We continue our coverage of the 2014 Isle of Man TT. You can read Part One here.
There are multiple races through the two week TT period, varying in number of laps, classes of bike, engine size, etc. The most recent addition is the TT Zero, a two lap running of electric bikes won by racing legend John McGuinness – a 21 time TT winner. Though nursing a wrist injury suffered in a crash, he set a lap record for electric bikes at 117 mph.
The first race this reporter covered at this year’s TT was the June 3 Superstock four lap contest – and there was no day during the entirety of this year’s run that demonstrated the danger of this race.
That morning, the course was marked, but open to civilian traffic. That not only give the locals a chance to commute before race time, it gave aspiring amateur racers a chance to ride the course. Since there is no posted speed limit on the mountain stretch, those would-be racers open the throttles on their sport bikes – pushing north of 100 mph.
Such speed led to disaster that morning as an amateur racer encountered a car, lost control and died in a violent crash that delayed the start of the Superstock for two hours.
Once the official race began, it took only two laps for tragedy to strike again as British racer Karl Harris died. In keeping with TT tradition, stewards yellow flagged the corner so racers would slow down for emergency vehicles, but the race continued. Living or dead, amateur or pro, the TT rolls on undeterred.
On the pure racing side, the two big stories of this year’s TT centered around Robert Dunlop and his BMW motorcycle. Already a seven time TT winner when he came to the Isle for 2014, Dunlop would win four more races – further cementing his famous last name on the course as his uncle Joey is the winningest TT racer in history with 26 titles.
Robert’s four wins would keep a Japanese motorcycle off of the top spot at the TT most of the week, making a huge splash for the German BMW bike under him. He also won the TT Senior – the final six lap race of the season and the biggest title in play. In true TT style, Robert had to win the race while knowing his little brother (William) suffered a violent, but non-fatal crash midway through the race.
Robert Dunlop thundered on, checking on William after his victory. That’s the TT – unabashed, unapologetic, life-risking competitiveness. It’s men risking everything they are and everything they have to be the best and the fastest.
While many would question their sanity, and others would blast their priorities, their commitment and courage is a wonderful exploration of free will and choice in a time when men are rarely allowed to live, fight and compete as they wish. The men who die racing do so of their own free will and because racing is what they love.
The racers and spectators at the TT know the dangers, and they choose to face them to enjoy a sport they love. Elsewhere in the world, they’d be “protected” from experiencing all of that by smug moral busybodies who believe such unenlightened and foolish common people must be protected from their own foolishness.