1920 TT: Lightweights join the fray

After six years the TT was back. Some factories decided they were too busy to enter but the racing was fast and furious. A 350 took on the 500s, 250s took on the 350s and there were a lot more starters than finishers.


PRACTISING IS NOW IN FULL SWING in the Isle of Man. From 4.30 each morning until 7 o’clock aspirants for the Blue Riband of the motor cycle world are getting accustomed to the course and trying out the machines on which so many hopes are placed by rider and maker alike…All the Sunbeam riders are in the Island and their machines garaged at Skinner’s Old Stables, Victoria Road, Douglas. The men look very smart in their new leather suits. Mr JE Greenwood is in charge…The ABCs are on the course…Great difficulty is being experienced in bringing the machines from the boat owing to the exorbitant demands of the porters, but with the assistance of the men of the Steam Packet Co, the motor cycles are being landed safely and at a reasonable cost. The official Norton team

“The AJS depot is situated midst rural surroundings. Mr Harry Stevens is seen standing in the centre of the picture, with Eric Williams and HR Davies on the left.”

are staying at the Woodburn Hotel, the Indians are at the Queen’s, and the AJS representatives are staying near Crosby. The official headquarters of the ACU are at the Castle Mona Hotel, whilst their offices are in Athol Street, opposite the Times office. For the convenience of arriving motorists, the Anglo-American Oil Co have arranged for petrol to be available on the Victoria Pier. Motorists visiting the Island are reminded that it is necessary to register with the Highway Board, whose offices are also in Athol Street, Douglas. The attractive feature of the finishing section of past events is now cut out and in its stead is given the new portion comprising the Glencrutchery Road and the steep descent into it from Snaefell Road. The hairpin near the Governor’s house is the bete noire of the whole circuit. The road practically doubles upon itself at this point. After the bend there follows a further twist in the narrow road. One of the Sunbeam riders

“Stable companions. Blackburnes share the same depot as the Levises.”

describes this part of the course as a man trap, which has been included to meet the wishes of some of the inhabitants. The general opinion seems to be that the alteration in the course is not an improvement. As a precaution against accidents, and for the safety of the general public, the route and other parts of the Island have been placarded with warning posters…The fact that there are far fewer competitors in this year’s Tourist Trophy Races should in no way imply that the races may not be as successful and popular as in 1914. The course will be much less crowded, which will naturally benefit both the competitors themselves and the marshals and stewards of the ACU, while we have a bevy of extremely fast machines in both the Junior and Senior events, with a sprinkling of well-known riders who competed in the Isle of Man before the war. From the point of view of sight-seers actually on the course at the time of the races, the reduction in the number of competitors, taking into account the percentage of machines dropping out of the races, makes for a longer wait between each machine passing by. However, if one can prophesy so early, it looks as though there will be a big struggle between one or two groups of well-known machines, and an exciting finish in the two races.

PROGRAMME OF THE TT Week, June 14th to 19th: Monday—Machines for the Junior Race must be presented for inspection by the ACU. 100 yards flat race for world’s championship for prizes exceeding £100 in value.  Tuesday—Junior TT Race. Wednesday—Horse races at Belle Vue. Machines for the Senior Race must be presented for inspection by the ACU. Parade of decorated motor cycles, cars, bicycles, horse-drawn vehicles, etc. Thursday—Senior TT Race. Presentation of trophies by His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor. Friday—Flying kilometre race for motor cycles, 500cc, 350cc and 250cc classes. Gymkhana at Belle Vue. Land and water sports for men of His Majesty’s visiting Fleet. Walking competition around the TT course for prizes up to £100. Bowling tournament. Golf competition. Fishing competitions.

THE REPLENISHMENT DEPOT will be at the starting point where separate wired-off compartments, about 6ft broad and 46in in length, will be allotted to each driver.

“If the facilities for embarking and disembarking of motor cycles were as good at Douglas as they are at Liverpool, more motor cyclists would take their machines to the Isle of Man. Major Dixon-Spain, OBE, MC, assistant secretary of the ACU, is seen in the Brough sidecar of SW Phillpott, ACU Consul for Liverpool.”

COMPETITORS WHO HAVE no magneto cut-out or safety helmets have to sign an undertaking that their practice laps will not necessarily count as qualifying for the actual race.

IT IS RATHER DISAPPOINTING that more firms have not entered in the 250cc class, but the two who are competing, ie, the makers of the Diamond and Levis machines, are ‘all out’ to win The Motor Cycle Cup. It will be a race between two-stroke and four-stroke, and both firms are confident of success.

SO FAR AS CUSTOMS are concerned, the IOM is considered by Great Britain as a foreign country, and a permit to ship must be obtained by every motor cyclist who desires to bring his machine back to England. This is merely a means of identification by which the Customs official at Liverpool may see that the machine has only been taken into the Island quite recently. The procedure is quite simple in the case of British-made motor cycles, but foreign-made motor cycles entail further complication. A form prior to departure on the home journey should be taken to the local consul of the ACU, Mr GJA Brown, 39, York Road, Douglas. During the race week the form should be taken to the offices of the ACU, Athol Hall, Athol Street, Douglas, IOM.

SIDECARS MUST BE DETACHED from motor bicycles when conveyed by passenger steamer and in charge of the owner. For members of the ACU taking their machines to the Island, arrangements have been made with J Blake and Co, of Liverpool, who will be in attendance on the landing stage to empty tanks. Receipts for the amount will be given, and tanks will be refilled on return. If desired, machines can be left at the ACU garage, the Drill Hall, on the corner of Lawrence Road and Wellington Road, Liverpool.

AS WELL AS PREVIEWING and reporting on the TT The Motor Cycle was happy to offer advise to spectators and, in this case, to the competitors themselves…


IN THE EARLY DAYS THE TT might be won—and sometimes was won—by a rider of quite ordinary calibre. Few machines were entered, and fewer still finished. The great thing was to get hold of a mount which was staunch enough to finish. If it could cover the course without giving its jockey any trouble, it need not be ridden so very fast to win outright. The taking of fiendish risks round corners, and the attainment of track speeds on rough roads of no great straightness, were not essential unless a few petty stops had cost the rider much valuable time; indeed, it was a strategic blunder to drive the machine hard, for it could not stick the pace. In most of the earlier races we regularly saw a few dashing youngsters put up a meteoric display in the first lap, or possibly the first two laps. Then they disappeared from the race. Either the machine had collapsed beneath them, or a control had failed them in a critical emergency…All that is altered now. The TT bicycle is a fundamentally different proposition from its ancestors. To commence with, it is a great deal too fast for the course; many of the entrants could probably do their seventy miles in the hour on Brooklands, but an average of fifty is good enough to win in the Island. Secondly, about a half of the entry will hope to accomplish non-stops, except for the inevitable replenishment stops…It follows from all this that each year sees the importance of a first-class jockey overshadow the intrinsic excellence

“An impression of speed on the TT course: The greatest speeds are obtainable on the mountain road. 70mph is frequently attained during the Tourist Trophy Races.”

of the machine…Oddly enough, pluck is not the first requisite in the make-up of a TT winner, perilous as the game is. There is a certain intoxication about speed. It turns you ‘fey’, as the Scotch put it. Start scrapping with a few clubmates, and you will feel windy at the first corner or two, but within ten minutes you will forget to be frightened. In the TT the magic of the occasion, and the zest of the race, banish the icy tremors of the wait at the start almost as soon as your engine fires; and fear promptly disappears until an impending crash or sheer weariness restores the sensation. If you feel any fear after the first mile has been covered, you are too old for the job. The first requisite, therefore, is not to feel too ‘fey’. Bits of the course which look straight at touring speeds assume a fearful resemblance to a corkscrew when the ‘bus is ‘beating fifty’. A dust-cloud behind and a roar astern urge you on. The tendency is to fling sense and caution to the winds, to become literally drunk with the champagne of the occasion, and the delirium of speed. Either you will tackle a corner too fast, or you will rack the machine by exaggerated brakework. Excitement is heady stuff as long as the body is fresh. Caution, rather than dash, is the prime need in the opening lap. If the man is made for the job, and is trained to the hour, a quarter of a lap will clear his brain and steady his nerves. After a mile or two he will be driving subconsciously, taking every corner better than he ever did it in practice, timing his accelerations and his brakework to a hair, and all without any perceptible thought or mental effort…The second lap may threaten to impair the perfect harmony between brain and body; the third lap will almost certainly disturb it. Fifty miles an hour over rough and dangerous roads, accompanied by intense mental effort, is inconceivably exhausting. The youngster may last three laps without having to pull

Tools of the TT riders’ trade: “Driving side of the AJS, which will defend the Junior Trophy. The overhead valve arrangement. The new 3½hp Sunbeam in the TT. Mechanical oiling of the timing shaft and a detachable cylinder head are its chief features.”

himself together; the veteran will generally face his bad time towards the middle or end of the second lap. This does not mean that his riding will necessarily fall off in quality. It means that the conscious effort will grow increasingly pronounced. With some men the change is evident in a spice of carelessness; their line at corners is less certain, their grip on the steering tends to relax, their brakework is less perfectly timed and more abrupt, and their acceleration is rougher or later. With another man fear begins to reassert itself. He grows timid, and has to press himself to keep the speed as high as it was in the opening laps. He may grow worried and irritable, especially if slower and clumsier men baulk him; and temper is a rare disruptive of that perfect internal concord which alone renders maximum speed possible on such a course. All these possibilities are a question of stamina, which is temperamental as well as physical. It is here that the sprint-merchant lets his stable down. If I see a man going great guns at the half-distance and particularly if he is perfectly genial while some duffer slows him down at such a corner as the Ramsey hairpin, I know he is going to show up well. In the concluding laps comes the supreme test of all. The dud machines and the dud riders have already been weeded out. The tension on brain and body has reached its zenith, for the first three laps imply a nervous output sufficient to exhaust anybody but an athlete in the very pink of training. Now that rivalry has touched its summit, and the rider feels more like bed than anything else, the signals of his helpers tell him where he stands, and call upon him for gigantic efforts. At this stage there may be some lucky man who has already established a commanding lead; it is signified to him that he has five minutes in hand of the field. Fools envy him. Wise men pity him. His heart’s desire is within his grasp, and the tiniest error of judgment, the pettiest caprice of the fickle goddess of fortune, may rob him of his dream. He has to steel his nerves against a sickening anxiety which can easily make him corner like an elderly novice on a baby two-stroke. Or, alternatively, the wine of success may mount to his head and betray him into taking all sorts of illegitimate risks. Never in the race was it more essential that he should display an inspired blend of dash

“In the paddock before the start of the Junior event. Last minute preparations.”

and coolness. Iced champagne should be the beverage suggested by his roadwork from now onwards to the finish. An even sterner task lies on the little clump of men who are a few minutes behind the leader. Just when they are wearying to the point of exhaustion, numbed wrists, aching back, smarting eyes, and tired brain, comes the summons to dig up a little more speedy from somewhere. Already they have been cornering as fast as they dare. Already they have been humming down the slopes and the straights as if hell were behind them. Their exact position they do not know. But the signals seemed to say that if the last two laps could be reeled off just a few minutes faster, victory might yet be the prize. Three minutes per lap seems a trifle. Just you try it. It means snatching a second by piling on pace and shutting the throttle a second later in the approach to each of the several corners. It means adding five miles an hour to the speed down every fast bit. Trifles, you think? This last desperate appeal to a tired man is asking much. Probably, too, the ‘bus itself is beginning to feel the strain. You cannot trust it after this frightful four hours of bucketing as you could trust it in the first lap. The ‘bus smells of heat. There are audible loosenesses and rattles about it. The very brakes feel sloppy—will it save time to nip off the ‘bus and tighten anything up? The man who rides a stern chase to triumph in the last two laps is the finest fellow of them all.

THE MANX MCC ARE GIVING a good deal of help to the ACU, a dozen members acting as marshals on the course each morning. The worst corners are also patrolled by the police, and it may be mentioned incidentally that all the marshals conducting the practising have been sworn in as special constables, and wear the official sleeve band as such when on duty from 4.30am to 6.30am on practice days.

We ALL AGREED THAT it was a n’orrible war, but nobody held this opinion more firmly than the tame tipster of The Motor Cycle staff. His self-felicitations on Armistice Day at not having stopped one were more than balanced by the long fore-seen ordeal of having to find a winner for the 1920 TTT with no public form later than 1914 to help him.

WEIRD MASCOTS have been worn by a number of competitors, and one rider has green and yellow spots painted on his racing helmet.


THE MORNING BROKE FINE, and by eight o’clock officials, competitors, and spectators were much in evidence at the starting point. There were many finishing touches to be done. Prescott was seen patching his rear tube as the machines were ranged in line in the enclosure, Pike (Diamond) was fitting a new rubber lubricating pipe, and the rear tyre of Eric Williams’s machine suddenly subsided with only ten minutes to go, and he had hurriedly to fit another wheel…Two maroons announced the start, and promptly at 9.31am FW Applebee, the fifty-eight-year-old rider (who carried No 13 on his Baby Levis) was given the word ‘Go’ by Mr AV Ebblewhite to the accompaniment of a rousing cheer. His engine fired immediately, and he disappeared over the summit of Bray Hill at a lively bat…The Ivy ridden by Dallison got off the mark very impressively, whilst Sclater’s Aurora simply roared away. Sheard, the old Rudge TT rider, got away splendidly on his AJS, and received extra ovation no doubt because he is a Manxman. Howard Davies demonstrated again the extra speed possessed of the AJS mounts in comparison with other makes in the race…Wade (AJS) made a sensational start. Not satisfied with 30mph in as many yards, he flooded the carburetter and bumped on the saddle to swoop down Bray at over 60mph…The exhaust note of the Douglas ridden by AH Alexander was suggestive of a rotary aero engine; he got away in magnificent style…Milner (Diamond) placidly smoked a cigarette as, like an acrobat, he vaulted into the saddle

9.30am: The riders assembled for the start of the Junior TT. 9.31am: FW Applebee (2¼hp Levis), the first man away, being given the word to start.

of his mount…The competitors’ attendants, in the pens arranged in front of the stands, got their fuel supplies ready in anticipation of early calls, and craned their necks along the straight stretch after the Craig-na-Baa positions had been announced, showing Kuhn still leading so far as position was concerned, but not on time, since other riders started later. A shrill whistle announced Kuhn’s approach. He dashed up on his Levis, pulling up in an amazingly short space of time for petrol and oil. Off he went again, with a rousing cheer of encouragement from the spectators…News now came of Enticknapp’s retirement owing to a sheared key on the flywheel; Alexander (Douglas) also experienced engine trouble near Glen Helen…Longden now completed his first lap, and on lifting the valve lifter to pull up for petrol, his belt jumped the pulley, and provided an effective brake for the back wheel. Replacing this, he walked to his depot and filled up, receiving the usual encouraging cheer as he restarted. At the finish of the second lap Eric Williams free-wheeled at speed into the control for replenishments, his attendant dexterously filling both tanks and enabling a restart in less than fifteen seconds. Davies, on another AJS, followed, and, after filling in feverish haste, a deafening roar heralded his departure…A Levis, RO Clark up, followed hard on his heels after another lap at splendid speed. Replenishments were ready, and in a few seconds the special filling devices had done their duty…Telephone announcements showed that Wade (AJS) was out with engine trouble at Ballaugh, and that Milner (Diamond-JAP) retired at Kirkmichael owing to a broken valve cup. This rider, with two others who dropped out, thereupon chartered a special tram to Douglas at the terrific (!) charge of 50s in order to witness the finish…Eric Williams, going great guns and delighting those assembled at the corners with a lurid exhibition of corner work…When Cyril Smith came into the depot, Boy Scouts rushed out to

From left: On the mountain road—SH Haden (New Comet), who was out to finish, rode consistently at an average speed of 30.43mph. HV Prescott, on his 1914 AJS, at Keppel Gate. The second man to start, G Kuhn (2¼hp Levis), maintained his position on his first lap, which he covered in 52min 45sec; here he is at Craig-na-Baa after descending the mountain.

clean the indecipherable numbers. ‘How am I?’ he demanded, and when told that he was several minutes behind the leader, shouted that he had lost several minutes at Creg Willey. Meanwhile he tied his contact breaker in the fully advanced position with a piece of bootlace…The ranks were becoming noticeably thinned, for six failed to complete the first lap, while another dropped out on the second, and five on the third circuit…To the consternation of those at the stands, the Norwich rider, RO Clark, on the 250cc Levis, roared round the bend ahead of Eric Williams (AJS), who had led at Ramsey, with Davies (AJS) next, and Clark third. Clearly something had happened to the AJS leaders. As the minutes rolled by AJS hope began to crumble, and it was not for some time that news reached the start that Eric Williams had retired 500 yards from the Bungalow with a broken mainshaft. Extraordinarily enough, Howard R Davies, the second man on a similar mount, experienced a broken exhaust valve just below the Bungalow. Naturally this unexpected contretemps placed an entirely different complexion on the race. RO Clark for some time remained the leader, and speculation was even rife as to whether ho could on his plucky little 250cc miniature carry off the Junior TT as well as The Motor Cycle Lightweight Trophy. Pike withdrew at Craig-na-Baa with a broken exhaust valve, and still a further amendment of the leading positions, for Harris (third) stopped finally at Ramsey duo to shearing his countershaft dog in accelerating after the Ramsey hairpin. Hopes of those who maintained regular if comparatively slow laps rose noticeably. Haden (New Comet) came in and enjoyed a sandwich as his mount was leisurely replenished…Clearly so it seemed the race was becoming more a test of reliability than speed, for the fleetest riders had set themselves such a hot pace that they were cracking up their mounts…The Blackburne machines were upholding their good name for reliability, and were creeping up into leading places, particularly Holroyd and Watson-Bourne, who were having a little duel on their own…To the astonishment of everyone, JA Watson-Bourne (Blackburne) finished first amid cheering, having passed the leader soon after the descent of the mountain. To add to the confusion, RO Clark was announced ‘going hard’ at Craig- na-Baa with a flat tyre. There was general regret for the plucky Levis rider, and in a few minutes he came home, with the front wheel wobbling ominously due to a bad fall, and the front tyre flat, to finish the most

“At Governor’s Bridge—RO Clark (Levis) takes the acute bend at a good speed.”

meritorious performance in history for such a tiny mount. Thus he easily carried off The Motor Cycle Trophy presented to the ACU for the development of lightweight machines under 250cc. With eleven minutes to go to enable Cyril Williams (AJS) to come home a winner, no news could be obtained of his progress. The spell was broken when he appeared round the corner, vigorously propelling the machine in free engine with his foot, his engine stationary. The cheers that went up were thoroughly deserved, but Williams, half dazed with such exhausting work since he passed Craig-na-Baa, where his gear trouble was experienced, continued on, brushing marshals and photographers aside until he collapsed over his machine. Hardly had the cheers died down when JS Holroyd dashed home to add further laurels to the Blackburne name…Beyond question the AJS machines had only to finish to win. Their speed between corners and their acceleration after a corner were of the senior type, and made most of their rivals look paltry. But the tremendous ‘yank’ with which their super-efficient engines took up the drive after a hairpin suggested that the transmission might be overtaxed. Eric Williams is a real corner artist diminuendo, pause, crescendo, fortissimo—like

“JA Watson-Bourne (Blackburne), second in the Junior TT, at Craig-na-Baa. The Motor Cycle Lightweight TT Trophy.”

Sousa’s band…RO Clark, ambitious to win with a smaller engine, was also magnificent. Outstripped on the straights, he cut his corners faster than anybody else. In the early laps he was content with a foot to spare; in the later laps a matter of inches satisfied him…Governor’s Bridge is on the loop introduced this year, it is a mile from the finish, and can only be described as a Z bend. Practically every competitor negotiated the corner with great caution, the general tendency being to cut in instead of taking the corner at a wide radius, and during the earlier part of the race a small wet patch from the recent rains caused one or two riders to skid momentarily…Pike (Diamond), failing to slow up soon enough, bumped against the far side wall. A rather curious manoeuvre resulted from Loughton’s (Douglas) inability to get round the bend. Finding himself in danger of colliding with the wall in front, he wheeled off to the left and made a complete circle, which brought him round in a position to get away again…The cornering work of Eric Williams and HR Davies was perfect, the riders coming down the approach and taking the sharp bend at a slow but beautifully steady pace on the only two occasions they passed Governor’s Bridge. The same applies to the Blackburne riders and machines, and, although they were a little slower, they cut the corner very close in the same manner as the AJS riders. In the last lap, RO Clark (Levis) made a good turn at this spot, despite the fact that his front wheel was wobbling badly and had a flat tyre as a result of a previous mishap. This competitor looked ill and almost exhausted, but carried on to the finish, although struggling under great difficulties…Cyril Williams, who sensationally won the Junior TT event, averaging 40.74mph, rode a single-cylinder AJS machine having overhead valves in a detachable head. A four-speed gear is provided by a dog clutch arrangement on the mainshaft, in combination with a two-speed countershaft gear. [He told us] ‘On the last lap…I took the Ramsey hairpin too wide, ran my back wheel into the loose gravel, and skidded over sideways and bent the foot- rest. The engine kept running, so I picked up the machine and restarted, stamping the footrest straight as I ascended the mountain…all went well until I got through Keppel Gate, when the gear refused to operate, so I simply free-wheeled down to Hilberry Corner and I pushed and paddled alternatively to the finish, which thoroughly exhausted me.’ Cyril Williams is thirty-two years of age, and has an agency for AJS and Levis machines in Wolverhampton. It was only at the last minute that he came over to the Island to ride in place of a man hurt in

“Bringing in the winner—Cyril Williams (AJS). The winner’s smile of satisfaction. He was second in 1914 on a machine of the same make.”
1920 TT LWT 1-2-3
With only four starters and three finishers in the Lightweight TT, everyone got a prize. From the left, 1st, 2nd and 3rd, messrs Clark, Kuhn and Applebee.

practice…One of the heroes of the Junior Race was RO Clark, of Norwich, who finished fourth. His 247cc Levis weighs only 173lb, ie 4lb lighter than its rider. Down the mountain, when leading the procession at a remarkable speed, his front tyre came off, pitching the rider forward violently. Fortunately, the regulation helmet saved him from serious injury, as the indentation will testify. Kicking the wheel reasonably straight and refitting the cover, he pluckily continued, after a delay of quite ten minutes. That thrilling finish with a flat front tyre and the wheel badly buckled will long be remembered. Poor Clark had to receive medical attention at the finish. To average 38.31mph for 188¾ miles on a machine under 250cc is surely a record which will long remain. We are proud of the winner of The Motor Cycle Trophy.

JUNIOR TT RESULTS: 1, Cyril Williams (2¾hp AJS) 40.74mph; 2, JA Watson-Bourne (2¾hp Blackburne); 3, IS Holroyd (2¾hp Blackburne); 4, RO Clark (2¼hp Levis); 5, Eric Longden (2¾hp Dot-JAP); 6, NW Loughton (2¾hp Douglas); 7, G Kuhn (2¼hp Levis); 8, HV Prescott (2¾hp AJS); 9, FW Applebee (2¼hp Levis); 10, SH Haden (2¾hp New Comet); 11, PG Dallison (2¾hp Ivy); AE Wills (2¾hp Douglas) retd, lap 4; NF Harris (2¾hp AJS) retd, lap 3; HR Davies (2¾hp AJS) retd, lap 3; Eric Williams (2¾hp AJS) retd, lap 3; AF Houlberg (Wooler 2¾hp) retd, lap 3; P Pike (2¼hp Diamond) retd, lap 3; SA Marks (2¾hp Diamond) retd, lap 2; O Wade (AJS), TM Sheard (AJS), PJ Enticknapp (Blackburne), NC Sclater (Aurora), A Milner (Diamond), and AH Alexander (Douglas) all retired lap 1. Before retiring Eric Williams set the fastest lap on his Ajay at 51.36mph.

JUNIOR TT ENGINES: Six two-stroke singles (five finished); 13 for-stroke singles (four finished); four flat-twins (one finished); one V-twin (one finished); 10 ohv (two finished); one IOE (one finshed); seven sv (four finished).

Junior TT innovations: “Double chain drive to three-speed gear box on AH Alexander’s Douglas, giving six speeds in all. The top and second gears of the AJS are operated by cables and special handle-bar control levers. Extra oil tank between seat-pillar and rear mudguard on the AJS; this reservoir is connected by a large pipe to the main tank. Overhead valves and gears on the only 3½hp Douglas in the race. To meet racing conditions—vertical change-speed gate on the Sunbeam. Leg-controlled gear lever on the ABC, ridden by Reg Lucas; the semi-circular bracket fits against the rider’s leg. Overhead gear of the four-valve, single-cylinder 2¾hp Diamond— two plugs and magnetos are used. Details of attachment of cylinder holding down strap and adjustment on the AJS; note the inclined tappet rods for the overhead valves.”

HOWARD R DAVIES (yes, the man whose initials would later become as famous as those of Albert J Stevens) had won his TT spurs in the 1914 Senior (his first TT), finished 2nd equal on a Sunbeam. He was snapped up by AJS for the first post-war races and the Wolverhampton team was so confident in him and their potent 350 that he was also entered in the Senior—and once again failed to finish. He later said: ‘The AJS that year had an overhead-valve engine for the first time in the TT, and had four speeds. These were made up of double primary-chain drive, combined with a two-speed countershaft gearbox. The apparatus worked all right, but it was rather a box of tricks and was dropped the year after.’

1920 SNR TT AW
“Finishing touches. Right up to the last minute the work of preparing went on at all depots. Competitors and mechanics busy on the Woolers and Sunbeam
“An animated scene at the Norton depot.”

IT WAS FELT THAT THE RACE was exceptionally open. Dance and de la Hay had shown in practice that they might be invincible as regards pure speed, but they were half expected to set such a cracking pace that they would chase each other off the Island, and if they fell out, few cared to choose between a dozen rivals. The Manxmen, of course, refused to consider any possible winner but DM Brown…many good judges fancied that the Indians had something up their sleeve…The riders filed out of the storage tent in their starting order, glad to escape from the noisome fumes with which the final warming up had laden the atmosphere. Vivian Olsson, imperturbable as ever, could not be bustled by the fussiest marshals. Well before 9.30am the twenty-seven were parked with military precision, as in the Junior event, within white oblongs chalked on the road behind the ‘start’ banner…The get-aways were spoilt in several instances by the sulkiness

“The 1920 TT—the assembled competitors at the starting point of the Senior race.”
“First Man Off! AH Alexander (Douglas) made a fine start, and was round again in 43min 52sec, which included a stop.”

of cold engines…AH Alexander led off well on his six-speed Douglas, and a minute later the favourite, Dance, tore after him. Eric Williams perhaps got off better than anybody else, and had to lie well over to swing on to Bray Hill. DM Brown got a big cheer from the natives, though he had to run quite a little way before his Norton fired. Howard Davies on the 350cc AJS lost nothing by comparison with the bigger fellows. The ABC pair put up a thunderous acceleration, but did not seem specially fast. A number of the entrants wobbled perceptibly as they worked up through their gears. Long before the field had departed it was clear that the pace was going to be a real cracker. The progress board below the timekeeper’s box recorded the arrival of each man at Ballacraine, Kirkmichael, Ramsey, and Craig-na-Baa. Fifteen minutes after AH Alexander had started he was posted as having passed Kirkmichael (fourteen miles away), and Dance’s number went up on the same line a few seconds later. The sun was getting hotter every minute, but the

FC Townshend (Sunbeam) negotiating the corner at Quarter Bridge. Many and varied were the styles of cornering.”

grease in Glen Helen was bound to survive for a couple of hours yet, and nearly 60mph along tortuous lanes, full of corners, dry in patches, and tree-shadowed elsewhere, spelt terrible risks. But the men kept it up till the mountain slowed them a trifle. For example, Alexander’s Douglas did the twenty-four miles to Ramsey in approximately 25min, and reached Craig-na-Baa—34½ miles from the start—in 37min…Lucas’s ABC created a sensation by catching three men between the start and Ballacraine, only to retire at Ramsey with a broken valve—the first an ABC engine has ever broken…The warning whistle sounded at about 10.12. ‘Alexander!’ we shouted; but, as we craned our necks, Dance hurtled through, sitting well down to it, and screaming past like a projectile. His marvellous lap-time was 41min 28sec—48sec faster than the 1914 record—nearly 55mph, done from a standing start over a greasy course, estimated to be a full minute longer than the old route. AH Alexander shot through in 43min 52sec, having been passed by Dance on the Z-bend at Governor’s Bridge, where his belt fastener broke. He told us later that the engine was ‘altogether too purple’ for the belt fasteners, of which he used up four in three laps. The men were heavily mud-splashed, and their machine numbers were difficult to read. The third starter, Victor Horsman, had barely passed before the inevitable dog did a mimic ‘flying kilometre’ right along the stands. Luckily, the frightened mongrel was collared just before Harveyson shot

“Eric Williams (Sunbeam) jumping Ballig Bridge. A jammed brake was responsible for a fall, through which he was compelled to retire.”

through…Howard Davies did 44min 57sec on his AJS, as compared with 46min 2sec in the Junior…the machines were doing perhaps 70mph, and bouncing through sheer speed on the almost imperceptible waves of the road surface, whilst a nasty bump at Bray Hill corner flung some of them a foot off their saddles…Everybody was stopping at the cages for fuel and oil after two laps, and it was noticeable that the Indians dry-skidded on the smooth tarred road when violently braked. None of them had front wheel brakes, and when the back wheel was locked, they began to swing sideways and threatened to topple over. Several of them eased their brakes and were content to overshoot their depots, but FW Dixon crashed heavily some eight yards short of his cage and slid up to it on his shoulder. Luckily neither machine nor man was the worse…De la Hay was going great guns. Reports from observers posted along the course already marked him as

“Second to finish, DM Brown (Norton) going well up the mountain road.”

more than dangerous. His comer work was described as magnificent, and his acceleration as superior to that of any rival. Unless DM Brown had a little reserve speed still in hand, the experts considered that the Sunbeam would catch the Norton rider. Eric Williams was a specially noticeable absentee in the course of this lap. His brake jammed as he slowed for Quarter Bridge—a misfortune which happened to one or two others in the race. As he could not steer round the corner, with extraordinary coolness he selected a soft spot to hit, and charged a wooden gate in preference to a stone wall. He escaped unhurt but his Sunbeam was put quite hors de combat…The following dropped out on lap 3: V Olsson (Norton) came off at Windy Corner, brake gear fouled chain; VE Horsman (Norton) toured in after a partial seizure at Bungalow; G Dance (Sunbeam), broken inlet valve near end of lap; T Simister (Norton), broken piston at Hillberry; Eric Williams (Sunbeam), dry-skidded and hit a gate at Quarter Bridge; leaving 19 out of 27 starters still

From the left: “TC de la Hay, who won the Senior TT at an average speed of 51.79 mph. Douglas M Brown, the Manx rider of the Norton, with which he secured second prize. Reg Brown, who secured third place on a Sunbeam—a sister machine to de la Hay’s.”

racing…Terrific cheering hailed the resurrection of Brown who replenished his tanks very coolly, waving to his relatives in the stand, and roaring off again without fuss or flurry. Quite apart from Manx partialities, the crowd as a whole recognised that his Norton was stalling off a heavy challenge from the Sunbeam trio…Close on one o’clock came the tardy news that Dance was at Craig-na-Baa unhurt—for nearly two hours we had feared the worst. His inlet valve had broken at the cotter hole, and not unnaturally his only spare was an exhaust with a stem of larger diameter…The Duzmo did 47min 53sec for the fourth lap—its best, and also its last…The Indians, pursuing their safety policy, were clearly ready to take advantage of any slip by the four hares in front of them…AH Alexander experienced just such another tardy resurrection as Dance’s—a buzz of relief went through the crowd when the progress board suddenly hoisted No 74 as having passed Kirkmichael after two-and-a-half hours of silence. As the time drew on for Brown and de la Hay to flash past on concluding their penultimate laps, the tension became almost painful. Sympathy was torn both ways—everybody loves the Norton, a Manx winner is overdue, Brown has raced long and pluckily. On the other hand the

From the left: “The designers of the Sunbeam and Norton machines, Messrs JE Greenwood and JL Norton. Jack Thomas (Norton), who rode without goggles, cornering on the Gooseneck. FW Applebee (Levis), aged fifty-eight years, the oldest competitor in the Junior TT race; he receives the Nesbit award for the most plucky performance.”

Sunbeam is one of our premier singles, the machine is most taking, and de la Hay a very popular fellow. Few of the visitors could decide whom they favoured, but the excitement was becoming positively unbearable. At last Brown thundered past, going magnificently; true the lap time was slow, but it included a depot stoppage. Pulses trembled as we strained our eyes for de la Hay, and the seven-minute starting difference prolonged the agony. Reg Brown scrapped through meanwhile for all he was worth; Black came in on his heels and terrified the crowd by his violent braking for a depot stop. At last the board reported de la Hay at Craig-na-Baa, and in an incredibly brief period the whistle, and a roaring speck far up the road heralded his approach. He came through like a demon, faster than anybody had passed all day. The brush-men painted up the lap times. Hay leads Brown by seven seconds: An ‘Oh’ was audible, as the crowd drew breath…AH Alexander came in to retire muttering unutterable things about belts…Everybody was glancing from the progress board to the clock, and back from the clock to the board. During the final lap the wires were being kept busy with anxious enquiries about one or two unreported men, and the progress board consequently was unable to keep the spectators in very close touch with the terrific struggle between Brown and de la Hay. Everything looked black for the Manxman. If anything, he was slowing a trifle, and the irrepressible Sunbeam had been overhauling him slowly but surely during the last four laps, picking up precious time on each circuit. Still hope springs eternal in the Celtic breast…the Manxman’s engine screamed over the line at 70mph, and a tornado of cheers burst out. But they were anxious cheers, for everybody knew de la Hay had his starting debit in hand…In three minutes or so No 66 was sighted, unquestionably a good winner, and the Sunbeam flashed along the stands, going better than on its opening lap…when the figures appeared, de la Hay had gained 3min 43sec over Brown on his last lap, and won a superb race by 3min 50sec at the record speed of 51.79mph.


SENIOR TT RESULTS: 1, TC de la Hay (Sunbeam) 51.79mph; 2, DM Brown (Norton); 3, Reg Brown (Sunbeam); 4, NC Sclater (Norton); 5, HR Harveyson (Indian Scout); 6, DS Alexander (Indian Scout); 7, JW Shaw (Norton); 8, Noel Brown (Norton); 9, FC Townshend (Sunbeam); 10, FC North (Norton); 11, Norman Black (Norton); 12, FW Dixon (Indian); 13, GW Walker (Norton); 14, Jack Thomas (Norton); H Le Vack (Duzmo), retd, lap 5; AH Alexander (Douglas), retd, lap 5; Alex Lindsay (Norton), retd, lap 4; Harold Petty (Norton), retd, lap 4; G Dance (Sunbeam), retd, lap 3; VE Horsman (Norton), retd, lap 3; Vivian Olsson (Norton), retd, lap 3; T Simister (Norton), retd, lap 3; Eric Williams (Sunbeam), retd, lap 3; ES Abram (ABC), retd, lap 2; HR Davies (2¾hp AJS), retd, lap 2; Reg Lucas (ABC), retd, lap 1. Before retiring G Dance set the fastest lap on his Sunbeam at 55.626mph.

SENIOR TT ENGINES: 20 four-stroke singles ((11 finished); three flat twins (none finished); three V-twins (three finished); five ohv (none finshed); 21 sv (14 finished).

“Wolverhampton honours the TT winners. A civic reception was accorded to Cyril Williams and TC de la Hay at Wolverhampton last week in honour of their success in the TT races on AJS and Sunbeam machines respectively. Both winners are natives of Wolverhampton, the winning machines, too, were made in the town. Williams is seen in the centre facing the photographer, and de la Hay on the right.”

THE SUCCESS OF TOM CORBETT de la Hay was no real surprise to those who carefully study performances of riders, least of all to Mr AS Bowers, managing director of John Marston, Ltd. Undoubtedly, de la Hay, Dance, and ‘Duggie’ Brown started favourites. Like Brown, de la Hay enjoyed a no-trouble run throughout, and his Sunbeam was in better condition at the finish than at the start, as proved by the fact that the last lap was his fastest. Of incidents the 1920 TT winner had little to relate. He was unaware of his position, though he had been told, when filling up at the completion of the fourth lap, to ride to finish and not overdo speed. Just how much such an exhortation affects the sporting British spirit will be gleaned from the final lap speed. In the first lap a number plate came loose and dangled on the spokes during the second lap. Passing Ramsey a spectator was heard to call out that he was leading. On the last lap the descent of the mountain was a perfect whirlwind, if never before, and Windy Corner nearly proved de la Hay’s undoing, for he went wide on to the bank at great speed, but successfully recrossed the gulley, and regained the road again. De la Hay’s confidence in the magnificent Sunbeam he rode may be gleaned from the fact that his spares consisted of a spare exhaust valve, one plug, a chain rivet extractor, and a tube. The tool bag, however, remained sealed throughout…’Duggie’ Brown’s success gave immense satisfaction, for he has lived in the Island all his life, though he early joined the Forces in 1914, and was in France by September, 1914, with the second army as a despatch rider, and only returned to Manxland last March. Though he has ridden in every TT race since 1910, this year provided his first no-trouble run, the Norton he rode actually traveling better at the finish of the 225 miles gruelling than at the start…Though he attained over 70mph down the mountain, Brown assured us that he never had his throttle fully open except on the mountain climb. He was not aware of his position (though the enthusiastic crowds gave him some idea), and never saw the winner, but he recalled a ding-dong struggle with Eric Williams in the second lap, when from Sulby Bridge to Quarter Bridge they passed and repassed each other. He finally caught up Eric Williams at Quarter Bridge soon after the latter experienced the wheel lock which led to his machine being wrecked. ‘Duggie’ was regretful that he had been urged to ease down when he was leading, as he might have coaxed a little more out of himself and his mount in the later stages; but, as we told him, de la Hay had, curiously enough, received exactly similar instructions. But Brown sat his machine magnificently and judged his corners with excellent precision, though he himself bestowed all praise on his machine.

Senior TT innovations: “The AJS special oil filler cap to facilitate replenishing. Taping on handle-bar controls was general practice—the winner of the Junior event was delayed due to lack of this precaution. DS Alexander fitted a small windshield to the front number plate of his Indian Scout. Trumpet exhaust pipes on R Lucas’s ABC—short diagonal pipes relieve the back pressure in the bends. Lever attachment to the oil pump on Alexander’s Indian Scout.

OWING TO A VARIETY of troubles Jack Thomas did not finish till 3.47pm. He had started at 9.54am, and was, of course, at the start before 9am. Altogether he was some seven hours on the job, and looked very fagged.

SOME RIDERS NEVER SEEM FLURRIED; Victor Horsman pulled up with apparent pre-ignition on the Gooseneck (subsequently proved to be small end partial seizure). He chatted gaily while changing a plug and was amazed at the reports of Dance’s speeds—he did not think that he could possibly improve his own time.”

THE DOUBLE EVENT for Wolverhampton!

THE BEST AND MOST SPORTING race on record was the general verdict of the Senior TT.

ONCE AGAIN THE SUGGESTION of a sidecar race on the TT course crops up. All we can retort is ‘spare us!’

TOO FAST FOR THE COURSE was the general feeling again this year respecting 500cc machines. The Motor Cycle urges limits of 350cc for the Senior race, and 250cc for the Junior event next year.

REG BROWN IS A PRIVATE OWNER and excels at all forms of sport. On Wednesday he borrowed a horse and won the race at Bellvue, next day bringing home his Sunbeam into third position.

NORMAN BLACK IS A PURE AMATEUR, who had pluckily entered on a standard belt-driven Norton. His chief troubles were punctures and belt-stops, the latter being due to oil leakages. On taking out his back wheel to change a tube on the last lap he found the bearings were chewed up, and rode thirty miles with no balls in the back hub.”

SIR,—ALTHOUGH EVERY MOTOR CYCLIST must admire the pluck and ability of Cyril Williams in winning the Junior TT on a broken down machine, there are some who will wonder whether it is quite fair that he should be awarded the trophy. Comparisons are permitted in a case like this, and one must admit that on the point of reliability the Blackburnes won; but the TT is a race, not won on points, but on speed, and if the rider can get so far ahead that he can walk the last mile or so, and still beat the times of the others, then undoubtedly he wins the race. It was distinctly hard luck for the AJS machines to develop troubles on the day of the race when such good performances were put up during practising.
‘Admirer’, Handsworth.”

The TT trophy and “The Motor Cycle rose bowl offered by the proprietors of this journal for the fastest time made in the Flying Kilometre Race on Douglas Promenade.”

NOT CONTENT WITH THEIR STRENUOUS efforts in the TT races, most of the riders with surviving machines entered the flying kilometre trials on Friday morning last. The event was organised by the Manx MCC, and was run off on the promenade at Douglas, where the good surface was conducive to high speeds. The first three classes were confined to machines which actually started in the TT races and the 500cc mounts at once showed how well they had maintained their tune: 1, JW Shaw (3½hp Norton), 31.6sec, 70.79mph; 2, G Dance (3½hp Sunbeam), 32.6sec, 68.62mph; 3, A. Lindsay (3½hp Norton), 33sec, 67.79mph; 4, FC North (3½hp Norton), 3.2sec (66.27mph); 5, FC.Townshend (3½hp Sunbeam), 33.4sec (66.27mph); 6=, DM Brown (3½hp Norton) and TC de la Hay (3½hp Sunbeam), 33.8sec. There were ten other runners, and the speed of all, with one exception, exceeded 61mph. A good show was put up by the 350cc TT machines, NF Harris (2¾hp AJS) clocking 67.38mph (33.2sec), with E Williams and HR Davies on similar machines close followers at 66.18mph (33.8sec); while in the 250cc class Gus Kuhn was an easy first on his Levis in 42sec (53.26mph). Four classes open to any machine or rider provided some fast riding. The first event was for engines up to 500cc capacity, and was won easily by Dance, riding his ohv 2¾hp Sunbeam. His speed was 75.07mph. (29.8sec), which constitutes a new 350cc flying kilometre record.

In the Manx MCC kilometre speed trials. JW Shaw (3½hp Norton) who made fastest time in the 500cc class for actual TT starters. His speed was 70.79mph.

SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE ISLE OF MAN RACES and the men and machines which competed in them. By BH Davies: “However vivid one’s interest in the technical aspects of motor cycling may be, the dominating impression of the TT is admiration for the riders. The preliminary weeks of brainy toil; the emotional exhaustion of anticipation of the actual race, and of final disappointment (for most of them); their splendid pluck; their phenomenal riding skill; their cheery sportsmanship when defeat comes—all these are the raw material which provides us with a thrilling spectacle and many invaluable technical data. I go so far as to think we are now taking too much advantage of the willing sportsmanship of the racing boys. Let those who saw the 1920 Senior Race picture a similar event in 1921, contested by an entry of over 100 machines, most of them hot-stuffed by the concentrated efforts of the best British and American factories. There may well be in next year’s race a dozen trade teams as cleverly and carefully readied as this year’s Sunbeams. There may even be three or four fliers of Dance’s class at the head of the entry. Can such an event be run off without killing a few men? Would not victory depend too much on the man and too little on the machine? Should we either take means to limit the pace, or preferably seek a venue where the engine can be run all out for long periods, and where less hinges on a jockey’s ability to side-step death round a corner fifty times in each hour that the race lasts? These are serious questions which the ACU will have to weigh. Marked progress was evident in design. So far as engines are concerned, it was most notable that the Norton engine—practically standard in every detail, and wholly standard in its general outlines—could not only stand the racket better than any other in the race, but also came uncommonly near absolute victory. This is a gigantic feather in the Norton cap. Sunbeams—the only premier firm with a really special engine in the Senior race—showed that the best standard engine does not give quite so much power as the best specials, and that the latter can be made quite as reliable; for I put down Dance’s broken inlet to pure hard luck. I doubt if special hot-stuff engines or,

“The winning engines op the senior and junior TT races. A separate head with side-by-side valve gear distinguished the successful 3½hp Sunbeams; mechanical lubrication also contributed to their fine performance. (Right) Overhead valves operated by long push rods were an outstanding feature of the 2¾hp AJS The separate head was held down by a steel strap tightened by turn buckles.”

indeed, ‘buses—have ever shown such magnificent reliability and stamina as these 1920 Sunbeams exhibit; and I beg to plead for a lightweight sporting single- cylinder with an engine of this class. The AJS machines just failed to parallel the Sunbeam feat. In speed and power they probably represented a still more signal advance on past practice. Anyone who saw a 2¾hp AJS in either race would judge by its performance that it was a 500cc, a 1920 500cc, and an uncommonly good sample at that. But since the AJS people no longer make singles for sale, they not unnaturally failed to get their racers dead right in time, and so they only won the Junior by the skin of their teeth. If they go for it next year, it may be a gift for them; for there is precious little the matter with their 1920 ‘bus, and they know its weaknesses. The big fellows naturally overshadowed the little ones. But perhaps the most astounding performance of the whole week was that of the Levis. Remember that nothing but sheer hard luck prevented Clark from winning the Junior outright. Then reflect that 35mph is about the limit of the average 250cc two-stroke, and that it eats sparking plugs if you over-drive it. Give the public baby two-strokes akin to the racing Levis, and it will be safe to assume that the demand for big solo mounts will decline. We need efficient lightweight machines more than we need anything else. The Blackburne performance is first cousin once removed to the Norton feat. It just could not win unless a lot of faster machines fell out; but it showed how exceedingly good the

“The agent who rides the machines he sells is always on a better footing with his clientele than those who merely buy and sell. In 192O there were quite a large proportion of agent riders. Among these may he mentioned V Horsman and O Wade, of Liverpool; Harold Petty, Leicester; T. Simister, Macclesfield; Jack Thomas, Neath; JW Shaw, Belfast; Eric Williams, Worcester; Cyril Williams, Wolverhampton; AH and DS Alexander of Glasgow and Edinburgh; P Pike, Exeter; Bert Houlding, Preston; RO Clark, Norwich; and FW Dixon, Middlesbrough. The four riders depicted, Messrs Simister, Horsman, Thomas and Petty, all rode Nortons.”

standard Blackburne engine is. Transmission proved one of the most interesting details in both races. Faulty drives outed the Douglas in the Senior, and several AJS machines in the Junior. Here is a point which deserves emphasis. The machines which used their standard transmission experienced no trouble with it. I am wholly against the admission of such freak drives as Alexander’s six- speed Douglas (two engine chains with a three-speed countershaft box) and the AJS (two engine chains with a two-speed countershaft box). I do not believe these freak gadgets were of any real help to their users. Mr Stevens probably wishes he had fitted a standard box, and the six-speed Douglas was not faster than several three-speed machines. My point is that these three-chain drives will never pass into ordinary use, and I would as soon see the race won with a steam engine. If four speeds or six speeds are desirable for touring, let us have them in the race: but have them in the ABC or Rudge stock patterns. The belt is clearly doomed, so far as heavy machines are concerned; nor do I fancy that gear changes of the ‘square gate’ pattern will win against the ‘long gate’ type. You cannot cross a broad gate with safety whilst you are cornering at speed. Only two machines really conked on hills in either race. One was grossly overgeared, and the other had a standard pre-war engine. Compare these facts with the ‘overheating’ of which the ACU complained so vehemently in their last Six Days Trial. It is clear that, when the trade likes, it can turn out engines which neither dry up” nor ‘conk’. Let the few firms which are still careless about such matters, on their standard engines feel the draught of a sturdy boycott by private purchasers; and ‘conking’ will pass out of the motor cycling vocabulary. At least one firm learnt something about steering design in the race. If the TT is ever held on a flatter, straighter course, which compels would-be winners to hold 80mph continuously for five miles, the

“Norman Black (Norton), who finished eleventh, cutting it close at the Ramsey hairpin. (Right) Capt A Lindsay (Norton) at speed through Crosby.”

steering of motor cycles would receive much attention. Another set of incidents in the race suggests a research job for the ACU It provided numerous brake tests of a genuine character, wholly distinct from the playful pretences which pass under the same name in reliability trials. Two special points of keen interest arose. One was the fact that certain brakes were very liable to jam in the on position. (I might add that the brakes of sundry touring machines are equally prone to become permanently ‘off’, but before a race such dangerous designs are faked into safety by their riders.) Two or three men narrowly escaped violent deaths from this fault. Another was outed by a brake control, which is not positively located. The customers of the firms concerned will shortly benefit by these little incidents—a sufficient answer to the cynics who fancy that racing does no good. Far more interesting was the demonstrated inefficiency of one system, which applies all the braking power on the rear wheel. The men who used brakes on both wheels could stop more quickly and more safely. We must admit that many existing front wheel brakes are tiresome, inefficient, and even dangerous. The racing unquestionably proved that a properly designed two-wheel braking system is better than a single-wheel system. When some of the absentee firms begin to design for a win at 55mph in 1921, they will have to re-design their brakes; and if they do not do it they will not win. George Dance could not do a lap in 40min 13sec if his engine were installed in certain bicycles of my acquaintance. This matter is parallel to the new interest in braking all four wheels which some Continental designers of racing cars have developed. The principle admits of no argument, but the details of its application require much experiment. Readers who did not visit the Island may be interested to hear that most of the racers were perfectly docile in heavy traffic. They started easily, and ran in very ladylike fashion at quite low road speeds. I should select the Indian Scouts for special praise in this respect, though I did not notice one sample of the old type which travels a furlong on each pop, takes one hundred yards to start, and cannot be driven at less than 30mph. The ABCs did not last long enough to tell us anything about racing on spring frames. As LJ Emerson usually binds his up for sprints, I take it that it is very hard to get absolute lateral rigidity, such as the speed cornerist must have. In conclusion, little notice need be taken of fractured parts. I know such cases were numerous, despite all our talk of metallurgical progress during the war. The ABC advertisements have acquainted motor cyclists with the tests to which steels are subjected in the laboratory of a modern factory. But the steel makers are just as much hampered by unskilled and half-trained labour as anybody else. Steels are difficult to get, and makers have to use what is obtainable. They cannot test every piece over all its length or surface or core. This phase will pass. That a side valve, or an overhead valve, or a gearshaft snapped in the 1920 TT means next to nothing. There will not be many such incidents in the 1921 race, for the steel makers will be getting ahead of their work by then. Still, one wee yarn is worth recounting; anti-racing cranks please note. We encountered one designer on the Island who had never heard of the use of stainless steel for valves!”

“The Gooseneck, where fast cornering may be done. Reg Brown (3½hp Sunbeam) cutting it fine.”

The Rev BH Davies, also writing as Ixion,  was not the only contributor to The Motor Cycle to use a nom de plume. Wharfdale had graduated from the correspondence pages to staffer (his patch, as the name implies, was  the North Country). And Ubique was technical editor before the job title had been invented. Here’s his contribution.

“THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THE TT—A Review of the More Salient Features of the Isle of Man Races from a Technical Standpoint: First impressions are apt to be deceptive, and this remark is especially true of the results of the 1920 Tourist Trophy races. A glance at the finishers shows apparently that machines designed on standardised lines absolutely swept the board, whereas specialised high efficiency engines in the majority of cases failed to finish. This conclusion, though true, is misleading, for on closer inspection we find that the causes of failure were mainly due to the fact that the violent acceleration produced by the high-efficiency cylinders caused fractures in the transmission or other engine parts. This points to a common failing in all early developments: that one feature has been developed without corresponding attention being paid to the results. It is obvious, for instance, that a crankshaft and transmission which have proved to be sufficiently strong for the needs of a cylinder developing, say, 6hp will not necessarily stand up if an extra 2 or 3hp are coaxed out of a cylinder of the same capacity. Oddly enough, a certain amount of valve trouble was experienced by engines of all types. This is curious, since, although the fearful gruelling imposed, by about two hundred miles of road racing is extremely hard on valves, there should have been no failures in this respect if suitable steel had been used. Possibly the unreliability of some present-day steels is responsible for some of the troubles, though, from certain remarks overheard in the Island, it would seem as if one or two manufacturers have not taken advantage of recent improvements which were brought to light during the war. The 250cc class proved something of a walkover for the small two-stroke, and the performance of the Baby Levises was an eye-opener for those who consider that two-stroke engines are

“The AJS handle-bar, showing the arrangement of the nine separate control levers. Cylinder head of JAP engine used on the Diamond machine. The Brooks New B225 saddle has been designed for the speed man, and formed part of the equipment of the winning Sunbeam. Taping on Walker’s Norton, which prevented the valve nuts working loose. Puncture-preventer fitted to Petty’s Norton in front of the rear wheel. The exhaust heated induction pipe on AH Alexander’s 3½hp Douglas; the arrows indicate the path of exhaust gas through the heater. An extension to the carburetter of North’s Norton. The drilled piston used in the AJS TT machines.”

bound to overheat if driven hard. In the Junior race we were able to see the little two-strokes at their best, and, not only that, but maintaining their best for 190 miles of all-out driving. Over 38mph is no mean speed for a 250cc engine, but to average such a rate over a tortuous and hilly course for hour after hour is indeed a startling performance. How was it that the little engines held their tune, and, when stripped by the examiners, showed, free piston rings and a wonderful absence of carbon? Undoubtedly the answer lies in the aluminium cylinder construction, the first to appear in the Manx races. Long experience of two-strokes and sound design are, of course, essentials, but I am sure that Messrs Butterfield will agree that without the aluminium cylinders the performance would have been improbable, if not impossible. Whether the particular cylinder construction used in the race will prove to be the final form remains to be seen. It undoubtedly has its advantages, but the ‘poultice’ head type is apt to require frequent refitting if the best results are to be maintained. The consistent running of the Blackburnes was most meritorious, and the firm is to be congratulated on obtaining second and third places with practically standard machines. Watson Bourne is a heavy rider for the Junior class, and JS Holroyd was inclined to be cautious on corners, or their average speeds might have been slightly higher. After all, it is probable that the firm was out to demonstrate the reliability of its products rather than to win. While on the subject of the TT Blackburnes, which are the prototypes of a new model, I am inclined to hope that the outside drive will be retained in future engines, as the short crank- shaft should help to obviate torsional oscillations, especially if the crankshaft is hollow. Eric Longden’s Dot-JAP showed a remarkable turn of speed, but the Diamond team were handicapped by too short an experience with the three-valve JAP engine. This little single-cylinder engine, with its two inlets and one exhaust, quite obviously was intended for a different future when it started life in the drawing-office, but I am inclined to agree that, if more than two valves are necessary for a 250cc cylinder (a very questionable point), two inlet valves and one exhaust are preferable to the opposite arrangements. The Ivy two-stroke was fast and well ridden, but suffered hard luck in the breakage of an oil pipe, which naturally caused considerable delay. As usual, the 2¾hp Douglases performed steadily, and, if Alexander had not dropped out, there is no knowing what would have happened, since his old 1914 mount was going particularly well. The AJSs were the fastest machines on the course by several miles per hour, and everyone who is looking forward to increased efficiency and advance in design will share with the makers their disappointment in the fact that, with one exception, the new machines failed to finish. The reasons are sufficiently explained at the beginning of these notes, and the one exception produced perhaps the most sensational win in the annals of the TT. In the Senior race Sunbeams, Nortons, and Indians provided the only finishers, but of the ‘also rans’ there were one or two interesting performances. Of these the most notable was AH

“Finishing touches: De la Hay, the Senior TT winner, finally looking over his machine.”

Alexander’s overhead-valve Douglas. The speed of this machine was wonderful, and it provided the fastest lap of the day, with the exception of Dance’s second lap. Unfortunately, once again the transmission was not equal to the power of the engine, and constant belt trouble eliminated this very promising performer. Le Vack’s overhead-valve Duzmo had an extraordinarily healthy crackle, and ran well up for the first few laps. This is an interesting engine of which more will be heard later. The ABCs were not entered by the makers, and both failed to make any serious showing. Davies’s little AJS made a very fine lap, and his acceleration was terrific—in fact, it was superior to that of the majority of the Senior machines. All eyes were on the Indians until it became apparent that they would not win unless half a dozen leaders cracked up. Weight was against the Scouts, and they were also handicapped by the absence of front wheel brakes. In spite of this, they performed consistently, and both D Alexander and Harveyson were always well up. As sole representatives of the V-twin in the Senior race, especial interest attached to the Indian entry, but the single cylinder again proved invincible. Norton machines were so nearly standard that there is little of fresh technical interest to be said on the subject. The very fact that a practically standard machine proved capable of giving the winner a close run for his money, and of obtaining seven more places, including the fourth position, is sufficient evidence of the designer’s ability and the high efficiency of the firm’s standard productions. Without a doubt the Sunbeams were ideally suited to the course. They had been designed and built specially for the work with that thoroughness which is characteristic of the Wolverhampton firm, and they were superbly ridden. A separate head is a new feature for the Sunbeam 3½hp, but from the method of attachment I gather that it was a separate head, from a constructional point of view, rather than a detachable head from the rider’s standpoint. Not only was the engine a fine job, but ‘the gear box also had been carefully suited to the race, all unnecessary friction had been carefully eliminated, and the change was noticeably sweet. There are one or two hardy annuals which crop up regularly at Tourist Trophy time, but which should be mentioned once again in hopes of future improvement. As usual, almost every rider considered it necessary to tape all the ‘twiddly bits’ to prevent loss, and the fact that the winner of the Junior race was delayed through lack of this precaution is surely a reflection on the present state of mechanical perfection. Every time that the Manx races take place, special provision is made to render lubrication an easy operation, and, though it may be admitted that the average rider has more leisure for actuating a pump, he should surely be allowed the luxury of a handle-bar or foot control for the pump. In conclusion, the absence of more trade entries was most regrettable, though it is not likely to occur again. There are many lessons which can only be learned by a close observance, or, better, still, actual participation in the great event, and a well-known manufacturer volunteered the information that he had gained at least £10,000 worth of information from the 1920 races.”

To conclude this immersive TT experience, here’s a delightful insight into the 1920 TT experience from a fan’s viewpoint, courtesy of another of The Motor Cycle’s  scribes whose non de plume also served as a job description: ‘Road Rider’


“WONDERFUL PLACE, THE ISLAND! I can’t quite make out why we don’t stay there for ever. It offers us every conceivable attraction to suit every imaginable taste. Income tax at 10d in the £; no duty on imported Indians and Harleys; no speed limit (or if there is one, my 998cc doesn’t seem able to exceed it); air like champagne; cheap grub, all of the best and quantity unlimited. Petticoats? Well, if you are a sober Benedict like myself, and take your wife, it’s jolly for her to meet all the other fellows’ wives, or to indulge in feminine gossip about the other fellows’ ‘Stepneys’. If you are young, frisky and unappropriated, there are flappers galore. The Manx type—grey eyes, with that Connemara smudge beneath them. The Lancashire type, hard hitters in repartee, witty, and shrewd The yellow-haired sort in pink frocks—I don’t quite know where they come from. Anyhow, the man who couldn’t suit himself along the front at Douglas would be hard to please. Golf—for the scratch man—at Castletown, or for the ‘rabbits’ on the sporting but too crowded links at Fort Anne. Dancing—the giant halls at the Palace and Villa Marina. Motoring—two lurid races in a week, flying kilometres on the sea front, a gymkhana at Belle Vue, and blinding all over the Island, which is really a small chunk chopped off Cornwall, quite as lovely and far more accessible. Picture palaces in every street. Two or three big variety halls with stars like Wilkie Bard and Florrie Forde

“…there are flappers galore…the man who couldn’t suit himself along the front at Douglas would be hard to please”.

heading the bill. Fishing. Bathing. Flirting. Pre-war whisky. Pre-war beer. All your best and oldest pals congregated within two square miles or thereabouts. It is a wonderful island, and when you’ve once been over, you are not likely to miss a single TT until you grow old and tiresome. Nevertheless, I know why we don’t all go. The trip includes a sea crossing. My boat was very crowded. After vainly seeking a seat in the saloon, I sacrificed my pride and my ticket, and perched on a bollard in the steerage. An elderly Lancashire dame, travelling alone, instantly capitulated to my personable self. ‘Ah’ve never crossed t’watter afore!’ she volunteered. I expressed surprise. ‘Ah’m feart ah’ll be sick!’ she twittered. I expressed scepticism. An hour out from the Mersey she said, ‘Ah’m feeling summon bad!’ I alleged the existence of stewardesses below (are there any stewardesses in the steerage?) ‘Ah think ah’ll take a little walk.” I encouraged her mightily. As Kipling puts it, ‘that fell which fell’. I know also why, having once mustered courage to make the voyage, we do not settle in the Island. Not even a munition profiteer could survive a month there. A hackman, driving a sorry old nag only fit for making straps of, charged me 5s for a seven-minute drive from the boat. I disgorged money in a continuous stream at this rate during the whole of my stay, and finally came home two days early and paid my hotel bill with a cheque. I have a sneaking fancy that if I once settled in the Island the Manx might cease to batten upon me, and admit me to their fellowship for plundering the Saxon. I have a notion of chancing £100 out of my slender patrimony in making the experiment. Perhaps some day…? But this is a motoring journal, isn’t it? Revenous a nos moutons. There are just two places to watch the racing from. One is Hillberry Corner. It is located at one of the thrill spots of the course. Cars can take the bend at ’70’. What with the men who know how to tackle it and the men who don’t, you get both the spectacle of sheer speed and that lovely gulp-in-the-throat feeling which the TT charm consists of. Moreover, you sit on a comfortable seat on a natural grand stand, and lovely flappers bring you food and drink to suit whatever weather prevails (I should admit that the Manx climate is as capricious as a French danseuse). Of course, I went to Hillberry for the Junior. We were wholly fogged by the race, as the ACU carefully withheld all information about the order of starting. So when three riders, say numbers 32, 1, and 17, passed all abreast, we didn’t know where we were, but cheered for the best-looking man. There was a rumpus about this on Wednesday, and a starting list was issued for the Senior,

“We all went to the Palace—3,000 couples jazzing in a crush like a Bakerloo Tube…Two or three big variety halls with stars like Wilkie Bard and Florrie Forde heading the bill.”

which I watched from the official stand. There you have the aid of the huge timeboard and of a gadget like a cricket telegraph or footer league half-time board, which tells you how far the invisible racers have got on the current lap. Also, you see some real speed down Glencutchery Road, and the Castrol depots are right under your nose. The Junior race was too full of might-have-beens this year. Given a no-trouble run, there was only one team in it, for the AJS was miles faster than anything else. Still, it was exciting enough to watch whether any of them would survive, and if they didn’t, would the careful tactics of the Blackburnes pay, or would Clark, who had driven his Levis bluer than any baby was ever rattled along before, stand the awful strain of such audacious cornering for five whole laps? You know the issue—a course strewn with derelicts, a lame winner, two cruisers hunting him home, and a fine sportsman robbed of a sensational victory by hard luck on his last lap. A somewhat disappointing race, crammed with incident. The Senior race was the exact reverse. Everybody knew George Dance could win if he could last the cracking pace. which he was sure to set. Alexander on the Douglas, given a non-stop, was almost as formidable. The Sunbeam team manager was afraid that de la Hay might chase Dance off the Island, and kill himself in the effort—it was lucky that the starting ballot put a wide gap between this redoubtable pair. The wizard O’Donovan had been putting the ‘fluence over some of the Nortons, and Shaw was reputed a champion road man—more ‘expected’, per-haps, than the old hand ‘Duggie’ Brown. It was undeniable that the Indians were running beautifully, and clocking most regular laps. Everything pointed to a smashing race, and we certainly got it. Dance jazzed off incredibly fast. He lasted one very purple lap: then another still more purple. Finally, it was the engine and not the man that failed to stick as hot a pace as will ever be set. If Alexander’s Douglas had been given all-chain drive, he would have taken the lead; but no belt could stand the rip of such a tearaway engine, so he, too, fell out. That left DM Brown in the lead, riding the sort of race in which the number of laps doesn’t seem to matter; it was clear that Brown and his Norton, like Tennyson’s brook could go on for ever. So, too, could de la Hay’s Sunbeam. Whether de la Hay was a bit more of a firework merchant round corners, or whether the Sunbeam engine had one ounce more ginger, deponent knoweth not. But they gave us a top-hole race and a breath-catching finish, and I am still hoarse. Then the tension relaxed, and we devoted the rest of the week to more frivolous amusements. I did not go to the horse races. Experts told me that it is unprofitable—that if you put £5 on a horse, it never wins. We all went to the Palace—3,000 couples jazzing on a perfect floor in a crush like a Bakerloo Tube about 7pm is some sight. Kilometre trials on the sea front: George Dance doing 75mph down a narrow bottleneck of human beings, with loose dogs about and the certainty of a frightful holocaust if he came over. Then there was the excitement of trying to keep half-a-dozen appointments at once—a difficult problem when one’s friends are in different camps and every man is bound to be at some one else’s hotel. Did

“The trip includes a sea crossing. My boat was very crowded.”

you promise to take a certain fair lady to the palace? (Or was it a golf match with her husband?) then it was a sure sign that the Editor would send a message from the Sefton that you were required to attend some function to celebrate the victory of somebody’s tyres, or belts, or carburetters. Two such celebrations in one evening help the confusion. ‘What would my wife think of me?’ is a question one only asks when the confetti gets mixed up in the early morning cup of tea while feeling across the counterpane for one’s case of cigarettes. And by the time evening comes round again one is fit to enter into impromptu contortionist competitions against double-jointed experts for the IOM hospital. Finally, a sea as calm as a pond, and a farewell of fireworks for the midnight boat. Well, here’s to the 1921 TT What a race we shall have, gentlemen! The Scott people talk of entering twenty-four machines. Triumphs will have to be there, or the Sunbeam will be challenging their long-established claim to be our premier single. Harley-Davidsons will be a new ally for the Indians. Granville Bradshaw will doubtless put in a team of ABC engines, capable of 8,000rpm. The Rudges will defend their 1914 title—and they have a flair for unearthing three new first-class jocks every year. Douglases now make a 3½hp. The Collier brothers will hardly be content to look on. The Duzmo, as a hot-stuff sports solo, must enter in force. Is the Island big enough to hold 100 machines of the probable calibre ? Anyhow, it should be some race.”

Some 65 years later I was on The Island working for the same magazine (by this time renamed Motor Cycle Weekly) and doing the same job as ‘Road Rider’. He did it better. But I managed a dawn lap on my 950cc Guzzi California II in 45min—fast enough to have won the Senior, in 1911. I also got to stay in The Sefton Hotel, the traditional Manx home of The Motor Cycle, where the excellent residents’ barman introduced me to proper Guinness and the Bushmills Black Label which remains my favourite to this day. PS I was billeted with Technical Editor Vic Willoughby, who had ridden in the Junior and Senior TTs. I snored, Vic needed his sleep; after the first night I slept in the bath.