Competitor Profile: Ray Amm

TT Career Summary
Position13928DNF
No of times31112

Biography

PhotographRay Amm arrived in Europe from Southern Rhodesia in 1951 with a brace of Nortons and a driving ambition to earn himself a place in the world famous Norton works team. With a huge van, generally driven by his wife Jill, he joined the Continental circus and raced all over Europe.

Norton’s brilliant team builder, Joe Craig soon spotted him, and in 1952 realised his initial objective by joining the Norton squad. When Geoff Duke left Norton for Gilera in 1953, Amm took over as team leader.

He was a fiercely determined rider. What he lacked in style he made up for in total dedication and sheer bravery. His assault on the Isle of Man in that first year as team leader was memorable, and brought him the Junior and Senior TT double, only the fifth rider to that time to achieve the distinction in one year. With almost total disregard for personal safety, he thundered after Geoff Duke's Gilera in the Senior event. He caught and passed him on the Mountain climb and descent, breaking course and lap records on his way to victory. His third and fastest lap at 97.41mph was almost 3mph faster than Duke's previous record.

In the Junior that year he led all the way to finish in record time. Good performances in Holland and Belgium helped him to third place in the 350cc-world championship. On the Island the following year he almost repeated his double of '53. In the Junior event, riding the 'Proboscis' Norton (so named for its peculiarly shaped forward-projecting frontal fairing), he led until the last lap, when the engine failed and he was robbed of certain victory. Earlier he had pushed his own 350ce lap-record up to 94.61mph. In the Senior, which turned out to be one of the wettest post-war TT’s, Amm led the field, including Duke on the Gilera, when the race was dramatically abandoned after 151 miles. Again he set the fastest lap, at 89.82mph.

Ray Amm was doggedly patriotic and repeatedly turned down tempting contracts from the Italian factories, preferring to ride only British machines. For a couple of seasons he was the only Norton rider able to challenge the superiority of his former team mate Geoff Duke on the fast, multi-cylinder Gilera, and against almost overwhelming odds managed to secure runner-up positions in both the 350cc and 500cc world championships of 1954.

But as the tide turned completely against the single-cylinder Nortons, his passion to win took priority. Reluctantly he signed for the Italian MV Agusta factory, but tragically his career was almost at an end. In his first race for MV, in the 350cc event at Imola on Easter Monday, 1955, he crashed on a slippery second-gear corner and was killed.

In his brief, but memorable career, (he was 29 when he died) he had taken the 'kneeler' Norton to Montlhery in 1953 and captured the One Hour record at 133.71mph - over 6mph faster than Piero Taruffi's record of 1939 set on a supercharged Gilera! Earlier he established for Norton a new 350cc lap record at the North West 200 event in Northern Ireland, before having to retire on lap three.

Slim and religious, Ray Amm had a fearless and abandoned style which produced many palpitating moments. Racing obsessed him and the late Bob McIntyre once said: 'I never heard him talk of anything else. A true gentleman, he was deeply respected for his skills, devotion and outstanding courage. Doubtless his tragic death was a great loss to motor cycle racing.

Our sincere thanks to David A Russell for providing this biography of Ray Amm.

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