Sunday, June 12, 2016

A very sad year for the Isle of Man TT races

We've discussed the breathtaking annual Isle of Man TT motorcycle races in these pages before.  They're renowned as the most dangerous in the world.  Sadly, 2016 has demonstrated that yet again.  No less than four competitors died during this year's event.

Two additional riders died Friday following crashes at the 2016 Isle of Man TT, bringing this year’s death toll up to four. The last time four riders died at the IOM TT was 2000.

The Auto-Cycle Union (ACU) reports that Andrew Soar, 32, died following a crash at Keppel Gate during the final race of the 2016 TT, the Senior TT. Ian Bell, 58, of Bedlington, was the other; he crashed Friday at Ballaspur during the second Sidecar race.

Soar and Bell bring the total fatalities at the 2016 IOMTT up to four; the other two riders perished Saturday, June 4. Paul Shoesmith, 50, crashed during solo practice, and Dwight Beare, 27, crashed during the first sidecar race.

With the passing of Soar and Bell, a total of 247 riders have died in both TT and Manx Grand Prix races since 1911.

There's more at the link.

Casualties might have been far greater but for the use of the most modern safety devices on the circuit.  They can't compensate for all the risks, but they kept some riders alive when in earlier years, they might not have been so fortunate.  Here, for example, is Horst Saiger discussing his near-miss with James Cowton during this year's event.  Cowton lost control at very high speed and crashed into a side barrier.  Fortunately, the barrier was padded with Recticel foam safety padding, which prevented serious injury.  Saiger runs over the padding as it peels off the barrier (with Cowton wrapped in it!), as you'll see in the video.  That's another advantage to this sort of technology - it causes minimal damage to other vehicles, unlike earlier systems that might have brought down the second rider as well.

To illustrate the almost insane speeds involved in the race, here's a new record lap on the Snaefell Mountain Course, set this year by Michael Dunlop in the Superbike event.  It's the first time in history the course has been covered in less than 17 minutes. I suggest watching it in full-screen mode for best results.

Even at my best on a motorcycle, when I was much younger and more foolish, I couldn't come within a good country mile of that level of performance.  Now, I wouldn't dare try!


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