Snaefell Mountain Course is a road-racing street circuit used for the Isle of Man TT and Manx Grand Prix Races held in the Isle of Man from 1911 and 1923 respectively. The racing is held on public roads closed for racing by an Act of Tynwald (the parliament of the Isle of Man). It is the oldest motor-cycle racing circuit still in use.
The course is 37.733 miles (60.73 km) in length and the start-line is situated on the A2 Glencrutchery Road in the town of Douglas. The racing circuit is based on a number of public roads on the Isle of Man including the primary A2 Douglas to Ramsey road, A1 Douglas to Peel road, A3 Castletown to Ramsey Road and the primary A18 Snaefell Mountain Road. The highest point of the course is situated on the primary A18 Mountain Road between the Bungalow and Hailwood’s Height at spot height 422 metres (1,385 ft) above sea level.
In the early 21st century, the premier TT racing bikes complete the Snaefell course at an average speed exceeding 120 mph (190 km/h). Record holders include David Jefferies who set a lap record of 127.29 mph (204.85 km/h) in 2002. This was surpassed by John McGuinness during the 2004 TT on a Yamaha R1 setting a time of 17 min 43.8 s; an average lap speed of 127.68 mph (205.48 km/h). McGuinness lowered this even further at the 2007 TT, setting a time of 17:21.99 for an average speed of 130.354 mph (209.784 km/h) becoming the first rider to break the 130 mph limit on the Snaefell Mountain circuit. The most successful rider was Joey Dunlop who won 26 times in various classes from 1977 to 2000.
Joey Dunlop died in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2000 while leading a 125cc race (he had already won the 750cc and 600cc events) on Pirita-Kose-Kloostrimetsa Circuit. He appeared to lose control of his bike in the wet conditions and was killed instantly on impact with trees. As a mark of respect, the Estonian government’s official website was replaced with a tribute to Dunlop within hours of his death. Northern Ireland television carried live coverage of his funeral. Fifty thousand mourners, including bikers from all parts of Britain and Ireland and people from all backgrounds in N. Ireland, attended the funeral to Garryduff Presbyterian church and his burial in the adjoining graveyard.
The most successful overall rider at the annual TT races is awarded the “Joey Dunlop Cup”. A memorial statue was erected in his home town of Ballymoney. On the Isle of Man, a statue of Dunlop astride a Honda overlooks the Bungalow Bend at Snaefell and the 26th milestone area of the TT course has been renamed “Joey’s”. Irish publishers The O’Brien Press published a full-colour pictorial tribute to Joey following his death. Northern Ireland band Therapy? made a song in memory of Dunlop, called Joey; it appeared on the album Shameless, released in 2001.
The future of the TT is always in doubt with regard to the safety, especially “Mad Sunday” when any member of the public can ride the mountain section of the course which is open one way from Ramsey to Douglas (although since 2005 this section, the mountain road is one way during the entire fortnight from hairpin to creg-ny-baa). The TT races are extremely dangerous because of the high speeds on very narrow, twisting streets, roads and lanes flanked by stone walls and even buildings. Between 1907 and 2009 (at the end of 2009 TT races period) there have been 237 deaths during official practices or races on the Snaefell Mountain Course (this number includes the riders killed during Manx Grand Prix and the Clubman TT races).
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Go for a Ride with Joey
One less well known aspect of Dunlop’s life was his tireless work for charity. He made endless trips to Romania, bring vanloads of aid to orphans and their carers in that country. These were undertaken mostly by Dunlop himself on condition that it would take place before each racing season started. Dunlop stated that his proudest award was his OBE for charity rather than any achievement in his very successful racing career.
This guy was not only a racer he was a saint, watch how he blows by the other riders!
R.I.P. Joey Dunlop
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On 31 December 2009 Joey Dunlop was voted 3rd greatest Irish sportsperson ever.