The words unsaid

3 September 2019

The master, John McGuinness on the run down Bray Hill.

Our trip was organised to coincide with the Isle of Man Classic TT, on the world's most famous motor racing circuit. On the first day of racing we took our spectator point from advice given in the race program and found the Bullock family home at “Signpost Corner”. The back yard of this house is situated right on the corner of the circuit where Hillberry Road comes in to the A18.


The view from the Bullock family home.

Their back garden has a high and thick stone wall, deep enough for two rows of chairs for spectators, and on the other side of a gate in the middle of the wall, another bigger viewing are with chairs set up. It’s a perfect spot to watch the racing, especially when they have the track radio commentary on, provide toilets, cream teas and coffee and hamburgers, all at a very friendly price. Entry is via donation to charities supporting injured riders and Medivac helicopter recovery teams. The family has a long history of sponsoring TT riders but does not do this now. There was even a little display of their TT bikes also in the back of the house. How fabulous it is.


TT Champion Maria Costello at Signpost Corner. Motorcycle racing is one sport where women compete equally with men.

As with the rest of the week so far, the racing was delayed but we hung on to our seats in the second row. Eventually the first race of the week got underway and, on account of the extreme length of the track, it was 20 minutes before the first bikes reached us. The sound of the Classic Senior TT bikes was as thrilling as the speed as they made their way around signpost corner, leant over as far as the rider would dare and then right the bike, and twist the throttle as fast as possible for the run to finish line just 2 miles away.


Killing time is an integral part of IoM TT racing. On a 60km stretch of public road on a island in the middle of the Irish Sea much can happen to prevent very high speed motorcycle racing. Fortunately there are plenty of things to keep one amused.

After just one lap the race was red-flagged, stopped, all the bikes stopped where they were. We heard there was an “incident” at Ballagh Bridge. It was almost an hour before the riders came around in two groups, following Marshalls on motorbikes. After a while an announcement was made that there would be a restart in 30 minutes for a shortened race of 3 laps. No other information was provided and I assumed that a rider had been killed or critically injured. The race was duly held and won by John McGuinness one of the famous riders we had come to see.


Wow, now thats a legend, 350 MV Agusta with Giacomo Agostino aboard! The joys of the Classic TT.

The second race of the day was also eventually held, and won by 50 year old New Zealander Bruce Anstey to much joy on the PA, his first race at the IoM after coming back from a battle with cancer. Our first day of racing had involved a lot of waiting and some nervousness, as well as the sight and sound of some wonderful old motorcycles (1950’-1960’s), and legends like John McGuiness, Michael Dunlop and Maria Costello, it was everything the TT is known for. The next morning when I checked the TT facebook site there was an announcement that 37 year old New Zealander Chris Swallow had been killed in a crash at Ballagh Bridge. What’s left to say? We had put an extra donation in the bucket on the way out.


Michael Dunlop aboard the big Suzuki in the Classic Superbike TT. A moment of reflection is inevitable when you understand that Michael has lost his brother, father and uncle to road racing motorcycles. I'll leave it to you to dig deeper and then you might begin to understand why he has to continue, at least for now. The Dunlop family story has no equivalent.

We took a ride around the TT circuit to see what it is like and to familiarise ourselves with some of the place names; Ballagh Bridge, Glen Helen, Sulby Straight, Kirk Michael, Cronk-y-Voddy, all names synonymous with the mountain course.


There can be few better places to watch motorcycle racing than from the Cregg-ny-baa Hotel


The IoM Circuit is legendary for many reasons, but the high average speeds (>200 kph!), length (60 km) and roadside hazards are the greatest challenges for both rider and machine. Just to finish any race is a substantial achievement, especially on the 1950-1960's machines of the Classic TT races we have been watching.


Heading over the mountain part of the course there is no speed limit, but substantial fog curtailed our speed. Thanks again to the world's best pillion for the on circuit images.

There is so very much more to the Isle of Man for the tourist than motorcycle racing, but motorcycle racing is what draws most of the tourists, including us.

We understand that motorcycling, in almost any form, is a fringe activity, it's not for everyone, but we really enjoy it!


Share this on: