Collected by G. S. Davison, The TT Special, Birmingham England, 1948
Review | Racing Reminiscences is a collection of rather short stories told by the men who raced and prepared motorcycles at the Isle of Man from 1907 to the start of the Second World War. There are some stories of racing on the continent but the TT is the predominant theme here.
If perhaps you did not know, the TT is the greatest motorcycle race meet in the world. It began in 1904 and is still run every June on the Isle of Man located between England and Ireland. The TT is in fact several races for different classes of bike.
The writers are the absolute cream of the crop from the classic era at the island. Jimmy Simpson, Harold Daniels, Freddy Frith, Alec Bennett, Wal Handley are just some of the masters and champions who’s stories are told.
The short vignettes were originally run in the TT Special, a newspaper published from 1927 to 1965 by Geoff Davison during the fortnight of the TT. The paper ran coverage of the machines and personalities as well as practice and race results.
Davison was an experienced rider having won the 1922 lightweight(250cc) race on a single speed belt drive Levis two stroke. As a long time rider for Levis at the Island as well as grands prix Davison brought a great deal of credibility to his work that allowed him access to the best of the TT stars.
The experiences of these men are amazing. It was common to have to change tires or belts or spark plugs more than once in a lap for some of the machines in the early days. It was not uncommon for riders to take brandy or whisky at the pit stop to get some warmth back in frozen bodies and hands. Racing didn’t stop for the weather, rain and foggy conditions with little or no visibility on the mountain were common.
In the early days the course was not even paved Macadam.
The uncomplicated, I hesitate to say primitive, machines required a great deal more mechanical know how of the rider than modern tackle. This was an era when success at the TT could make or break your company. Engineers and riders worked all year to design and build their machines to race. The tragedies of simple mistakes are heartbreaking. The tales related in this book of dogged determination backed by luck and fate turning your way are truly inspiring
This fantastic little volume is well worth the search for those of you who love the history of motorcycle racing. –M.B.