Road Race

With the 2011 Isle of Man TT in the books, I was reminded as I watched Guy Martin and John McGuinness streak along the (mostly) straight between Guthrie Memorial and East Snaefel Gate that this is how all races used to be. The country lanes that surround the Isle of Man are simple little 2-lane stretches of (very) curvy blacktop. It is hardly an acceptable racing surface as we’re used to today. There are no runoff areas. There are no fences to catch debris. The riders transition their weight over a crest and land with their helmets perilously close to a hedgerow or garden wall. In short, it’s a proper race.

The fact that the TT remains as it is—and should be—is nothing short of miraculous. Now close your eyes and imagine those simple country roads with a charging Alfa Tipo 33, as on the mountains of Sicily, or the engine note of a Stanguellini 750 echoing off the village walls south of Brescia. You can’t help but feel a bit robbed by history.

The juxtaposition between the TT and this weekend’s Canadian GP—the chasm between the spirits of these two events—is even more startling when you see this image of Maurice Trintignant and his Gordini T16 bombing down a country road in Rheims in 1953. Even when we see a “street course” like Monaco today, it’s sometimes hard to remember that humble country roads were good enough for the pinnacle of motorsport.

O, that they could be again!

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