Motorcycle: Sports Two Wheels - Racing On The Roads
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 17:43:44 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
Racing On The Roads
For many years the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy was the world's greatest motorcycle racing event. Even today there are those who maintain that the legendary 37.7-mile (60.6-kilometre) Mountain course makes the TT the supreme test of rider and machine. And although purpose-built circuits now dominate the sport from amateur to world championship level, pure road racing continues at places as far apart as Ireland, Belgium and New Zealand.
The TT's history dates back to 1907, when the Isle of Man was chosen as a race venue because competing on public roads was banned on mainland Britain. The event was known as the Tourist Trophy because machines had to be fitted with brakes, mudguards and a toolbox. Rem Fowler averaged just 36.2mph (58.2kph) when he won the twin-cylinder class on a Peugeot-engined Norton, pedalling up hills and stopping several times to repair punctures and broken drive-belts.
By the early 1920s, winning riders were averaging over 50mph (80kph) in gruelling races of five or more laps. On his TT debut in 1922, Stanley Woods had time to have his clothes catch fire while refuelling, stop to mend his engine and then crash and remount yet still finish fifth. Woods went on to win a total of ten TTs between 1923 and 1939. Speeds had risen sharply by 1950, when Norton's Geoff Duke raised the lap record to 93.33mph (150.19kph) on the way to his first victory. Duke dominated the TT during the 1950s with six wins, but it was Bob Mclntyre who set the first 100 mph (160kph) lap - riding a four-cylinder Gilera in 1957.
Heroes in the 1960s included Giacomo Agostini, who scored ten wins, and Mike Hailwood, whose total of 14 victories included the 1967 Senior in which "Mike the Bike" bea "Ago" in the race that many fans still consider 111 to be the greatest TT of all time.
Hailwood's most famous win came in 1978 11 when he returned from retirement to take the Formula One race on a Ducati. By then the had lost its world championship status, and stars such as Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts refused to risk the obvious dangers of racing at speed between stone walls.
But the TT continued to produce its own breed of heroes into the 1990s, when men like Joey Dunlop - who won a record nineteenth TT in 1995 — and Steve Hislop lapped at average speeds of 120mph (193kph). Racing on the roads will never regain its former prestige, but events continue to take place at circuits including the TT, Ireland's North West 200 and Belgium's Chimay.
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