Researching the Isle of Man TT Races for TT: Full Throttle
Before I visited the Isle of Man for the first time in 2010, I made the conscious decision not to over-research the Isle or the Races, including who the top riders were. I knew I was taking a risk by doing this, but I had good reasons which paid off.
I knew that the majority of North American readers had never heard of the Isle of Man, let alone something called the Tourist Trophy Races, (which sounds like a trophy for tourists who are marathon runners). So I came to think of the island and Scott’s race – the Supersport – as additional characters in the story, only they weren’t fictionalized (obviously). I figured the best way for readers to discover the IOM and learn about the IOMTT was for me to discover it as unspoiled as I could for the first time as well.
During my first visit in 2010, I snapped over 2,000 photographs and filled three notebooks, jotting down observations, snippets of conversations, course descriptors and anything else that struck me as interesting, amazing, beautiful, striking, etc., That way upon returning home, I could pull from all the notes which would enable me to recall different settings, specific images, scenes or emotions.
Not knowing the intricate details about the thirty-seven and three quarter mile course or how the two weeks were organized wasn’t a problem either. Everyone, from organizers, privateers, and marshals to pit crew, journalists and podium champs that I met and talked to about my book for teens was happy to discuss the TT Races. No matter how many questions I had about motorcycles, the TT course – how to learn it, how to qualify, what happens when… or what does X mean, or what’s the differences between this as opposed to that, etc., – they indulged me with lots of information. I consider myself lucky to have been able to meet and speak with so many people and their passion for the TT Races.
The same held true with not knowing who the TT riders were, especially when I first arrived during Practice Week. There were many times where I’d finish having a friendly chat with someone only to be asked by a passerby, “Wow, how do you know him/her?” or, “Do you know who that is?” Of course, this prelapsarian state didn’t last for long as practice week came to a close. I began to notice who the press focused their attention on, or I’d overhear snippets of conversations from people in the crowd as they whispered and pointed. This gave me the chance to observe riders under pressure too. A lot of what I saw I channeled into Scott’s character or it inspired various race scenes in the book.
The second year I travelled to the IOM for the TT Races I saw things very differently, but it gave me a chance to work out the finer details in my story. I still had some fun adventures, but now I had become a fan, which gave me a deeper appreciation for the riders and the immense amount of organization that goes into putting together the TT Races.
Every year since then, I’ve tuned into the Races on Manx Radio TT 365 and I hope to return in 2014.
Photographed just outside of Union Mills.