Since 1907, the Isle of Man has been a Mecca for motorcycle racers. Thousands of leather-clad heroes, both professional and amateur, have ventured across the Irish Sea to try to tame the infamous 37-mile course and add their name to the list of TT winners. Snaking its way through towns and villages and up into the mountains, it’s a high-speed, old-school assault on the senses – the sort of event that defies all manner of health and safety conventions.
JUN 02nd 2016
The TT's Top 8 Most Successful Riders
The 2016 edition of the event, which features nine races, is already under way, with practice sessions for the various classes comprising 1,000cc superbikes, 600cc supersport machines, electric bikes and sidecar outfits. Racing gets underway on Saturday (June 4) and culminates the following Friday (June 10) with the finale, the Senior TT, won last year by John McGuinness. The Honda rider’s 17m03.567s best equated to an average speed of an astonishing 132.701mph – on public roads, remember!
With TT fever brimming over and well-advanced plans to welcome many of its stars, past and present, to the Festival of Speed later this month, we’ve trawled through the list of winners and picked out the leading lights. These are the eight big names at the top of the tree, with four of them out there in 2016 trying to increase their tally.
26 wins – Joey Dunlop (above)
One of the greatest bike racers of all time, Northern Irishman Dunlop was revered on the island. He first raced there in 1976 and began his record winning run the following year. For almost a quarter of a century, the cheeky chap from County Antrim in the bright-yellow helmet commanded a cult following. He died while leading a 125cc event in Estonia, aged 48 in July 2000, just a few weeks after his 26th and last TT win. The sport was shocked to the core, with 50,000 bikers joining his funeral procession.
Jubilee – 1977
Classic – 1980
Formula One – 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 2000
Junior – 1985, 1988, 1994
Senior – 1985, 1987, 1988, 1995
Ultra Lightweight – 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2000
Lightweight – 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
Lightweight 250cc – 2000
23 wins – John McGuinness
The Morecambe Missile is tantalisingly close to overhauling Dunlop’s 26-win record. He first joined the hallowed list of TT winners in 1999 (winning the Lightweight 250cc race in which Joey Dunlop finished fifth) and is still collecting trophies, thanks to a stunning, record-equalling seventh Senior TT win last year – a milestone that ties him with Mike ‘The Bike’ Hailwood. No-one has ever done a faster race lap around the Mountain Course than McGuinness managed on his sixth and final tour of last year’s Senior. His 2016 rivals will have to pull something special out of the bag to beat that 132.701mph lap…
Lightweight 250cc – 1999
Singles – 2000
Lightweight 400cc – 2003, 2004
Formula One – 2004
Junior 600cc – 2004
Senior – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015
Superbike – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012
Supersport – 2006
Superstock – 2012
TT Zero – 2014, 2015
17 wins – Dave Molyneux
Another legend of the island who’s still competitive at the age of 52 is Dave Molyneux. Born in Douglas, Sidecar king ‘Moly’ first tackled his home event in 1985 – the year in which Joey Dunlop nailed his first hat-trick – and notched up the first of 17 wins to date in 1989. Amazingly, he has won races with eight passengers – Colin Hardman, Karl Ellison, Pete Hill, Doug Jewell, Craig Hallam, Dan Sayle, Rick Long and Patrick Farrance. He holds the lap record for the sidecar class, a 19m23.056s (116.785mph), set last year with new partner Benjamin Binns.
Sidecar – 1989, 1993 (x2), 1996 (x2), 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004 (x2), 2005, 2007 (x2), 2009, 2012 (x2), 2014
14 wins – Mike Hailwood
For many the greatest two-wheeler of all time, with immense speed and an even bigger presence wherever he went, Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood added 14 TT wins to his numerous Grand Prix and world title victories. He first raced on the island in 1958 and gave Honda its first two TT wins in 1961. The Hailwood TT story’s most remarkable chapter was surely his comeback in 1978 after an 11-year absence (he’d been off racing on four wheels in Formula 1, F2, F5000 and World Sportscars). Astride a Ducati he took a famous win in the Formula One race, to silence all those who’d questioned his motivation, ability and fitness after such a long time away from the island. And then to really rub it in, he came back in 1979 and took a record seventh Senior win on a Suzuki, 18 years after his first. Pure class.
Lightweight 125cc – 1961
Lightweight 250cc – 1961, 1966, 1967
Senior – 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1979
Junior – 1962, 1967
Formula One – 1978
11 wins – Michael Dunlop
Nephew of Joey and one of two racing sons of fellow TT winner Robert, who died in practice for the 2008 North West 200, Michael Dunlop has continued the family tradition of taming the Isle of Man. He made his Mountain Course bow in 2007 and climbed to the top step of the podium for the first time in 2009. He came close to winning all five races in 2013, thanks to a Supersport double and victory in the Superbike and Superbike races. Only falling shy, by 10 seconds, to John McGuinness in the Senior prevented a clean sweep to match that achieved by Ian Hutchinson in 2010. This year he has a very good chance of edging clear to sit fourth on the all-time list, but ‘Hutchy’ will have other ideas…
Supersport – 2009, 2012, 2013 (x2), 2014
Superstock – 2011, 2013, 2014
Superbike – 2013, 2014
Senior – 2014
11 wins – Steve Hislop
A darling of the TT in the late-1980s and early-’90s, ‘Hizzy’ twice pulled off an island hat-trick – in 1989 and 1991. And who can ever forget his epic scrap with future World Superbike king Carl Fogarty in the 1992 Senior, in which Hislop took Norton’s first TT win for nearly 20 years?
The Scot was the first rider to break the 120mph marker, in 1989, and was one of the most popular island daredevils. So much so, in fact, that his death, aged 41, in a helicopter crash in 2003 was felt throughout the world of biking.
Formula 2 – 1987
Production, Class B – 1988
Formula One – 1989, 1991, 1994
Senior – 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994
Superstock 600cc – 1989, 1991
11 wins – Ian Hutchinson
Described in a recent TV documentary as ‘Miracle Man’, Ian Hutchinson has fought back from horrific injuries sustained in a British Supersport race at Silverstone in 2010. The shunt, in which he came close to losing his left leg, came a few months after his five-race clean-sweep at the TT. Five years were lost to endless operations, physiotherapy and recuperation as he fought back to fitness. His three wins on his return to the island last year have gone down in history and the softly-spoken Yorkshireman is bidding to rack up a 12th TT win in 2016 – something his practice pace this week suggests is pretty likely.
Supersport – 2007, 2009, 2010 (x2), 2015 (x2)
Superstock – 2009, 2010, 2015
Senior – 2010
Superbike – 2010
11 wins – Phillip McCallen
Northern Irishman McCallen, who first tried to tame the Mountain Course in 1988, became the first rider to win four races in a week, with victory in the Formula One, Senior, Junior and Production TTs in 1996. And he could’ve made it five as he led the Lightweight race for the first two laps before fading to fourth. He returned to take a hat-trick in 1997, cementing his mid-1990s reputation for being nigh-on unbeatable on the island.
Formula One – 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997
Supersport 600cc: 1992
Senior – 1993, 1996, 1997
Junior – 1996
Production – 1996, 1997
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