The Isle of Man TT is the longest running motorcycle race in the world, and arguably the most challenging because it is indisputably the most dangerous. Only some of the best riders in the history of motorcycling have been able to conquer the Snaefell Mountain Course and claim victory over their hundreds of competitors.
In 1906, the Austrian International Cup for Motor Cycles was plagued by accusations of cheating and sharp practices. During a train ride home following the event, the Secretary of the Auto-Cycle Club, two representatives of a motorcycle manufacturer, and a nobleman came up with the idea to host a race for road touring motorcycles on the Isle of Man that would be based off of the auto races held on closed-off public roads.
At the Auto-Club’s annual dinner in January of 1907, the idea for the race was proposed by the editor of The Motor Cycle magazine. In May of 1907, the first race was organized and held.
The first race was called the International Auto-Cycle Tourist Trophy, and was 10 laps around the St. John’s Short Course, measuring a little over 15 miles. The bikes run were required to have saddles, pedals, mudguards, and exhaust silencers, in keeping with the idea that they would have to be road touring motorcycles. There were two classes of races in the 1907 event: one for single-cylinder machines averaging 90 miles per gallon, and one for twin-cylinder machines averaging 75 miles per gallon. The average speed of the winning run was 30.39 miles per hour.
The race was taken note of, and then became known as the Isle of Man TT.
In 1909, the regulations on fuel consumption and exhaust silencers were removed to make the race more competitive.
In 1911, the course changed from the St. John’s Short Course to the Snaefell Mountain Course, increasing the course length from 15 miles to 37.75 miles. This is very nearly the same course that riders still compete on today. The Junior TT and Senior TT classes were also introduced, to promote upcoming talent and seasoned racers respectively.
One of the most exciting races said to have ever taken place occurred during the Isle of Man TT was the 1967 Senior TT. The race was a furious battle between Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini, two of the greatest racers to have ever lived. The race was a dramatic battle between the two, who both fought as hard as they could in spite of technical difficulties, setting personal records along the way. The race was won in the final miles when Agostini’s chain broke and Hailwood sped by to victory.
Over the decades, the course was altered slightly and new classes were added and removed to reflect developments in both technology and motorcycle culture, but it continues to be considered the most prestigious race in the world.