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Marking the Milestones - A new exhibition for Peel maps out the course 20 May 2011

On 28th May, Manx National Heritage will open a new exhibition in Peel in time for TT, which celebrates 100 years of the world famous Mountain Course. ‘Mountain Milestones’ charts the story of the world’s oldest still-functioning motorcycle racing circuit, and looks at some of the history which has been made on this legendary 37 ¾ mile strip of tarmac. It will be located at Manx National Heritage’s flagship House of Manannan visitor centre on Peel’s historic quayside, open daily 10am to 5pm.

The Mountain Course is widely recognised as one of the toughest motorcycle racing circuits in the world. It is hard on machinery; unlike the billiard table tarmac of most short circuits the many bumps and uneven surfaces contribute to chain wear, and the steeply climbing Mountain Mile punishes engines and gearboxes alike. It is also unforgiving if a rider makes a mistake – the 37 ¾ miles are lined with stone walls and telegraph poles. The margins for error are slight.

‘Mountain Milestones’ examines what it means to race on this historic circuit, what draws riders from all over the world to race here – and also why some high profile names have refused to take up the challenge. Some of the legends who have competed on the mountain include Woods, Duke, Hailwood, Agostini, Grant, O’Dell, Taylor, Fogarty, Molyneux and McGuinness. Mountain Milestones looks at their stories. The exhibition includes memorabilia from racers such as leathers, t-shirts, helmets and trophies. Other exhibits will display a medal awarded to a long serving Special Constable who was on duty at the TT every year, nursing memorabilia from first aiders on the course and marshalling artefacts. Watch races from the past as historic film footage from the MNH archives adds to the atmosphere.

The 1911 Humber motorcycle
The 1911 Humber motorcycle, on loan from the Sammy Miller Museum
The star of the show will undoubtedly be the Humber motorcycle which won the first ever race held on the mountain, the 1911 Junior TT, with Percy Evans aboard. He won in a time of 3 hours 37 minutes, at an average speed of 41 miles an hour. This magnificent and historic machine has kindly been loaned to Manx National Heritage by the Sammy Miller Museum Trust. Accompanying it will be the original trophy awarded to Evans in 1911, loaned this time by the Oswestry Road Racing Museum.

Curator of the exhibition, Matthew Richardson, commented:

“Manx National Heritage is enormously grateful to the Sammy Miller Museum and to the Oswestry Road Racing Museum, for their support for this exhibition. It is really heartening to see the affection for the Isle of Man and its racing which exists in so many other museums and in so many parts of Britain. Having on display on the Island the machine which won the first ever race on the Mountain Circuit is a great way to mark the centenary.”

Other highlights for visitors will be the leathers worn by Beryl Swain, the first female solo competitor, in 1962, and the Yamaha OWO1 ridden by Carl Fogarty, in what fans regard as the ‘greatest ever’ TT race, the 1992 Senior. That year Foggy battled with Steve Hislop for supremacy, and set a lap record which stood for seven years.

Beryl Swain, the first female solo TT competitor
Beryl Swain, the first female solo TT competitor
Three wheeled heroes are not forgotten, with a focus on George O’Dell, sidecar World Champion in 1977 and the first sidecar driver to lap the mountain at 100 miles per hour that same year. The leathers worn by another World Champion, Jock Taylor, will be on display, as will the machine which was burned out in side car ace Dave Molyneux’s dramatic 2006 crash.

The Manx Grand Prix is not overlooked. Also on show will be the 400cc Yamaha ridden by Carolynn Sells, the first woman ever to win a race on the mountain, in the 2009 Manx Grand Prix, together with other memorabilia. Matthew adds, "Race sponsors Martin Bullock and Paul Morrissey were also a great help in arranging the loan of these items.”

But it isn’t all about bikes. Do you know how Kate’s Cottage got its name, or what Creg ny Baa means in Manx? The exhibition will explore the hidden histories of some of the landmark buildings around the course. How many bike fans are aware that the Mountain Circuit has also played host to athletics events, and major cycling meetings?

With so much history surrounding the course, ‘Mountain Milestones’ promises a rich mix of exhibits, historic photographs and film. The exhibition runs for twelve months, and admission is free, so there is plenty of opportunity to visit again if your TT schedule means that you can’t spend as much time there as you would like!

The exhibition will be featured in a newly refurbished temporary exhibition gallery, the first of an exciting series of developments planned for the House of Manannan. ‘Mountain Milestones’ opens on 28th May 2011 and will be on display until summer 2012 at the House of Manannan in Peel, open daily 10am to 5pm.

Athletes prepare for a TT race walk
Athletes prepare for a TT race walk, in the early 1960s

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