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Competitor Profile: Charlie R Collier

TT Career Summary

Position124DIS DNF
No of times21114

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Early in motorcycle racing's history, Charles ("Charlie") and Harry Collier could almost have been called the founding brothers of the TT. Charles was born in Plumstead. It was probably inevitable that he would go into the sport since his father began the company H. Collier and Sons which manufactured Matchless machines from 1899. In the opening years of the 20th century Charles made three appearances in the International Cup races and then, in 1907, riding a 431cc Matchless he won the single cylinder (unlimited capacity) class of the first Tourist Trophy. The race was a battle between the Matchless and Triumph machines but it was also a stop-start affair with the bikes needing new plugs and belts, not to mention interruptions for punctures. As the race moved into its fourth hour, Collier was ahead of Jack Marshall on a Triumph, and that was how they finished. Collier's fastest lap was recorded at 42.9mph. The course itself was only just over fifteen miles long and avoided the mountain since the machines were not powerful enough to cope.

In the following year Collier took second place in the same single cylinder class. This was another duel between Matchless and Triumph. Jack Marshall took the lead but fell. Collier went ahead but Marshall remounted, only to have a valve break while on the fourth lap. Amazingly, he set about making a repair and rejoined the race to catch Collier and win by 2min. 10sec.

The fifteen-mile circuit was last used in 1910. Collier had seen his brother Harry win in 1909 (the first time single cylinder and multis appeared in the same race)and both entered in the following year. The initial lead was taken by H.H. Bowen, riding a BAT, but he crashed into a wall to leave the brothers in the first two places. Numerous riders crashed or had mechancial problems causing their retirement. However, Charles Collier had a comparatively trouble-free ride on his Matchless to win in 50.63mph.

The first Senior TT (1911) saw him chase the American board-track champion Jake de Rosier on the first lap of the new 'Mountain' course. However, de Rossier crashed and had to make repairs. Collier took the lead but ran out of fuel and needed to top up at an uofficial station away from the pits. He went on to finish first but was later disqualified. Subsequently he had three more races against de Rosier at Brooklands. De Rosier won the first on the Indian machine he had ridden in the TT but Collier won the second. In the final race de Rosier kept in Collier's slipstream until near the end then dashed ahead. De Rosier greatly enjoyed the Brooklands experience and was highly impressed with Collier whom he tried to persuade to go back to the United States. However, with the First World War approaching, Collier elected to stay in Britain but his success began to fade. He was fourth in the 1912 Senior and rode his last TT race in 1914 when he retired on the first lap.

© Norman Fox 2002

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