THE TT 60 YEARS AGO (1954)
by Ian TTFan Huntly

The 1954 TT was a very controversial event which is still discussed in magazines and at club level to this day...

I am pleased to be able to say that my parents and I were there, but the main thing that I remember that it took us a couple of days to dry out after we arrived home. For this was the year of the "big Washout" and people still have very different opinions about that years Senior Race....


So let me set the picture..
My parents and I had arrived at the beginning of practice week and by now I was an avid early riser for the practising which got underway at the supremely ungodly crack of dawn. I took great interest in the Proboscis Nortons to be ridden by Ray Amm. I also went round the new Clypse Circuit with my Dad in a car driven by Bill Maddrick who was to ride a Guzzi in the 250cc race....It was a 10.79 mile to the lap and was an interesting lap totally different to the main Mountain Circuit. We enjoyed seeing it through a "riders eyes" and since then I have often taken riders round the TT circuit in my own car to hear their stories.

By now I knew quite a number of riders personally and could visit the race HQ of the teams involved. I saw the Geoff Duke Gilera, not realising that in 1955 he would almost get a ton lap in the Senior Race...but this was 1954 and Guzzi, Norton were predominant with MV and Gilera improving

.In 1954 on Thursday 10th June we had the Clubmans Races which were won by BSA who also filled the top three places in both races Alistair King 500 and Phillip Palmer 350

Practice complete we had a weekend off to see round the Island by coach...

Monday 14th June dawned with typically glorious Manx sunshine and the Junior Race started on time. We were up at the Craig and in those days a "Maroon" signified the start of the race...My records show that the works Guzzis (Anderson and Kavanagh) and Norton (Amm) failed, and Rod Coleman from New Zealand won on a Treble Knocker AJS (first win for AJS for 24 years) followed by Derek Farrant (AJS) and Bob Keeler on a Norton..AJS did well with seven machines in the top twelve with Peter Davey Norton at 5th Bill Lomas MV at 7th and a young John Surtees and Harold Clark at 11th and 12th...

The 250cc race was run after the Junior on the Mountain Circuit, a massed start ! NSU filled the first four places (Haas was the winner) with another NSU 6th

We now had a gap to the Wednesday which broke as a miserable morning after a wet night..Racing was delayed even though the Clypse Course was the centre of racing for the day. We saw the 125cc race and the sidecar race from Onchan near to where Honda would base their HQ five years in the future...The 125cc race was won by Rupert Hollaus who fought all the way with Carlo Ubbiali NSU v MV) swapping places until Hollaus managed to get over the line first...Only nine finished with J Grace on a Montesa at seventh breaking up an MV/NSU dominated field.

The first Sidecar race since 1925 saw Eric Oliver and passenger Les Nutt lead the Sidecar Race (massed start on Clypse) from start to finish chased home by three BMWs,seven Nortons and one AJS. Fifth was Jacques Drion who was passengered by female Inge Stoll-Laforge

There was another gap until the Friday the Senior Race Day------However the weather was dreadful, the race was postponed until midday, and it was a complete surprise to the fans trying to keep dry out on the course. We were stuck up at the Bungalow and the heavens opened when the race started. Visibily was poor and the mist flowed over the Verandah. We sat in the hired coach until we heard machines approaching.... Clambering ot, we saw the bikes come past significantly slower than usual yet by the end of lap one, Geoff Duke on the Gilera was ahead of Ray Amm with Geoffs teammate Reg Armstrong third and Norton rider Jack Brett fourth

By the third lap Ray was ahead of Geoff. The visibility was down to 25 yards in places and Ray Amm was reported as "Dabbing" his foot on the corners !!

The Gilera team came in to refuel, Brett waited another lap then controversy hit the race. The weather and visibility aappeared to be improving. Amm, since he had a large tank did not have to refuel and the lower speeds could help him to conserve fuel. However he put in the fastest lap of the race on lap three.

THEN THE STEWARDS STOPPED THE RACE ! Nortons had gained a great advantage in the fact that they hadn't had to refuel whereas Gilera had taken an early stop to ensure they had enough fuel to complete the seven lap race. Amm won by nearly a minute at only 88 mph the slowest since 1949 !.. Brett was third and Armstrong 4th. Dickie Dale MV was 7th and LT Simpson (Matchless) was 12th, the rest of the places filled by Nortons. Junior winner Coleman had retired with a split tank and Fergus Anderson Guzzi had retired after a collision with Edgar Lavington.

We were all so pleased to get back to the hotel because we were absolutely soaked to the skin and frozen to the bone. We arrived home after a long ferry and car journey and went to bed with hot water bottles..

NOTES:-The controversial decision by race organisers to stop the 1954 Senior TT Race on lap 4, just as the weather started to improve, was protested by the Gilera management. This was on the grounds that the works Norton team were told of the decision allowing Ray Amm to lead the race on lap 3, but the official protest was rejected by the race organisers

A first-time visitor to the Isle of Man TT Races was Soichiro Honda the founder of Honda Motor Co., Ltd and returned with a works Honda team to compete in the 1959 Isle of Man TT.