The History of the TT
The Mountain Course
With the Empire having been occupied in other matters the re-start of the TT on Tuesday 15th. June 1920 was eagerly awaited. Supporters of the event could be forgiven for believing that trouble and strife was well behind them. Not so!
The British Government was giving serious consideration to the imposition of Petrol Duty. A member of Tynwald, one Hugo Teare M.H.K., was earnestly seeking monetary gain from renting out his own private portion of the TT course. The Isle of Man Steam Packet was trying to replace its war losses, not an easy task, for Britain was exhausted and desperately short of materials after five long years of war. On the A.C.U. front a decision had been taken once again to move the start and finish area and they had stipulated a minimum field for each race, of thirty machines.
A key decision was also taken to switch the route away from the "Four-inch" course. This involved the course going directly on from Cronk-ny-Mona to Signpost Comer, where it tumed right, through an almost ninety degree angle before carrying on to the left hander at Bedstead Comer. Once round Bedstead there is a short straight then the twisty section between the Nook and Govemor's Bridge to negotiate, out of the dip and the finish is in sight.
A number of the problems were quickly overcome; the British Government did not impose Petrol Duty, the Steam Packet embarked upon a swift fleet replacement programme in time to bring the supporters and spectators over for the races. Thirty one machines started in the Senior and although the new Lightweight class was amalgamated into the Junior, entries failed to reach the stipulated requirement but racing went ahead. One problem still remained - what to do about the Hugo Teare situation!
Way back in 1904 during the Julian Orde survey, the inspection party came upon Queen's Pier Road, Ramsey. A length of Queen's Pier Road from approximately the site of the current Bus Station to what is now called Cruikshanks Comer lay in private ownership. On discovering this fact Mr. Orde and his small team sought out the owner Mr. Cruikshank and asked his permission to include his private driveway as part of the Gordon Bennett course. Permission to do so was readily and graciously granted by this gentleman, who served this Island so well for many years as High Bailiff for Ramsey and Peel. Racing by cars and motorcycles continued on his driveway uninterrupted from 1904 until 1908 and between 1911 to 1914 when the Great War intervened. It was not the best of roadways and motorcyclists had often to revert to riding along the footpaths for easier progress, but at least it was there and free.
Mr. Cruikshank passed on in 1916 and after a short period of ownership by a family of Scots, it came Hugo Teare's way in 1919. On the revival of racing in 1920, an assumption was naturally made by the A.C.U. that the course could continue as normal out of Ramsey to the Hairpin via May Hill and Cruikshanks Comer. Not so, indicated our less than friendly politician, as he metaphorically held his hand out ... he wanted a handsome cash payment for the use of his driveway!
There was a stand off for two years, during which time the course detoured out of Parliament Square via Albert Road and Tower Road before passing the front entrance of Teare's home "Cronk Brae" and back onto the old route. Hansard reports that in Tynwald on the 5th. May 1922, Hugo Teare was on his feet asking the Highway Board if they had an answer to the private roadway situation in Queen's Pier Road. The solution reached was a very private one between the Authorities and Teare - Ramsey Town Commissioners' engineers repaired the road surface and the A.C.U. paid the bill. Racing resumed on that particular stretch of road and Tuesday 30th. May 1922 marks the first day that the Mountain Circuit as it is today was first raced upon.
Back to the 1920 races and results. The Junior 350 c.c. was a race of heroic proportions. Eric and Cyril Williams (not related) turned out on the A.J.S. machines determined to repeat their performances of the 1914 Junior. Erie set the lap record for the course but failed to finish. This left the way open for Cyril to go one better than his 1914 second place. He did it, but only by coasting and pushing in from Keppel Gate. After over four and a half hours and 187-1/2 miles of racing, his winning margin of 9m.10 secs. When seen as the written word, conceals a picture of true devotion to the sport, the manufacturer and the spectators. Watson-Bourne second and Holroyd third, both mounted on Blackbumes completed the triumvirate. The last man home Jack Thomas, did not start until 9:54 a.m. and owing to a variety of troubles only finished at 3:47 p.m., truly a marathon race when you consider that he was at the start before 9:00 a.m.
The Lightweight 250 c.c. Junior was a walk over for the Levis stable with the first three spots filled by their machines. R.O. Clark finished exactly eight minutes behind the third placed Holroyd in the 350's, thus winning the 250 and might have snatched first place overall if he had not fallen off just before Keppel Gate, causing him to limp home the last few miles of the Race.
The popular Tommy De La Hay won the Senior at an average speed of 51.48 m.p.h. taking 4hr.22m.23 secs. to cover the 226.5 miles of the mountain circuit. Following the Sunbeam across the line* 3m.52 secs. later came Manxman Douggie Brown on a Norton. This was Douggie's best finish in all races since 1910, although he had won a trophy as a member of the Rover team in 1913. Setting the record lap on the course was a newcomer to Isle of Man racing George Dance, who before he retired with engine trouble completed a lap at a speed of 55.62 m.p.h for the 37-3/4 miles. Reg Brown got on a finishers' podium twice in 1920 with a win in the Manx Gold Cup on a borrowed horse at Belle Vue, to add to his well earned third place in the Senior.
Ever open to ideas for improving the race meeting, the A.C.U. greeted a suggestion in 1920, that sidecar racing should be introduced in the 1921 TT with mild interest; comments in the press were vehemently opposed to the idea. The manufacturers were not at all enthusiastic and the sidecars had to wait until 1923 for their turn. The Dunlop Tyre company came up trumps in '21 by supplying a good number of flagmen to assist in the marshalling.
Gold medals appeared on the prize list for 1921, being added to the £50 -£25 - £15 monetary rewards for the first three riders home in the Senior: the fastest team of three riders finishing within thirty minutes of the winner's time would be awarded individual gold medals. Viewed in the light of current rewards for sporting prowess, particularly in non-motorcycle activities, the prizes now look like small change, but remember a top of the range Indian solo machine cost £ 181-14s-Od in 1920.
The return, in significant numbers of the works teams boosted the total entries in 1921 to a grand total of 133 riders and machines. Amongst the thousands of spectators who flocked to the Island that year was a young man who fell instantly in love with Manxland and the TT. Watching the Senior from Hillberry he was captivated by the thrill of it all and with the single-minded sense of purpose that became his hall-mark, set about planning his return as a competitor for the next year's races. The keen young man's name ... Stanley Woods, and the rest as they say, really was history!
It was to be a good race meeting for the A.J.S. camp, with H.R."Howard" Davies coming second in the Junior 350 c.c. class splitting his team mates Eric Williams - having better luck than in 1920 - and Manxman Tom Sheard in third place. Three different machines featured in the top three positions at the end of the 250 c.c. Race with Doug Prentice on a New Imperial a convincing victor ahead of G.S. Davison's Levis and third place man W.G. Harrison on board a Velocette. A red letter day for the New Imperial and Velocette with a first appearance for both on the dais.
What a Race the Senior was to produce two days later on Thursday 16th. June, with Howard Davies winning the blue riband event on his 350 A.J.S. Foiled by a puncture from claiming victory in the Junior he planted his name firmly in the record books with the one and only win by a Junior machine in the Senior TT. Freddie Dixon used this Race to establish himself as a regular in the winner's enclosure, riding his Indian into second place a commendable 2m.13 secs behind the total race time of 4hrs.9m 22 secs of "H.R.D." H. Le Vack rounded off a good Senior for the Indians, finishing 31 sees. behind his colleague.
Preparations for the 1922 Races were disrupted by a bitter dispute over the cost of running the TT. The A.C.U. compounded this by considering invitations to hold the 'IT in either Yorkshire or Belgium. There were also fears for riders' safety with the approach of the 60 m.p.h.lap - it was almost achieved by Alec Bennett in the Senior of that year when he posted a new record lap of 59.99 m.p.h. In the end common sense prevailed and diplomacy won, but there was also a suspicion that only the Isle of Man could really deliver the goods.
Amongst many pre-race utterances from the A.G.U. in 1922 was an announcement that agreement had been reached with the Chief Constable of Liverpool to provide special traffic arrangements for motorcyclists crossing to the Isle of man for the TT; he promised no delays or hindrance. Garages in Liverpool also began providing parking facilities for the fans' machines at 9d. per night for solos, 1s/3d per night for sidecar combinations.
An extra Race was effectively introduced on the first Race day of 1922, Tuesday 30th. May, by splitting the 250 c.c. machines away from, but run simultaneously with the 350 c.c.'s
Setting out in the 350 at number 44 - the Lightweights were numbered 1-33 and went first - Manxman Tom Sheard on his A.J.S. carried the hopes of the Island with him. 'me nation was not to be disappointed and Tom Sheard, although no one realised it at the time, became the first man to complete the distance and the first to win a TT Race on the "New Mountain Course" as we now know it, and in doing so became the first Manx winner of a TT.
Clocking a time of 3hr.26m.38 secs. at an average speed of 54.75 m.p.h. was no mean feat especially as he finished 11m. 39 secs. ahead of team mate Grinton. Making his debut as he had promised was seventeen year old Stanley Woods. This greatest of riders finished fifth on his Cotton despite having the machine on fire at a pit stop and completing the race without brakes.
Geoff Davison won the 250 Race on the Levis in a time of 3hrs.46m 56 sees, a time 32 secs. faster than Jack Thomas's third place in the 350 on the Sheffield Henderson. A popular win for this famous journalist; but setting his stall out for the future was eighteen year old Walter Handley. Although he failed to finish, Handley set a lap record at 51.00 m.p.h. almost 5 m.p.h. faster than the previous year's record breaking 250 lap.
Thursday 1st June was to be Alec Bennett's day. His Sunbeam performed superbly and he won the Senior Race after leading the field from start to finish - another first for the "new course" and the TT - finishing the 226.5 miles in 3hrs.53m 2 secs. Walter Brandish stamped his name indelibly on the course in 1923 - the first rider to have a bend named after him; but in 1922 he had to make do with second place and in the process failed by a mere 22 seconds to emulate Bennett's feat of breaking the 4 hours for the distance.
The Scotts were out in force in the Senior and H. Langman fumished the team with a good individual effort by claiming third place. Not so fortunate was one Jimmy Simpson. Jimmy's introduction to the Island began in the 1922 Senior but a split tank on the Scott brought retirement on the first lap, although he had already shown enough talent to mark him down as a future star. Jimmy recorded eight fastest laps in his time. His legacy is the Jimmy Simpson Trophy for the fastest lap of the meeting.
So there we have it! After eighteen years of racing by cars and motorcycles the Island had a permanent home for the TT, a venue that would serve motorsport well for more than another eight decades. Only one more bit of history making remained for that golden year. On Thursday 22nd. June, three weeks after the TT Races, motor car racing was resurrected.
Disappointment was probably the by-word for the 1922 Car TT. Disappointment that the entries were few and that some drivers of international repute felt the need to be elsewhere, was not going to be sufficient an excuse to prevent the organising committee from putting on a good show.
Nine cars started in the Junior Race, which was for machines of less than 1500 c.c. (the Senior was for 3000 c.c.cars). K. Lee Guinness, the last winner of the Tourist Trophy had to scratch at the last moment with terminal clutch trouble but brother Algy was there to represent the family. Powerful names lined up for the start of the six lap race. The first four laps were very close with the lead being alternately shared between Lee Guinness and Albert Divo. Not until the fourth lap did a significant gap appear and by then Sir Algy Lee
Guinness was on his way to victory. The winning Talbot-Darracq's time of 4hr.14m.56 secs. was 2m.42 secs. ahead of Divo's Talbot-Darracq. A respectable third place was achieved by Maury's Crossley-Bugatti - a French car that would soon after be manufactured in Manchester.
It would be difficult with only eight cars entered in the Intemational Tourist Trophy Race - they actually referred to it as the Senior Race that year - to predict a likely winner, particularly as the weather was far from promising. Conditions on the course were terrible resulting in the cars posting times that were slower than the motorcycles. The Bentley stable had a good race with 2nd.-4th.-5th. places split only by Payne's VauxhaH. Home in first place after a testing eight laps came Chassagne driving a Sunbeam 3-litre straight-8 at an average speed of 55.78 m.p.h. a race time of 5hrs.24m 50 secs; compare that with the winning average speed of Bennett three weeks earlier! Sunbeam were not worrying about times. They had done the double.
It seems ironic that the French who reigned supreme at the start of the century should be present at what turned out to be the one and only car race around the "New Mountain Course". Attending this farewell party was that great and good friend of the Isle of Man, the newly knighted Sir Julian Orde. What a record he had and what pride the Island can take in the part it has played in the development of the automobile. As we know, it was not the end of car racing on the Island and the TT has gone on from strength to strength.
The authors have told the story of the early years of course development and racing on the Island, but it is not just a story of riders and machines; it is a record of dedication by ordinary people, men, women and children, young and old, the unsung heroes who make it all happen .... a love affair without end.
As Steve Hislop says "You couldn't do it now!"
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