Top 10 Closest TT Finishes
Despite being 37 and ¾ miles in length, and having races lasting close to two hours and well in excess of one hundred miles, the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course has seen some thrilling, and unbelievably close, finishes that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a short circuit dash over 15 laps. Over a dozen have been decided by less than two seconds so here we take a look at the ten closest TT finishes, from staggered start races, since the event begun in 1907.
Interestingly enough, four out of the ten have come in the last ten years, further proof of the increase in competition since the beginning of the second century of TT racing.
1995 125cc TT – Mark Baldwin beats Mick Lofthouse by 0.6s
The early stages of the 4-lap 1995 Ultra-Lightweight 125cc TT saw a three-way battle involving Mick Lofthouse, James Courtney and Mark Baldwin with little to choose between the trio. Lofthouse slowly began to edge away only to slide off at Parliament Square on the second lap but he quickly remounted and still held a five-second advantage by the time he reached the Grandstand for his pitstop.
Going into the last lap, Lofthouse’s advantage was 5.6s over Courtney with Baldwin a further 0.8s further back up, but, thinking he had a bigger lead than what he actually had, the Accrington rider eased off too much as he came down the Mountain for the fourth and final time and that, combined with a record-breaking lap from Baldwin, the surprise package of the race, meant that the result was in doubt.
Such was the pace of Baldwin it caught the commentators and timekeepers completely unawares and Lofthouse was mistakenly being acclaimed the winner. His world soon came crashing down though as Baldwin flashed across the line after lapping at 109.01mph, the first 109mph+ lap in the class, to snatch victory by just 0.6s.
2012 Supersport A – Bruce Anstey beat Cameron Donald by 0.77s
Once early race leader Michael Dunlop went out of the first Supersport race of 2012, a thrilling three-way battle between Gary Johnson, Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald ensued. The Honda trio were evenly matched around the Mountain Circuit although Johnson was continually doing just enough to hold onto the lead.
Johnson led by just over 2 seconds going into the fourth and final lap but the gap was shrinking all the time and half way round the lap, there was less than a second covering the three riders. By the Bungalow, Anstey was in the lead for the first time, his lead over Donald 0.93s but Johnson was dropping back and eventually ran out of fuel, pushing in for 28th!
Donald got from the Bungalow to the Grandstand slightly quicker but it was the Kiwi Anstey that held on by 0.77s, Donald magnanimous in defeat despite coming agonisingly close to a third TT win. Although it wasn’t to determine a race win, Anstey was on the receiving end later in the week when Ryan Farquhar pipped him for third in the second Supersport race by 0.01s!
1988 Production A – Dave Leach beat Geoff Johnson by 0.8s
The big Production machines of the late 1980s were a handful, to say the least, around the Mountain Course and many riders preferred to skip the class instead. But some riders revelled on the 1000cc beasts, none more so than Dave Leach and the late Geoff Johnson.
Both were FZR1000 Yamaha mounted for the 4-lap 1988 Production A race, the only difference being Leach’s was Michelin-shod and Johnson’s Avon. It was Leach who shot off into the distance in the early stages, aided by a stunning lap of 116.27mph, and he led the Suzuki of Kevin Wilson by ten seconds at half race distance. Johnson was 25 seconds adrift as he was slowed by a warped disc.
However, Leach had to ease the pace in the closing stages due to his chain jumping the sprocket and Johnson was now in his stride although he was still 16 seconds behind going into the final lap. He blitzed the final lap with a new record of 116.55mph, less than 20 seconds slower than the outright lap record, but it was to be in vain as Leach held on by 0.8s.
1966 Sidecar 500 – Fritz Scheidegger beat Max Deubel by 0.8s
History was made on August 28th, 1966 when the 500cc Sidecar event became the first TT race ever to be held on a Sunday and it was Max Deubel/Emil Horner who led the field at the end of the first lap, their lead over World Championship rivals Fritz Scheidegger/John Robinson a formidable looking twelve seconds.
A lap later and Deubel had increased his lead to 15 seconds but on the final lap, Scheidegger was closing rapidly and by the Bungalow, the Swiss driver had nosed fractionally ahead, Deubel crossed the line first but then had to wait 40 seconds to see if he’d done enough but he hadn’t and Scheidegger got the verdict by just 0.8s.
However, there was drama when he was excluded for a fuel technicality and his initial appeal was turned down. He appealed again and months later, he was finally awarded the win, the prize money and, more importantly, the 8 points that enabled him to claim his second World crown.
1986 Production C – Gary Padgett beat Malcolm Wheeler by 1.0s
The Production C class, for 250cc-400cc two-strokes and 401-600cc four-strokes, was new to the TT in 1986 and Gary Padgett, on a previously unseen Suzuki RG400, started alongside veteran Malc Wheeler on a GPZ600 Kawasaki. The duo would spend the next three laps practically tied together.
Padgett edged away initially to lead by 4.6s at the end of the first lap when they both pitted for fuel and that allowed Steve Linsdell to take control to the tune of 5.2s by the end of lap 2. However, he had to slow to conserve fuel and that allowed Padgett and Wheeler, who had now closed back up, to go head to head over the final lap.
It was more like short circuit racing with the lead changing hands on more than one occasion, particularly on the mountain descent, but it was Gary who crossed the line first with Wheeler just one second further back after 113.19 miles of racing.
2010 Sidecar B – Klaus Klaffenbock beat John Holden by 1.12s
In 2010, both Sidecar races saw tiny winning margins but, after taking the opening 3-lap race, Klaus Klaffenbock/Dan Sayle had to work even harder to make it a double after a dramatic opening lap saw Dave Molyneux/Patrick Farrance and Simon Neary/Paul Knapton lead before both were forced to retire.
That meant that long-time TT bridesmaids John Holden/Andy Winkle led Klaffenbock/Sayle by 8 seconds after the first lap and with a blistering second lap of 113.569mph that gap had stretched to 10 seconds with just one circuit to go.
However, Klaffenbock/Sayle really got the hammer down on that final lap and the gap came down throughout. They didn’t get their nose ahead until the Nook on the final lap, just a mile from home, but it was when it mattered most and they made it win number 2 for the week by the slim margin of 1.12s.
1989 Sidecar A – Dave Molyneux beat Kenny Howles by 1.2s
When pre-race favourites Mick Boddice/Chas Birks stopped with a split fuel line just two miles in, the 1989 Sidecar A race was wide open and it was Kenny Howles/Steve Pointer who took full advantage, the duo opening up a commanding 20.4s lead after the opening lap, despite losing the clutch half way round.
However, due to a timing mix-up, they were being given inaccurate signals throughout the race and that allowed Dave Molyneux/Colin Hardman to close right up. Howles started five seconds adrift of his start time and the information his signallers had been relying on was subsequently out by that margin.
They believed they had taken their first race win at the end of the three laps but when the adjustment was made, they were relegated to second and it was Molyneux/Hardman who took their debut win instead, the margin just 1.2s.
2010 Superstock – Ian Hutchinson beat Ryan Farquhar by 1.32s
The Superstock race of the 2010 TT festival was always going to be Ryan Farquhar’s best chance of another TT win and he signalled his intentions from the off, his opening lap giving him a 6.78s lead over Michael Dunlop.
Second time around and a new lap record of 129.816mph saw the Dungannon man’s lead go up to 8.8s but it was now Ian Hutchinson in second, the Honda rider already having taken the Superbike and opening Supersport race wins. A lightning pit-stop saw him briefly ahead but Farquhar’s determination was second to none and he held a 5.5s lead going into the final lap.
However, Hutchinson put in a phenomenal lap of 130.741mph, the first ever 130mph+ lap by a Superstock machine and, having hit the front for the first time on the final run over the Mountain, he grabbed the win by a slender 1.32s.
2010 Supersport B – Ian Hutchinson beat Michael Dunlop by 1.45s
The second Supersport race of 2010 was almost a carbon copy of the Superstock race such were the minute margins but this time Hutchinson was embroiled in a ferocious dice with another Ulsterman – Michael Dunlop.
The gap between the duo fluctuated on each and every lap, Dunlop closing in on the run to Ramsey only for Hutchinson to pull away over the Mountain, the section where he was in imperious form. Going into the final lap, Hutchinson was still in control, albeit by only 3.19s, but a superb effort from Dunlop saw him edge ahead for the first time as they leapt Ballaugh Bridge.
The gap had increased to almost two seconds at Ramsey Hairpin but, yet again, Hutchinson’s mastery of the Mountain section came into play and he overturned the deficit to take his fourth win of the week by 1.45s, the pair both smashing the lap record as they fought for supremacy. It was, essentially, the start of an intense rivalry that still exists today.
1989 Production 750 – Carl Fogarty beat Dave Leach by 1.8s
The 1989 Production 750cc race was a classic three-way dice between three of the sports finest – Steve Hislop, Carl Fogarty and Dave Leach – and they slugged it for four laps in pure, short circuit style.
Hislop, who became the first man to break the 120mph barrier in the Formula One race earlier in the week, led to begin with on his RC30 Honda but he had to stop for fuel at the end of the first lap whilst Fogarty was able to stretch two laps from his similar machine.
After the last round of pit stops, all three were together on the road once more and it was a simple final lap dash of 37.73 miles. Hislop, who’d started ten seconds ahead of Leach and Fogarty, sat back to give fellow Honda rider the best chance and it worked. Fogarty and Leach swapped the lead repeatedly but as Leach’s exhaust began to work its way loose, it allowed Fogarty to dive ahead at Brandish and he pulled away for his maiden TT win.