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Behind the shield: New Isle of Man docuseries humanizes TT heroes

May 30, 2023

Dean Harrison rolls to the starting line. The four-banger in his Kawasaki caterwauls off the launch limiter, the pitch progressing from agitated to aggravated. If not for that commotion, the scene appears frozen in time. The crowd is still. Harrison is still. Even the Start Line Official, whose hand looms over Harrison’s left shoulder, is still.

The rider’s unblinking eyes peer past a clear shield. Bray Hill awaits. The hand falls. Harrison drops the clutch. The ZX-10RR snarls. Head down, elbows out, he’s off, chasing Isle of Man TT glory. 

If you’re remotely familiar with the Tourist Trophy, you know this ritual all too well. Sadly, its most recent performance dates back to 2019, at the 100th IOMTT. Three years later, in 2022, racing finally resumes on the island. It’s a momentous occasion for the Isle of Man. Yet, it’s just one snippet from the IOMTT’s latest video series, "No Room for Error." The official trailer milks all that sound and fury, but the docuseries truly hinges on humanizing TT heroes. 

The whole gang’s here too. Dunlop, Hickman, Hillier, just to name a few. Star newcomer Glenn Irwin provides a beginner’s perspective. Conversely, his Honda Racing UK teammate — and 23-time TT winner — John McGuinness prepares for his 100th IOMTT start. Rising star Davey Todd has a maiden podium in his crosshairs while former TT winner Lee Johnston hopes to return to the rostrum.

The series can't rely on on-course battles to generate drama, though. After all, the 2022 Isle of Man TT is in the books. Any industrious viewer can spoil the plot by looking up last year's race results. Instead, "No Room for Error" paints a personal portrait of each protagonist’s inner struggles. Whether it be Dean Harrison facing the specter of death with black comedy or Davey Todd’s faltering confidence following a rear tire blowout, the series captures the stresses of living on a razor's edge.

More than any other venue, the Snaefell Mountain Course is known by its numbers. We’re referring to the 37.73-mile route. Its 219 corners also come to mind. Even more astounding, riders like Peter Hickman can average up to 135.452 mph over the course of one lap. Still, innumerable factors like road bumps and crest jumps also define the world’s most dangerous race course. 

The Isle of Man has hosted 101 Tourist Trophies since 1907. Over that 115-year history, 149 IOMTT riders perished on the Mountain Course. That total rose to 155 fatalities by the end of the 2022 edition, with Supersport TT riders Mark Purslow and Davy Morgan, as well as Sidecar TT competitors César Chanal, Olivier Lavorel, Roger Stockton, and Bradley Stockton, succumbing to crash injuries. Yet another sobering reminder of road racing's deadly consequences.  "No Room for Error" acknowledges those tragedies without ignoring the TT's triumphs. It presents both heartwarming comebacks and heartbreaking DNFs (did not finish).

All six episodes are currently available to stream for free on IOMTT Races’ TT+ service. Simply create a free account and enjoy each installment at your own convenience. With the 2023 Isle of Man TT underway this week, there’s no better primer for another year of the most dangerous race in the world.