Dave Minton discovers what might be the definitive description of the Isle of Man TT circuit…
If your motorcycling interests cover Vincents you will recognize the name David Wright because he wrote the fascinating ‘Vincents in the Isle of Man’. Understandably such a specifically targeted volume appeals to a minority of buffs. Fortunately David has spread his interests beyond Vins because he writes unusually well – concisely yet entertainingly.
His latest book focuses wholly on the world’s most deservedly famous 37¾ racing miles, the Isle of Man’s TT course. There have been countless books about the TT but precious few have ever analysed the course and its history at all, let alone as pertinently, as originally and as perceptively as this.
The author has divided the near-200 page book into 10 chapters. Each chapter, apart from the first – ‘Early Roads and Riding’ – deals with specifically identified sections of the course, such as ‘The Start to Quarter Bridge’, ‘Cronk y Voddy to Ballaugh’, ‘Ramsey Hairpin to the Bungalow’. You get the picture.
Each one contains a description of the current road, its history, significant characteristics, famous riders, important changes, the kind of speeds involved, major occurrences, riding methods etc.
Uniquely, each chapter also displays photographs of particular parts of the circuit from exactly the same perspective yet from wholly different periods in time. From this one gains an unusually accurate idea of how things have changed through the century.
Classic Racers on Now…
To give a typical example of the way it once was; in the Chapter ‘Sulby Bridge to Ramsey Hairpin’ is a description of the course between Cruickshanks and May Hill taken from a 1929 race report which describes Cruickshanks as a ‘Nasty, bumpy, awkward, wallbound corner even for riders of road bikes… with the kerbstones of the corner to be missed by fractions. Ramsey demonstrates some of the most artistic riding seen in the TT… however artistic riding here had always been handicapped by the fact that the state of the surface and its associated bumps seem to vary from year to year.’
Following this are a series of comments from some of the great names of TT racing, such as Duke, Hailwood and Dunlop about the spot.
Or there is the observation on the modern climb up Ballahutchin (all names used are incorporated into detailed maps). ‘Sidecars put big demands on their engines on climbs such as Ballahutchin and during the second sidecar race in the 2007 TT, previous winner Nick Crew set a new outright lap record of 116.67mph before the engine of his LCR Honda blew on the third lap. Discussion with his engine tuner concluded that Nick had run the engine for too many miles, so from thereon he vowed that he would not do more than four laps without a rebuild. A similar problem afflicts the users of the current generation of the most highly tuned 600cc engines.’
I did not know that!
The research necessary to assemble so many facts, records, expert opinion, comment and terrific photographs of all periods demonstrates the author’s singular qualities. My one and only criticism is a fault of the publisher, who decided, unfairly I believe, to issue what deserves to be seen as the gem it really is as a mere paperback and, no less deplorable, one decorated with cover graphics plainly designed to attract teenage buyers. Do not let these minor niggles dissuade you from investing in a unique book that richly deserves to become one of the treasured classics of motorcycling literature.
RC Reviewer: Dave Minton
‘Mountain Milestone. 100 years of the TT Mountain Course’ by David Wright is published by Lily Publications. ISBN 978-1-907945-04-5. Price: £19.95. Buy a copy from Amazon at a reduced price.
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