Robin Miller: TT 2022 and onwards still faces big challenges

| | TT and Roads
Picture: Impact Images

This year’s North West 200 was a stark example of the challenges experienced by the organisers of road racing and with minds focussing on the 2022 TT - only a few days away - the ambitious plans for 2023 put in place by the Isle of Man’s Department for Enterprise are brought into sharp focus.

While there are still 12 months to go before the full impact is visible, the first stage of the rather grandly titled ‘Global Digital First Broadcast Strategy’, obtainable via ttplus.iomttraces.com, has been successfully launched with live TV to follow.

And other improvements providing more entertainment will also be available at this year’s event. So, the while doubting Thomases (or Thomasii) are still active on the keyboards, good progress has been made.

But as IoM motorsport boss Paul Phillips would agree there is still lots to do and if you take the much smaller NW200 as an example it is an illustration of what is the greatest problem faced by organisers - the weather.

When one of Thursday’s races had to be postponed, social media channels were filled with accusations that the organisers should have known it was going to pour down on that day. They managed to fit it into the Saturday race schedule when the sun shone, racing was fantastic, and everything seemed to be going perfectly.

Except, that is, when tyres started popping and several top riders had to retire. The TT organisers and race director Gary Thompson are familiar in dealing with the ‘enemy’ but have to take on one of the DfO goals for 2023 which is: “Delivery of a new 10-race TT schedule for 2023 designed to ensure best sporting narrative, engagement and entertainment and to best complement travel and accommodation capacity and provision.”

The plan, described as ‘being cast in stone’, has a fairly tight programme, ten races in six days with the Senior TT, the Friday finale of race week, being moved to Saturday.

Having a weekend finale is a good idea, particularly to build the pay-tv audience, but it will make travel more difficult for those wanting to get back to work and with transport, as acknowledged by the DfO, limited even though a second ferry will be in service by that time lifting the boat numbers per day to around 4000.

In 2019 two thirds of the 46,000 attendees travelled by boat. The Southern 100 club which currently runs a post-TT event on the Saturday will, it is assumed, switch to the Monday in order to persuade some of the TT riders to stay on and give visitors a reason to stay over the weekend.

Peter Duke, CEO of leading travel agent Duke Travel, said he welcomed the changes and was pleased to see that the undertaking of the definite dates the DfO had announced were ‘set in stone’ as ferry ticket sales for 2023 are now on sale and people in the tourist industry, who were not all aware of the implications of the changes, would need that absolute clarity.

Finally, it was interesting to note the IoM government’s concern with safety both on and off the track. Their statement read: “Establishing and maintaining a clearly-articulated safety management system for both on and off-track activities ensuring that we continually strive for the highest standard of safety risk management.”

Clearly something very important, especially in road racing, where insurance for riders and third party is becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to obtain. The red flag is seen more often as conditions worsen as happened at the recent Tandragee meeting in Ireland. It can also be argued that riders do not have sufficient cover and, of course, getting recompense can take a long time as Steve Mercer has found since he was involved in the notorious ‘going the wrong way’ incident on the Island several years ago.

Fortunately, organisations like the TT Riders’ Association provide a great deal of help.