brief relocation to the shorter Clypse course.

It’s during this time that the TT became a world-renowned event, propelling it to the forefront of racers’ minds. As such, many saw it as a one of the more special races to win. Racers would flock to the TT in the same ethos as the Monaco GP or Le Mans 24.

The TT at its Height

During this time as one of the greatest events on the motorsport calendar, the TT would attract some great names. The likes of Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read and John Surtees all took wins on the island.

It’s these headlining names and factory support from top brands like MV Agusta, Honda and Suzuki that propelled the race to the minds of many. With more and more publicity, the race got bigger. And with a larger event, more spectators would attend and racers would dream of competing.

But in the end, this period of growth became the event’s downfall. As part of the World Championship, competing in the TT was a requirement for Grand Prix riders despite the circuit’s danger. After claiming several titles on the Mountain Course, Agostini announced in 1972 that he would no longer be racing in the TT.

A Deadly Reputation

With very little change from when it first hosted bikes and cars in the early 20th century, the TT Mountain Course increasingly garnered a dangerous reputation. Over its more than 100 year history, the race has on average claimed the lives of three riders per year. Last year’s running however proved especially fatal taking six riders. The total number of casualties on the circuit has now surpassed 265.

It’s effectively this danger that caused the race to drop off the Motor Cycle World Championship calendar. Even in the early days, riders complained about crashes being fatal in the majority of cases. Towards the end of the event’s moment of glory, protests and boycotts from the sport’s leaders blotted the history books.

There are a number of reasons why the Mountain Course has claimed so many lives. It is a fast layout with houses, lamp posts, kerbs and cliff edges lining it. In an effort to preserve the event’s DNA, few changes have been made in the name of safety. Whilst some stone walls feature the odd foam surround, the majority of offs will involve hitting something hard.

But, although the track sides are lethal, one must acknowledge just how dangerous the circuit is in its own right. Over 60 kilometres of tarmac connects 264 turns passing through forests making each section look identical to one another. The track is near-impossible to learn, which is one of the main reasons fans and competitors alike love it so much.

The Isle of Man in Gaming

For over 20 years, games have given riders and fans an insight into the course’s layout and intricacies. From the original SEGA titles of the 1990’s to the modern franchise, riders use them as a tool to learn the course.

Not only that, the many TT titles allow fans to put on the helmet of their favourite racers. Via the medium of gaming, racers can experience something they would never be able to do in the real world. Obviously, jumping on a bike a sending it at over 200kmh through the Manx countryside in the real world is a recipe for disaster. So experiencing even a fraction of the adrenaline the likes of John McGuinness or Peter Hickman would, without risking your life, is truly a gift.

The first game ever to represent the Isle of Man TT came out in 1995 for arcades. But a port later brought Manx TT Superbike to the Sega Saturn. This kicked off a steady stream of Tourist Trophy gaming titles throughout the mid-2000’s.

More recently, since 2018 in fact, the TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge franchise has provided the race with its gaming representation. Originally with Kylotonn, the franchise’s third iteration is in development by Raceward and Nacon. Ride on the Edge 3 releases on Thursday 11 May.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3

This third iteration of the game is set to bring big change to the series, namely when it comes to the physics. Development is switching to the team behind the much-aclaimed RiMS Racing. So expect TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3 to have far superior handling to previous titles. This is said to be most notable during braking and in the corners. Various rider aids should help to keep control of the bike and haptic feedback controller support will essentially mean this will be a bike racing game with Force Feedback.

Eslewhere, Ride on the Edge 3 will bring a new free roam mode to the game. Set on the Isle of Man as opposed to previous games’ fictional Irish map, players will get to take part in special events, time trials and challenges via this open world. It uses the standard Snaefell Mountain Course along with several connecting making up separate historical layouts from the island’s past.

As aforementioned, the game will feature two of the event’s five classes. Superbike is certainly the main draw whilst Supersport often makes for exciting racing in the real world. Around 40 liveries and riders will be available to test out across the two classes. So fans of the sport should have plenty of content to dive into. Furthermore, in the career mode, these bikes can receive upgrades to ensure the player is the fastest rider on the island.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3 is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S and X as well as PC. Those that pre-ordered the Racing Fan Edition should get access today, 9 May.

What do you make of the Isle of Man TT and the upcoming game? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

A petrol head and motorsports fan since the early days, sim racing has been a passion of mine for a number of years. The perfect way to immerse myself in my true dream job; racing driver. With lots of experience jotting down words about the car industry, I am happy to share my passion for pretend race cars here on Overtake!