Jun 13, 2022 - Sports

Isle of Man TT: The world's deadliest race

A racer on a motorcycle in the 2007 Isle of Man TT.

A competitor during the 2007 Isle of Man TT. Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images

The Isle of Man TT, the deadliest race on Earth, returned this weekend after two consecutive COVID cancellations. Sadly, so did the fatalities.

Driving the news: Five competitors died at this year's event, the second-most ever behind 1970 (six). Among them were Roger and Bradley Stockton, a father-son duo from England. Bradley was just 21.

  • There are calls for the race to be banned, but competitors say they know the risks — and even families of the deceased want it to continue.
  • The family of Mark Purslow, a 29-year-old who died this weekend, said they take solace in knowing that "if he was going to go this would be the way he would want to, and that he would be smiling."

The big picture: Overall, 265 competitors have died in races on the island's infamous 37.7-mile Mountain Course since the TT's 1907 debut.

  • The race lost its world championship status in 1976 after a particularly bad spate of deaths (20 from 1970 to 1975), but the participants' love of the event has kept it going strong 50 years later.
  • Another key to its survival is the economic boost it provides the small island nation. 46,000 visitors spent $46 million during the 2019 event, which is about one-third of the nation's annual tourism income.
A Google Maps screenshot of Isle of Man
Screenshot: Google Maps

How it works: This year's event comprised eight races across six different vehicle classes: five single-rider motorcycles and one with a passenger riding in a sidecar.

  • The format for all races is time trial, with each competitor's start staggered by about 10 seconds. Schools are closed during race week and the day of the Senior TT is a public holiday.
  • Prize money is paid out based on how you finish each lap, with more money awarded later in the race. If you win all six laps of the most prestigious race, the Senior TT, you get $22,000.

Between the lines: Plenty of motorcycle races feature riders streaking along at speeds that rival the 200 mph that competitors can reach at the Isle of Man TT. So why is this one so much more lethal?

  • The primary reason is the course itself, which is not purpose-built for a high-speed motorcycle race.
  • It's a 38-mile circuit through the mountains filled with blind turns on tree- and stonewall-lined roads, leaving little margin for error.

The bottom line: "The concept of mortality underpins everything here," per NYT. "It gives the race its prestige, opens it to criticism, makes it exhilarating, makes it terrifying. It puts the island on the map."

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