ABC's Simon McGregor-Wood Rides the Isle of Man TT, One of the World's Most Dangerous Motorcycle Race Courses

PHOTO: ABCs Simon McGregor-Wood, in the red suit, took a ride on the Isle of Man TT race circuit on "Mad Sunday," June 5, 2011.
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It has taken place every year since 1907, and it has claimed more than 220 lives. It is called the International Isle of Man TT, which is short for Tourist Trophy, and without doubt it is the most dangerous competitive motorcycle race in the world.

Riders top speeds of over 190 miles per hour as they race against the clock over 37 miles of the British island's public roads. They race past lamp posts, mail boxes, razor sharp stone walls and over humpback bridges. They race through woodland, village streets and over the so called Mountain course -- according to some it is the ultimate competitive motorcycling challenge, the Mount Everest of the sport.

Mark Miller, an American competitor with experience in more conventional circuit racing in the United States, has been coming to the TT every year since 2006. We met up with him as he prepared for this year's Isle of Man races.

"There's no room for error, the speeds are so high," he said. "The first year you're just going uuuuurgh! And the second year you can start pushing a little bit more, and the third year you know where you're going."

The race ran this year from May 30 to June 10 and roads are closed to public traffic an hour before races start. As the countdown continues riders and their bikes are called up to the start line. In the heat of the June sun many seek shade and a chance to contemplate the extraordinary task that lies ahead of them.

Then each rider blasts away from the start line at 10 second intervals. Up through the gear box, engines reach a high-pitched scream and in less than a mile they reach speeds of 180 mile an hour. Some races are six laps of the gruelling circuit, which means there are pit stops for fuel and fluids for the riders.

When this amazing tradition first started over a century ago, the average top speed for the whole circuit was barely 40 miles per hour. Today competitive bikes can top 130 miles per hour. The TT's long tradition has bred a long line of legendary figures who have accumulated multiple wins on different classes of machines over many years.

Joey Dunlop from Northern Ireland raced well into his 40s and won 26 TT titles. He was killed racing on the roads of Estonia while leading yet another race. Some 50,000 people attended his funeral. He is forever known as the King of the Roads.

I jumped at the chance to try out the TT circuit for myself. On the Sunday between practice and races, June 5, fans are allowed to head out onto the course. With good reason, they call this "Mad Sunday."

ABC's Simon McGregor-Wood on the Isle of Man TT race course.

Mark Miller acted as my guide. Up on the open stretches of road known as the Mountain, local police make the road one-way -- and there is no speed limit.

High up on the Mountain, there is often swirling mist and there is always wind. Even at my modest speeds the fast straights and sweeping corners are very scary.

This year's TT was not without its fair share of tragedy. Two sidecar riders died in practice and while we filmed, Irish rider Derek Brien was killed during a high speed race crash.

In time-honored tradition the race was eventually restarted, and despite the loss of another rider, there was a winner, smiles and trophies. This the TT way and every rider we spoke to vowed to return next year.

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