TT - History




As the TT Races celebrated its 100th race meeting in 2019, thrill seekers still venture to the Island in the middle of the Irish Sea every summer for the same reason the gentlemen who competed in the first race in 1907 did - the Tourist Trophy, more commonly known as the Isle of Man TT. 

The spirit of competition and advancement brought the original TT competition to the Island, as racing on the highways and byways of Britain was impossible, forbidden by Act of Parliament.

The Secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, Sir Julian Orde, set off in February 1904 for the Isle of Man because he had a fairly shrewd idea that the Manx authorities would adopt a more conciliatory attitude to automobile racing on public roads.   

He was right. The Highways (Light Locomotive) Act 1904 gave permission in the Isle of Man for the 52.15-mile "Highlands" course for the 1905 Gordon Bennett Car Trial, the British round of the fledging European car racing championships. 

It was not until the following year that a motorbike race was introduced the day after the Gordon Bennett Car Trial. The inability of the bikes to complete the steep climbs of the mountain section led to the race being redirected and it didn’t return to the Mountain Course until 1911.

The Editor of 'The Motor-Cycle' Magazine proposed the new race at the annual dinner of the Auto-Cycle Club held in London on the 17th January 1907. The races were run in two classes with single-cylinder machines to average 90 mpg and twin-cylinder machines to average 75mpg. This was done to emphasise the road touring nature of the motorcycles. The organisers also insisted there were regulations for saddles, pedals, mudguards and exhaust silencers. The first single cylinder race, run on the 15.85-mile St Johns Course, was won by Charles Collier riding a Matchless while Rem Fowler on a Norton took the twin cylinder honours.

In 1911 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races moved to the 'Snaefell Mountain Course', and today's motorcycles race are held over largely the same course. During the early years the TT Course was little more than a horse and cart track, which included the odd gate between fields. It was the duty of the first rider round in the morning to open all the gates along the way, with the last rider responsible for shutting them again.

During the 1920s the road conditions began to improve and with this so too did lap speeds. In 1920 the lap record was 55.62 mph and by the outbreak of World War 2 this had risen to over 90 mph, Harold Daniell setting a lap record of exactly 91.00mph on his way to winning the 1938 Senior.

Following a break of eight years the Isle of Man TT returned after the War in 1947, with Daniell winning the Senior once more but at a much slower speed due to the poorer quality of petrol. In 1947, his fastest lap was 84.07mph.




In 1949, the TT became the venue for the Motorcycle World Championships and held the first ever round of the new series that year.

The world championship status brought the world’s top riders to the TT in the 1950's and the decade was notable for the emergence of Italian manufacturers Mondial, MV Augusta and Gilera and their riders Carlo Ubbiali, Tarquinio Provini, Geoff Duke and Bob McIntyre.  Bill Lomas and Ken Kavanagh on the Moto Guzzi’s were also prominent.

In 1957, Scotsman McIntyre became the first rider ever to lap the Mountain circuit at 100mph, much to the annoyance of Duke who came agonisingly close two years before when he lapped at 99.97mph.

The late fifties and early sixties were the golden era of the TT, with riders like John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read and Jim Redman competing in entertaining battles, both with machine and each other. This era is also notable for the first appearance of a Japanese bike company in 1959, Honda, shortly followed by the other leading Japanese marques – Kawasaki, Suzuki and finally Yamaha.

In 1961, Hailwood won his first of 14 TT’s, becoming the first rider to finish with three wins in a week, with the 125cc and 250cc races on Honda machinery and the Senior on a Norton. Hailwood would later go on to win five consecutive Senior titles.

Many consider the battle between Agostini on the MV and Hailwood on a Honda in the 1967 Senior TT as the greatest ever race on the Island. Between 1966 and 1972 Agostini managed 10 race wins of his own, while in 1967 Hailwood set another lap record at 108.77mph, which would stand for a further 8 years.

That record stood until 1975 when Mick Grant, on a two-stroke triple Kawasaki, increased it to 109.82mph, breaking Hailwood’s absolute lap record. The following year saw the final time the Isle of Man was part of the World Championship, but also the TT’s introduction to the burgeoning skills and talents of the now legendary Joey Dunlop.




It was not long before Joey’s talents came to the fore. In 1977 he won the Jubilee race, the first of an astounding 26. This same year saw the first Sidecar duo exceed the 100mph mark, Dick Greasley and Mick Skeels taking their Yamaha round at 100.59mph. A year later, American GP star Pat Hennen achieved the first sub-twenty minute lap on board a 500 Suzuki in the Senior TT.

After an 11-year absence, Mike Hailwood returned to the TT in 1978, immediately winning the Formula One race, and a year later, he recorded his 14th, and final, TT race win with victory in the Senior.

One man - Joey Dunlop, dominated the eighties. He recorded the first 115mph plus lap in 1980, and in 1983 won the first of six consecutive Formula One TT’s on the dominant Honda machines. Injuries sustained in a race at Brands Hatch prevented Dunlop from defending his title for the seventh consecutive time in 1989, a race won by Steve Hislop who recorded the first ever 120mph+ lap of the Mountain Circuit as he moved the outright lap record to 121.34mph.

The arrival of Carl Fogarty, who later became World Superbike Champion, saw the beginning of many epic races between Carl and Scotland's Hislop, culminating in the 1992 Senior TT when the pair both broke the lap record in a titanic battle, Hislop eventually winning by four seconds.  Hislop's win was the first by a Norton since 1961. 1992 was also the year Joey Dunlop equalled Mike Hailwood’s record of 14 TT wins with victory on a 125 Honda in the Ultra Lightweight Race.

The year 2000 may have been the start of the new millennium but it was dominated by the established stars. David Jefferies and Joey Dunlop, at the tender age of 48, both enjoyed hat-tricks. Joey’s win in the Ultra Lightweight marked his 26th and final TT win, shortly before his untimely death in a road race in Estonia. For only the third time the TT races were cancelled in 2001, due to concerns over the Foot and Mouth epidemic that was destroying the UK’s mainland cattle stock. 

2004 was marked by a hat trick of wins for new TT star John McGuinness, who followed that in 2006 by increasing the lap record to 129.451mph on the way to his 11th TT victory.




The Centenary year saw huge numbers visit the island from all over the world and John McGuinness, who won the opening Superbike race, treated them to a new TT lap record of 130.354 in winning the Senior TT to leave him with 13 titles. 

McGuinness again recorded victory in the Senior TT in 2008, equalling Mike Hailwood’s record of 14 titles but he was outshone by Australian Cameron Donald who won both the Superbike and Superstock races and finished runner up to McGuinness in the Senior in one of the closest races in TT history.

McGuinness went second in overall victories behind Joey Dunlop in 2009, after winning the Superbike Race, with Ian Hutchinson winning two in a day while Michael Dunlop, in the second Supersport race, became the latest Dunlop to stand on the top step at the TT.

Local sidecar ace Dave Molyneux also scored his 14th victory in the first sidecar race while Steve Plater took the Blue Riband Senior TT honours. 2009 also saw history being made on the Isle of Man with the TTXGP electric bike race, won by Rob Barber on the Team Agni machine with a lap of 87.434mph.

In 2010 Ian Hutchinson, riding for Padgetts Honda, achieved something that no-one had done in the event’s 103 year history – a clean sweep of all five solo races, exceeding Philip McCallen’s four wins set in 1996.

2011 was marked by the Mountain Course Centenary celebrations and after a barren 2010, McGuinness was back on the top step with wins in the Superbike and Senior TT Races. Honours were shared between Kiwi Bruce Anstey (Supersport 1), Michael Dunlop (Superstock) and first time winner Gary Johnson (Supersport 2) while the sidecar class saw ex-world Champion Klaus Klaffenbock take his third career win in the first race with John Holden becoming the oldest winner in TT history with victory in the second.

Although the Senior TT was cancelled for the first time in the event's history in 2012, McGuinness still added to his titles with Superbike and Superstock race wins. Michael Rutter made history with the first 100mph electric bike lap in the TT Zero race on the American built MotoCzysz machine.

Michael Dunlop only won one race in 2012 - the second Supersport race - but there was no doubting who was the man of the meeting in 2013 as he took the chequered flag in four out of the five races. McGuinness had the consolation of extending his lap record to a remarkable 131.678mph around the iconic 37¾ mile circuit during the Superbike race and then added another victory to his tally in the final race of the fortnight - the Blue Riband Senior TT.




In 2014, Michael Dunlop, riding a factory supported BMW, was the name on everyone's lips and the Northern Ireland racer didn't disappoint, taking three wins for BMW in the Superbike, Superstock and Senior races, a fitting tribute to the 75th anniversary celebrations of Georg Meier's Senior TT victory for the Bavarian manufacturer.

Kiwi Bruce Anstey extended the lap record to an incredible 132.298mph during the opening Superbike race. The meeting was also notable for the TT debut of one Peter Hickman, who became the event’s fastest ever newcomer with a lap of 129.104mph, a prelude to his later success, while John McGuinness won his first electric bike title with a new lap record of 117.366mph.

2015 saw McGuinness add to his titles with another victory in the TT Zero race and another new lap record on the Japanese Mugen Shinden bike, but he really saved his best for the last race of the meeting. With people seemingly having written him off, the Morecambe Missile dominated the Senior TT, clinching his 23rd race win and posting a new lap record of 132.701mph in the process.

Aside from the wins for McGuinness, the meeting was dominated by the comeback king Ian Hutchinson who took the Superstock and two Supersport race wins, his first victories since his five in a week and subsequent Silverstone accident in 2010. Anstey also recorded his first Superbike victory on the Mountain Course in the opening race of the week while Ivan Lintin claimed his debut win in the Lightweight TT. 

The 2016 meeting was all about two riders – Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson.  Dunlop won the Superbike race and became the first rider to lap in under 17 minutes with a lap of 133.369mph on the first lap of the Superbike race whilst he increased the lap record to 133.962mph on his way to winning the Senior TT. Hutchinson took another hat-trick as he once more stood on the top step in the Superstock and both Supersport Races. 

It was a similar story in the 2017 TT with Hutchinson winning the opening Superbike race and Dunlop winning the Senior. This time Hutchinson also won the Superstock race and Dunlop the only Supersport race – the second race cancelled due to bad weather.




Although Michael Dunlop won three races in 2018 – the Superbike, Lightweight and first Supersport - the meeting signalled the arrival of two new stars at the front of the field – Dean Harrison and Peter Hickman who took the races to unprecedented heights.

Dunlop opened up with a Superbike victory and followed it up with victory in the first Supersport and Lightweight races while Harrison took the honours in the second Supersport race but the pair were eclipsed by Hickman whose stunning victory in the Superstock race – his maiden win – was merely a precursor to a sensational Senior race that saw him pass Harrison on the last lap with a new outright lap record of 135.452mph.