Will Racing At The Isle Of Man Go On Forever?

For some, nostalgia and the love of the event will always be enough of a justification for its existence

Dean Harrison
Dean Harrison during qualifying on his superbike during the 2018 Isle of Man TT.iomtt.com

Growing up in a rural development in the ’90s, my family didn’t have cable. Instead, we got our TV channels from an enormous satellite dish in the backyard that looked like a relic from the space race. We could pick up feeds from seemingly all over the world, but without a channel guide, we never knew what would be on. Punch in “Telstar 8 13” or “Galaxy 5 11” on the cryptex-looking remote, wait five minutes for the dish to turn, and you might have found a congressional broadcast, static, or—if the planets (and satellites…) aligned—motorcycle racing.

For a bike-mad 10-year-old, coming across a motorcycle race on satellite TV was tantamount to your bubbe revealing that there were actually nine nights of Hanukkah, and then gifting you a trick dreidel with a gimel on every side.

This game of television roulette was how I saw my first Isle of Man TT.

Norton Manx
Norton Manx at the Isle of Man TT in 1952.Cycle World Archives

I remember being awed by the stone walls passing inches from riders’ helmets, giddy over Honda V-4s cresting Hailwood’s Rise and soaring over Ballaugh Bridge, and perplexed by Joey Dunlop’s indiscernible accent. The racing was at once visceral and surreal—like I’d never before seen. As Philip Roth says of baseball: “It was about the mysteries of earthly fate.”

We recollect our first TT experience (even if it was only on TV) like it was our first communion.

Practically since its inception, there’s been talk about the TT being too dangerous and that it should be canceled. You’ve heard all the reasons. What do you think? Will the TT live forever or will the bureaucrats eventually get away with shutting down the greatest race on earth?

My hope? As long as there are kids who would spend the first precious hours of their summer vacation waiting for the satellite dish to turn, hoping the Snaefell Mountain course would materialize out of the static, the race will go on. After all, bureaucrats could not fathom the righteous wrath of a 10-year-old race fan with a trick dreidel and nothing to lose.

Can you imagine a world without the TT? Comment below.