The Delayed Euphoria of Isle of Man TT 2024

Almost all of the challenges faced by the Isle of Man TT were present in 2024, but so were all of the things that make the event so special

Peter Hickman, 2024 IOMTT, Senior start line.

The Isle of Man TT will always be dominated by the weather. In 2023, there were perfect conditions that allowed everything to run on time, and in 2024 it was hit with intermittent rain that meant things were delayed once, twice, or even three or four times. It’s just the reality of having a race which is dependent on a 37.73-mile course being at least 99 per cent dry, and there isn’t really a solution that doesn’t put either people or the event’s uniquity, legacy, and prestige in danger. 

It’s impossible to argue against the importance of either of those things. It goes without saying that increasing the risk to either people involved in the event or people spectating it should not be an option, and in the case of the Isle of Man TT (or really any motorcycle road race for that matter) to risk its legacy is to risk the event itself. So, you have to put up with the chaos, the frustration, and the disappointment brought by the weather.

And then you have to answer: Is it worth putting up with? 

In 2023, I went to the Isle of Man TT for the first time, thanks to Honda UK, for the final three-and-a-half days of the event. On the Friday, we went to the Bungalow to watch the second Supertwin and Superstock races, and it was fantastic - both races started and finished with no delays.

This year I arrived at the TT on Thursday, again with thanks to Honda UK. Racing was originally due to pause on Thursday for a rest day, but delays on both Tuesday and Wednesday meant that three races had to be squeezed into Thursday’s schedule.

I had never used the London Underground before, and I’d never been to Heathrow before, and the prospect of doing both of those things for the first time by my anxious, autistic self was so terrifying that the fear of flying that was the core of my 2023 travel anxiety had almost entirely ceased to be. In my panic, I hadn’t realised that the Sidecar race that opened the day had been moved to 10:30, and when I opened my laptop at the airport the red flag was already out for a crash for TT newcomers Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement, who both were thankfully okay.

We landed just as the restarted Sidecar race was coming towards a conclusion. Honda’s original plan was to go to the hotel, and then head up to hospitality later on, but with racing now happening they wanted to take us straight there. But in the end, the rain started to fall and the Supersport race scheduled to close the day’s racing was cancelled.

Friday was set to follow the same path as 2023, and we were going to watch the races from the Bungalow. However, the races were delayed in the morning and so we went to the paddock and listened to one of multiple Q&A sessions with the Honda Racing UK riders: John McGuinness, Bradford’s Dean Harrison, and Manxman Nathan Harrison, whose factory Honda TT debut was delayed by a year after he crashed at the North West 200 before the 2023 TT. 

After the Q&A we were shown the bikes, Honda had six at the TT: Two Superbike CBR1000RR-R SPs, one for Dean Harrison, one for McGuinness; three Superstock Fireblades, one each for McGuinness and both Harrisons; and one Supersport CBR600RR for Dean Harrison.

The paddock is a strange place to see the race bikes because all of the energy is being generated by the chaos around them, rather than by their own balletic brutality. In comparison to the frantic jostling among the people outside the awning, the bikes sit serenely inside them, almost like they’re resting - like the rider - for the next session.

Obviously, they’re machines, so yes they’re preparing - or, rather, being prepared - but not, as the riders are, resting. 

Two oddities occur. First, the rider is almost never seen with the bike when they’re not on circuit together, despite the synchronicity the rider must have with the bike in order to be comfortable, and therefore to be fast. Second, it’s impossible to prepare for a specific point, because the schedule is constantly changing - on Friday, it changed to the extent that the day’s racing was cancelled.

By this point, we were at the Bungalow and had been for a couple of hours having hopped on the tram around noon. We’d been up there waiting for the time to reach 15:00 - the time which had been communicated by the TT that an announcement would be made regarding the day’s racing. Through the mist, we could see quite clearly that conditions were suitable for racing, and this had been the case for at least 45 minutes before the announcement was finally made.

So, back down the Mountain we went, carrying a decent amount more water than we possessed when we began the ascent just over three hours previously, but we left in hope that Saturday would be better.

By the time the morning rolled around, we knew that the Superstock race was cancelled and all three remaining races that would be run on Saturday would be over reduced distances - two laps for Supersport and Supertwin, and four for the Senior.

We headed to the paddock on Saturday to be there in time for the Supersport race that was due to start at 10:30. When we arrived, it had already been delayed until 11:00, and soon after to 11:30.

Having sat in the grandstand for the 2023 Senior, I decided I’d look for somewhere else to watch from. But, with limited knowledge of the geography I figured I’d just walk a way down from the start, and see where I ended up. St. Ninians was the answer, as you might be able to guess if your knowledge of the area is better than mine. And there I waited as the race was delayed, 15-minute chunks at a time, watching concerningly grey clouds roll in and over, covering the sun that counteracted the chill of the bitter wind. And I wondered - with my flight back to Heathrow set to leave at 09:45 on Sunday morning - whether I’d see any racing at all this year. And I asked myself that question: Is this worth putting up with?

I considered my answer quite deeply. I considered the stress of the travel, the anxiety that I felt beforehand, the effort that I had to apply for socialising with a group of people whom I didn’t really know and, that I’d made work more complicated for myself by going there. But I also considered that I’d managed to navigate an unknown (to me) transport system (which, as I’m reading this back, sounds like a weird thing to find especially positive), and the enjoyment I found in spending time with a new group of people.

As I was deep in this consideration, trying to avoid reaching a conclusion, Paul Jordan screamed by on his Jackson Racing Honda CBR600RR, and all such thoughts lost their meaning as I was overwhelmed by the visceral nature of the Supersport start.

It was the first time I’d been right at the roadside, so it was the first time that the reality of the speed became so apparent to me, especially standing behind a yellow fence on the inside of a corner which hardly seemed insignificant. 

By the time I’d realised Jordan had gone by, so had Jamie Coward on the KTS Racing Triumph Street Triple 765, then Dean Harrison on the factory CBR600RR, Ian Hutchinson on the Padgett’s Honda, and James Hillier on the Bournemouth Kawasaki. It was a relief, even if my view of the race barely amounted to a view at all, and it was one intensified by the delays that had led to a three-race Saturday schedule that was now not due to conclude until 19:00.

The reward the TT gives you for a bit of patience is probably the most spectacular racing in existence. TT racing also seems precious, because it’s so finite. You get around 20 MotoGP races, 13 WorldSBKs, and 11 BSBs every year, but there are only two weeks of the TT - you have to make the most of all of it.

In the space of 10 seconds and the passing by of two motorcycles at St Ninians, I’d been brought out of the depths of my mind and back into reality, back to the reason that I was there.

It wasn’t really a surprise to me that the sight of a racing motorcycle was essentially all it took for the anxiety, nervousness, and stress to melt into the background - I spend almost all of my time consuming racing in some way, it keeps me from the wrong areas of that neural abyss.

I’ve been to the Isle of Man TT twice now, and this is the second time I’ve written about ‘my experience’ of it. I’ve even been lucky enough, if you like, to experience two very different TTs: 2023 was perfect conditions and everything ran to schedule, whereas 2024’s schedule was in a constant battle with ever-changing weather. But I’m not sure if I have actually experienced it yet. I’ve seen it, heard it, taken photos of it, and written about it, but I’m not sure if that amounts to an experience or merely an observation. I think to experience something requires an amount of feeling. But I can’t tell you what the TT feels like. I can only tell you about the emptiness that takes over once it’s finished, and I’m not sure that does it justice at all, really. 

Still, there’s not a single place I’d rather be next June than the Isle of Man, whatever the weather.