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Competitor Profile: D Marshall

TT Career Summary

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MGP Career Summary

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Doug had always been very keen on tuning and riding motorcycles and had a passion for riding them fast, so in 1946 he decided to start racing. He raced at all the short circuits throughout the North of England, places like Brough, Silloth, and his favourite circuits Cadwell Park & also Oliver’s Mount in Scarborough. He also took part in various local grass track, sprints and sand racing events.

Doug was racing with reasonable success, especially at Cadwell Park, beating people like Sid Barnett and Bill Lomas and picking up decent amounts of prize money with several first places. So in September 1948 he was entered by Middlesbrough Motor Club racing with number 102 in the Manx GP senior event on his Triumph 500 GP machine (engine number T100.97021.R.) which he had bought new in July that same year.

He travelled over to the island with his family and close friend Bill Zealand (who was also competing on a Norton in the Junior race) in Bills removal van, which doubled as a workshop and sleeping quarters for Doug, and his family. Everything was going all right but during practise he crashed 13 miles from the start and suffered face abrasions and concussion (see newspaper cutting), but nothing serious with himself or his machine and was fit to enter the race the following week. Doug went on to finish the senior race with an impressive 20th place, just missing out on a replica. Not bad for a first outing around the tough mountain circuit.

Doug''s next trip to the Island was for the 1949 Senior Clubmans TT and entered this time, on a home tuned Triumph 500, racing with number 19. As Middlesbrough Motor Club had already two entrants in this year’s competition and with each club restricted to two riders, then Scarborough and District Motor Club entered him. Unfortunately Doug didn''t have as much luck as the previous year and retired at Ramsey due to clutch failure. He faced the long journey home very disappointed, but with some hope for the forthcoming September Manx Grand Prix.

Entered again on the Triumph 500 GP with race number 77, Doug and his family made the ferry crossing for the 1949 MGP Senior. Doug''s hard work and competitive spirit hadn''t gone un-noticed over his last two visits to the Island and also his varied success around the northern short circuits. Unknown to Doug the Norton bosses had shown a great deal of interest in him. They had told his wife before the start of the Senior race that he was to be given a works ride with the Norton Team for the 1950 season. Doug''s wife Bess was worried by this and decided not to tell him about the Norton offer until after the race, fearing that if he was told and he knew they were watching then he would try too hard and push his luck.

During the weeks leading up to the races and during practise week, an argument had been going on between Doug and Avon tyres. Doug was using a new style of racing tyre that Avon had been developing for a while and they insisted on a particularly high pressure which Doug argued was way too high for racing. Avon insisted that was the pressure they were designed to use. Doug finally relented and decided to stay with Avon’s recommended pressures.

He had been doing very well during practice for the Senior and on Saturdays (10th September) practise session he was third fastest with a lap time of 33 m and 1s and a speed of 68.58 mph and was given good marks for neatness around Signpost bend by a Motor Cycling reporter. W.A.C. McCandless was fastest with 31m 46s and H.J. Kemp second with 32m 4s.

During Monday’s session he finished sixth fastest in a time of 29m 47s with a speed of 76.02 mph. D. Parkinson topped the leader board with a time of 28m 10s. Doug’s speed along the fast Sulby Straight section was recorded at 98.92mph, which put him equal 11th in the speed-stakes, the fastest being that of A.W. Dodds who reached an impressive 106.52mph. A practice official described Doug through Braddan Bridge as ‘loud and fast!’

Doug lined up for the Thursday morning Senior race still not knowing about the Norton offer. At the end of the first lap Doug lay in sixth position with Duke 1st, McCandless 2nd, Parkinson 3rd, Horn 4th and Crossley 5th, but Doug ped back over the following three laps. As he climbed the mountain mile for the fifth lap his back tyre blew at over 90 mph throwing him off the machine into a wire fence. As he went through the fence his helmet got caught under the wire and broke his neck. Un-aware of his injury he stood up in a half conscious daze and wandered very close to the edge the steep mountain mile .

Another rider who was passing the scene of the crash that morning spotted Doug and saw him wandering aimlessly near the steep and went to help. Saying later that if he hadn''t seen him then Doug would have gone over the edge to certain death.

Doug was rushed to Nobles Hospital and x-rayed to find the extent of his injury. Apart from the broken neck, which was bad enough, he sustained no other injuries apart from the usual skin abrasions. Doctors were amazed to find he had a fractured odontoid but were unsure how to treat it as they had never seen this kind of fracture in the living before, usually people with this kind of injury were killed outright!

The doctors decided that the best action to take was to fit Doug with a full cast from the stomach to the top of the head and hope for the best. If they could minimise movement then it would have a chance of healing. Doug was in the cast for several months (see photo) and it was very uncomfortable as you can imagine and he found it very difficult to sleep and having to use two knitting needles taped together when he needed to reach an itch under the cast!

Doug recovered from his injuries and was advised by the doctors at Nobles Hospital that it would be very foolish to ever consider racing at the Manx or any other motorcycle race again as the next time he might not be as lucky. Doug took no notice of this good advice and within two years was back on the bike and racing again at all his favourite circuits. He set up his own motorcycle repair business about this time, which made it a lot easier to put his design ideas into motion as well as making a living doing something he enjoyed.

He never did go back the Isle of Man to race and said in his own words '' I''d lost my edge’. He concentrated more on tuning side and improving frame and suspension designs and carried on racing bikes on the short circuits throughout the 1950''s but only using racing as a way of testing his designs and ideas, from fuel injection, parallelogram swinging arm (which he took out a patent on in 1954), anti-dive forks, central damping forks, gas flowing and so on. He also tried a spot of car racing at the Jim Clark racing school in the early 1960''s, but went back to racing bikes shortly after.

Doug finally hung-up his leathers in 1971 after 25 years of almost continuous racing (except the two years out with his broken neck) and took up flying in 1975 and went on to acquire his licence in 1977. He managed to crash twice during his flying career... but that''s another story for another day.

Phil Marshall

October 2006

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