That was one of the most sombre podium presentations I’ve ever seen. Michael Dunlop took his 9th TT win in the Superstock race, with Dean Harrison and Bruce Anstey rounding out the top three. But no champagne was sprayed, and any celebration was notable by its absence.
It’s all because tragedy has struck on the island – and now, two days running. It wasn’t announced at the time, but the reason that running was cancelled yesterday afternoon, before Mark Higgins could line his Subaru WRX STI for a lap of the course, was a fatality. Veteran road racer Bob Price died as a result of a crash at Ballaugh. His was the fifth death at the event here in four years.
And right now, competition organisers are staring down the barrel of a second death in 24 hours. Something serious happened on the Mountain on the last lap of the Superstock race. The organisers have gone into total shutdown mode, just as they did yesterday. As I write these words, nobody in the press room knows who’s involved. But when this happens, I’m told, good news seldom follows. [UPDATE – the organisers later confirmed that, sadly, Karl Harris lost his life in an incident during the race].
It gets worse, by the way. As incredible and awful as this sounds, this is the second death on the Mountain today. The roads were open to traffic this morning – just as they usually are during the mornings of race week – until a crash involving two motorbikes and a car happened at Lezayre. Police have since confirmed that a local man died as a result. Could be he wasn’t a TT fan: just a man out for a ride. Doesn’t make it any less wretched. He wouldn’t have signed an indemnity warning about the dangers of motorsport, after all.
The whole TT is bathed in a mask of grief already, of course, after the death of road racer Simon Andrews at the North West 200 last month. It’s reckoned that 5000 riders took part in a lap of the Isle of Man circuit on Sunday, in tribute to the 29-year-old Andrews. Every other fan you see around the paddock is wearing an Andrews tribute T-shirt. And yet everyone has come. Everyone’s here anyway, getting on with the racing and watching they love so dearly.
In circumstances like these, you wonder how long an event like this can go on. The TT is an amazing spectacle, partly because so much risk is involved. Nobody comes here – to watch, to ride or just to support – without knowing that risk. But surely loss of life like this can’t just be chalked up to experience? It’s messing with my head a bit, if I’m honest.
Either way, there will be no chance for Mark Higgins to run his Subaru until tomorrow, when the weather report looks decidedly less favourable. Not that it seems to matter much at the moment.