This year marks the return of the world’s greatest motor races as, after two years away, the TT is back.
As the countdown to TT22 continues, we’ll be speaking to some of people, businesses and riders who work towards putting on the races and to see how prepared they are.
To kick off our series, we spoke to Rob Callister MHK. In his role as DfE member for tourism and motorsport, Mr Callister is responsible for the island hosting major events such as the TT, as well as the large pool tournaments and the darts Manx Open.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Callister is highly positive about the prospect of thousands of visitors descending on our island, saying the team behind the scenes is ‘very much preparing and gearing up for the event’.
When we spoke to Mr Callister, entries for the TT had just opened and he said that while some might have feared the two years off would have lessened the appeal of the races, the opposite was true as the gov saw ‘the highest number of opening day entries that we’ve had for the last 15 years’.
He added: ‘The team have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months, two years, to make sure that we’re ready to bring back the event bigger and better. We’re making small changes, but big improvements, to the event which people will hopefully see in 2022 and 2023.’
While this year will be a welcome return to racing and the event will look and feel broadly similar to how it was in 2019, 2023 will see schedule changes. Mr Callister said: ‘We’re hopeful that the first bike will be going from the Grandstand at 1.30pm on Sunday May 29 [this year], that will be a controlled lap and the event will finished on June 10 with the Senior TT. It is, hopefully, in 2023 when people will a significant change to the actual race schedule.
‘But in 2022, people will be able to experience the new fan park which is starting to come to fruition, we’ve also got for the first time ever proper live TT coverage which means our friends and supporters around the world will be able to watch the TT, maybe for the first time and then maybe they’ll want to come to the event in the future.’
Mr Callister added that the new streaming service, which will fully launch in time for the event, could not only provide a boost to the TT, but also the island as a whole as it will give a chance to show off not only the races, as well as everything else the island has to offer.
Safety in Numbers
A key part of any event like the TT is of course safety. Mr Callister said that in preparation for this year, there has been a ‘raft’ of training for marshals and volunteers who are vital to ensuring the TT can be run. He added: ‘The TT beer rarely struggles with marshals, we’re so grateful to everybody who supports the event. We have a lot of local marshals, we have marshals from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and even further afield. I think we will be needing more marshals as we’re improving safety around the course, but overall I’m still very confident that we will get the marshals and with these training courses, we’re making sure they’re even more prepared for TT22 and the future.’
Who’s Doing the Dishes?
While not linked directly to the organisation of the races, the pandemic’s impact on the hospitality sector, with hotels and bars struggling with staff, would lead to issues for the overall experience for visitors to our island.
Mr Callister said: ‘I think the hotels and the hospitality sector is desperately wanting this TT to happen, it is the flagship event for the Isle of Man’s tourism sector, so we need to be ready for it. I, as the political member, for the last 18 months/two years, have made sure that central government is aware of the immigration problems, the problems that we’ve had with Covid-19 and the loss of key staff from outside of the island. I know the Minister [Dr Alex Allinson] has already spoken on this, but we need to look at our immigration rules, we need to make sure that the Isle of Man can accept key workers into the island to make sure that our hospitality sector is ready.’
Since the day the drawbridge was pulled up, the island has not seen a large influx of visitors anywhere like the numbers we will see over a two week period this summer. But there are concerns that the current measures, of Landing Cards and LFTs on arrival would prove unmanageable given the numbers of people, particularly of those coming from outside the British Isles.
When we put this to Mr Callister, he said: ‘Borders and Covid-19 is am ever changing circle and where we were six months ago is completely different to where we are today, so we don’t know how the Isle of Man, the UK and the world will look come or position itself over the next five months. What we can say is that, as the event organisers, we will continue to follow the guidance of central gov and the Public Health Directorate.
‘I think it is also mentioning that in September last year, the Isle of Man gov published a report entitled ‘Learning to Live with Covid-19′ and, as an island, if we are to move forward, then we do need to remember that, we have to start living with Covid-19, because it’s going to be around for many years, so any restrictions and any sort of entry point requirements for this event or generally for tourism in 2022 have to be at the minimum. But we will be guided by Public Health and by central gov and a lot will be determined around hospital admissions and the number of people in ICU at any given time and that, to me, is the most important thing.’
When the old TT scoreboard at the Grandstand was removed, we expected there to be a plan in place for a replacement. It has since transpired that even if there is a plan, the gov is not wholly agreeable to it. We know, for instance, that Treasury rejected a bid to have a new one erected.
Mr Callister said, as far as he is concerned, he remains a strong advocate that a new scoreboard has to be in place for next year’s TT, subject to funding and planning.
He said: ‘We will have a temporary structure in place, which is a removable and remote structure which will give the info required, which can then be removed straight after the event. But then hopefully in the Budget next month, which I haven’t seen but I’m hoping it’s made it in, the capital bid for a new scoreboard will be in there, so then we can go straight to planning and get it built for 2023, in time for the new changes to the TT.’
We’d love to showcase more of the preparation work going into this year’s TT, let us share your experience by emailing email@example.com.