Event Review: Isle Of Man TT Races 2007

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Event Review:    Isle of Man TT 2007
Words and photos:  Tim Monroe
For die-hard motorcycle roadracing fans, a trip to the Isle of Man TT races is an absolute must-do. No other race in the U.S., or even the world, quite matches the experience of seeing the TT in person. Not only is the race action great, but the atmosphere is incredible. Its you and 100,000 of your best motorcycling friends from around the world, all gathered to celebrate our love of fast motorcycles. If you have a chance to go, by all means do it!
This was the 100th year of the Isle of Man TT races. Except for a few war years, motorcycles have been racing on the island every year since 1907. Back then the roads were rough and unpaved. An Indian won the premier race that year, with an average speed of just 47 mph. 

2007 saw a new lap record being set. John McGuiness averaged just over 130 mph during the Senior TT on the last day of racing, on a Honda CBR1000RR. Wow!!! Unfortunately there was an accident during the race, leaving one rider and two spectators dead. The island can be a deadly place. The yearly death toll averages more than 2 riders per year.
 The TT features several days of racing, with various classes including sidecars. The Superbike-spec 1000’s can hit over 200 miles per hour on some sections of the track. The 600’s and sidecars are a bit slower, but no less thrilling.
We watched some races from Bray Hill, in the town of Douglas. Coming from the U.S. it is difficult to comprehend how fast these guys go, sometimes inches away from rock walls, hedges, and spectators. Our vantage point one day was the parking lot of a school, with only a few feet between us and the riders. The breeze created by a racing sidecar, from about 6 feet away, must be experienced to be believed.
Locals and visitors watch the races from almost everywhere. Yards, driveways, house windows, schoolyards, gas stations, pubs-  anywhere along the 37 ½ mile course is fair game. Its sobering to see all the hard surfaces- light posts, walls, gas pumps, etc- along the course that have been covered with haybales and padding in an attempt to soften the blow of a rider traveling at over 100 mph. 
When the races are over its time to head to the Promenade. The “Prom” is the main street along the bay where the nightly festivities happen. This year you could see a number of stunt shows and contests, as well as dozens of ancient race bikes being started up and ridden by racing legends. Where else can you see, and hear, a 1938 DKW supercharged 2-stroke race bike being ridden? And there were two of those things!! The sound was amazing, almost as nasty as the shriek from the 1960’s vintage Honda 250 six cylinder racers.
Quite a few racing legends were in attendance this year. Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, Kevin Schwantz, and a somewhat odd appearance by Michelle Duff, formerly Mike Duff.   Duff was an accomplished Grand Prix and TT racer from the 1960s who later became a transgender. The announcer called her “Mike…er I mean Michelle” a couple of times. for those of us who were not familiar with Michelle, it was a bit confusing.  Michelle has her own website, if you’d like to learn more about this fascinating person check out www.michelleduff.ca.
The entire atmosphere surrounding the TT races is amazing. With the Isle of Man’s location pretty far North, daylight stays around until 11 pm in the summer. Its pretty amusing to be at the Bushy’s tent (the excellent local brew) after 10 pm, in full daylight, watching stunters and chatting with an international crowd of mad bikers.   
Considering the danger involved with 200 mph bikes in close proximity to rock walls, its anyone’s guess how long the Isle of Man races will continue. For years there’s been talk of shutting it down. But as a substantial part of the island’s economy revolves around the annual TT races, the locals are doing everything in their power to keep this party going.

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