A Review of the Isle o’ Man T.T | After-Lights

From the September 1935 Issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

This year’s Tourist Trophy meeting in the Isle of Man was the most sensational on record. So sensational that only now, writing a week after the event, does one begin to get the hang of it. Likewise, the proportion of certain things in connection with the affair.

First, an Italian machine, the Guzzi, won the senior race in record time; also, a Guzzi annexed the Lightweight trophy. Further, another Guzzi all but got a place in the latter as well, while in the first six finishers in the Senior, there were three foreign machines; the winner, and a couple of German N.S.U’s. English motorcycles had it their usual own way in the Junior; outside of that, British supremacy received-at any rate, at first glance-a severe cosn. It was the first time, be it remembered, that a foreign machine had won in the Island since the Indian annexed the first three places in the Senior of 1911, and no foreign machine has even been placed since a Guzzi got a Lightweight second in 1927.

And then in the senior race the officials began by announcing the wrong man as winner!

Then, the weather conditions, both for the practising and the actual races, were the worst in memory. There was a crop of bad accidents; a rider was killed in the Junior and another in the Lightweight. Finally, visibility was so bad on the Friday that the senior was postponed until the next day, a thing that has never been done before-and that many people thought just could not be done. The organization difficulties were enormous, but all concerned rose to the occasion and the job went through smoothly.

Lastly, the fact that the winning Guzzis were equipped with spring frames has given the technical fans something to chew. The Vincent-H.R.D. machines, also with spring frames, showed up well, too, in the senior race, and these facts make the outstanding feature of the meeting from the design point of view.

That is a summary of the high-spots of the 1935 T.T. I will go on to tell you what happened in each of the races-and then we will try and see what it all amounts to.

The practising period, which started ten days before the races themselves, was chiefly notable for the vile weather. It began badly, because the Isle of Man was having a strike, and transport and other services were consequently all endwise, but fortunately the dispute was settled just in time. Partly, though not entirely, due to the weather, crashes were numerous, and several riders were taken to the hospital. Fortunately none of the injuries proved fatal.

The Junior race (for 350 c.c. machines) was run on the Monday, which turned out a perfectly good day. As a bit of racing it was on the dull side; the result (of a wholesale Norton win) was a tolerably foregone conclusion, and in fact three Nortons led the field for every one of the seven laps, with the same riders. James Guthrie (a Scotsman) was first all the time; W.F. Rusk (an Ulsterman), and J.H. White (English) scrapped for the next two places, finishing in that order. Behind them came three Velocettes; the foreigners (represented by N.S.U’s. and Jawas) did not come into the limelight at all. Although the weather was fine, there was a very strong wind, and for that reason the winning speed was actually a shade lower than the 1934 figure. The fastest lap, too, was under last season’s speed; Rusk was responsible for it.

The race unfortunately resulted in the death of J.A. MacDonald, a London rider, who crashed at Union Mills and was killed instantly. He was an experienced man, having ridden in the Manx Grand Prix, which is run over the T.T. course. Apparently on this occasion he misjudged things; another rider was killed at almost exactly the same spot some years ago.

The Lightweight race (for 250 c.c. models, on the Wednesday) was run under extremely bad conditions, heavy mist reducing visibility on parts of the mountain section of the course to a matter of yards. It was a very interesting race, being far more open than the first day’s, and although in fact the Guzzi ridden by Stanley Woods (the Irish Free State rider) led from the start, it was always uncertain how things might go. At one period another Guzzi (ridden by O. Tenni, an Italian making his debut in the Island) was lying second. He had the misfortune to crash (though without injuring himself seriously), and so in the end two Rudges (last year’s models, incidentally) chased Woods in. A New Imperial and an Excelsior also finished among the first six; the only foreigner to finish was a D.K.W. two-stroke, which came home seventh. Naturally, under the conditions, the winning speed was below last year’s. The fastest lap (by Woods) was a record however, at over 74 m.p.h. D.J Pirie was killed during the fourth lap, by running off the road on one of the bends on the mountain section. He was a former Manx Grand Prix winner and a rider of great promise; he had finished fourth in the Junior, on a Velocette.

Friday proved an impossible day for racing, the visibility being almost nil in places on the mountain, although it was clear enough on the flat. Finally, after a series of emergency meetings, it was decided to postpone until next morning-and then came the problem of dealing with the crowd of many thousands of people who had made the day-trip to the Island. Some had to go back in the evening, without seeing a race at all; others were able to stay on, and special arrangements were made for their accommodation in Douglas, the Manx capital. The situation was so unexpected that the problem of dealing with it at a moment’s notice must have been a facer; that it was effectively met and that everything worked smoothly was a remarkable achievement on the part of those responsible.

On Saturday a late start was made, by which time the weather conditions were perfect. Guthrie led from the outset on the Norton, with Woods second for most of the time, and at the end of the sixth lap the rider of the English machine had a comfortable margin in hand, while the Italian mount was scheduled to stop for replenishment. Guthrie, therefore, had no special reason for putting forward the last ounce, but what actually happened was that Woods did not stop for fuel and put up a record lap, at 86.53 m.p.h. Thus he beat Guthrie by four seconds; it is commonly believed that Woods had really never any intention of stopping, and, if that was the case, it was of course, a perfectly legitimate piece of bluff. Even when it was seen that Woods was chancing his final lap without refilling (a thing that landed him in trouble on a former occasion) nobody thought he could pass Guthrie, even if the juice held out. Guthrie finished first (having started No. 1) and very unfortunately the officials actually announced him as the winner, neglecting the possibility of Wood’s picking up the seconds required. The mistake was very quickly realized and rectified-but it was a thoroughly awkward sort of incident, and ought, of course, never to have happened.

Two Nortons followed Woods and Guthrie’s machines to the finish; then came a couple of N.S.U.’s, one mounting a British rider. And the other finishers were the only Royal Enfield entered, a 350 Velocette, and five Vincent-H.R.D.’s. The race was free from serious accidents.

When one comes to consider the week in cold blood, much of the sensation wears off. There is nothing so very extraordinary about the Guzzi’s winning; really the wonder is that they have not done it before. We have known them for years to be absolutely first class motorcycles, and they have had some good riders; it was merely a question of persistence before they scored. Their achievement this year was magnificent-but it was not unexpected.

The result is certainly a knock to our home factories-though again not an unexpected one-though, apart from the Guzzi, there is not so much in it, as the N.S.U. is the product of an English designer. In passing, it is interesting to note that both the Italians and the Germans received substantial encouragement from their respective Governments in their efforts in connection with the races. Signor Mussolini himself is understood to have taken a personal interest in the Guzzi camp; Realm-Leader Hitler had an eye on his people. Which facts may-or may not-be noted by our own authorities.

Opinion in the British motorcycle trade is that the foreign wins will be a thoroughly good thing for us. Our prestige can very easily afford them, and their effect will be to disturb our complacency-complacency being a besetting sin of manufacturers. We shall talk less about supremacy-and do rather more about keeping it, which is just what is wanted at the present juncture. Again, the result will encourage the foreigners to keep on coming along to the Island-which again is just what is wanted. As long as they were shy of appearing, the T.T. was less of an international affair than we liked; in the future, there ought to be no complaint on that score.

The outstanding feature of the races from the technical point of view was, as I said, the success of the spring frames. It is also notable that the Senior Guzzi was a twin-cylinder job, which should help the cause of the multi, while another important (though not entirely new) development was the increased use of special light alloys. Designers, this year, cut down weights very considerably

The most advanced British entry was the Cross rotary valve engine, which figured in the Lightweight in a Cotton frame and in the Senior in a Rudge. Unfortunately the rider was put out of business on his second day’s practising (he had achieved the fastest Lightweight time the day before) and the result was that the Cotton had to be scratched, while the Rudge had to be handled by a reserve man in the Senior. And his chances of doing anything were killed by a fractured induction casting, due to this fitting having been pulled up too tight by an inexperienced mechanic. So Mr. Cross’s luck was decidedly out; neither he nor anyone else expected that his engine could achieve much on its first appearance in the Island (and then not in the hands of a star rider), but it is hard that it was unable to finish. The good showing made by the Vincent H.R.D. machines in the Senior race was notable; the design being in the main new, and the product of a small factory.

A Review of…European Events

The Swiss Grand Prix

Covering 408 miles in one day’s racing J.G. Guthrie and W.F. Rusk, both Norton mounted, won first and second respectively in the 350 c.c. and 500 c.c. events in the Swiss Grand Prix. In the 250 c.c. class: first went to W. Winkler (D.K.W.) and second to H.G. Tyrell Smith (Rudge).

A course four and a half miles long and approximately oval shaped is used. It lies on the outskirts of the city of Berne. Starting near a fine big grandstand the route leads through many turns to Eymatt by way of a long down grade. Thence it follows alongside of the river Aare. An ascent and a fast stretch through woods ends in a sharp turn and after that the grandstand again.

Unusually hot weather attended the event this year. The affair was colorful in the extreme what with the gay attire of the Swiss maidens who follow motorcycling as keenly as do their menfolk.

In addition to the foregoing there were two sidecar events-600 c.c. which was won by a Swiss, Hans Stärkle (N.S.U.) and the 1000 c.c. which was won by a brother Ernst Stärkle (B.M.W.).

It is of interest to know that on the winning Harley-Davidson were used Diamond chains and firestone tires. A popular brand of Ethyl gasoline was used. The machine was equipped with Champion plugs.

The Dutch T.T.

Riding the Dutch T.T. course over the Circuit van Drenthe, near Assen in the north of Holland, J. Guthrie (490 Norton) won the 500 c.c. class after hard fight with an F.N. and a Husqvarna.

Walter Rusk (348 Norton) was the victor in the 350 c.c. class winning a close finish over a Hollander, J. Bosman (348 Velocette).

A German rider, W. Winkler (D.K.W.) won the 250 c.c. class.

The Dutch T.T. is an unusually popular event and great preparations are made for it. Decorations range from flags to small firs that are planted in the main streets. The course which is somewhat triangular in shape measures approximately10 ¾ miles to the lap. It is considered to be about the fastest European circuit for motorcycle racing.

A record crowd was on hand to see the start of the race this year. Speculation was high as to the possible winner. Worthy of serious consideration were Stanley Woods on a Velocette, and two fast Husqvarnas in the hands of M. Stromberg and Carl Bägerholm.

Considerable changing of position took place before the final laps. Due to equipment failure and the slowing up of certain riders it was not until near the end of the events that the winners could be guessed in any class.

Six Days Trials

It has been announced that the Six Days’ Trials will again be held in Bavaria. Daily mileages will be high and average speeds have been increased. For 250 c.c. the average will be from 20 to 30 m.p.h., according to the conditions of the course; for the 350 c.c., 500 c.c. and 750 c.c. will be 22 ½ to 34 m.p.h., and for the sidecar outfits it will be from 21 to 32 m.p.h.-600 c.c. and 1,000 c.c.

The trials are to be held from September 9th to 14th. The routes for the six days are as follows:

First Day (Monday).-round trip to the North-West: Oberstdorf, Nieder, Sonthofen, Weiler, Waldberg, Heiligenberg, Weingarten, Wolfsegg, Leutkirch, Schmiedfelden, Burgberg and Oberstdorf (approx. 287 miles)

Second Day (Tuesday).-A round trip to the North-East: Oberstdorf, Hindelang, Wertach, Wald, Lechbuuck, Bobing, Herrsching, Muchen, Holzkirchen, Seeshaupt, Bobing, Lechbruck, Nesselwang, Burgberg, Oberstdorf (approx. 300 miles).

Third Day (Wednesday).-In a westerly direction: Oberstdorf, Oberstaufun, Lindau, Friedrichshafen, Futzen, St. Blasien, Todtnau, Freiburg,Buchenbach, Urach, Neustadt, Titisee (approx. 300 miles)

Fourth Day (Thursday).-In an easterly direction: Titisee, Buchen, Badenweiler, Schonau, Schluchsee, Neuhaus, Ueberlingen, Lindau, Oberstaufen, Missen, Oberstdorf (approx. 300 miles).

Fifth Day (Friday).-A round trip to the North: Oberstdorf, Nieder, Sonthofen, Oberstaufen, Lindenberg, Isny, Buchenberg, Sulzberg, Wald, Nesselwang, Wertach, Hindelang, Oberstdorf (approx. 275 miles)

Sixth Day (Saturday).-A round trip to the North: Oberstdorf, Burgberg, Betzigau, Ottobeuren, Markt Oberdorf, Schongau, Bobing, Lechbruck, Fussen (approx. 137 miles).

At Fussen there will be the speed test, held over the three-cornered circuit to the east of the town. One lap of this circuit is approximately 5 ½ miles.