Every one knows that racing motorbikes isn’t that cheap a hobby. Contrary to popular misconception, the best things in life aren’t actually free. Even making love to beautiful woman can quite often end up costing you an arm and a leg. So as you might imagine, if you want to race at the Isle of Man TT, you’re going to have to throw a few quid at the job. Exactly how much depends on who you are. There are a few lads that’ll come away from there with a fat stack of cash. But if you’re an average ordinary everyday kid like me (or him from Def Leppard), you won’t. This is how much it’ll cost for a normal person to race at the Isle of Man TT.
Whether you go down the Supertwin (Lightweight), Supersport, Superstock or Superbike route, the cost of buying yourself a bike to race at the TT is probably going to be the biggest single ‘investment’ in the whole project. Then again, if you’re considering making your TT debut, you’ve probably already got a race bike of some description. Let’s assume you haven’t, and you’ve got to buy one.
You could pick up a pre raced Supertwin, Supersport or Superstock bike for about £15k, that’d be capable of doing the job, even if it wasn’t massively competitive. You could spend a hell of a lot more on one too, if you wanted to.
If you did want to, you could buy (or build) a superbike. You’d want to budget a minimum of £50k for that though. But realistically you don’t need a superbike; unless you think you’re going to go and beat Peter Hickman and his mates, that is. Besides, there aren’t many people outside the top twenty that actually take superbikes to the TT anyway; most of the field just chuck a set of slicks on their stocker, and enter the superbike races on that. That’s all I do, and it was good enough for 14th in the Senior TT in 2019… have I mentioned I’m a TT racer?
You can’t turn up to the Isle of Man and race at the TT, there are a lot of very expensive things you’ve got to do beforehand. One of those things is to spend several years racing bikes at a decent level, which could easily cost you hundreds of thousands of pounds. But hopefully you’ve already done that.
More specifically though, to race anything on the TT Mountain Course, you need a Mountain Course license. To get one of them you have to do a minimum of six days of racing in the twelve months leading up to the TT (amongst other things which we’ll get to in a moment). So that’s three weekends of racing. With entry fees (£300), a set and a half of tyres (£450), fuel (£200), a weekend of club racing can easily cost you the best part of £1,000. So three of them would be £3,000. Quick maths.
You’ve also got to do a medical which is nothing too intrusive, but unless you’ve got a mate who’s a doctor, it won’t be free. I think my local doctors surgery charged me about £50 last time I asked them to fill in my TT medical form, another cost.
And then there’s a £25 admin fee for the Mountain Course license, too.
Handily, there aren’t actually any entry fees for the TT races, which is a bit of a bonus.
There’s only one way to get yourself to the Isle of Man if you’ve got a race bike in tow, and that’s on one of the Steam Packet Company’s ferries. Because they’re they only ferry company operating on that crossing, they’ve got a bit of a monopoly on the job so it’s not cheap. My ferry bill for this years TT (2022) was £1,367.75; that’s for a small van, a medium sized motorhome and four large people.
And then of course there is the cost of the diesel in the van and the motorhome which at today’s prices (£1.80 odd a litre) and from my address (East Yorkshire), will probably cost me about £250.
The second biggest outlay is probably going to be for tyres. How many tyres you use will depend on how many laps you do, and how many laps you do will depend on whether or not the rain stays away. So this one’s fairly weather dependant. If you have a good run weather-wise, like we did in 2018, you can use lots of tyres. In total, I did 48 laps during the 2018 TT and went through ten sets of tyres. That’s about £4,000’s worth of rubber.
And then there’s fuel. Each lap round the TT course uses about 12 litres of fuel, so if you have a good run and manage 48 laps (like I did in ’18), you’ll use about 576 litres of fuel. Oh, and you’ll want to use high-octane, super unleaded, too as that’ll give you an extra half a mile or so per gallon (it does, I’ve tested it), which might be the difference between finishing or not (it really is that tight sometimes). At the moment, you’re talking £1.90 a litre for super unleaded petrol, so that’ll be £1,037, for 576 litres, thank you very much indeed.
When you’re giving it the beans for 75 miles (two laps) at a time, flat out with the needle rarely out the red, it pays to look after your engine. Some people will do an oil change every day, but you could probably do an oil change every other day and not risk too much reliability. With decent racing-spec engine oil and an oil filter, an oil change is usually about £50. You might do six oil changes whilst you’re there, so there’s £300. And then there are brake pads, chains, sprockets, clutch plates, that will wear out and will need replacing. You could easily spend another £1,000 on that stuff.
If you can’t persuade your old man and a couple of your mates to give up a couple of weeks of their summer to come and spanner for you, the alternative is to pay someone else a massive amount of money to do the job instead. But I wouldn’t recommend that, best to persuade your family and friends to get involved. Because you can’t do it by yourself, even if you wanted to; you need a couple of people at least, for when you come into the pits during the races. And it’s always nice to have a bit of moral support of an evening, too.
Even if you are doing it the cheap way (like me) you’ll still need to keep the lads in food and beer; that soon adds up after two weeks.
The last thing you want to be doing at the TT is having a crash, but accidents happen and where motorbikes are involved, they usually cost a fair bit. So as per any motorcycle race, there might be a big crash damage bill just round the corner. Although to be fair, you don’t actually have to crash your bike on the IOM course for stuff to break on it. I’ve seen that place smash all sorts of things to bits, just because of how fast and bumpy the track is.
It goes without saying that you’ll need decent kit. Leathers (£1,000), helmet (£600), boots (£400) gloves (£300), back protector (£150), but you’ll have needed all of that for the racing you’ve done up to now, so it’d be unfair to attribute that to the cost of the TT.
So after you’ve bought yourself a bike (£15,000), done your medical and enough racing to get your Mountain Course License (£3,075), got yourself, your crew and your kit to the Island (£1,600), paid for your tyres (£4,000), your fuel (£1,000) and your engine oil (£300) and other consumables (£1,000), you’ll have spent £25,975. And that’s without feeding and watering your team. That’s without any crash damage. Without the cost of buying yourself any extra riding kit for your TT assault.
It’s not cheap. But it is one of, if not the, most awesome motorsport event the world has ever seen. If you ask me, it’s definitely worth £25,975. There’s a slight problem though. I might be entered for the 2022 Isle of Man TT, but I haven’t got £25,975. Anyone got any spare change? Who wants their name on my helmet?