Manxman Mac McDiarmid has assembled the ultimate compendium of the Island, the greatest tribute to the place, race and racers every put into print. Consider the energy of the cover photo of Joey Dunlop on his RC30, enter its detailed, definitive history, and one is immersed immediately in memories of favorite Manx corners, greatest riders, 'best' bikes. Once in your blood the Island never leaves you.
All that's missing--it soon floods back--is the sense of being there, hearing the distant wail of a race bike behind the banks, beyond the buildings, trees and phone poles that line the road, transforming suddenly into a shocking blur of action, embodying the intense focus of a racer at max effort, at grave risk. Add the sense of camaraderie on the street, in the pubs, around the circuit, swapping lies, kicking tires, found only in a few sports where skill, energy, commitment and risk forge bonds between participants whatever their origins. That's the true magic of the TT and McDiarmid--himself a resident and former Island racer with an 'over-the-ton' lap there--has bottled it.
John Surtees' foreword is provocative, outspoken in a way that will surprise no one who knows the man. He proposes a re-thinking of the Island: bike size/power, screening acceptable riders, even the program itself. He suggests a TT Motorsports Festival, perhaps linking two and four wheels, involving historic activities, not necessarily on the full Mountain course.
One aspect of his comments deserves mention. It puts modern racing on the Island into perspective. Over 50 years since Surtees raced and won there, two huge changes have occurred: to the bikes, radically more powerful, and the course, now smoothed and modified to the point of being unrecognizably different from the course he raced. These two changes calibrate the average speeds now approaching 130 MPH.
One element remains unchanged: the risks over the 37-mile, 150-corner Mountain moster with its unpredictable winds, weather and surface changes and other sudden, potentially deadly surprises (birds, animals, even spectators and marshalls). Over 200 racers, many of the highest caliber, have died there. Such racing, offering ultimate rewards, may extract the ultimate penalty--IoM racers have found more ways to die than any ordinary mortal could conceive, matching only carrier aviation.
The only omission from the book, clearly beyond its scope, is a listing of the riders who have run the Island, and their performance. You can find that on the event webside, www.IoMTT.com. McDiarmid's book is a keeper and keeps the reader coming back for more.
The Manx are an independent lot. Think of mysterious three-legged logotypes and cats with little or no tails but plenty of attitude.