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Welcome to the great Hall of Fame for the Isle of Man TT. We’ve only got the best riders who made history on the Island, setting records and making it the most popular road race ever. Check out who has made the cut…
The most successful world championship rider of all time, Giacomo Agostini made his TT debut in 1965 and for the next eight years he firmly established himself as one of the Isle of Man greats. A factory MV Agusta rider throughout his TT career, cynics would point to a lack of opposition for his 10 TT wins but the way the Bergamo rider went toe to toe with arch rival Mike Hailwood in 1966 and 1967 was proof that he could take on the very best the Mountain Circuit had to offer.
Ago stepped on to the podium for the very first time in the 1965 Junior, an amazing feat in itself, and just one year later he took his first ever TT win in the corresponding race. He also set a new lap record before claiming second in the Senior but it was the following years races which saw Ago showcase his talents even further.
After taking second in the Junior, Agostini smashed the outright lap record from a standing start in the 1967 Senior TT and it remains to this day as one of the most talked about races in the history of the TT. At two-thirds race distance he led Hailwood by 12 seconds but on the very next lap his chain broke at Windy Corner and he was forced to tour home. He had pushed Hailwood, seemingly unbeaten around the 37-¾ mile circuit, to new heights though and the pair shattered the old lap record, speeds that remained unbeaten for another 8 years.
With MV Agusta dominating the Grand Prix scene, he took a Senior-Junior double for the next three years, won the Senior in 1971 and then did another double in 1972. This proved to be his final year of racing at the TT as his good friend Gilberto Parlotti tragically lost his life in that year’s 125cc race. Ago refused to race again on the Mountain Course but has continued to support the event and is a regular participant in the popular Parade Laps.
Geoff Duke made an instant impact on the sport not only with his results but also with his impeccable style. Hailing from St Helens in Merseyside, Duke was the first man to wear a one piece set of racing leathers but he came to the attention of many when he won the Clubmans TT and Senior Manx Grand Prix in 1949. Just a few months later he returned to the TT itself as a factory Norton rider and, after taking the runner up spot in the Junior, he duly won the 1950 Senior TT thus having the unique record of taking three major races in the space of 12 months.
A super stylist, Duke set Junior and Senior lap and race records on his way to a double win in 1951 before adding a fourth victory to his name in 1952 when he took the Junior. He was denied another double though when he was forced to retire from the Senior on the fourth lap whilst holding a commanding lead.
After winning three world titles for Norton, as well as being awarded the OBE, Duke realised that the four cylinder machines were on the ascendancy and he made the bold switch to the mighty Italian Gilera team in 1953. However, although he would take three successive 500cc World Championships for Gilera, he was out of luck at the TT initially, crashing out uninjured of the 1953 Senior race. In 1954 he was again denied when the race was stopped early due to inclement weather. There was to be no doubt in the 1955 Senior though and he dominated the race with a new outright lap record of 99.97mph, which was initially announced as being the first ever 100mph lap before being corrected.
After six wins in six years, this proved to be his last success on the Mountain Course and although he continued racing at the TT until his retirement in 1959, he was unable to challenge for the race victories. Such was his affinity with the Isle of Man, Duke set up home on the Island where he lived until he passed away at the beginning of 2015, aged 92.
A true legend, Joey Dunlop’s success on the Mountain Course is something that will live on forever as he recorded an amazing record haul of 26 victories. The wins came between 1977 and 2000 and were littered with records along the way and the quiet man from Ballymoney was without doubt the supreme, all-time master of the 37-¾ mile TT circuit.
His debut in 1976 gave no indication of what lay in store but in 1977 a lap in excess of 110mph enabled him to take his first ever win, the victory coming in the one-off Jubilee race. The next few years were relatively lean but he really established himself as a major force in 1980 when he took on, out-thought and defeated, the works Honda’s in the Classic race shattering the outright lap record on his privately owned 750cc Yamaha.
He was duly signed up by the mighty Honda concern and for the next 20 years he would remain a factory rider but he continued to do things in his own, unique manner which made him stand out from the crowd and made him revered all over the world. Whether it was a 125cc, 250cc or Superbike machine, Dunlop was the man to beat and his skills and talent as a motorcycle racer became the stuff of folklore and, quite simply, he made the whole thing look easy.
He fought back from serious injury sustained at a short circuit race in 1989 to equal and then demolish Mike Hailwood’s record number of wins and whilst his list of successes are too long to list, some of the highlights included six straight wins in the Formula One race between 1983 and 1988, three hat tricks in 1985, 1988 and 2000 and a sensational win in the 2000 Formula One race on the factory SP-1 Honda at 48 years of age, the first time he had won a ‘big bike race’ in over 12 years.
A quiet, modest, family man, Joey Dunlop’s knowledge of the Mountain Course was unparalleled and unrivalled but he was tragically killed in a 125cc race in Tallinn, Estonia in July 2000. He will forever remain the greatest rider ever to have competed at the Isle of Man TT races.
In many people’s eyes, Mike Hailwood is regarded as the greatest motorcycle rider of all time and the way he scorched around the Isle of Man TT Course certainly lends sufficient weight to that theory. It was 1958 when he made his TT debut at just 18 but his talent was there for all to see as he claimed a maiden podium in the Lightweight 250cc race held on the smaller Clypse Course.
His first win came just three years later and not only did he win the Lightweight 125cc race (Honda’s first ever win) he also took the Lightweight 250cc and Senior victories to claim an unprecedented hat trick, the first time this feat had ever been achieved. By 1962 he had become a works MV Agusta rider and he rewarded the Italian concern with four straight victories in the Senior race.
A switch back to Honda came in 1966 and he immediately took a Lightweight/Senior double chalking up even more lap records. At home on any machine, he added another treble to his name in 1967 to become the most successful rider ever and set a new outright lap record that wouldn’t be bettered until 1975.
At the end of 1967 he retired from motorbikes and switched to cars although he was forced to stop after a serious leg injury in 1974. However, he hadn’t finished with two wheels and made a fairytale comeback in 1978 when he took the Formula 1 race on a Ducati for his tenth world title. He was out of luck for the remainder of the week but returned for one final year in 1979 and recorded his 14th win in a record breaking Senior race before taking a close second in the Classic race.
He then retired from the sport for good but tragically lost his life, along with his daughter, in a road traffic accident in 1981 when a lorry turned into his path.
One of the finest motorcycle racers in the world, Steve Hislop was a supreme short circuit racer as well as being a TT legend but it was on the Isle of Man where he ultimately made his name and launched his career, which would see him go on to claim two British Superbike titles.
The Hawick rider was inspired to compete on the Mountain Course after watching Norman Brown and Joey Dunlop in action during the 1983 meeting and after stepping on to the podium at the Manx Grand Prix, he made his TT debut in 1985. In 1987, a first win duly came his way in the Formula 2 race, just days after retiring from the Junior race whilst holding on to a commanding lead.
He was snapped up by Honda for 1988 and won the Production B race as well as taking second in the Senior but it was in 1989 when he really established himself as a TT great. Hizzy took a hat trick of race wins during the week and became the first man to lap the Mountain Course at over 120mph. One of the most stylish racers in the world, he had a mixed week in 1990 but bounced back in 1991 to record his second hat trick and move his own outright lap record to new highs.
He was surprisingly dropped by Honda in 1992 but had arguably his finest ever moment when he won the Senior race on a Norton after a titanic battle with close rival Carl Fogarty. Quite simply, Hizzy was awesome around the Mountain Course and took two more wins in 1994 before switching his attentions to the British Championship scene
A return to the TT was always talked about but Hizzy’s only appearances would be in the parade laps. Having set up his home on the Island, he was looking to get his British Superbike career back on track in 2003 when he sadly lost his life in a helicopter accident in July that year. His death stunned the racing community and his loss was felt the whole world ever.
Part of a Yorkshire family steeped in Isle of Man history, David Jefferies was a leading light of the British Superbike Championship when he made his TT debut in 1996 at the age of 24. A self-confessed fan of riding on the roads, ‘DJ’ showed his natural abilities as a road racer in ’96 when he took the Newcomer’s Trophy.
Big in both stature and heart, DJ endeared himself to his fans as his love for the sport was all too apparent and he simply loved riding motorbikes. The fact that he could ride at phenomenal, breathtaking speed was matched with his intelligence and commitment and although he tore up the record books, he always maintained he wanted to win at the slowest possible speeds.
After putting in solid performances in his first two years of competition, he took a brilliant hat trick in 1999 when he took the Formula One, Junior and Senior race victories on Yamaha machinery. Continuing with the V&M concern, he swept to another hat trick in 2000 when he also became the first man to lap the Mountain Course at more than 125mph.
A switch to Suzuki machinery for 2002 didn’t slow him down at all and another hat trick was his, also moving the lap record to more than 127mph. His stocky build was a distinct advantage as he literally manhandled the big machines over the bumps and jumps and blew everyone away with his speed. However, he always looked like he was riding within himself and could be relied to be on the perfect, same line on each and every lap.
Such was his domination at the time, one wondered how much faster he could go but it wasn’t to be as he was killed in a practice accident in 2003. His death left the Island shell-shocked but he will always be remembered as one of the TT legends and a down to earth, ordinary guy.
A self-confessed TT fanatic, John McGuinness’ love of the Island came from childhood visits where he would watch in awe of his heroes determined, one day, to compete at the most famous road race in the world. That day came in 1996 and the laid back Lancastrian immediately made an impression, stepping on to the podium just one year later, finishing third in the Lightweight 250cc race.
His early success was achieved on the smaller machines and his first win came in 1999 when he took the 250cc win, breaking the nine year old class lap record. A British Champion the same year, he set 120mph laps on a 500cc GP machine before taking his first Superbike podium in 2000 and he has been a picture of consistency ever since.
Further wins came in the Lightweight 400cc and Single Cylinder races but it was in 2004 when riding for Yamaha that he stamped his authority on the event taking his first hat trick and breaking the outright lap record of his great friend David Jefferies. Two more Superbike wins came in 2005 and, switching to Honda, he chalked up his second hat trick in 2006 when he completely dominated the event setting new lap records along the way in the Superbike, Junior and Senior races.
Success with Honda has been non-stop and having become the first man to lap the Mountain Course in excess of 130mph in 2007, he’s continued to top the podium. Wins have come in the Superbike, Senior, Superstock and TT Zero races and although he lost it in 2014 – having held it since 2004 – he reclaimed the outright lap record in 2015 with a lap of 132.701mph on his way to winning the Senior.
With a total of 23 wins and 44 podiums – the latter the highest ever – John’s brilliance is indicated by the fact that he doesn’t even look like he’s trying and, without doubt, he is the present day King of the Mountain.
Although he only took three TT race victories, Bob McIntyre was one of the UK’s finest ever riders and he was never happier when competing on the Mountain Course. A hard riding, tough Scotsman, McIntyre would often break lap records and tear off into the distance only for his machines to let him down under the strain and he is often described as being ahead of his time. He possessed unbelievable natural talent and speed but the machines of the 1950’s weren’t always up to the task in hand – if they had, Bob Mac would have recorded far more wins.
Having won the Manx Grand Prix at his first attempt in 1952, he immediately moved up to the TT and he didn’t have to wait long for his first podium, taking second in the 1955 Junior race where he split the works Moto Guzzi’s. He was a regular thorn in the side of the factory riders on his privately entered British machines but when Geoff Duke was injured early in 1957 he was an obvious choice to replace him on the works Gilera’s.
It was the TT’s Golden Jubilee in 1957 and McIntyre ensured his name would forever remain in the record books, as he became the first man to lap the Mountain Course at over 100mph. He rose to the occasion in fine style and led the gruelling 8-lap Senior race from start to finish to claim a record win, just four days after he had achieved a similar feat in the Junior race.
World Championship success ultimately eluded him and when the majority of the Italian factories pulled out at the end of the 1957 season he returned to Norton’s and a third win came his way in 1959 when he took the inaugural 500cc Formula 1 race. He was on the podium again in 1960 before he was recruited by Honda to ride their 250cc machines but he was forced to retire from both the 1961 and 1962 races whilst leading after just missing out on the first ever 100mph Lightweight lap.
A hard man on the track, Bob Mac had the heart of a lion and he was seldom without a smile on his face. A crash in pouring rain at Oulton Park in August 1962 saw him sustain serious injuries but despite fighting tremendously hard, he succumbed to the injuries nine days later and motorcycling lost one of its true stars.
The most successful sidecar driver ever, Isle of Man’s very own Dave Molyneux is the only three-wheeled competitor to make it into the Hall of Fame but the way the Regaby man has set the class alight it’s easy to see why he is.
Son of a racing father, he made his debut in 1985 as a raw 20-year old but he impressed immediately and just a year later he was lapping regularly above 100mph, the then bench mark for the Sidecar class. He didn’t have to wait long for his first win and in 1989 he claimed the first leg, the last year that Open machines were allowed.
By this time he was also manufacturing his own machines and although it took him a while to get to grips with the new F2 class when he did, he left no one in any doubt as to who the man to beat was. He claimed a double victory in 1993 before adding three runner-up spots in the next couple of years but in 1996 he made history by becoming the first sidecar driver to break the 110mph mark and another double victory was his.
Over the next few years, Moly flitted between the TT and world championship competition but when he raced at the TT he won and continued to move his own lap record to new heights. His own made chassis was clearly the one to have and other drivers have taken the machines to further success but Dave was the one doing the majority of the winning.
Since 2002, he’s been ever present at the TT and he can now boast an unbelievable record that has seen him win on Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki machines. Despite only getting two races a year, Moly has taken a staggering 17 wins – the third highest total ever – and 29 podiums and is definitely the King of the three-wheelers.
Dublin rider Stanley Woods was one of the world-class riders who dominated racing between the two world wars and he excelled in all domains of two wheeled sport. However, it was his talents as a road racer that made his name and he was a hero to many during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
He made his TT debut as a works Cotton rider in 1922 at the tender age of 17 and managed to finish 5th in the Junior despite his lack of experience. Just one year later he took his first ever TT win in the corresponding race and it didn’t matter what brand of motorcycle he was riding, he was always in contention for race victories.
In 1926 he signed for Norton and his career really took off as he instantly repaid them with victory in the Senior race. However, he had to wait until 1932 before recording his next TT victory but he did so in style recording a record breaking double as he took the Junior and Senior races. He achieved identical results in 1933 before splitting from the Norton team but bounced back with the unfancied Husqvarna team. He set the fastest lap in the 1934 Senior race before running out of petrol but there were no dramas the following year as a switch to Moto Guzzi saw him rewarded with yet another double, this time in the Lightweight and Senior races, also setting lap records in each class.
Very much a pioneering rider, Woods was the first to use signaling stations and telephone links around the Mountain Course and he went on to chalk up further wins in 1938 and 1939, thus claiming 10 in total and becoming the first rider to reach double figures. Despite it being over 80 years ago, Stanley Woods is still one of the most successful TT riders of all time and he is rightly recognised as being one of the first TT greats.
Why not check out the epic biographies of some these fantastic riders…
Now it’s time to cast your vote on who the greatest ever TT rider is…
Words by Phil Wain.