The Isle of Man TT - An Illustrated History, 1907-80

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by Matthew Freudenberg. 176 pp. 10″ x 7 1/4″. Aston Publishing Co Ltd, Bourne End House, Harvest Hill, Bourne End, Bucks, SL8 5JJ £16.95.

The TT ranks very high indeed in the realms of motorcycling sport and here is a book packed with evocative pictures that introduces its long history to the ranks of those who may not have studied it previously and who want a concise rather than a detailed story from the primitive beginnings to the rapid present, during which lap speeds have increased from 40 to over 120 mph in these demanding, dangerous, true road races. That demand Freudenberg’s book fulfills very well. The 15 chapters tell, in a readable rather than a heavy technical sense, the developing story of these important races of the early endeavours with road-equipped machines, the Golden Age 1923-27, Norton’s Take Over 1931-34, Challengers from Europe 1935-39, Italian Domination 1955-61 (with those riders with the poetic names!), Japanese Domination 1962-67 and so on but it is the many photographs which really make the book!

Many of the 200 pictures have inevitably been seen before, but there are ‘new’ ones, all of which capture the atmosphere of these races so very well. I find them recalling for me the intense pre-race and reporting coverage given to then by ‘The Green Un’ and ‘Blue Un’ as the pre-war weekly motorcycle papers were affectionately called, and that close-fought TT of which Graham Walker’s radio commentary was so exciting when describing the close finish that many housewives complained bitterly when they were returned to the ‘Woman’s Hour’ studio just before the finish! (I cannot now recall which year that was, but one very close finish occurred in the 1935 Senior TT, when Stanley Woods’ Moto-Guzzi beat AJ Guthrie’s Norton by just four seconds, after over three hours’ riding). The tables in the book remind us of such things and provide a full summary of all the results and give other statistics but only up to 1980.

A few errors have crept in, like AV Ebblewhite being captioned as `E Hebblewhite’ and the fuel consumption restrictions of 1907/1908 being reversed, as are the comparative lap distances of the 1915/1920 circuits. But just the book for the motorists’ book shelves if they want a quick and nostalgic appreciation of the two (and three) wheeler TTs. WB