The Early Years

Early pioneers forge their place in history

As the TT Races celebrated its 100th race meeting in 2019, thrill seekers still venture to the Island in the middle of the Irish Sea every summer for the same reason the gentlemen who competed in the first race in 1907 did - the Tourist Trophy, more commonly known as the Isle of Man TT. 

The spirit of competition and advancement brought the original TT competition to the Island, as racing on the highways and byways of Britain was impossible, forbidden by Act of Parliament.

The Secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, Sir Julian Orde, set off in February 1904 for the Isle of Man because he had a fairly shrewd idea that the Manx authorities would adopt a more conciliatory attitude to automobile racing on public roads.   

He was right. The Highways (Light Locomotive) Act 1904 gave permission in the Isle of Man for the 52.15-mile "Highlands" course for the 1905 Gordon Bennett Car Trial, the British round of the fledging European car racing championships. 

It was not until the following year that a motorbike race was introduced the day after the Gordon Bennett Car Trial. The inability of the bikes to complete the steep climbs of the mountain section led to the race being redirected and it didn’t return to the Mountain Course until 1911.

The Editor of 'The Motor-Cycle' Magazine proposed the new race at the annual dinner of the Auto-Cycle Club held in London on the 17th January 1907. The races were run in two classes with single-cylinder machines to average 90 mpg and twin-cylinder machines to average 75mpg. This was done to emphasise the road touring nature of the motorcycles. The organisers also insisted there were regulations for saddles, pedals, mudguards and exhaust silencers. The first single cylinder race, run on the 15.85-mile St Johns Course, was won by Charles Collier riding a Matchless while Rem Fowler on a Norton took the twin cylinder honours.

In 1911 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races moved to the 'Snaefell Mountain Course', and today's motorcycles race are held over largely the same course. During the early years the TT Course was little more than a horse and cart track, which included the odd gate between fields. It was the duty of the first rider round in the morning to open all the gates along the way, with the last rider responsible for shutting them again.

During the 1920s the road conditions began to improve and with this so too did lap speeds. In 1920 the lap record was 55.62 mph and by the outbreak of World War 2 this had risen to over 90 mph, Harold Daniell setting a lap record of exactly 91.00mph on his way to winning the 1938 Senior.

Following a break of eight years the Isle of Man TT returned after the War in 1947, with Daniell winning the Senior once more but at a much slower speed due to the poorer quality of petrol. In 1947, his fastest lap was 84.07mph.