TRY THE ISLE OF MAN
A MOTORING VISITOR’S IMPRESSIONS
NEXT month the attention of thousands of followers of the sport will be centred on the Isle of Man, for once again the world-famousTourist Trophy Races will be held on the island circuit. But how many of these know anything of its many attractions, apart from its being the venue of our great motor cycle classsic ? As a place where one may spend a holiday, it is, in fact, unique, for although it measures but 30 miles 10 miles
miles by 10 miles it embraces a variety of scenery seldom to be found in an area of vastly greater proportions. And there are 400 miles of good roads which enable the motorist to penetrate to every corner. There are high moorlands, and mountains, a sweeping, flat alluvial plain, quaint little villages and well-developed seaside resorts. Amenities to intrigue and pander to every taste.
Some of the wilder beauty spots resemble those of Devon : the wooded combes of that county have their equivalent in the Manx glens, though the roads in the latter are, as a rule, wider. But on the minor routes steep and formidable gradients (signified on the Ordinance maps by a ” V “) provide a welcome relief after the miles of top-gear running which the motorist finds in many parts of England.
Leaving the sea behind, as one drives inland, the characteristic grassy sod ledges give place to stone, such as one finds in the north of England, while the thatched cottages with their whitewashed walls are not unlike those on the west coast of Ireland. Higher still, and one reaches the limit of cultivation ; gorse and heather border the roads, their bloom a wonderful sight in June or August, and in a mile or two, from the scenery one might be in Scotland. Rolling hillsides or plateaux covered with heather or coarse grass harbour grouse and various other kinds of game, and in sheltered hollows are the ruins of stone-built farmhouses, each with its little clump of trees, a peculiar air of desertion and secrecy brooding over them.
The coastline is as varied as the scenery inland. The northern plain is fringed with beach and sandhi”, and the sea is building up the northern extremity of the Island at the expense of the coast further south. As one follows the west coast down however, the cliffs get bigger and the hills approach near the coast until, a few miles south of Peel, Crouk na Irreyhan and its attendant heights drop steep down into the sea from a height of 1,300 feet. The further south one goes, the more rugged does the coast become, and the grassy mountain sides give place to rocky cliffs. This feature is at its most striking at the Chasms, at the south of the island where cliffs 300 feet high drop sheer down into the sea, the twisted strata of the rock face which is exposed, and the deep cracks extending far inland bearing witness to the tremendous volcanic forces which moulded the terrain in days gone by.
The elevated backbone of the island, apart from its scenic considerations, holds stretches of colonial section and steep hills such as would delight the eyes of any trials secretary, and one is often tempted to wonder whether a one-day sporting trial held round about the T.T. week would not be well supported. At any rate, members of the Fraser-Nash-WolseleyHornet brigade will find obstacles as severe as any in Devon or Cornwall if they are prepared to look for them, and it is well worth bringing one’s car from England for that alone. And then there is the T.T. course. Starting about 500 feet above sea level from a site overlooking Douglas Bay, it dives down the steep and tricky Bray Hill, at the bottom of which, speeds of over 100 miles an hour are reached by the faster motorcycles, and continues downwards to the sharp Quarter Bridge corner. The road then follows the valley which runs across the island, the many fast corners allowing the old hand to keep up a high speed, but necessitating constant gear-changing and
At Ballacraine the course turns northwards, and running through a valley with high hills on either side, and interspersed with bends and corners, provides a further test.
The road climbs steeply out of the valley by the famous Creg Willey hill, now much widened, and then a gradual downward grade sets in until one reaches Kirkmichael, which is practically at sea level. From here the course runs along at the foot of the hills, and the wide level roads allow very high speeds to be obtained. The modern 500 c.c. motorcycle is capable of about 110 m.p.h. and to see the leaders streaking along the famous Sulby straight is a sight never to be forgotten.
Sulby Bridge marks the beginning of another winding section, which continues to Ramsey. Here the most severe part of the test begins. North Barrule, which is the northern extremity of the central mountain system, is 1,700 feet high and rises steeply from the northern plain. The T.T. course rises steeply from Ramsey, passes round the famous hairpin bend, the less known but much more dangerous Waterworks corners and the Gooseneck, and reaches a height of 1,100 feet in 4 miles. The number of corners and the severity of gradient entitles the Manx course to a position not far behind the Targa Florio, and if such a course existed on the Continent it would certainly be as widely famous. Unfortunately, the roads are not wide enough for anything except the small racing car of Bugatti type, so that
only our motorcycle manufacturers, who have proved themselves supreme in the racing world, are able to take advantage of this peerless testing ground.
We have left the riders climbing the northern part of the course, which nowadays does not take them very long ! Their road then runs along the open moorland which clothes the central ridge, a fast run with the “33rd milestone,” and other dangers to trip up the unwary, not to mention the chance of mist or even, in practice time, an occasional sheep. Soon the riders reach Keppel Gate and prepare for their downhill swoop back to the start. Tremendous speeds are achieved from there down to Creg-na-baa, while waves in the road demonstrate forcibly those machines on which weight distribution is correct. Fierce braking at the Creg, which is almost a right angle, another swoop down to Hillbery, tricky going through the Nook to the hairpin of Governor’s Bridge, then a roar up the other side and we have reached the stands again, after 37 miles of the most strenuous driving it is possible to devise. Seven laps of this, soon weeds out all but the best riders and machines. rt really is the most thrilling event one can imagine, and the fact that Prince George
is to watch the June races this year shows how widely this is appreciated.
The races this year promise to be as interesting as they have ever been, and the usual international entry will provide an additional draw. A new departure for the Isle of Man is
the proposed air race. The course and regulations have not yet been announced, but one may be sure that the race will start and finish from the Ronaldsway Aerodrome in the South of the Island, which is the only landing ground of sufficient area.