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The TT Races is the more common name of the Tourist Trophy - a motorbike and sidecar race meeting held on the Isle of Man. Though the dangerous nature of the course means that the races take the form of time trials, with riders set off in pairs (sidecars singly) every 20 seconds.

It is a unique type of motor vehicle race in the United Kingdom because the laws of the Isle of Man allow for the Government to close down public roads that are part of the racetrack...somewhat like the Monaco Grand Prix. During the infancy of motor racing, this would not have been legal elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The Manx Government of the time, with its strange mix of liberalism and conservatism, (plus the need for more tourism) was seen as a soft touch by the organisers. Indeed, it took an act of the Manx parliament, the Tynwald, in 1904, to make closing the roads and holding the race possible at all. With one week of practices for the various classes of bike, and then one full week of racing, the TT used to disrupt life on the island to a massive degree. The main roads of the circuit were closed twice daily and you were either stuck inside or outside of the track. The situation has now improved somewhat with the construction of undertrack tunnels to allow car traffic to continue to move around when the roads are closed.

The TT course is 37 3/4 miles long. It starts at the top of the very steep Bray Hill, descending rapidly on a relatively narrow road to the first main turn, the Quarterbridge]. From here the track twists and turns several miles to St John's and then heads north past Glen Helen towards Ramsey. After a torturous set of corners in Ramsey town centre, culminating in the Ramsey Hairpin bend, the course climbs upwards into the mountains and (usually) the fog. After sweeping over a long ascent, the final descent out of the mountains is past the Creg-ny-baa pub into Governor's Bridge. And then it's time to start the second lap (the senior races are up to seven laps in total).

Most European bikers consider the TT Races to be one of the most important dates in the motorbike calendar. The population of the Isle of Man (around 60,000) is normally doubled with spectators and enthusiasts during the two weeks set aside for the TT every year. In times past there were many fatal accidents amongst the tourist population, who would take their cars and motorbikes around the TT course in emulation of their heroes. The liberal (and sensibly pragmatic) Manx Government decided to stop endangerment of innocents by declaring Mad Sunday a special day for the enthusiasts. On the Sunday between race week and practice week, the roads of the TT course were closed and made one-way only as if a race was in progress, and anyone is allowed to take their motorbike over the mountain part of the course. Mad Sunday indeed...but at least those who die or injure themselves now are willing and know the risks!

The death toll amongst the professional racers can be high too - sometimes up to 10 a year. The Manx population know when a death or serious injury has occurred, because the rescue helicopter can be heard and seen leaving Nobles hospital in Douglas.

For anyone wishing to watch this spectacle take place, most Manxmen would recommend getting up early and bagging a good spot on the side of the road at Ballaugh Bridge, the best jump on the course, the Quarterbridge, to see the riders brake hard after the first steep downwards section, or at the Creg-ny-baa pub, which boasts a small grandstand and a fantastic atmosphere.

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