Out and About at the 2023 Isle of Man TT – Part 2
From Magic Michael to Magic Mike, the Isle of Man TT has it all
Michael Dunlop, Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison. These three riders have been dominating the podium at the 2023 Isle of Man TT Races, pushing each other relentlessly for up to 226 miles per race around the most punishing course in all of motorsports, thrilling the fans that line the roads on hedges, grandstands and pubs.
On Tuesday, spectators at one pub, yours truly included, got a chance to experience an emblematic example of what makes the TT unique. Texas’s own Chris Sarbora’s Superstock race came to a halt due to suspension and exhaust problems, pulling in at the Ginger Hall, 20 miles into the TT course. With little to do but wait it out, he chucked his bike against a hedge, ambled into the pub, had a pint of Guinness drawn, and soaked in the rest of the race with the enthusiastic spectators. He signed autographs, took pix with fans, shot the breeze, and enjoyed some of the unprecedented sunny, dry weather that has been blessing the Isle of Man all week before being rescued by his team a few hours later. Then, Channing Tatum showed up. Only at the TT.
Subsequently, after a warm up lap for the SuperStock Race 2, Chris announced his retirement from ‘Real Roads’ racing. On social media, he stated “I realized I was riding simply to finish, rather than to race. I made my peace with that over the mountain, and by the time I drove away from the Creg I was happy.
So, Dunlop is now the second most successful rider in the 116-year history of the TT, 25 wins in total, just one behind Uncle Joey’s record of 26 victories as of this report. He complimented that achievement with the first ever 130mph lap in the Supersport class as he won the second Monster Energy Supersport TT.
Hickman’s fifth consecutive Superstock win combined with his Supertwin Race 2 victory on Friday, nudged his TT win total to 12, and Hicky is in good company himself, passing the totals of legends Stanley Woods, Ian Lougher and Giacomo Agostini.
Sadly, Spanish racer Raul Torras Martinez died following an incident on the final lap of the first Supertwin TT Race. A popular rider among his peers, his passing made for more than a few moments of reflection in the paddock and across the island.
On the slidey side, The Birchall Brothers are dominant, with Ben and Tom Birchall making history with a new lap record of 120.645 mph and victory in the second 3Wheeling Media Sidecar TT Race. The Birchalls have now won 11 sidecar TT races in a row, and 14 in total.
This year marks 100 years since the first Sidecar TT in 2023, with celebrations here and a documentary being produced for the TT+ streaming platform later this year. I absolutely love the sidecar racing, and it adds a unique flair to the TT. Fast, athletic, an aural assault, with pukka race machines tuned to within inches of their lives. They are a true spectacle at the IOM TT, and long may they run.
One of the most significant changes to the TT this year is the schedule, with additional Superstock and Supertwin races, and the meet spread out across two more race days. It has been fine from a spectator standpoint, allowing for more viewing options and shorter race days. How do the racers like it though?
I spoke to Jamie Coward at his paddock moments after he finished the second SuperSport Race in fifth place. Jamie made his Mountain Course debut in 2010, and has seen the event evolve in that time, with this year’s changes being the most dramatic. “The new schedule has made the team have to work even harder and it is more intense with less time to rest and recover. But we’re doing fine, got a podium (3rd place in the Supertwins Race) great weather, the organizers are doing a hell of a job and spectators seem to be really enjoying it.” I concur.
Shaun Anderson also represents the next level of rising non-factory talent at the TT, now aiming for podiums. The Northern Irishman, who made his TT debut in 2012, is racing for Team Classic Suzuki on beautiful Suzuki GSXR-1000 machinery in the RST Superbike, RL360 Superstock and Milwaukee Senior TT Races. He then slides over to the other side of the paddock to race for Team Kibosh on a Honda 600 in Supersport.
Shaun captured 10th place in the Superbike TT and became only the 24th member of the exclusive 130 club with a blistering 130.3 mph lap. His post-race hug with his dad and mentor Howard captured the essence of what it means to scale the heights of the TT.
As TT 2023 rolls on, so do the miles on our bikes, as my mates and I tour the beautiful island and visit fantastic sites like Groudle Glen and Port Erin on off days and choose interesting vantage points for race viewing. So far, we’ve watched from The Ginger Hall Hotel, Railway Inn, Braddan Church, The Gooseneck, Creg-ny-Baa, Sarah’s Cottage, Hillberry…and a few other spots lost in the whirlwind. Still another race day left!
Having a bike at the TT just makes it a completely different experience, hence the 12,000 or so riders and their machines expected to bound off the ferries over the fortnight. The island’s excellent bus, tourist train, and taxi services make many of the viewing spots around the 37 ¾-mile course accessible to the rest, and if you’re staying in Douglas or Ramsey, you can walk to mega-good view spots as well.
The camaraderie that is created at the TT is second to none. A diverse group of people from around the world who share a common passion for motorcycles and racing, in a unique environment over two full weeks. It creates a real sense of community and unity, and over time, for those who return each year, racking up 10, 20, 50 years of TT memories, it becomes the centerpiece of their motorbike lives.
Ian Fletcher and Tim Bolton from Kent in the UK are lifelong friends and avid motorbike enthusiasts who have been coming over to the TT for years. Tim rides an Aprilia RSV, Ian a Honda Fireblade SP, and they’ve brought their fine machines over by ferry. We’re at the Railway Pub watching bikes blow by at 150+ MPH, and Ian points out that “Everyone here feels a sense of belonging. It doesn't matter where you’re from, what you do for a living, what kind of bike you ride; you're among people who understand and appreciate this remarkable event.” Tim adds “Look where we are and what’s going on a few feet away. How can you not love this?”
You can’t not love it.