TT Races

The World's Greatest Motorcycle Road Race, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT).

Lord Raglan (20th century) by W.H. WarburtonManx National Heritage

His Vision Started The TT Races

Road racing in Europe was a popular way to test new motorcar technology, but the British Government refused to allow road closures or the relaxing of speed limits for racing on English roads. However Tynwald was able to introduce its own legislation and agreed that Manx roads could be closed. George Henry Fitzroy Somerset, Lord Raglan, the Lieutenant Governor presented The Highway (Light Locomotive) Bill, which was passed just days before the Gordon Bennett Time Trials for cars were held in 1904.

Tynwald’s hopes that the Trials would attract more tourists and be an important 'first' for the Island, were realised in 1907 with the establishment of the TT (Tourist Trophy) races.

Charlie Collier poses aboard Matchless number 14 (registration number LB1061), 1910 (?) TT (Tourist Trophy) (20th century) by Lady CowleyManx National Heritage

Charlie Collier, Matchless in 1907

The rough Manx roads, often little more than rutted cart tracks, meant that the earliest Tourist Trophy races were a trial of reliability as well as speed and fuel economy.

The first single cylinder TT race was won in 1907 by Charlie Collier on a Matchless. Collier founded the Matchless company with his brother Harry in Plumstead, South London.

Rider T.M. Sheard is carried shoulder high after becoming first Manx winner of a TT (Tourist Trophy) race (20th century) by unknown photographerManx National Heritage

T.M. Sheard, The First Manx TT winner

Thomas Mylchreest Sheard was born in Dalby, Isle of Man in 1889. He was a local hero when he became the first Manx TT winner in 1922, winning the Junior TT in a record time on an AJS. 

A year later he won the 1923 Senior TT. He retired from racing after the 1925 TT and concentrated on his garage business in Victoria Road, Douglas. 

Georg Meier (winner) and Jock West (2nd place) after 1939 Senior TT (Tourist Trophy) (20th century) by S.R. Keig LtdManx National Heritage

Georg Meier, Won The TT For Hitler

Meier was born in Bavaria in 1910. In 1939 he stormed to victory aboard the supercharged Kompressor motorcycle. The win was a great propaganda coup for Hitler, and as a reward Meier was promoted to Lieutenant.

Stanley Woods poses aboard a Moto Guzzi machine, number 2, 1935 TT (Tourist Trophy) (20th century) by S.R. Keig LtdManx National Heritage

Stanley Woods

Stanley Woods was the first rider to achieve the distinction of 10 TT wins. He became one of the Norton factory Dream Team which dominated the early 1930s TT races. Woods moved to rival factory teams who could offer the most competitive machines such as Moto Guzzi and Velocette.

Geoff Duke, aboard a 500cc Gilera, number 50, 1955 TT (Tourist Trophy) (1955) by Tom BadgerManx National Heritage

Geoff Duke, Britain’s First Motorcycling Superstar

Between 1949 and 1959 Duke notched up five TT wins. He also won six World Championship titles in the 1950s. In his one piece racing suit he and his contemporaries – men like John Surtees – were a generation away from the ‘greasy’ mechanics of the 1930s.

Giacomo Agostini with bike at side of road, at the quarry below Windy Corner, 1967 Senior TT (Tourist Trophy) Race (20th century) by unknown photographerManx National Heritage

Giacomo Agostini

The Italian motorcycle manufacturer, MV Agusta, was founded in 1945 as part of the Agusta aviation company. Its star rider, Giacomo Agostini, dominated the TT from 1965 to 1972 and in 16 races won an impressive 10 victories.

Mike Hailwood with Senior TT trophy, TT presentations, Villa Marina (20th century) by Manx Press PicturesManx National Heritage

'Mike The Bike'

Mike Hailwood is a racing legend of the TT with a record-breaking 14 TT wins in the 1960s and 70s. He won the 1967 Senior race against Agostini after a thrilling battle. Following a period in car racing, he made a triumphant comeback with victories in the 1978 and 1979 TT races. 

1959 TT (Tourist Trophy) Honda team poses with two of its racing machines behind the Grandstand (20th century) by Island PhotographicsManx National Heritage

Soichiro Honda’s Dream

Honda Motor Co., a firm based at Hamamatsu in Japan, started manufacturing motorcycles after the Second World War. In 1959, the challenge was to win the most prestigious race of all - the TT.
Honda’s first victory came with Hailwood winning the Lightweight and Ultra Lightweight TT in 1961. Honda soon dominated the smaller classes, and then began challenging for the Senior event, winning in 1966 and 1967.

Joey Dunlop at Parliament Square, Ramsey, riding Rea Racing machine number 6, TT (Tourist Trophy) (20th century) by unknown photographerManx National Heritage

Joey Dunlop, 'The King of the Road'

Joey Dunlop, born in Northern Ireland in 1952, is widely considered the greatest road racer of all time. He competed in 101 TT races from 1977 until 2000 and won three TT hat-tricks. His trademark yellow Arai helmet, and iconic number 3, are familiar on countless T-shirts.

Beryl Swain, TT (Tourist Trophy) rider, at Grandstand with helmet in hand (20th century) by unknown photographerManx National Heritage

TT’s First Solo Woman

Beryl Swain in 1962 became the first solo woman to compete riding in the 50cc race to finish 22nd. Beryl’s racing career was cruelly cut short by the sport’s governing body who withdrew her racing licence on the grounds the sport was not suitable for women.

Hilary Musson, TT rider (20th century) by Manx Press PicturesManx National Heritage

Hilary Musson

In 1978 Hilary was the first woman to compete as a rider in the TT since Beryl Swain. Hilary competed in eight TTs from 1978 to 1985.

1961 TT races Isle of Man (20th century) by Isle of Man Tourist BoardManx National Heritage

The World's Greatest Road Race Continues...

The Isle of Man TT is still the ultimate 'must see it' event for motorsport fans across the globe. Every May and June the world’s greatest road racers gather to test themselves against the 37.73 ‘Mountain Course’ on the island’s public roads.  For a full list of riders and races and images of the TT visit the Manx National Heritage website TT & Manx Grand Prix

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