Britain’s first-ever roadraces are planned to take place on the Isle of Wight in October 2021. A team of promoters and racers has been working for many months on the event, which they hope will become the world’s richest motorcycle race.
A 12.4-mile anti-clockwise course in the island’s south-west has been mapped out and given the thumbs up by Isle of Man TT winners James Hillier and Steve Plater. Much of the lap twists and turns through meandering, undulating country roads and picturesque villages, with two consecutive 200mph-plus straights on the coastal road. Hillier and Plater estimate a lap speed of around 130mph.
“The circuit exceeded my expectations,” says Hampshire-based Hillier, winner of the 2013 Lightweight TT and a podium finisher in the Senior, Superbike, Superstock and Supersport TTs. “It has a little bit of everything for everybody and some sections will be very spectacular, so it ticks all the boxes for bringing in fans. As a racetrack it looks great, I can’t wait. And because I’m local I’ll be visiting regularly, trying to find a bit of an advantage!”
The Diamond Races – for superbikes, superstock, supersport and supertwins – will be run according to the TT’s time-trial format, with riders starting alone every ten seconds, because some of the circuit was deemed too narrow for massed starts.
Isle of Man TT clerk of the course Gary Thompson will perform the same duties on the Isle of Wight. He has examined the circuit closely and done a full risk assessment. He is now working with the local council to fix issues with telegraph poles, fencing, manhole covers, kerbs and more than a thousand cats eyes.
“Most of the course has an excellent road surface and much of it is smoother than the TT,” says Thompson. “There’s a lot of work to do but there’s plenty of enthusiasm from all concerned.”
Also involved in the event is former Isle of Man podium finisher and Honda team manager Neil Tuxworth.
“There’s a lot of support for the event from within roadracing, because many of the traditional roadraces in Ireland have gone or are in trouble,” said Tuxworth. “We’ve had Mervyn Whyte [director of the North West 200] and others over to see the course – they are all very enthusiastic. We want a prize purse bigger than the TT, eventually.”
The total cost of organising the Diamond Races for the first year could be as much as £5 million, which the promoters hope to find through television rights and sponsorship.
The promoters are awaiting the publication of the 2021 British Superbike calendar before announcing an exact date – they want the event to take place the week after BSB’s traditional October finale at Brands Hatch, with practice on Wednesday and Thursday and racing on Friday and Saturday.
If the Diamond Races go ahead they will be the first roadraces to take place on public roads – as opposed to parkland circuits like Scarborough and Aberdare Park – in Britain. Until recently all speed-events were prohibited in England, Wales or Scotland, which is why Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man have been the home of U.K. roadracing for more than a century.
The Isle of Man passed a law in 1904 to allow racing on its roads, which led to the first Tourist Trophy event in 1905, for cars. Motorcycles followed in 1907 and took the same Tourist Trophy title. The TT name is copyrighted and can only be used by the Isle of Man TT and the Dutch TT at Assen, who were given permission to use the title in the 1920s.
In 2017 the government passed a new law, authorising the Auto Cycle Union and Motor Sports Association to issue permits for racing, so an act of parliament was no longer required to close roads.
The aim is to boost local economies, which was an important factor in the Isle of Man’s 1904 decision, to extend the tourist season in the brand-new resort of Douglas.
The Diamond Races organisers hope that the event’s proximity to London and the U.K.’s most densely populated region will attract between 20,000 and 50,000 fans.
This isn’t the first time that someone has tried to take advantage of the new road-closing laws. In 2017 a promoter tried to establish a race near Sennybridge in Wales, on Ministry of Defence land, but the plans didn’t come to fruition.
Further info at www.diamondraces.com