Jordan or LeBron? Pelé or Messi? Agostini or Rossi? The greatest of all time (GOAT) debate haunts every major sport around the world. Some arguments rely on statistics alone. Others include the athlete’s cultural impact and lasting impression on the game. It’s no different when it comes to the Isle of Man TT.
The preeminent road race isn’t for the faint of heart. Most racers dare not test their limits on the Snaefell Mountain Course. For those bold enough to challenge the TT, very few walk away with a victory. Yet, only those among the elite group of IOMTT riders can claim multiple wins. While names like Hislop, Hailwood, Hutchinson, and Hickman highlight that list, only two riders remain in the IOMTT GOAT debate: Joey Dunlop and John McGuinness.
After rampant speculation that McGuinness would retire from the Tourist Trophy following the 2022 event, the 50-year-old rider hushed all the naysayers by returning to Honda for 2023. Last year, McPint shook off three years of rust following the IOMTT’s hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite piloting the latest-generation Honda Fireblade for the first time, the Englishman finished in fifth position and celebrated his 100th Isle of Man start.
Even more amazingly, McGuinness has notched a win in nearly a quarter of those races. With 23 victories to his name, the Morecambe Missile ranks as the most successful rider currently contesting the Tourist Trophy. McGuinness has conquered nearly every category of the TT, yet he remains three wins short of one man: Joey Dunlop.
The Northern Irish rider was a force on the Snaefell Mountain Course throughout his 25-year Isle of Man career. Even at the age of 48, Dunlop seized the Ultra Lightweight TT, Lightweight 250 TT, and Formula One TT titles at the 2000 IOMTT. That hat trick pushed the King of the Road to 26 total victories, a record that remains today.
In addition to Dunlop’s TT dominance, he also earned 24 Ulster Grand Prix victories, 13 North West 200 wins, and five-consecutive Formula TT World Championships. Dunlop’s stats may eclipse McGuinness’ but many of today’s top riders still view the 50-year-old as the greatest IOMTT rider. After all, most GOAT debates are generational in nature.
Over the past 22 years, motorcycle technology and Tourist Trophy rules have adapted to the times. For that reason, comparing two riders from two different periods will never constitute a direct comparison. And with that, let the debate rage on.