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'A Racing Century' Exhibition 1 September 2005

    A display to commemorate the centenary of the First Tourist Trophy race for motor cars in the British Isles. The exhibition will be held at the House of Manannan from 10 September to 31 December 2005. A Racing Century

    On Saturday 10th September 2005, Manx National Heritage will open a new display at the House of Manannan revealing the fascinating story of the first Tourist Trophy Race for motor cars, which was held on the Isle of Man in September 1905 by the Automobile Club of Great Britain.

    The story of ‘A Racing Century’ begins in 1904 when Tynwald came to the rescue of the Automobile Club (later RAC) and passed legislation which made road racing legal on the Isle of Man, allowing the Gordon Bennett Elimination Trials to take place in the British Isles. The trials were held to determine which drivers would be included in the British team to compete internationally.

    Previously the House of Commons had flatly refused requests to allow public roads to be closed for racing, or to relax the strict speed limit of 14 miles per hour imposed by the United Kingdom Motor Car Act of 1903. The ensuing Gordon Bennett Trials of 1904 were a great success which set the Island firmly on course for a prominent place in the annals of motoring history.

    As much as the Automobile Club supported motor racing and the British racing team in particular, it was committed to the development of new types of economical and reliable motor cars which could be used for touring. In aiming to give excitement with minimal risk and to promote British motor manufacturing, the Automobile Club started a competition in 1905 for ‘standard’ touring cars. Again the Isle of Man would host the event.

    Roger Sims, Librarian Archivist for MNH, who co-ordinated the exhibition said:

    The Automobile Club issued stringent rules for the race. All cars had to have 4 wheels and not exceed 1600 lbs for the chassis, engine, wheels, tyres and springs. A further 350 pounds was allowed for the body weight which had to have seating for four adults. Fuel was restricted to a quantity equivalent to a consumption rate of 25 miles per hour. Some 39 motor manufacturers agreed to abide by the rules and at teatime on Monday, August 14th 1905 entries closed”.

    Precisely one month later, practice sessions and races proper began. The hilly 52-mile dust and dirt road circuit of sharp bends and narrow bridges, flanked by dry stone walls and field hedges, tested men and machines mercilessly. Yet the first TT Race was heralded a great success for all concerned; not least the leading car makers who quickly discovered that sales followed success and that the motoring fantasies of the public could be easily manipulated.

    Roger Sims continued:

    The Royal Automobile Club is Britain’s oldest motoring body and, from the advent of the horseless carriage, has been called the ‘Parliament of ‘Motoring’. Furthermore, the Tourist Trophy Race remains today the oldest regularly run motor competition in the world. Manx National Heritage would like to give special thanks to the RAC who have kindly agreed to display the original Tourist Trophy alongside the display at the House of Manannan over the weekend of the 10th and 11th September”.

    ‘A Racing Century’ will be on display between 10th September 2005 and 31st December 2005 at the House of Manannan.

    The House of Manannan is part of the award-winning Story of Mann and is open daily from 10am to 5pm throughout the year.

    1st September 2005

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