Isle of Man TT Wrap-Up: A week of highs and lows

Photo: IOMTT

I’ve written about the Isle of Man races condemning the unbelievable danger and regular rider deaths. I’ve also, after actually visiting the races in 2010, since written about the Isle of Man races marveling at the talent, skill – and bravery – of the riders who do astounding feats around the place.

Well, this year it’s a bit of both. Four riders – two solos and two sidecar riders – lost their lives chasing glory at the world’s oldest and most demanding road race (Andrew Soar, Ian Bell, Dwight Beare, Paul Shoesmith). That’s the terrible tragedy, for them, their teams and friends, and of course most of all for their families.

On the triumph side of things, there was also much to celebrate in spite of the tragedies of those who died. Ian Hutchinson took three of the major solo races – both Supersport (600 cc) races and the Superstock (vaguely stock-ish 1,000 cc) – to become the winningest rider of the year. That was a bit of a Cinderella comeback, as after his incredible five victories in 2010, he had a bad crash in a British superbike race that ended with literally dozens of operations on his left leg and years of agonizing rehab. To this day his left leg is almost useless, and his bikes have to be modified for a right-hand shift. His series of victories this year are a testament to his unswerving willpower.

Top bragging rights of the week still went to Michael Dunlop, nephew of the legendary Joey Dunlop. Michael raised his TT win total to 13 with victories in the Superbike and Senior races (basically a repeat of the Superbike contest). He also set a new absolute lap record in only his second Senior win – several riders shattered the old one – with an incredible average speed of 133.962 mph (215.5 km/h) on what in Canada would be regarded as secondary roads with medium-quality pavement. Absolutely unbelievable.

John McGuiness, factory Honda ace and winningest TT racer after the fabled Joey Dunlop with 23 wins and 44 podiums, didn’t have any wins this year. He was leading the TT Zero electric bike race on his Mugen Honda when it suddenly quit. After pulling over, he realized he’d inadvertently hit the kill switch over a bump! The win went to his Mugen teammate Bruce Anstey, the New Zealander taking his first TT Zero win, third in a row for Mugen, the others being taken by McGuinness. The result won’t do anything positive for McPint’s quest to get Mugen to give him one of the bikes he’s won on; the company promised him a bike if he lost a bunch of weight, which he’s so far failed to accomplish. The weight doesn’t seem to slow the 44-year-old down much – he still managed podiums in the Superbike and Senior races.

Anstey, his team-mate for that one race, had an interesting week as the 47-year-old Kiwi rode a privately-entered Honda Honda RC213V-S in the Superbike and Senior races. The RC213V is Honda’s rare and ultra-expensive street bike based on its Moto GP machine, and only weeks before the TT, Padgett’s Motorcycles, a huge U.K. dealer with a long history of racing, decided to build one for competiton. Anstey, definitely a TT specialist racer, said the bike was fantastic, much easier to ride than a superbike, and proved it by carding a remarkable eighth in the Superbike race and fifth in the Senior event, absolutely incredible for a bike’s first outing.

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