We parked at the edge of a narrow road surrounded by tall grass, in between another run-of-the-mill Suzuki Bandit 600 and a late 90s mint condition Honda VFR 750. There were already many motorbikes lining both sides of the road, the heat of their engines making the area above them shimmer. The sun was high and blazing but the wind made us glad we had our leather jackets on. With my camera at the ready, we were on our way to enjoy the Cronk-y-Voddy stretch of the race.
As we sit on a Rick and Morty picnic blanket in the communal garden of our building, sipping on a G&T at noon, because hey, it’s quarantine, the socially imposed drinking rules are out of the window, we are thinking about what we were doing this time last year – getting ready for the big trip, the Isle of Man and the TT races! We do not need to google this year’s races to know they have been cancelled, just like all the other bike rallies that usually happen in spring.
The sunglasses are not helping with the sun (is this possible in England?) so I grab my TT baseball cap bought last year as we were getting ready for the trip. It has the embroidered mountain course and the little TT Manx National Heritage pin attached to its right. Tracing the race course I get to Kirk Michael, the spot where I saw my first ever practice run.
It was exceptionally sunny that Sunday, the first day since we had arrived that the weather was good enough to get some practice laps in. The fog had cleared from the mountain and the roadsides were packed with fans standing right next to the barriers.
The soil was too damp to sit down and the grass was trampled from the many feet that passed trying to find a better spot next to the almost 90° bend. The first sidecar whizzed pass with the sidecar pilot throwing himself over the backseat of the bike. The practice had started in its earnest and the people cheered to finally see a racing bike on the road going over 110mph. We even had a faulty sidecar stopping next to us and pouring water over their overheating engine. Life was great.
The next day luck kept smiling on us and gave us another day of dry roads and no fog. The race day was on! For the first half of the day, the RST Superbikes, Sidecars and some qualifying laps, we picked Cronk-Y-Voddy, a meadow next to a nice long stretch of a hilly road. The second part of the day, the Monster Energy Supersport race was spent hanging over the barrier at Ramsey, just before another 90° bend.
By the time we got to Cronk-Y-Voddy the barrier by the race course was already packed. We found a bit of a raised area to stand on our tippy toes to try and see more than a blurry helmet passing over many excited heads.
Then, all of a sudden, we heard the distant roar of the engines.
The RST Superbike race has started and, to use the famous line here, the crowd went wild. This was the first race of the TT 2019 and it had been anticipated for days. The grumpy bikers that had spent days listening to the radio, following Twitter and drying their constantly soggy clothes had finally come to their own – colourful and shiny, the bikes were speeding past us and making all the agro of the previous days worth it.
Our luck did not last long – the first race had to be cut short after just 2 laps due to an incident on the road. After that, the rest of the afternoon races went smoothly.
Only later on in the day did we find out that the mountain road had claimed another life, the young Daley Mathison. This race is quite notorious for claiming lives, especially on the mountain stretch which is the reason the conditions have to be dry and clear for any practice or races to go on.
As the weather kept during the day, we decided to go to Ramsey to watch Monster Superbikes. We managed to find a spot right by the road and, once again, enjoy only 2 laps out of 4. The weather conditions were worsening and the last race of the day (and our stay) had to be cut short.
This was my first ever motorbike race and I can see why people are enamoured with this particular one. The road is an absolute delight to ride on, the island is interesting enough to occupy you in case the races are postponed and the prices are very affordable.
I just asked my husband why he likes the TT races so much and he said it is because he finds this the only race that isn’t all about commercialism. It’s the relaxed atmosphere on the island and that it doesn’t matter if you have the newest bike or a well used and loved ratty old thing, you are all there for the same thing – to enjoy a world famous race in good company.