For motorcycle road racing enthusiasts, the Isle of Man TT is perhaps the biggest spectacle our sport has to offer. In my opinion, it’s an even bigger spectacle than attending a MotoGP race. The action, drama, speed and aura of the Mountain course is what excites me about the race. And it’s the increased level of danger a natural road course entails that makes it an event I have no interest in participating in. It’s by that same token that I rate the athletes who do tackle the TT as heroes.
In 2014, attendance at the TT was reported at more than 43,000 people. That’s nearly 39% better than 2011 and equates to over $37 million annually for the local economy and $3 million in gross commercial revenue, according to an Isle of Man TT press release. And this doesn’t factor the millions who watched from home throughout the world. Take into account that promotion and organization of the TT has been undertaken exclusively by the Isle of Man government, and it’s a rather impressive feat. No doubt, the TT is riding a wave of popularity, one that would have been unheard of after the race was taken off the Grand Prix championship calendar after the 1976 season due to the rising death rate. The race was so unpopular amongst racers even the great Giacomo Agostini, 10-time TT winner, boycotted the event after 1972.
With the TT’s recent success, in 2011 the Isle of Man Government Department of Economic Development announced plans it was developing a TT Races World Series. Events would be run in the Southern Hemisphere in order to take advantage of the warm weather. Today, in fact, the IOM Today reported an update to the proposal.
The island spent over $300,000 simply researching the feasibility of such an endeavor, and meanwhile the government is accepting offers from experienced promoters interested in taking over promotion and management duties from the local government by 2017, at which point the TT series would also be launched. According to the IOM Today, expansion into other countries would present commercial growth opportunities, as the Isle of Man would receive a cut of the franchise fee the host country pays.
So, if one TT race is good, then six races, which is the proposed number of events, would be even better, right?
Not if you ask me. Though I’ve never been to the Isle during TT week, part of what makes the Isle of Man TT special is the exclusivity of the event. In talking to people who have gone – both riders and spectators alike – it’s a two-week long party that happens once a year, an event people save up for and mark off on their calendars. Spectators blow their vacation days, and their paychecks, to come to the TT. If there are six other road course races, fans may only have enough cash to afford one, potentially hurting attendance – and the local economy – at future TT races.
From a rider’s perspective, the TT has achieved the success it has in recent years because not only are top level riders participating, but there’s also a strong support system for new riders tackling the race for the first time. New riders get extensive training from knowledgeable experts, some former race winners, on the do’s and don’ts of the Mountain Course. This will be almost impossible to provide at other venues, since the venue will be entirely new to everyone. Not to mention, after the day’s events are over at the TT, experts and noobs alike are treated like rockstars when they venture out into the local pubs. Needless to say, there’s incentive for both groups to come back year after year.
If a TT series were to launch, how many teams and/or riders would be able to afford to participate? (Hint: not many.) Further, the more events you have, especially on a road course circuit, the greater risk there is of a competitor crashing and/or losing their life. Let’s face it, the big name stars of the TT are huge attractions for the fans. Their absence would obviously be devastating, but having lost them at an event leading to the TT would question the value of said event to both the fans and the local governments alike.
Basically, making a TT series would dilute the brand, not strengthen it. By now, the course itself has become just as famous – if not more so – than the racers who choose to tackle it, and building a random street course through another city wouldn’t have the same appeal. TT officials are letting the success of their event get to their heads, and instead of strengthening their core product, are on the verge of jumping the shark.
Would you like to see an Isle of Man TT series at other locations in the world? Tell us what you think in the comments section.