After three long years, an unmistakable roar once again echoes down Bray Hill in Douglas before reverberating through the quaint towns, villages and glens of the Isle of Man’s spectacular countryside.
It’s a sound that gets louder as the crowds at the hedge strain their necks for a better view and turn their eyes to the street. And then, within an unbelievable split second and a roaring VRROOOMM, another bike is gone.
What Murray Walker has dubbed “the finest motorsport event in the world” – the Isle of Man TT – is back and a community of supporters, some of whom have been pilgrimaging longer than the Queen’s 70-year reign, have returned for their two favorite weeks of the year.
From the lonely elderly man riding off the ferry on a mobility scooter with a suitcase in a basket, to bachelor parties who also cheer up for nightly acts like Jessie J, Primal Scream, Madness and Sister Bliss, every segment of society is represented .
But there can be no doubt about the stars.
Training began last Sunday ahead of the start of this weekend’s races, when a group of the bravest – some would say the most reckless – athletes in the world will reach speeds in excess of 200mph over 60km and 264 turns of open roads.
Tragedy struck again on Wednesday when Mark Purslow, a 29-year-old Welshman, was killed during qualifying, but the show goes on as always.
“Mark grew up racing and was inspired by his father’s love of the sport,” the organizers said in a statement. “He embodied the spirit of the private TT racer. Becoming a TT racer was a lifetime dream. The TT races will continue – but always with Mark in mind.”
Descriptions vary, but most agree that the TT could not take place anywhere but in this self-governing island nation of 85,000:
“You drive around and think, ‘We should be in jail.'” -John McGuinness.
“You can’t take any drugs in the world that will give you that.” – Gary Johnson.
“It’s like sitting on an Exocet rocket.” – Milky Quayle.
“An expression of humanity.” -Dr. Gareth Davies.
“A suicide squad.” -Barry Sheene.
From the start of racing in 1907 until Purslow’s death this week, the circuit has claimed the lives of 261 people. It has also spawned a thousand legends and after two aborted years, many of the modern day greats are back.
There’s McGuinness, a 50-year-old winner of 23 TTs who has raced long enough to share a podium with his legendary hero – record-breaking 26-time winner Joey Dunlop.