Planning your trip to the 2020 TT

Lee Johnston with a quick flight over Ballaugh Bridge.

As some of you know, I live in Minneapolis, there is snow on the ground, my GS and my RR are both tucked away for hibernation. 

Although the 2019 Isle of Man TT is long since in my rear-view mirror, I have been traveling to US BMW Motorrad dealers to present my Up Close at the TT multimedia program.  This weekend I am off to BMW Motorcycles of South East Michigan (12/7) and then on to BMW Motorcycles of Temecula, CA (12/14).

It really is a great job. I get to take photos of amazing riders and incredible machines and then I get to show off my photos and talk about one of my favorite things to talk about to people who actually want to listen. 

I am really fortunate that I have a topic where there is both broad and historic interest. Almost everyone who joins me at my program, at one time or another has said, Someday – I want to go see the TT

For 2020 the TT runs from Sunday May 31 through Friday, June 12th.  Solely based on the way the dates fall, this is a bit later than in 2019. Also, there has been a change in the schedule.  For 2020 practice starts on Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday. I have included the official schedule below.

If you need convincing about the event, here are a few comments from guys who really know – 

  • Get on a plane and get over here, because there is nothing else like it, it’s so special.  Peter Hickman  
  • I tell people that if you don’t believe me how amazing the TT is, they should go buy their ticket, book their place to stay and if they don’t love it, I will pay for everything! It’s that amazing. – Lee Johnson. 
  • Just get yourself over here, it’s worth it. Come over support the American racers, it really is the greatest show on earth. – Sam West
Sam West cresting at Ballagarey during a 2019 practice session.

One of the most asked questions I receive, is when should I go? I can’t go for the entire fortnight, what is the best time to be there? 

One thing you have to keep in mind is weather. One if the reasons the Isle of Man is so green, is it that it rains, and no one races in the rain!  The risk is too big and the margin for error too small. 

2018 was a year of fabulous weather, 2019 not so much. It is possible to plan a short trip to the TT and not see any racing.  

My plan for 2020 is to again arrive a few days before practice begins and stay until a few days after the final race.  I use the excuse of ‘well you know, I am working.’ But the truth is, I just really enjoy the Isle of Man and being with my friends there and that I am planning on tentatively returning for the Manx Gran Prix in August. 

Peter Hickman will be back n 2020 as part of Smith’s Racing, now the official BMW Motorrad Road Racing Team

The answer of when to go depends on how much time you have.  

If you have the time, go for the full fortnight – GO!

If you only have a week, try to arrive on Wednesday morning of practice week. 

During practice week the paddock buzzes with activity, the riders are accessible for autographs and brief conversation and everyone is having a fabulous time.  

If you arrive early in the day, you can see practice sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and races on Saturday and Monday. Then you can head home on Tuesday. 

The harder question if I only have 3 or 4 days, when should I go? For me 3 days would feel really rushed and I suggest that if you are going to do 4 days.  Arrive Thursday morning and leave Monday evening. 

If it rains on Saturday, they will likely race on Sunday afternoon. 

Either way you will have time to explore, see some really fast bikes and still have time to get some touring in on the Isle of Man. 

Here is the latest official schedule:

TT Qualifying Timetable 2020 

Sunday 31st May

1300: Roads Close

1330: Newcomer Slighting Laps
1350: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 1530 Supersport / Lightweight Qualifying
1630: Sidecar Qualifying 

Monday 1st June 

18.00: Roads Close
18.20: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 2005 Sidecar Qualifying 

Tuesday 2nd June 

18.00: Roads Close
18.20: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 1925 Supersport / Lightweight Qualifying
20.05: Sidecar Qualifying 

Wednesday 3rd June 

18.00: Roads Close
18.20: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 2005 Sidecar Qualifying 

Thursday 4th June 

18.00: Roads Close
18.20: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 1925 Supersport / Lightweight Qualifying
20.05: Sidecar Qualifying 

Friday 5th June 

12.30: Roads Close
13.00: Superbike / Superstock / Supersport Qualifying 1410 Supersport / Lightweight Qualifying
15.05: Sidecar Qualifying

TT Race Timetable (2020)

Saturday 6th June

10.00 Roads Close
10.30 Solo Morning Warm Up (1 lap)

12.00 RST Superbike TT Race (6 laps)

15.00 Sidecar TT Race 1 (3 laps)

Monday 8th June

10.00 Roads Close
10.30 Solo Morning Warm Up (1 lap)

11.45 Supersport TT Race 1 (4 laps)

14.45 RL360 Superstock Race (4 laps)

Wednesday 10th June

10.00 Roads Close
10.30 Solo Morning Warm Up (1 lap)
10.50 Sidecar Shake Down (1 lap) 
11.45 Bennetts Lightweight TT Race (4 laps)

14.45 Supersport TT Race 2 (4 laps)

Friday 12th June

09.30 Roads Close
10.30 Sidecar TT Race 2 (3 laps)

12.45 Senior TT Race (6 laps) 

Remembering Daley

Daley Mathison flying over Ballagarey during Superstock pracice

Whether on TV or from the course, we watch the TT and marvel at the amazing skills of the drivers.   Close to the hedge, even closer to an unforgiving stone wall and sections with a mountain on one side and nothing on the other.  While amazing Peter Hickman’s lap record of 135.452 mph doesn’t tell the whole story.  With speeds approaching 200 mph, decisions have to be made while traveling up to nearly 300 feet per second.  Think about it, the length of a football pitch EVERY SECOND. 

As they say – fast in the fast parts and slow in the slow parts, but with 264 turn there are many more fast than slow. 


The riders, much like jet fighter pilots but with even less room for error have to rely on lap after lap after lap of practice, instinct and lightning fast reflexes.  The course is unforgiving and there is no room for error. 

But errors are made and friends are lost.  On June 3, 2019 Daley Mathison made an error. No one will ever really know what happened, if it was the smallest error in his line, something mechanical or debris on the course, what we do know is that we lost an amazing young rider, a father, a husband and a friend.  

I got to know Daley in 2018 and spent some time with him during practice week this year. Such a passionate young man, dedicated to the sport and even more dedicated to Natalie and Daisey. My heart goes out to his family and others who he touched.

Daley – rest in peace, you are missed.

I hope you enjoy a few of my photos of Daley and remembering him doing what he loved to do.

Supersport practice- Braddan Bridge
Supersport practice- Braddan Bridge
Daley’s final lap of the Mountain Course at Ballaugh Bridge
Daley’s final lap of the Mountain Course at Ballaugh Bridge
Daley’s final lap of the Mountain Course at Ballaugh Bridge
Daley giving it full gas at the start of the 2018 Superbike Race, with Daisies on his knee sliders to honor his daughter.

That Dean Harrison guy sure is fast!

Leading up to both the 2018 and 2019 TT Dean Harrison and Peter Hickman were billed as the ones to watch.

Indeed they were worth watching, that is if you could possibly turn your head fast enough to keep them in sight. Dean turned in a fastest lap of 134.918 and Peter set the record with a lap in the 2018 Senior TT of 135.452, mere seconds difference over a lap of the Mountain Course.

On the first night of practice, I had my favorite spot to get the riders coming over Ballagarey. My son Jon was with me shooting video and after a few riders when by, Dean came flying over the hill and Jon looked at me and said, That Dean Harrison guy share is fast. Yes everyone is fast but when a few of the top riders go by, they actually are noticeably faster.

Although I am a BMW guy, it was great to see Dean pick up a win in the Senior TT and a couple of other podiums as well.

A favorite comment from the 2019 race was when I asked my friend Harry (age 6) what is favorite motorbike was, he emphatically said “Powasaki.” With Dean’s consistently fast time, all I can say is Powasaki indeed.

Deal getting ready for the first practice session
Dean and Conor Cummins waiting to be sent off in practice.
There was a great relief among the riders and crews when practice was finally able to begin.
Practice at Ballagarey.
Dean at Braddan Bridge
Flying over Ballaugh Bridge.
Dean and Conor turning in at Ballaugh after the red flag.
Dean and Conor taking it easy at Ballaugh and chatting with the marshals.
Close to the wall at Greeba Bridge for his 2019 Senior TT win.

The Isle of Man that isn’t the TT

As I travel and share stories about the Isle of Man and the TT, I always tell people that if you only go the Isle of Man and only watching fast motorcycles, you are missing half of the experience. This small island nation is a truly an amazing place to explore. There are rugged coastlines, lush National Glens, rolling hills, historic churches and cemeteries, as well as the an amazing waterwheel built in 1854.

I could go on and on, but I will just share a few photos and you can start planning your days off at the 2020 TT.

The Lady Isabella in Laxey
The Lady Isabella in Laxey
The Lady Isabella in Laxey
Ballaglass Glen near Ramsey
Ballaglass Glen near Ramsey
Entrance to Marine Drive – just a few minutes from Douglas
Marine Drive – just a few minutes from Douglas
A 12th Century Viking Castle
The rolling hills are incredibly quiet on non-race days.
Sometimes you forget you are on an island.

Back home, with my head still spinning

Peter Hickman won 3 races at the 2019 TT

WOW – it has happened, I am on the plane headed home and the last three weeks have flown by like the motorbikes hitting the end of the Sulby straight, and the 2019 Isle of Man TT is in the books.  

My hope is it will be remembered not for the rainy days but the incredible skills of the riders, the tireless efforts of their crews and the perseverance of the marshals as they were at their stations waiting for the racing to commence, only to have another day canceled.

There is a spirit to the Isle of Man, part of it comes from the community that is part of nature of living on an island and part is showing off for the TT. For weeks before the riders, crews and spectators arrive homes along the course and throughout the island are trimming hedges, painting homes and preparing to show off the Isle as the it becomes the center of the Road Racing universe.

I am truly one of the lucky ones, I have had pleasure of making some amazing friends over the last three years. 

  • Rob, a Deputy Sector Marshal and good friend.
  • Pete & Jen, my amazing hosts who set an high bar for making visitors feel like family. 
  • Allan ‘Kipper’ Killip, who began as a Traveling Marshal in 1962 
  • Jim Hunter, a Traveling Marshal (#2)
  • Malcom Wheeler, who with his wife Julie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at this year’s TT, where they had spent their honeymoon.  Malc was on the podium 3 times in the mid-80’s.
  • Trevor Denning, Deputy Chief Technical Officer
  • A Senior TT Party that starts the day with bacon baps and has an amazing view of the course.
  • A 50th surprise birthday party, 
  • Dozens and dozens of dedicated marshals. 

And of course the riders  – 

  • Peter Hickman
  • Michael Rutter
  • Lee Johnston
  • Sam West
  • Dominic Herbertson

And with the mighty come the fallen, I had also gotten to know Dan Kneen who was killed in 2018 and Daley Mathison who perished in a crash this year. No one will every really know what happened, but all should remember the amazing spirit and skills of these two young riders, who passed doing that they loved. 

Daley Mathison on his BMW S1000RR Superstock flying over Ballagary

For 2019, we have also had the chance to see the newest Superbike how it would fare alongside the time and race tested machines.  The all new BMW S1000RRmade its TT debut and quickly proved to be the fastest cat in the jungle. 

Needless to say, there are a lot of stories to share.  I hope that if you follow my blog, you will come and see for yourself what has enticed generations of motorcyclist to make the pilgrimage to the Isle of Man.

Stay tuned, my plan is to post a new blog every Tuesday and Thursday for the next few weeks or until I run out of things to share.  

Please send me a questions or topics of interest you have and I will try to respond.

These are not the racers you are looking for –

As I travel to BMW Dealers in the US and give my presentation the TT Experience, I always dedicate a few minutes to the sidecars. Sidecar racing is a bit difficult to describe until you see it. It’s much like the rest of the TT but more so. I always describe it a cross between Star Wars and insanity.

Just look at this photo, doesn’t it look like a speeder?

Flying over Ballaugh Bridge just like the solo riders, the sidecars are an amazing test of the riders, the passengers and the machine. Their graceful flight belies the impact of the landing. (#5 – Pete Founds & Jevan Walmsley).

The passengers, appropriately and affectionately called Monkeys, must have strength, flexibility, balancing and an unyielding trust in their driver. The have very little to hang onto in trying to balance the weight distribution and counteract the force of turning, the passenger lays out and has turbulent landing.

Just a few yards down the course, they pick up speed with the passengers tucked in and they are gone.

Ben and Tom Birchall below have won the last 8 sidecar events at the TT, and on Monday they made it #9. They move as a unit, smooth and graceful and FAST! Really, really FAST!

If you find this short post intriguing, check out the video 3-Wheeling! By my buddy Chris Beauman.

Man and Machines Surviving the TT

With a single lap of 37.73 miles and 264 turns, there can be no doubt that part of the TT is survival for both the men and machines. Although not the fastest point of the race but one of the clearest illustrations of the physical demands of the race is at Ballaugh Bridge.

Coming over the bridge at over 60 mph, everyone is launched into the air.

The following sequence is from Monday’s Superbike Race and to give you an idea of speed, these are continuous shots at 12 frames per second.

Dominic Herbertson up out of the saddle launches over Ballaugh Bridge
Dominic’s moto touches down, he is further off of the saddle.
Touchdown and his bike almost bottoms out.
Dominic’s suspension rebounds and he is still high on the saddle.
Now full gas, front wheel lifting and rear tire compressing.

This sequence is less than a 1/2 second out of the race. Now think 6 laps for the big bikes. 226 miles with 1,584 bone-shaking, bike-bashing turns, with miles and miles of rough roads in between.

Amazing athletes, amazing machines and really no surprise when one breaks down on the side of the road.