November 2007: Special TT Centenary Issue



Geoff Crowther and Suzanne Ferriss


The inspiration for this issue of the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies came from a conference held on the Isle of Man, May 28-30, 2007, to mark the centenary of the Isle of Man TT Races.



The conference, “The Isle of Man TT Races: Heritage, Place and Spirit,” drew a global group of scholars in widely dispersed disciplines.  Participants included citizens of Japan, New Zealand, Greece, USA and Canada, as well as the Isle of Man and England, working in fields such as sociology, business, marketing, architecture, history, film and cultural studies, museum studies, fine arts, journalism, and mechanical design. In addition to scholarly contributions, the conference also featured representatives from the Manx government, Manx National heritage, the Manx tourism industry, the motorcycle industry, as well as past participants in the TT races and journalists responsible for documenting the event. 



The conference marked an important historical event in motorcycle racing, the 100th anniversary of the Tourist Trophy races begun in 1907 on the Isle of Man.  While focused on a critical event in motorcycling, the conference explored the broader social, political, economic, and cultural significance of motorized transport and mobility.  It heightened awareness of the multiple stakeholders in the event: visitors, locals, manufacturers, media, politicians, law enforcement and commercial interests.


Participants deepened their understanding Manx culture, including the event’s close connections to the tourism and travel industry, in particular the broad-based appeal of motorcycle racing for not only the British public but international visitors.  It drew attention to the role of curatorial consumption in sustaining and reinforcing the associations and beliefs of motorcycling heritage, as participants were immersed in the spectacle of the event, reflecting on the festival’s ability to draw people together and establish connections.



The Matchless trademark owners’ commitment to resurrect the famous motorcycle brand led them to undertake an Odyssean voyage from their base in Greece to transport two historic motorcycles to exhibit at the conference, overcoming obstacles including Italian road traffic, European bureaucracy and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.  Their spirit of adventure and entrepreneurship exemplifies the experience of both the conference and the TT. 


IJMS Special TT Issue


In this special issue of IJMS devoted to the TT, we have included a sampling of the essays from the conference.  In “The Isle of Man TT Races: Politics, Economics and National Identity,” Isle of Man native Simon Vaukin traces the humble beginnings of this mega sporting event to political machinations in the Manx legislature.  He argues that these political origins have shaped the race’s economic impact on the Manx economy as well as Manx national identity.  Turning to the history of TT competition, James J. Ward examines the pivotal role of the Matchless marque.  His essay, “The Flying “M” on the IOM: The Matchless Name and the Tourist Trophy Races” offers an informative and colorful account of the committed individuals trying to keep Matchless machines at the head of the racing pack. 


Other essays included here demonstrate the TT’s international significance.  In “The Image of the “Tourist Trophy” and British Motorcycling in the Weimar Republic,” Sasha Disko outlines the German perspective on the races and British motorcycling during the post-WWI era.  She argues that Germans perceived British machines and racers as evidence of the nation’s power and were spurred to contest it by enhancing their own motorcycle design and manufacture.  The TT has also captured the imaginations of competitors with far less at stake, including the organizers of the Isle of Goose TT Races, held on a tiny spit of land in Chicago, Illinois.  In her engaging account of the event and its history, Kris Slawinski argues the IOG TT, where competitors ride 50-100cc bikes around a 1.1-mile course, pays loving homage to the IOM TT and demonstrates the enduring appeal of racing.  The races’ reach is truly global, extending to contemporary New Zealand perceptions of the Isle of Man.  A survey of households in Christchurch conducted by Charles Lamb demonstrated that Kiwi participation in the races has been pivotal in shaping a positive image of the event as well as the Island as a tourist destination. 


Travel to the Isle of Man for the races provides visiting motorcyclists and racers with uniquely embodied experiences of the Manx landscape.  In his essay, Geoff Crowther contrasts the varied experiences of visitors, racers, Manx locals and even virtual tourists to note the competing values they derive from the place—especially the Mountain Course—and the event.  Participation in the festival of speed, be it through riding, strolling the Douglas Prom or purchasing souvenirs, provides a range of sensory possibilities that shape perceptions of not only the races but the Island itself.


This issue also gathers a range of participants who offer their memories of TT past and predictions for its future.  Canadian author Michelle Duff, who competed (as Mike Duff) against Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini at the TT in the 1960s, recounts one remarkable experience in 1962 that led her to reexamine Manx myth and folklore.  Fellow Canadian Mark Gardiner has penned a memoir recounting his own attempt to qualify for and participate in the races in 2002.  We include an excerpt from his book, Riding Man, and a review by Katherine Sutherland.


The participants in this issue's Roundtable Discussion weigh in on the 2007 TT and the future of road racing. Contributing to the debate are Paul Phillips, TT and Motorsport Manager for the Isle of Man government, Neil Tuxworth, Manager of Honda Racing UK, and Mick Duckworth, author of TT 100: The Official Authorised History of the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Racing. 


 Join our contributors in celebrating the 100th anniversary of this iconic event in motorcycling.



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