The TT Races- First Place In Fatalities
In the world of motorsport racing, pushing the boundaries of speed and endurance means edging closer to death.
Nobody understands that more than competitors at the annual Tourist Trophy Races (TT Races), the oldest and most prestigious motorcycle chase on the planet.
Since 1911, the treacherous Snaefell Mountain Course on Britain’s Isle of Man has sent 143 professional riders to their death; add the amateur Manx Grand Prix which is run on the same course and the figure climbs to 252.
Over the same period, four-wheel racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway witnessed 55 drivers and riding mechanics die. The Daytona International Speedway had 23 car racers killed since the track opened in 1959. In continental Europe, the 24 Hours Le Mans endurance motor competition claimed 22 lives.
Not included are spectator tragedies; the deadliest in history unfolded in Le Mans in 1955 when burning pieces of a car following a crash were flung into a crowd, killing 83 people.
The Isle of Man has been home to two-wheel racing since the early 20th century when the rest of the UK kept motorized speed limits to 20 mph.
The 38-mile Snaefell Mountain Course, an open public road of twists and rises, meanders through towns and fields and is the world’s oldest motorcycle racing circuit.
The death-defying tournament includes several racing classes competing in a time-trial format: Superbike, Supersport, Superstock, Lightweight, Sidecar, Senior and Zero. Each has its own cc range and cylinder specifications.
Zero is the most recent category addition to the famed competition and refers to zero carbon emission vehicles, or electric motorbikes.
Average road speed among top performers running the circuit exceeds 120 mph and racers have cleared 200 mph at certain stretches.
In 2016, Northern Ireland’s Michael Dunlop broke the record for the fastest lap at slightly under 17 minutes, averaging 133.962 mph on his BMW Motorrod. His uncle, Joey Dunlop, was the iconic all-time world champion with 26 TT victories.
The revered “King of the Mountain” was killed in 2000 after losing control of his bike on a wet racing surface in Tallin, Estonia.
Beryl Swaine was the first female solo rider, taking up the challenge in 1962. The "Goddess of the Gas Pedals" managed 48 mph on a 50 cc Itom motorbike, alarming some officials for her safety; females were subsequently banned from the TT until 1978.
With 200 turns and a narrow road to negotiate, it’s not surprising the motorized contest has averaged over 2 deaths a year. Riders blaze around the mountainous course, careening along walls and poles with only inches to spare.
Absolute concentration and split-second timing is key; one wrong flinch can spell disaster.
The TT’s deadliest year was 1970 when six racers were killed; 2005 saw four TT fatalities and six Manx Grand Prix deaths in the same summer season.
Despite some calls over the years to discontinue the TT festival, fiercely loyal followings and economic benefits to the Isle of Man have kept the notorious race going for over a century.
If tradition ever comes with sacrifices, then the TT is a perrenial winner.
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