TOP 10 CLOSEST TT FINISHES
The Isle of Man TT Mountain Course may be some 37 and ¾ miles in length with 200+ mile races lasting close to two hours, but that hasn’t stopped some incredibly close finishes in the TT’s 116-year history.
Whilst the two closest ever races were both from an era when mass starts were used at the Isle of Man TT Races – Dario Ambosini with the tightest ever winning margin, 0.2 seconds ahead of Maurice Cann in the 1950 Lightweight TT – there have been plenty of tightly-fought races in the time trial format where competitors set off in their 10 second intervals.
Up until the 1990s, however, competitors would set off in pairs, meaning there were still plenty of on-track battles and narrow margins of victory. Despite this, the closest ever finish was in the format we know and love today; one by one, man and machine against the clock, motorcycle racing at its purest.
Also worth noting is that four of the ten closest ever finishes have come since 2010, proof (if proof be needed) that racing at the Isle of Man TT Races is not only ever faster, but ever closer too.
So, without further ado, let’s look at Top 10 Closest TT Finishes…
FOGARTY v LEACH – 1.80 SECONDS
The 1989 Production 750cc Race was a classic three-way dice between three of the sport’s finest – Steve Hislop, Carl Fogarty and Dave Leach – and they slugged it for four laps in pure, short circuit style.
Hislop, who became the first man to break the 120mph barrier in the Formula One Race earlier in the week, led to begin with on his Honda RC30 but he had to stop for fuel at the end of the first lap whilst Fogarty was able to stretch two laps from his similar machine. Leach, mounted on a 750cc Yamaha OW01, would also stop for fuel at the end of the second lap.
After the last round of pit stops, all three were together on the road once more and it was a simple final lap dash of 37.73 miles. Hislop, who’d started ten seconds ahead of Leach and Fogarty, realised he had little chance of winning having been caught on the road and sat back to give fellow Honda rider the best chance, a tactic that worked perfectly.
Fogarty and Leach swapped the lead repeatedly around the final 37.73 miles but as Leach’s exhaust began to work its way loose, it allowed Fogarty to dive ahead at Brandish and he pulled away for his maiden TT win, winning by 1.8 seconds.
HUTCHINSON v DUNLOP – 1.45 SECONDS
Chasing his fourth win of the week, Ian Hutchinson was embroiled in a ferocious dice with a young Michael Dunlop in the second Supersport Race of TT 2010.
The gap between the duo fluctuated on each and every lap; Dunlop closing in on the run to Ramsey only for Hutchinson to pull away over the Mountain – the section where he was in imperious form on the Padgetts Honda. Going into the final lap, Hutchinson was still in control, albeit by a fraction over 3 seconds, but a superb effort from Dunlop saw him edge ahead for the first time as they leapt Ballaugh Bridge.
The gap had increased to almost 2 seconds at Ramsey Hairpin but, yet again, Hutchinson’s mastery of the Mountain section came into play and he overturned the deficit to take his fourth win of the week by 1.45 seconds; the pair both smashing the lap record as they fought for supremacy. It was the start of a rivalry that would last for many years.
HUTCHINSON v FARQUHAR – 1.32 SECONDS
The Superstock Race from the same year was always going to be Ryan Farquhar’s best chance of another TT win and he signalled his intentions from the off, his opening lap on the KMR Kawasaki giving him a 6.78 seconds lead over Michael Dunlop.
Second time around and a new lap record of 129.816mph saw the Farquhar lead go up to 8.8 seconds but it was now Ian Hutchinson in second. A lightning-fast pit-stop saw him briefly ahead but Farquhar’s determination was second to none and he held a 5.5 second lead going into the final lap.
However, Hutchinson put in a phenomenal lap of 130.741mph, the first ever 130mph+ lap by a Superstock machine and, having hit the front for the first time on the final run over the Mountain, he grabbed the win by a slender 1.32 seconds to repeat his Superstock victory of the year before, much to an emotional Farquhar’s disappointment.
MOLYNEUX v HOWLES – 1.20 SECONDS
When pre-race favourites Mick Boddice and Chas Birks stopped with a split fuel line just two miles in, the 1989 Sidecar A Race was wide open and it was Kenny Howles and Steve Pointer who took full advantage, opening up a commanding 20.4 second lead after the opening lap, despite losing the clutch half way round.
However, due to a timing mix-up, they were being given inaccurate signals throughout the race. Howles started five seconds adrift of his allotted start time and the information his signallers had been relying on was subsequently out by that margin. That allowed Dave Molyneux and Colin Hardman to close right up on their Bregazzi Yamaha.
Howles and Pointer believed they had taken their first race win at the end of the three laps but when the adjustment was made, they were relegated to second and it was Molyneux and Hardman who took their debut win instead – the margin just 1.2 seconds.
A WIN FROUGHT WITH CONFUSION FOR MOLYNEUX AND HARDMAN
KLAFFENBOCK v HOLDEN – 1.12 SECONDS
In 2010, both Sidecar races saw tiny winning margins but, after taking the opening three-lap race by 2.63s from Dave Molyneux and Patrick Farrance, Klaus Klaffenbock and Dan Sayle had to work even harder to make it a double after a dramatic opening lap saw Molyneux and Farrance as well as Simon Neary and Paul Knapton lead before both pairings were forced to retire.
That meant that long-time TT bridesmaids John Holden and Andy Winkle led Klaffenbock and Sayle by 8 seconds after the first lap and with a blistering second lap of 113.569mph that gap had stretched to 10 seconds with just one circuit to go.
However, Klaffenbock and Sayle really put the hammer down on that final lap and the gap came down throughout. They didn’t get their nose ahead until the final mile on the final lap, but that was when it mattered most and they took their second win of the week by just 1.12 seconds.
PADGETT v WHEELER – 1.00 SECONDS
The Production C class, for 250cc-400cc two-strokes and 401-600cc four-strokes, was new to the TT in 1986 and Gary Padgett, on a previously unseen Suzuki RG400, started alongside veteran Malcom Wheeler on a Kawasaki GPZ600. The duo would spend the next three laps practically tied together.
Padgett edged away initially to lead by 4.6 seconds at the end of the first lap when they both pitted for fuel, allowing Steve Linsdell to take control to the tune of 5.2 seconds by the end of lap two. However, he had to slow to conserve fuel which meant Padgett and Wheeler, who had now closed back up, to go head to head over the final lap.
For spectators, it was more like short circuit racing with the lead changing hands on more than one occasion, particularly on the run down from the Mountain. It was Padgett who crossed the line first with Wheeler just one second further back after 113.19 miles of racing.
SCHEIDEGGER v DEUBEL – 0.80 SECONDS
The 1966 TT was pushed back two months due to a seamans’ strike in June and history was made on August 28th when the 500cc Sidecar event became the first TT race ever to be held on a Sunday. It was the BMW of Max Deubel and Emil Horner that led the field at the end of the first lap, their lead over reigning World Champions Fritz Scheidegger and John Robinson a commanding 12 seconds.
A lap later and four-time World Champion Deubel had increased his lead to 15 seconds but on the final lap, Scheidegger was closing rapidly and by the Bungalow, the Swiss driver and his British passenger had nosed fractionally ahead. Deubel crossed the line first but then had to wait 40 seconds to see if he’d done enough. He hadn’t, and Scheidegger got the verdict by just 0.8s for his maiden TT victory.
However, there was drama when he was excluded for a fuel technicality and his initial appeal was turned down. He appealed again and months later, cleared of wrongdoing, and finally awarded the win, the prize money and, more importantly, the 8 championship points that enabled him to claim his second world title.
A DRAMA FILLED WIN FOR SCHEIDEGGER AND ROBINSON
LEACH v JOHNSON – 0.80 SECONDS
The big Production machines of the late 1980s were a handful around the Mountain Course to say the least, and with the speed of the bikes outweighing the chassis capabilities, many riders preferred to skip the class instead. But some riders revelled on the 1000cc beasts, none more so than the Yorkshire pairing of Dave Leach and Geoff Johnson.
Both were Yamaha FZR1000-mounted for the 4-lap 1988 Production A Race. Aided by a stunning new lap record of 116.27mph, Leach quickly pulled away from the rest of the field and led Kevin Wilson by 10 seconds at half race distance. Johnson was 25 seconds adrift, seemingly out of the running due to issues with his front brakes.
Leach had to ease the pace in the closing stages as his chain began jumping the sprocket, whilst Johnson was coming into his stride – although he still faced a 16 second deficit going into the final lap. He blitzed his final circuit setting a new class record of 116.55mph – just 20 seconds shy of the outright record at the time – but it was to be in vain as Leach just held on by 0.8 seconds.
ANSTEY v DONALD – 0.77 SECONDS
Michael Dunlop made the early running in the opening Supersport Race of 2012 and led by more than 20 seconds at half race distance. But when he retired at Ballig Bridge with a blown engine on lap three, a thrilling three-way battle between Gary Johnson, Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald followed. The trio of Honda riders were evenly matched around the Mountain Circuit, with Johnson holding a small advantage over his rivals.
The Lincolnshire rider led by just over 2 seconds going into the fourth and final lap, but the gap was shrinking all the time and at Ramsey, there was less than 1 second covering the three riders. By the Bungalow, Anstey was in the lead for the first time on the Padgetts Honda, his lead over Donald a slender 0.93 seconds. Johnson began to slow, ultimately running out of fuel and pushing his bike over the line to finish 28th.
Donald was the quickest rider from the Bungalow to the Grandstand, but only by a fraction, meaning it was Anstey who held on for the win by 0.77 seconds.
AN EMOTIONAL END TO A CLOSE FOUGHT THREE-MAN RACE
BALDWIN v LOFTHOUSE – 0.60 SECONDS
The early stages of the 4-lap 1995 Ultra-Lightweight 125cc TT saw a three-way battle involving Mick Lofthouse, James Courtney and Mark Baldwin, with little to choose between the trio. Lofthouse slowly began to edge away only to slide off his DTR Yamaha at Parliament Square on the second lap. In an era where riders could dust themselves down and continue, he quickly remounted and still held a 5-second advantage by the time he reached the Grandstand for his pitstop.
Going into the last lap, Lofthouse’s advantage was 5.6 seconds over Courtney with Baldwin only a further 0.8 seconds behind. However, thinking he had a bigger lead than he actually did, Lofthouse eased off too much and began celebrating as he came down the Mountain for the fourth and final time.
That, combined with a record-breaking lap from Baldwin – the surprise package of the race on the Padgetts Honda – meant that the result was in doubt. Indeed, such was the pace of Baldwin that he caught the commentators and timekeepers completely unawares.
Lofthouse was mistakenly declared the winner in the Winner’s Enclosure, but his world soon came crashing down as Baldwin flashed across the line after lapping at 109.01mph to snatch victory by just 0.6s seconds.
IT WAS A TORTOISE AND THE HARE STORY FOR THE TIGHTEST EVER WIN AT THE TT