SMITHS Speedometer Charts Motorcycle Speed at Isle of Man TT

On 28th May 1907, the Isle of Man TT race was born.  At the time it was called the International Auto-Cycle Tourist Trophy having been organised by the Auto-Cycle Club for road-legal 'touring' motorcycles with exhaust silencers, saddles, pedals and mudguards.  The original circuit was called the St John's Short Course and stretched 15 miles 1470 yards.

The first winners in that inaugural race were:

The race was changed to the Snaefell Mountain Course in 1911 and, in later years, elongated to the present length of 37.73.  Riders pass between Ramsey, Douglas and towards Peel on a clockwise circuit around the northern section of the island.  Most of the route is on public roads and is one of many reasons for the event being so popular.

John Hartle riding a Manx Norton in 1955

Since 1907, the Isle of Man TT Race has evolved into one of the most spectacular motorcycle racing events in the world.

There have been some great motorcycle riders who have skillfully negotiated the TT course.  Maybe the greatest was Joey Dunlop, who won 26 races including three hat-tricks in 1985, 1988 and 2000.  Dunlop sadly died prematurely in a motorcycle accident in Tallinn, Estonia in 2000.  He was an incredible rider and is recognised today by the "Joey Dunlop Cup".  This is awarded to the most successful over rider at the annual TT races.

There have also been some amazing motorcycles that have negotiated the public roads of the Isle of Man, many of which had SMITHS speedometers mounted on their handlebars.

The 500cc (Senior TT) race was won riding a British-made Norton motorcycle 6 years in successions from 1949 to 1954.  A Norton Motorcycle also won the 350cc (Junior TT) from 1950 to 1953.  At this time, Norton motorcycles dominated.  After 1954, it was not until British legend Mike Hailwood won in 1961 did a Norton Motorcycle once again win a class.  All classic Norton Motorcycles had SMITHS speedometers (as show in the photograph on the handlebars of a Manx Norton).

The current outright lap record is held by Michael Dunlop, the nephew of the great Joey Dunlop.  On a BMW S1000RR he covered the circuit in 16:53.929 (average speed 133.962).

The motorcycles navigating their way around the Isle of Man today are faster and more sleek than the Norton's of the early 1950s, but there has been no drop in the level of interest or enthusiasm.  The Isle of Man TT races remains a favourite of the motorcycle calendar.

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