Snaefell Mountain Course - Deadliest Race Track on the Planet

December 9, 2016
Marijan Malcevic

  • Snaefell Mountain Course, Isle of Mann Tourist Trophy, 2011 centenary
  • Isle of Man TT, Joey Dunlop
  • Isle of Man TT, Snaefell Mountain Course
  • Snaefell Mountain Course map

The Snaefell Mountain Course is a race circuit on the public roads of the Isle of Man, the venue of the famous motorcycle races Isle of Man TT (since 1911) and Manx Grand Prix (since 1923). The 37.7 miles (60.7 km) long track with more than 200 bends is the most dangerous and the deadliest race track in the world, with recorded more than 270 fatalities since the inaugural event.

Pinnacle of bravery and madness

Because of a huge mortality rate, this course and motorcycle races on it are considered as the pinnacle of bravery (and madness) in the motorsport world. The organisers say it is the Greatest Road Race in the World.

Between 1949 and 1976, the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) race was a part of the FIM World Championship. Some of the multiple winners were John Surtees, Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini. The greatest heroes of the world’s deadliest track are the current lap record holder Michael Dunlop and his uncle Joey Dunlop, who won 26 times.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, black and white

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is one of the world’s oldest races

First race on the Isle of Man public roads was held in 1904

The story about Isle of Man phenomenon started in 1904 with the Gordon Bennett Trial, the race which was reserved for the cars. The race on the island was organized because in that time the speed in the UK was restricted to 20 mph (32 km/h). At the Isle of Man, there weren’t any limitations. The first race took place at the 52.15-mile (83.9 km) Highroads Course. A year later, the motorcycle riders joined a Trial but on the shorter 25-mile section.

Snaefell Mountain Course is in use since 1911

In May 1907, the inaugural Isle of Man Tourist Trophy was held on the 15-mile St. John’s Course. Four years later, the race was transferred to the 37.4 miles long Snaefell Mountain Course, the race track which is still in use today. Of course, many modifications and improvements were made between 1911 and 2016 but the high rate of mortality remained the trademark of the Snaefell Mountain Course since the early days. The first victim of the track was Victor Surridge, who lost his life during the practice for the 1911 TT race.

Fatal accidents are trademarks of the Isle of Man

Since then, almost every edition of the race (both Tourist Trophy and Manx Grand Prix) took its victims. The deadliest year was 2005 when eleven people (nine drivers, marshal and spectator) were killed during two separate events.

Among all motorcycle racers who lost their lives on the island, there was one race car driver (James Neilson) who was killed during the 1953 British Empire Trophy race.

Snaefell Mountain Course map

Map: Snaefell Mountain Course track layout

37.73-mile course around island’s mountain

The current layout of the circuit, 37.73 miles long, was set in 1923. The racers are running clockwise, starting from the TT Grandstand area in the town of Douglas, the capital and the largest town on the island. The complex around the start-finish line is the only place on the circuit with ticket sales. The rest of the course offers numerous places for spectators all around the island.

The track follows A1 road from Douglas to Peel, then A3 road from Castletown to Ramsey and finally the A2 road from Ramsey to Douglas. Through the years, some places and bends were named after competitors, some of them lost their lives and some of them are still alive. The highest point of the course, on 422 meters above the sea level, is Hailwood Height at Ordnance Survey. The uphill section before that point was named Hailwood’s Rise, in memory of the world motorcycle champion Mike Hailwood (died in 1981).

Video : Michael Dunlop’s record setting lap

Michael Dunlop is the fastest driver ever at the Mountain Course

The official lap record for the Snaefell Mountain Course is 16 minutes 53.929 seconds at an average speed of 133.962 mph (215.591 km/h) set by Michael Dunlop during the 2016 Senior TT Race. The race record of an average speed of 210.3 km/h was also set by Dunlop, during the six-lap race in 2016. In the 2006 TT practices, New Zealander Bruce Anstey achieved the unofficial top speed record of 206 mph (332 km/h) at the end of Sulby straight on a Suzuki 1000cc machine.

Although there is no official race for the cars at the Isle of Man, the circuit is very popular among the racecar drivers. British rally ace Mark Higgins was breaking the lap time record several times. His current record was set in June 2016, with a lap time 17 minutes 49.75 seconds, in the Prodrive-prepared Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Joey Dunlop, Isle of Man TT

Joey Dunlop

Joey Dunlop collected 26 Tourist Trophy wins

Michael Dunlop collected thirteen TT race victories in different classes, including three wins in the premium Superbike TT class. He was also a four-time winner of the Manx Grand Prix on the same track.

Michael’s uncle Joey Dunlop is the most awarded rider at the Snaefell Mountain Course, with 26 overall Tourist Trophy victories between 1976 and 2000. The second on the list is John McGuiness with 23 wins. Dave Molyneux is the record holder in the sidecar category with seventeen wins. The former motorcycle world champion and Formula One driver Mike Hailwood collected fourteen wins at the Isle of Man.

Address: MMCC Office, The Grandstand, Glencrutchery Road, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM2 6DA

Phone: +44 1624 644649

Official website:


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