More Isle of Man TT deaths spark calls for dangerous race to be axed but riders know the risks – the decision is theirs

AROUND this time of year, there are calls from people who have never attended any form of motorsport event to put a stop to the Isle of Man TT race.

It usually follows a tragedy and sadly this year Welsh rider Mark Purslow and Frenchman Olivier Lavorel became the 261st and 262nd riders to lose their lives on the Mountain Course, which has hosted the race since 1911.

It is an incredible statistic in itself but also surpassed when I tell you that since 1937, the only time there were no fatalities at the TT race, was in 1982.

Of course, by modern standards, a sporting event with that level of fatalities would – and should – not be allowed to continue, but this is an exception.

As a motorcyclist myself, I accept the risks whenever I use my bike but I ride it because I enjoy it.

Now, I am not putting myself in the same category of those racing in the Isle of Man this week, far from it, but the basic principle is the same.


Mark Purslow dies aged 29 at Isle of Man TT following horror crash

Sidecar passenger Lavorel becomes second fatality at this year’s Isle of Man TT

I went to see the race in 2019 and was blown away by the speed. I was also slightly unnerved by the lack of safety measures.

I say lack because of what I was used to in F1 where there are run off areas, gravel traps and crash-absorbing Techpro barriers.

At the TT, there are stone walls, post boxes and kerbs to negotiate – but I quickly learned that was the point.

It is not as if the risks aren't unknown to the riders either.

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Back when I visited, I spoke to famed TT specialist John McGuinness and I put it to him that it was 'a bit dangerous' and his response has lived with me since.

He said: "You don't just jump on a Superbike and fly down Bray Hill without knowing exactly what you are getting yourself into.

"James Hunt died as a 40-year-old of a heart attack, Barry Sheene died at 52 years old of cancer.

"If somebody dealt me a pack of cards right now and said 'You can have 48 great years or 60 s*** ones', I'd take 48 great years.

"I've lost a few mates around here but there's no gun to anybody's head to do it."

He is right too, for when I was reading about Purslow's tragic accident, I recalled McGuinness's words.

As the Welshman's family grieved for the 29-year-old, there was something telling in what his family wrote on the racer's Facebook page.

They said: "He loved to ride, and he knew the risks but he loved racing since such a young age… we are going to try and get some solace in the fact he always told us if he was going to go, this would be the way he would want to, and that he would be smiling.

"He will be telling us all to stop crying, have a laugh and a drink for him, and celebrate his achievements.

By modern standards, a sporting event with this level of fatalities would – and should – not be allowed to continue, but this is an exception.

"We love you Mark forever and always you were one in a million, always in our hearts. The Purslow family."

It was a poignant reminder that while the Isle of Man TT remains dangerous, as does all motorsport, it should still be allowed to continue.

Because if you attended the event, spoke to every rider, mechanic and fan, they'd all tell you the same thing as McGuinness told me: "People always try to stop things they don't understand.

"So before you make your mind up, come to the Isle of Man, watch the racing, talk to the riders and teams, and then decide."

Azerbaijan GP

I am excited to be heading back to Baku this week for the Azerbaijan F1 GP – mainly for some normality.

After chaotic and sold-out races in Miami, Barcelona and Monaco it will be great to see some half-empty grandstands again in a destination that people have never heard of.

Giovinazzi's switch

Former F1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi must be feeling drained after such a miserable time since making the switch to Formula E.

He's currently last in the championship after some dreadful performances – but he exceeded himself at the Jakarta ePrix.

First he almost took out his Dragon Penske team-mate Sergio Sette Camara with an over-ambitious overtake that sent him into a spin.

He then was forced to retire from the race five laps from the end for running out of battery life.

Too soon for Espargaro

Aleix Espargaro was another racer to come up short at the weekend in embarrassing circumstances.

The MotoGP rider, who was running in second place in his home race in Barcelona, pulled over and started celebrating – only it was not until he was overtaken by other riders he realised he'd gone a lap too soon.

Eventually, after realising his mistake, he was classified in fifth place in the Catalan Grand Prix.

Espargaro was distraught afterwards – especially seeing race winner Fabio Quartararo extend his championship lead over him to 22 points.

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Mansell Mania

Nigel Mansell will celebrate 30 years since winning the F1 title by starring at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Organisers are looking to recreate 'Mansell Mania' as he will be reunited with his 1992 championship-winning Williams FW14B and drive a number of other cars from his Formula One days, including the Lotus 91, Ferrari 639 and 640.

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