A lap on the most dangerous course in the world

Almost 250 riders have died in the Tourist Trophy so far. A shocking number in the 100 editions of the legendary race on the Isle of Man. There have been repeated discussions about banning speeding on winding country roads and through unsafe villages. The TT has long been out of date, say its critics. But the race survives all trends and is more popular today than ever. Danger always means a certain fascination in motorcycle racing.

There are countless passages around the Isle of Man that take the spectators breath away. The world’s best road racers pass them without batting an eyelid. Each section of this route is special in its own right, but we have selected six very special stops for you on a lap of the Isle of Man. Sit down and hold on tight, it’s going to be dangerous!

Bray Hill

The Tourist Trophy is a time trial. The drivers are sent one by one at a few seconds intervals on the almost 61 kilometers around the island, with six laps to complete. After just a few hundred meters, things get serious for the first time on lap one. In the middle of the harbor town of Douglas, the drivers have to master ‘Bray Hill’. This is a steeply sloping section of the track, which is driven through in a slight curve and is followed by a heavy compression and an equally steep uphill section.

The section after compression is extremely critical. At well over 250 km/h, the suspension of the motorcycles is initially subjected to massive strain, which then leads to a reduction in load, causing the machines to lose a lot of grip. ‘Bray Hill’ is made even more complicated by the fact that it is the first really demanding part of the route. The tires are not yet at operating temperature, and in some cases the drivers are not either. In addition, the tank being full to the top naturally has an additional negative effect on the handling of the motorcycles.

Crosby Crossroads

By the time we reach our next highlight on a lap around the Isle of Man, you should have completed any warm-up exercises and got a feel for the fully fuelled motorcycle, because the first big test of courage is about to take place. We race towards ‘Crosby Crossroads’. In sixth gear, we take a long left-hand bend through the town of Crosby, which gives the section of the route its name, towards a mighty jump.

If you go fast enough, you will inevitably lose contact with the ground. The only way to minimize the flight time is to stay as far to the right as possible on the track, but ideally not to touch the curb there. The jump has to be right, because at the speed reached here, the following right-left combination comes quicker than you would like. Considering the sharp stone walls and mighty trees at the edge of the track, a fall here is anything but advisable.

Ballacraine

The Snaefell Mountain Course, named after the island’s highest mountain at 621 metres, has been changed countless times in the 100 years since it was first used. Some sections of the course have been abandoned and new ones added, and new routes have been chosen in many passages. But one corner has survived all the changes completely unaffected: ‘Ballacraine’, a good twelve kilometres into the circuit. Here the course turns in a tight right-hand bend towards the northwest.

The approach to ‘Ballacraine’ is extremely fast, the corner is quite slow by Isle of Man standards. This requires a hard braking maneuver that begins in an inclined position, making it even more difficult. Nevertheless, the deceleration must be optimally timed in order to take maximum speed into the corner and the steep uphill section that follows. If this is not successful, you are tempted to try to make up time in the following right-hand bend, which has often led to body contact with the wall on the inside of the corner.

Lambskin

This part absolutely lives up to its name ‘Mountain Course’. The course is reminiscent of a mountain race in the Alps. Steep earthen embankments rise up to the left and right of the road. ‘Lambfell’ stretches from the foot of a small hill up the climb and consists of a complex combination of curves. A right turn is followed by a left turn, then the same thing happens again. The curves are so close together that there is absolutely no room for corrections between them. If you miss the first apex to the right, you will also pay for it in the next three curves.

This is particularly bitter because the first long straight on the route follows on the hill after ‘Lambfell’. If you have successfully completed the winding curves, you arrive here with a valuable speed bonus and can get some air for the first time. If the line was not ideal, you will lose a lot of time as a result. The relaxation phase in the curve-free section will then also be less successful.

Ballaugh Bridge

Anyone who dares to race across the Isle of Man should consult their trusted dentist beforehand and have him check whether all fillings are still properly in place. The reason for this precautionary measure is called ‘Ballaugh Bridge’ and is the only remaining arched stone bridge on the Snaefell Mountain Course. All of its siblings have either been removed from the course or levelled over the years.

Even when braking for the ‘Ballaugh Bridge’, which forms a left-right chicane when driving through, things get rough. Many bumps, some of them large, make controlled braking difficult. Once you’ve managed that, you go over the bridge, which, due to its steep curve, leads to jumps with a huge airborne position, and you land on the flat. Anyone with good suspension elements will be happy here.

Guthrie Memorial

After almost exactly two thirds of the route, we leave the last large town behind us before returning to Douglas. We head out into the wide, open areas towards Snaefell, which we pass at a little over 400 metres above sea level, i.e. around 200 metres below its summit. Now the fastest parts of the route follow, starting with the ‘Guthrie Memorial’ section.

After that, it’s almost full throttle for a few kilometers, so keeping up the pace is the top priority here. Several flowing curves are lined up one after the other, and as is often the case on the Isle of Man, a small mistake causes a chain reaction and you lose a lot of time. The ‘Guthrie Memorial’ is particularly tricky due to the curves hanging outwards on the slopes of Snaefell, which practically invite you to enter them at too high a speed. TT experts see the exit from this combination of curves as one of the most important curves for a good lap time.

If you’ve done everything right and negotiated all of the 200 or so corners as planned, you’ll complete a lap in just over 17 minutes. That means an average speed of over 213 kilometers per hour, which you have to maintain for a total of six laps. Before the race, no one knows what will happen to the drivers on these 360 ‚Äč‚Äčkilometers or more. Except that at the end, the fastest and bravest of them will definitely be at the top of the podium. In this way, the winners cheat death and become living legends.

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