Road Racing on the Isle of Man

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Almost every week in the sporting papers there are scare-headlines such as “Castle Combe doomed”, “Oulton Park threatened”, “Lydden Hill in danger”, and so on. What the papers are trying to convey is that the racing circuits at these places are being attacked by local people or local councils, to get their racing stopped because the noise or the traffic or the spectators are upsetting somebody. Usually it is one or two people who start these anti-racing campaigns, gathering support because they happen to be very influential in the locality, or because they have made a profession of this sort of thing. The racing enthusiasts complain that this is an anti-motor racing country, yet every weekend there are thousands of people enjoying themselves, and giving enjoyment to thousands more, with some kind of mechanised sport involving engines and wheels.

While this sort of things is going on all over England, Wales and probably Scotland as well, over on the Isle of Man the Manx Government are trying hard to establish motor racing in their summer sports calendar just as motorcycle racing has been established in the I.o.M. since 1907. Motor racing in the Isle of Man is nothing new, it has taken place at varying intervals since the early days, but there has been a long lull since the nineteen-fifties and the Manx enthusiasts think it is time it returned. Almost unbelievably to people on the mainland, the Manx Government agree with the enthusiasts and give them their full support. Even more unbelievable is the fact that the Government say there is no need to build an artificial Stadium-type circuit for there are magnificent roads in the Isle of Man on which racing can be held. The public roads in the Island can be closed at any time, so here we have a country, peopled by enthusiasts and a Government who are crying out for road-racing to start up again and yet nobody seems interested. A few years ago the Tholt-y-Wil hill-climb got underway, and it made all the hills in use in England seem pathetic. If you combined Wiscombe, Shelsley, Prescott, and all the lesser ones together they would not compare with Tholt-y-Wil, yet the progress with the Island hill has been slow. Although it complies with all the requirements for a European Mountain Championship event, support has not been forthcoming in sufficient quantity to justify running an International event.

The Manx people are still trying to get motor racing on the public roads underway, offering two alternative circuits, but no one seems interested, yet on the mainland there are continual battles going on to be able to continue to race on disused aerodromes. The last effort of the Manx people was a 5¾-mile circuit in the N.W. of the Island, on the normal public roads. They co-operated with the A.A. Magazine and Moss, Brooks, Gendebein and Trintignant drove Formula Ford single-seaters round the proposed circuit. The roads were not completely closed, but the major corners and junctions were controlled by flat marshals and police, so that the four ex-Grand Prix drivers could have a bit of a go. Imagine letting four single-seaters loose on the roads of Yorkshire or Hampshire, with the Government and Police helping! I can’t think why we don’t all go and live in the Isle of Man.

After this experiment the general verdict was that the Grand Prix drivers of yesterday would have jumped at the chance of racing on the proposed circuit, but that the Grand Prix drivers of today would probably demand 11½ miles of Armco barrier round the 5¾-mile circuit. It might be an idea to take a Grand Prix driver and Grand Prix car over to the Island and give it a whirl. I would suggest Hill in a Lotus or Surtees in a B.R.M. rather than Stewart in a Matra or Rindt in a Lotus, and keep the G.P.D.A. away for goodness sake.

So that is the situation; at home on the mainland most of our circuits have very uncertain futures, while over in the Isle of Man everyone is trying to get proper road-racing back on its feet. The question is: What can be done about it, short of replacing the Labour Government by the Manx Government?—D. S. J.