Opportunity knocks for aspiring Isle of Man TT stars

John McGuinness on the Joey Dunlop replica Honda TT Legends Superbike at the Isle of Man TT in 2013
John McGuinness on the Joey Dunlop replica Honda TT Legends Superbike at the Isle of Man TT in 2013

Isle of Man TT supremo Paul Phillips says the growing number of quality riders lured by the Mountain Course challenge reflects the event’s status as one of the most in vogue motorsport showpieces on the planet.

The TT has always been regarded as the blue riband event for road racing’s most revered gladiators, but over the past seven years Phillips and his dedicated team have solidified its standing at the pinnacle of the sport.

By his own admission, he concedes that the TT ‘lost its way’ somewhat at the beginning of the new Millennium, but the unadulterated success of the Centenary meeting in 2007 ultimately proved the catalyst for a stirring revival.

Today, the TT enjoys unparalleled exposure, attracting record numbers of visitors and high-profile celebrities, with Formula 1 ace Mark Webber plus MotoGP superstars including Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo and ex-500cc greats Randy Mamola, Mick Doohan and Kevin Schwantz among the illustrious names that have made the journey to the tiny island in the middle of the Irish Sea.

The TT has become glamorous and everyone wants a piece of the action.

Last year, British Superbike Championship contender Josh Brookes made his debut on the legendary 37.3-mile circuit, while highly-rated former Moto3 Grand Prix prospect Danny Webb will make his bow at the event in June, riding for Ryan Farquhar’s KMR Kawasaki outfit.

A new breed of young riders are coming through the ranks, including Northern Ireland’s Lee Johnston and Jamie Hamilton plus English livewire Dean Harrison, while Michael Dunlop – who only turns 25 in April – already has seven victories to his name.

Phillips is only too glad that the TT provides a platform for road racers who risk everything in the pursuit of glory the chance to earn some decent winnings, and cites 20-time victor John McGuinness as the perfect example of someone who has maximised their gain from the event.

“Josh Brookes came last year, which was great, but he is at his peak, if not slightly below it and that’s not to do him an injustice,” he told the News Letter.

“He’s a fantastic rider, but Danny Webb is only 22. He’s a professional motorcycle racer too and there could be opportunities for him if he works hard at the TT.

“If you look at people like John McGuinness, he has been able to exploit those opportunities because of the TT, whether it’s through personal sponsorship or whatever – and why wouldn’t you if it’s your job?” he added.

“We don’t pay newcomers big sums of money to race at the TT – it simply doesn’t happen. If you become a good TT rider you can earn some money, but not enough to live off for a year, no matter who you are.

“When don’t have millions to give away; we’ve a little bit more than the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, but we’re not paying riders three or four times what those events are paying.

“But the TT gives competitors relatively massive media and television coverage and those two things give riders the opportunity to go on and earn good money.

“If you’re clever and you work hard to exploit those opportunities – like John McGuinness has done – then you can earn a good living and I say good luck to them.

“I’m glad that the TT is there to offer that platform.”