/ / Motor
TT CIRCUIT GUIDE: 200+ CORNERS AT 200MPH
Unofficially there are somewhere between 200 and 264 corners on the 37.73 mile Isle of Man TT “Snaefell Mountain Course”. Over. One. Single. Lap.
We say unofficially because it’s tough to give an exact number. The TT course contains so many tiny connecting kinks and curves, it’s difficult to say where one ends and the next begins.
Monaco has 12 turns; Silverstone has 18, even the the Nürburgring Nordschleife and Pikes Peak Hillclimb don’t really stack up; with 154 and 156 each. At 200mph on a Superbike, that’s a whole load of you’ve gotta-get-this-right. Or else.
Now throw in trees, walls, and houses just a few feet from the edge of the road, and you start to get the idea.
The current outright lap record stands at 16 minutes 42.77 seconds. Ridden by Peter Hickman in 2018, at an average speed of 135.452mph / 217.989km/h. Infact at that pace, during the six-lap fortnight-ending Senior TT, the top riders get from lights to flag in a shade under two hours. That’s 226 miles (363km). Or from London to Liverpool, or Paris to Brussels, or even New York to Washington.
What looks insane from a fan point of view, is for the riders an intensely studied and calculated point-to-point exercise. Apex to apex, gearshift to gearshift; constantly anticipating the road ahead.
To get the course locked into his mind Peter Hickman came over to the Isle of Man months in advance of his TT debut in 2014. Logging over 70 laps in rental cars (2.6k miles!), with the English racer studying every part of the track in minute detail.
So what does it take?
Hickman explains: “Lots and lots of homework! I came over to the Island a good seven times in the months before I was going to race the TT. I was there for two or more days at a time, and just went round and round and round. I did over 70 laps in a hire car, driving it continuously. It was like ‘get up in the morning - do some laps’ then ‘have some lunch - do some more laps’.
“Then do some laps in the evening, and sleep on it to process. Maybe do some laps in the evening - because it’s good at night, as there is less traffic and you can get around a bit faster. It takes around an hour or so in a car, which meant over 70 hours of driving around the island. Throw into that hours watching onboard laps on video, and as daft as it sounds - playing the Playstation game, which is surprisingly accurate. It all gave me the insight I needed into what I was going to be doing.”
If you’re fast enough, then a place in history and the ultimate trophy in motorcycle racing awaits. Mercury, the winged God of the Messengers from Roman mythology, cast in silver, standing on a winged wheel.
Hit play and read below to take a lap with 23 time TT winner John McGuinness on his first lap of the Mountain Course after nearly three years away…
Go time: It all starts on Glencrutchery Road…
Firing off the start line, it’s a flat out drag race and plunge down Bray Hill. After leaping over St Ninian’s Crossroads, riders drop down the incredibly steep hill at 150mph, hit the dip at the bottom and then pull a huge wheelie over Ago’s Leap on the other side.
Once Quarter Bridge, Braddan Bridge and Union Mills have been negotiated, riders barely drop below 140mph with speeds through Crosby village approaching 190mph. One of the most daunting corners is the right-hander of Ballagarey more commonly known amongst fans and racers as Ballascarey! After racing through Crosby, riders drop down past the Highlander, another near 200 mph section, and then drop back down to third gear for the Greeba Castle ‘S’ bend.
Through Appledene, Greeba Bridge and past the Hawthorne pub, speeds are back up to 180mph and the huge sweep round Gorse Lea is not for the faint hearted. After all this full throttle racing, it’s hard on the brakes for the sharp right of Ballacraine where the course takes a dramatic change.
30 miles to go: From Ballacraine to the Lucky 13th
This is the only section of the course to remain from the very first TT races of 1907,and is an area where experience is everything. Passing through Ballig Bridge and Doran’s Bends (named after former TT rider Bill Doran, who crashed and broke a leg during practice for the 1952 TT) riders then approach Laurel Bank, where this whole section is lined with trees, high banks and low walls. From the relative open spaces of the first 7 miles, the geography of the course couldn’t be more different and riders are constantly changing direction. Keeping a good flow and ultra smooth riding here is the key.
Blasting past the Black Dub (a pub at mile marker nine), the two left-handers into Glen Helen follow and once the steep Creg Willy’s Hill is negotiated, the course opens up once more on to the Cronk y Voddy straight. However, it’s not long before the riders are faced with more demanding corners with the likes of the 11th Milestone, Handley’s Corner (named after 4-times TT-winner Wal Handley), the top and bottom of Barregarrow and the 13th Milestone all presenting huge challenges.
24 miles to go: Full Gas to Ramsey
The Kirk Michael to Sulby Bridge section is one of the quickest on the course with speeds well in excess of 190mph through Bishopscourt and along the Sulby Straight. The village of Kirk Michael gives both riders and spectators a crazy sensation of speed too, with the sound of the bikes echoing off the walls of the houses as riders hit over 160mph.
After leaving Kirk Michael, riders negotiate the high-speed kinks of Bishopscourt and Alpine before slowing down to approximately 45mph for one of the circuit’s most famous landmarks – Ballaugh Bridge – where they catch some air MotoX style. Then it’s back on the gas as quickly as possible, more air is taken at Ballacrye before going through the right-left-right-left-right combination of Quarry Bends. This used to be a bumpy series of second and third gear corners but was re-modelled in 1987 and is now super-fast and smooth.
After the right-hander of Sulby Bridge, the riders are then faced with arguably the bumpiest and most physical section as they head towards Ramsey. Although only four miles in length the bumps are endless and for most it’s simply a case of gritting their teeth and hanging on, a section where the smaller and lighter riders definitely suffer. Riders pass the Ginger Hall Hotel, which dates back to at least the mid-1800’s and sweep through the ups and downs of places like Kerromoar, Glentramman and Milntown before arriving into the town of Ramsey.
14 miles to go: Over The Mountain and back to the Grandstand
After all the bumps, houses, and trees of the previous section, the Mountain Course encounters yet another geographical change as riders head towards the vast open spaces of the Mountain itself. For some, this is the easiest section to learn as the views into the corners are clear and unobstructed but for others it’s the opposite as the layout means that many of the corners appear to look the same.
Once through Dukes, the re-modelled Windy Corner and Keppel Gate, the riders start the rapid descent back into Douglas via the three flat out sections that link Kate’s Cottage, Creg-Ny-Baa, Brandish and Hillberry.
Only the tight section through the Governors Dip now lies between the riders and the finish line. If you get this far, it’s time to jump back hard on the gas towards the start/finish line on Glencrutchery Road and Grandstand.
One lap down, ready for more?