Road Dirt Contributor and IOMTT road race fan Christian Pierce reacts to the cancellation of the famed race for 2021
Just when I thought hope was on the horizon, the pandemic reared its ugly head once again. Last week, I learned that one of the highlights of the sporting calendar, the Isle of Man TT, has been cancelled for 2021. The upcoming races were scheduled to start at the end of May. So, despite the promising news involving international vaccine programs to combat the spread of Covid-19, it would appear that 2021 will be a far cry from normal as well (at least to start the year).
Given the severity of this global pandemic and the isolation of a locale like the Isle of Man, I was not surprised to learn about the decision made by the local government. As stated in the press release, “We do not underestimate the disappointment that this decision will cause to many people. However, we are making an early, logical decision to provide certainty and clarity to race fans and everyone else involved in the event. The TT relies on thousands of volunteers and officials across a wide range of organisations and we could not move responsibly towards a positive decision to proceed in planning for 2021, which would involve committing to welcoming tens of thousands of people to the Island in June, despite the progress towards a vaccination programme globally and on the Island.” At the end of the day, the Isle of Man is a secluded island in the Irish Sea and one of their major defenses against communal spread involves tight control over their borders. By closely monitoring and restricting travel to and from the island, the government has been able to mitigate the spread of the virus. And while they experienced a spike in April, they truly flattened the curve as the island has avoided a major outbreak since that time.
Clearly, the health and safety of the local residents is the key concern and while their current initiatives seem to be working, any major interruption to their regimented approach could wreak havoc. The TT therefore introduces too many variables and an influx of international travelers could lead to a second wave that they have been able to avoid to this point. Admittedly, I respect the government’s decision given how well they have controlled the situation thus far, but I had been holding out hope that the TT would return for 2021.
As written about in a previous article for Road Dirt, I had the privilege of attending the TT back in 2007. That trip left such an impression on me, that I long to one day return to the island to witness the races in person again. Part of what made that trip so special was getting a chance to interact with the Manx people. The government encourages residents to open up their homes during the event and rent out rooms to those attending the TT. My wife and I took advantage of this program and had an opportunity to stay with an amazing host. Every morning she prepared a delicious English breakfast and happily taxied us into Douglas (the capital city) so that we could hop a bus to other areas along the race course. And once on the course, I was quick to strike up conversations with the volunteer marshals who would regale us with stories about the TT and the skilled racers who competed on the island over the years. The Manx people clearly value the TT and take considerable pride in running this world-class event. With that said, I’m sure the economic impact of cancelling the TT two years in a row has been devastating to the local economy. The races are undoubtedly the peak of their tourism season and the loss of revenue is likely severe. Having spent time with the local residents, I wish them all the best and hope they make it past these obstacles to once again welcome us to their legendary little island.
In announcing the cancellation of the 2021 TT, the organizers did express their desire to host racers and race fans later in the year. “The Department (for Enterprise) will continue to work with the Manx Motor Cycle Club and other partners towards delivering the 2021 Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix, which are scheduled to run from Saturday 21st August to Friday 3rd September. Whilst the ongoing situation will be monitored on a regular basis, a final decision on whether these events will run as scheduled will be made by the end of March 2021.” These events do not receive the same television coverage that the TT does here in the United States, but should the Classic TT and the Manx Grand Prix be held later in the year, I would take that as a promising sign for a TT return in 2022.
The TT has experienced interruptions in the past, as racing was suspended during WWI and WWII, and each time it returned to its former glory. Knowing that the event has endured hardship before makes me confident that it will return, and while I’ll miss another TT next year, it will make the return in 2022 all the more enjoyable to watch as racers head out onto the Mountain Course after this two-year hiatus.
*photos by IOMTT