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2012 Isle of Man TT Another Great Event

Rutter leads the way to victory, setting the first electric-moto 100-mph-plus race lap. Just three years ago, e-bikes struggled to break the 50cc lap record.

Another Isle of Man TT has almost come and gone, with tired, happy racers and fans getting ready to head back across the Irish Sea for another year when the weekend ends. This year’s event was marked by semi-historic events—Dunlops (the men, not the tires) in the top ten, electric motorcycles breaking the Ton and the return of a racing Norton. The icing on the cake? No competitor deaths, unusual for the 100-plus-year-old public-roads event.

The final race day (including the prestigious Senior TT) has been postponed due to the usual rainy weather, but there have been some notable results so far. Michael Dunlop, the late, great Joey Dunlop’s nephew, took his third TT trophy after a close-fought Supersport battle with Cameron Donald. His older brother William carried his own torch, with a strong showing in both the Superbike and Supersport 1 races. Be sure to check the final results at tomorrow and expect John McGuinness to come out on top in the Senior.

Racing legends (l to r) Josh Brooks, Kevin Schwantz, Randy Mamola, Phillip McCallen and Neil Hodgson took a parade lap of the Mountain Course on June 7th. Schwantz told the press the twisty, stone-wall-lined course made "Grand Prix racing look easy."

Electric motorcycle racing may have come into its own at the TT this year, despite what looked like a small field of racers finishing. The TT Zero race (sponsored by SES, a satellite communications company) had 18 entries, but only eight made it to the start line and only four finished. But of the four finishers, three of them broke the “Ton,” averaging over 100 mph and earning the Silver Replica. Two of the bikes—the first place finisher, ridden by IoM regular Michael Rutter and the third-place bike, with Mark Miller on board—were Motoczysz E1pc racers, a highly-developed and fast-as-hell machine with a liquid-cooled motor. Second place, notably, went to the famed John McGuinness on the Team Mugen racer, which has been hailed as Honda’s debut in big-time electric, as Mugen has always been associated with Honda. Rutter was presented with a check for 10,000 UK Pounds (about $15,000) for his achievement.

One nice thing this year—no competitor deaths (and I hope writing this doesn’t jinx anybody), unusual for an event that sees at least one such tragedy a year. Sadly, spectator deaths have been high this year, according to the Isle of Man Today newspaper. Five deaths have been reported as of this morning.

Ian Mackman on the new Norton V-4 racebike.

One happy note is the return of Norton. Though the rotary-engine TT588 entered the event in 2009, the machine failed to qualify. This year, the resurrected company built a Spondon-framed racebike with an Aprilia V-Four powerplant, complete with signature polished aluminum gas tank. The bike is expected to grid for the Senior TT race tomorrow, piloted by Ian Mackman. The factory is developing the rotary model for future events.

In a world of 2000-word liability waivers and event organizers terrified by stories of bloodthirsty lawyers suing for the tiniest things, it’s nice to see this storied event surviving and thriving. Let’s hope the introduction of electric motos keeps the racing exciting for another century.


  1. MxPhlipper says:

    Is it going to be on TV, and if so where/when? Didn’t find it on Velocity.

  2. Trpldog says:

    Maybe its my imagination, but MD appears to have changed. I’ve read it for years, but more and more inaccuracies and less sensitive reporting as of late has my eyebrows up. I hope its just me. Stuff like, “and I hope writing this doesn’t jinx anybody” and small things written like that just have a given MD a weird feel. I hope its just me.
    All the best.

  3. Larry says:

    I had Norton stickers on my flat-black RZ350 race bike back in the eighties. Confused a lot of prople for a bit. Didn’t want to be seen riding a Yamaha then.

  4. Gutterslob says:

    The Senior TT got canceled due to poor weather. 🙁

    I blame MD for jinxing it.
    I bet weather would’ve been fine if you waited a day before posting a TT even summary >:-(

    Then again, MD’s only interest these days is to report on electric bikes, so I assume everything’s fine for you as long as you got Zero TT news. 😛

  5. Scotty says:

    I reckon Phil McCallen could still win a Silver Replica!! As Gutter says – you owe it to yourself to go once. I went to the Australian GP in 1998 and that was great, but 10 days on the Island for the TT in 2000 gave me enough memories to last a lifetime. I certainly wont forget that girl in the leather miniskirt at the Gooseneck that nearly caused me to run off the track on Mad Sunday!!!

  6. daveA says:

    (sorry for the bad edit there…it was supposed to read as follows)

    What exactly did they add to the mix to make it special? This is a rhetorical question…it’s not even a full Spondon frame…its’ a modified OEM RSV4 frame. It’s cool and all, but it’s not interesting from a “hey look, it’s a Norton!” perspective. I’m not saying that the bike has more in common with an ART CRT bike than it does a Norton…I’m just sayin’.

  7. Dave Joy says:

    Just one of the things I miss about living in England is my twice yearly trips to the I.O.M. End of May for the T.T. and Sept for the Manx GP. I still keep in touch with my old biking buddies and go through those pangs of jealousy when they are leaving for the island! As Gutterslob says, if you are an avid biker you should make the trip at least once in your lifetime. I must add, I also miss the vast choice of motorcycles available over there compared to here in Canada! But thats another topic!

  8. ReflexTowing says:

    Five spectators! What happened??

    Also, is doing “the ton” doing a 100MPH average, or simply reaching 100MPH on a straight part of the track? I just don’t know enough about the race. I’ve watched it a few times, but I’m basically ignorant. I agree, it’s a very cool race…

    • e-bob says:

      Yes, five spectator deaths seemed extraordinary to me, too. However, I think the five deaths occurred while the victims were riding (not racing) motorcycles, not actually spectating.

      • Gutterslob says:

        I haven’t checked this year’s yet, but yes, most of the time, “spectator deaths” are actually traffic accidents (see paragraph below). When I was there in 2010, someone told me that so far (at the time) only 2 spectators were killed trackside while the races were on, and those 2 were supposedly in an area they weren’t supposed to be in. There was a terrible crash at Gorse Lea (5th gear corner on a 1000) last year which killed a racer (R.I.P Derek Brien) and it seems there were spectators involved, but I’m not sure about fatalities.

        During the entire 2 weeks of the TT (1 week practice + 1 for racing), many of the roads are made one way (following the race map) and speed limits are removed, allowing anyone in a car or bike to go at it at speed (within reasonable limits). Most people ride accordingly, but accidents are inevitable, sadly.

        You can probably search Youtube for suitable short documentaries that’ll explain it better than I can, though beware the fan-made ones featuring cheesy dance music or emo-rock soundtracks. These might not be the best, but it’s the most I could muster in 5 minutes of searching.
        Aussie news program: (Mick Doohan’s in it)
        Gorse Lea trackside:

    • Gabe says:

      Doing the Ton back in the day was hitting 100 mph period…but now even “beginner” bikes can do that, so it’s no big deal. Doing the “Ton” on the Isle means averaging 100 mph around the course, which would require much greater top speeds, as some of the track is on narrow, twisty country lanes or on city streets.

      Five spectators dead is a lot, but not unusual for this event. Imagine tens of thousands of amped-up race fans camped in an area the size of West Marin, riding roads they’ve never been on before, frequently on the wrong side of the road (one of the guys who died was from France) and you get the idea.

    • Gutterslob says:

      200mph+ on the straight sections. Fast corners like Ballagarey and Gorse Lea are often taken between 150 – 170mph (by the fast blokes). Average lap speed by top guys is 120mph+, though the record (131mph by McGuinness, iirc) probably won’t be broken this year because there’s been a lot of rain overnight, washing rubber of the track and leaving damp patches even in the dry (it’s England, after all). Today’s Senior TT was postponed to tomorrow (Sat) because of rain as well. Get within 110% or the winners race time and you get a bronze replica (a sort of trophy). 105% gets you silver. In my book, you’re a winner as long as you’re not flown home in a box (most prefer to be buried on the Isle anyway).

      I’ve only ridden the Mountain Course on Mad Sundays. Just the thought of riding that faster on slicks is both mouth-watering and terrifying at the same time. Last time I was there (to watch) was in 2010. Made plans for this year, but had to cancel due to work commitments, sadly. You should at least go once in your lifetime. Makes GP and SBK weekends seem soulless and dull in comparison.

  9. mickey says:

    Glad the event was a success. Real men race at the IOM.

    BUT…the Norton news…what the heck? A Spondon frame with a Aprilia motor is just a Spondon framed Aprilia. Writing Norton on the tank does not make it a Norton.

    • Gabe says:

      You could probably build a Spondon/Aprilia racebike on your own…but could you get it onto the starting grid of the Senior TT? Norton added enough to the mix to make it special.

      • Dirck Edge says:

        I agree. My TRAILING EDGE branded Spondon/Aprilia was summarily booted.

      • daveA says:

        What exactly did they add to the mix to make it special? This is a rhetorical question…it’s not even a full Spondon frame…its’ a modified OEM RSV4 frame. It’s cool and all, but it’s not interesting from a “hey look, it’s a Norton! perspective. I’m not saying that the bike has more in common with an ART CRT bike than it does a Norton…I’m just sayin’.

        On a side note, it isn’t even a full Spondon frame, it’s a modified RSV4 frame.

    • HalfBaked says:

      So is a BMW with a Rotax engine not a BMW either?

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