Out and About: 2024 Isle of Man TT Wrap-Up

Andrew Capone
by Andrew Capone

“There is a grey blur, and a green blur. I try to stay on the grey one.” – Joey Dunlop

Photos by Isle of Man TT Races and Andrew Capone.

The 2024 Isle of Man TT is done and dusted, and a new King of the Mountain has been crowned, Joey’s own nephew Michael Dunlop. With three more victories, he now stands at 29 TT wins, the most successful rider in TT history, breaking the 24-year-old record held by ‘Yer Maun.’ But the fortnight also saw a new force emerge, Davey Todd, who won his first two TT races. The Milwaukee BMW Motorrad rider nipped Peter Hickman in the first RL360 Superstock TT Race by a scant 2.2 seconds, the lead pinging back and forth throughout.

Davey Todd leads Michael Dunlop at The Raven, while fans look down from their choice pub location.

Todd then capped off the fortnight by winning the Milwaukee Senior TT, shortened to four laps from six due to weather contingencies, over Josh Brookes and Dean Harrison in third. Hickman, leading the Senior on lap 1, came off his bike without injury at The Ginger Hall, where he was able to find some comfort in a complimentary Bushy’s Piston Brew brown ale.

Davey Todd, winner of the Milwaukee Senior TT and a new force to be reckoned with on the Isle of Man.

But you probably knew all that already, right? The immediacy of social media, online news updates, Manx Radio’s live digital coverage, the TT+ streaming platform…the days of waiting for race details from across the pond are in the rear view. Heck, back in the day, we had to wait for Cycle Magazine to publish their August edition for the tea on the TT. So, just as I’ve done here at Motorcycle.com for the last decade, I’ll focus on some of the things that make a trip to the Isle of Man TT a unique and most memorable experience. Here goes.

The Sidecars

The Crowe Brothers climb the mountain on the way to Sidecar TT glory.

They are magnificent, and we need to make them a thing in the U.S.. Manxmen Ryan and Callum Crowe won both 3wheeling.Media Sidecar TT Races, bringing great pride to the homeland. And in a passing of the torch moment, Dave Molyneux, the most successful sidecar driver in TT history, announced his retirement from the sport, where he won a remarkable 17 TT races since making his debut in 1985.

Sidecars are incredible to watch, and the machines’ look, sound, physicality, and teamwork could be a gateway to motorcycle sport for new U.S. audiences. Under aerodynamic bodies lie purpose-built 3-wheel chassis more akin to Formula cars than motorcycles, with howling 600cc engines, flat out at 16K rpm for much of the 37 ¾ mile, 219 turn TT Mountain Course. With the pilot on his knees and the ‘passenger’ flipping about the outfit like a demented modern dance practitioner, they are a sight and sound to behold.

The Crowe Brothers with some serious hardware and bubbly.

Sidecar racing is popular in Europe and has been a fixture of the TT since 1923, and there are movements afoot to broaden participation, awareness, sponsorship, and prize money. U.S. native, now Isle of Man resident Chris Beauman, is the owner of the 3wheeling.media platform, the lead sponsor of the two TT Sidecar races and seeks to promote and grow interest in the sport.

Three-time AMA National Champion and Motorcycle Hall of Famer Larry Coleman, America’s most successful sidecar road racer, was visiting the TT this year, and told me, “In the U.S., the sport has had its ups and downs. At one time the AMA had a pro class for sidecar road racing, and it did very well. Now the most active sanctioning club is AHRMA.” Larry wants to spearhead a modern sidecar movement in the U.S. by partnering with 3wheeling.media and generating interest among racers, sponsors, and enthusiasts. “The sport has lots of potential. It is a crowd favorite and when seen by non-enthusiasts it always gains new followers.”

I concur. Check out 3wheeling.media for superb sidecar content and join the movement.

The Paddock

The Fan Zone, adjacent to the TT Paddock, the heart of the TT Races.

The heart of the TT beats in the paddock, which unlike the impenetrable, VIP-only ones at many pro race meets, allows for big fan interaction. The top riders are surrounded by fully formed, well-funded race squads, with top notch facilities, astride $100K + Superbikes. Still accessible and present, mind you, to the fans looking to chat or get photos, but with a serious race vibe. Then there are the privateers and newcomers. The bulk of the grid, these riders are often crewed by family and friends, funded and branded by enthusiasts and small businesses, and take two weeks off from their day jobs to attack the Mountain Course, working within narrow budgets and sleeping in the transporter or tents behind the paddock. They embody what the TT has been for a hundred plus years.

In the paddock, moments after placing 8th in the Senior TT, the effervescent Northern Irishman Shaun Anderson with the author and fellow traveler John Santapietro.

These brave souls will push to earn a few hundred quid appearance fee and an 11-inch-tall replica trophy. A ‘Silver Replica’ is awarded to the riders finishing within 105% of the winner’s time, a ‘Bronze Replica’ to those finishing within 110% of the winner’s time, or the self-explanatory ‘Finishers Medal’ to everyone else.

Gareth Arnold, preparing for Qualifying.

Manxman Gareth Arnold is a 21-year-old construction worker from Ramsey, with impressive early results in Irish and IOM road racing. His passion is funded by his own work income, some sponsorship, and, significantly, by the steadfast physical and financial support of his mom, Jennie.

I spoke to Jennie while Gareth was patching the stone-holed radiator of his car minutes before he went out for qualifying laps on his Cowton Racing Kawasaki ZX-600-RF and JENAR Racing Aprilia RS 660.

Gareth Arnold at Parc Ferme, the TT Course.

“It is so challenging on a shoestring budget,” said Jennie. “Gareth’s performances on much lesser machines with old tires have been fantastic. We don’t have holidays, and new clothes and shoes come second to race fuel.”

For the record, my mother had a very different concept of triage regarding necessities.

“Gareth works hard and is so excited by bikes, especially 2 strokes and classics,” added Jennie. “His goal is to podium on his own TZ250 in the Manx Grand Prix, and to enter World Endurance Racing.”

I grabbed a few minutes with the unassuming but incredibly focused Gareth. “I’m enjoying it, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing, and the results are promising, but we know we need to fund better equipment.” When I asked how it felt to be out there following and analyzing the established riders, he, without hesitation, added, “Well, some of them are following and analyzing me now.” A good lad, indeed.

On his skimpy budget, but with fire in his belly, Gareth earned Bronze Replicas in both the Supertwin and Supersport classes at the 2024 TT. Watch out for him and check out his GoFundMe if you want to chip in on a new set of tires.

Jamie Coward signs a lucky fan’s new Arai TT helmet.

The Craic

In addition to sidecar racing and moms like Gareth’s, America needs more craic. A word seldom used in the U.S., craic approximates loosely to shooting the breeze or spirited conversation, but is at its essence, a sensation, a feeling, an Irish expression of a great time. There is no place on Earth as craic-laden as the Isle of Man at TT time. Everywhere you go, you’ll meet like-minded people, beaming with the spirit of this wondrous event. The exhilarating fortnight of motorbike racing, camaraderie, good food and drink, and stunning environment bring people together like nowhere else in motorsport.

Up the Gooseneck, one of the best vantage points on the TT Course.

One blustery day, my crew rode up the beaten path to the Gooseneck on an array of bikes – a Honda Transalp, a Triumph Speed Twin 900 and 2 Tiger 660 Sports, and Suzuki 1050 and 650 V-Stroms. The Gooseneck is a sharp uphill right, 25 miles into the course, just after the climb up from Ramsey and the start of the Mountain. As weather moved in and scotched the second race, we rode off and took refuge at the Mitre Hotel, pub in Ramsey, at a table graciously shared by local chap Colin Dearden, his daughter Nicky and her partner Mark Hoey. Much craic ensued, with American, British, Welsh, German, and Manx inflections of the English language bouncing about, and the commonalities being laughter and motorbikes. Just some of the unplanned but most enjoyable hours.

Craic with Colin Dearden, his daughter Nicky and her partner Mark Hoey at The Mitre.

Italian motorbike night at the wonderful Foraging Vintners in Port Erin, supplemented by the fine barbecue of Smoky Sam, brought together a mixed table of friends old and new, surrounded by historic machinery, in one of the most beautiful spots anywhere. Yes, there was craic. And an old Ducati 851 stuffed with a 996 motor, an MV 750 4, and a cool Mondial 125 that I want, because we can’t have it in the U.S.

A trusty Vespa at Italian Bike Night at Foraging Vintners.
A sweet little Mondial 125.

Murray’s Motorcycle Museum is as dense and chaotic a collection as I’ve ever seen,but holds a magical cross section of street and race bikes, and an enormous bounty of engines, photos, and ephemera. Murray himself holds court, and Paul Johnson, manager/docent, can regale with stories of bikes, riders, and shenanigans, some of them true.

Paul Johnson of Murray’s Motorcycle Museum. Go ahead, ask him anything.

Noa Bakehouse offers wonderful breads and pastries by day, and on select evenings, turns into a music venue with their own microbrews on tap. Our friend Ed Oldham of Sound Records brought us in to see a great show by local indie band Baad Acid (think Wire/Pixies/Radiohead) with an entirely local, younger adult crowd, and an entirely different craic. Not what one would expect at TT, right?

Baad Acid at Noa Bakehouse presented by the Isle of Man’s Sound Records.

A cabin tucked away behind the main grandstand sports the logo ‘TTRA 38th Milestone’ and houses the TT Riders Association and support group Friends of the TTRA. According to historical references, the spark for the TTRA occurred during the 1949 races, when a rider crashed and died, with his family having no financial means to return his body home. He was buried in a pauper’s grave, with just a pair of motorcycle handlebars as a headstone. TT start-line flagman Rueben Harveyson was so incensed at this injustice that he called a riders’ meeting in Belfast later in the year, and as a result the embryo of the TTRA was formed.

A hut full of history and craic. The TTRA by the paddock and grandstand.

Membership to the TTRA is open only to those who have started in a TT race, a purely social and benevolent association that raises funds to cater for TT riders or their dependents in need. The Friends of the TTRA enables enthusiasts to put something back into the race and support the riders via fundraising. I met with dear friend Helen Gibson, Secretary of the FOTTRA, who told me that, “We’re evolving to meet the needs of today’s TT riders, while continuing to support the veteran riders in need, and recruiting new members. It’s a wonderful way to be a part of the TT.” The banter inside the hut, with racers, team members, volunteers, and fans dropping in and out is precious, and the history palpable. Check it out here.

The Future

Out and About on the Isle of Man on motorbikes. Sublime.

In 2008, as I flew back from my ‘bucket list’ trip to the Isle of Man, I made the vow to return every year, and I have, save for the two meets cancelled by Covid. Much has changed, but the essence of the TT remains. There is nothing else like it, and likely never will be.

While the race meet’s demise has been predicted many times over its 117-year history, the challenges are greater than ever, and many old timers loathe the arrivistes and long for a simpler time of pudding basin helmets and Manx Nortons, the health of the event is taking a turn upward. This year, almost 38,000 people travelled via ferry to the Island for TT, the highest number of passengers carried during the races since 1986 outside the 2007 centenary festival. 13,385 motorbikes and 5,488 cars and vans arrived, with overall numbers up by 11 percent compared to last year. Hotels, homestay rooms and campsites were rammed. Bars and restaurants and events across the fortnight were packed. And while airport numbers are not yet available, I can attest to crowded and expensive flights. And the number of American visitors is through the roof, a huge change since my early experiences here, and one that is already resetting travel, accommodation and hospitality needs.

Davey and Deano with the fans, right off the podium.

As I noted in my earlier column, Paul Phillips, Head of Motorsport, takes the sustainability and growth of the TT seriously. “We are the custodians of the TT and want to hand it off to future generations of riders, fans, and stakeholders in its best form, just as it has been for the last 117 years.” That’s a big responsibility, and the right attitude.

Paul Phillips, Head of Motorsport, IOM.

They say it takes more than five years for riders to learn the TT Course. What I have learned over the last 15 years in the far less dangerous pursuit as a tourist, is that while the races are the centerpiece of the experience, it is getting out and about on the Isle of Man, and the resulting craic with friends old, new, and fleeting, that makes this fortnight the best two weeks of the year.

The New Jersey crew, with a dash of Germany and Wales, at Pointe of Ayre, IOM.

Italian Poet Cesare Pavese wrote, “We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.” Only moments which matter to us remain vivid. And no place or event has given me more vivid, etched moments to remember than the TT Races on the Isle of Man. I’m looking forward to many more.

Memorable moments at the Isle of Man.

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Andrew Capone
Andrew Capone

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4 of 6 comments
  • Mad4TheCrest Mad4TheCrest on Jun 19, 2024

    Great coverage! Very happy for Michael and Davy Todd, relieved that Hicky walked away from his off, and looking forward to more great TTs with Capone reviews!

  • Charles opitz Charles opitz on Jun 23, 2024

    great read...this year was my first opportunity to be there...met some GREAT people from the Isle a few years ago and they invited us over...wow, what an unbelievable trip!...the bikes, the racing, the scenery, but above ALL of it, the friendship, politeness, comradery was beyond anything i expected...easily the friendliest motorcycle event i have ever been to...i now feel like i HAVE to find a way to do it again

    • Andrew Capone Andrew Capone on Jun 24, 2024

      Charles, shame we couldn't meet up over there. Your sentiment is exactly what keeps me going back year after year. Hope to see you over there next time!