Isle of Man – Racing is Life

Nov 14, 2011 View Comments by

The Isle of Man, a tiny island in the Irish Sea between England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, is a world in itself. It’s famous for the oldest motorcycle road race in the world, the Tourist Trophy.

“Never, ever in my life would I race here,” I think, riding on the Isle of Man for the first time. “Those guys must be completely crazy.” I pay special respect to the ladies who race here. We pass villages, farms, fields, alleys, open land, and low and high stone walls. There are crossings, junctions, buildings and bridges. Bright light unexpectedly changes to dark shadow. And there are potholes, jumps, bumps, blind corners, road markings, trees, milestones, banks, gravel, sand and rocks. There are things you find on every road in the world, but this is a special road. This is the Mountain Course, 37,733 miles long. And this is the track where the Tourist Trophy has taken place since 1911. The first Trophy was run in 1907 on the so-called short course.

 

Soaking It All In

We are careful to stick to the left side of the road, and going at our slow pace there is time to look around: nicely decorated houses, beautiful gardens, charming villages, animals, green hills and valleys. It’s simply magical. We stop now and then to take pictures.

Shortly after the hairpin at Ramsey the road climbs up to Snaefell Mountain, and we arrive at one of the key spots of the course, the balcony. It has one side to the sea, and the other looks down the famous long straight that leads to the also-famous corner at Creg-ny-Baa, where we stop at a nice bar and restaurant with a garden in front. When the Trophy racers rush over the island the garden is protected by bales of straw. A small balcony above us has the best view of the corner marked by a lonesome tree. And from there, there are only a few miles left to the grandstand in Douglas, which marks the start and finish of the race.

 

It’s Not Just About the Race

The Isle of Man offers other remarkable things than the key points of the Mountain Course. There’s ancient history: The island has been inhabited since 6,500 BC. The local language is Manx, a Gaelic tongue that is still taught in schools but is scarcely spoken. Tynwald, the parliament, was established more than 1,000 years ago and is the oldest continuous parliament in the world. There’s culture, sports and an amazingly beautiful coastline. Life on the island is rather quiet between the races. It’s a relaxed place where the people are friendly, curious and talkative, and they are proud to be Manx. Douglas, the capital, has a strong Mediterranean touch, with palms in the gardens of the Loch Promenade and loads of flowers. When the weather is nice everybody is out in the streets. Some even go swimming in April, at around 50 degrees.

But you can’t talk about the Isle of Man without also talking about the Tourist Trophy. It’s everywhere you go. Not only because there are motorcycles on every corner but also because almost everything is branded with the race logo.

 

Embraced by the People
Most of the Manx people enjoy the Trophy. Those who do not typically leave the island for the two weeks of the race. The lady at the security check on Ronaldsway Airport said, “I really look forward to the TT every year. For us it means that life is starting again!” The Trophy has been an integral part of the Manx identity for 104 years. Racing literally means life on the Isle of Man. And that’s why you never should go to the Mann without a motorcycle.

The 2012 Tourist Trophy marks the 105th anniversary and is scheduled to rush over the island from May 28 to June 8. There is also the annual classic version, the Manx Grand Prix, which is scheduled for Aug. 18 to Aug. 31. For more information, visit www.isleofman.com.

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