Frank Hulbert and Jack Marshall cannot have realised the significance of the moment as they pointed their single-cylinder motorcycles up the dusty track towards Ballacraine at 10 am on the cold, cloudy morning of 28 May 1907.
The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races were born as the two Triumphs spluttered into life to start their 158-mile journey around the 15-mile 1430-yard St John's Course.
When entries closed there were 25 competitors, including 18 singles headed by the Triumphs of Hulbert and Marshall. They expected a tough time from the Collier brothers riding the Matchless-JAP machines. F. W. 'Pa' Applebee rode a Rex single, with his son Frank and Oliver Godfrey on twins. Rem Fowler competed on a Peugeot-engined Norton and Billy Wells on a Vindec, while there were two German NSU’s and a two-speed GB entered.
The Marquis de Mouzilly duly provided a magnificent trophy, which is still presented to the winner of the Senior race today. The silver figure of Mercury standing on a silver wheel is nearly three feet tall and was based on the Montagu Trophy given to the winner of the Tourist Trophy car races. Twenty-five pounds was awarded to the victor, with £15 for second place and £10 for third.
Practice sessions took place in the early morning, with regular traffic, such as it was, still allowed to use the roads, which were untarred. In the dry they produced great clouds of dust and in the wet big pools of mud, the Ballacraine to Kirk Michael section being the worst because of its everyday use by cars. It was decided to spray that part of the course with an acid solution, which not only had no effect on the dust but also burned holes in the riders' clothing. The exercise was never repeated.
The paddock was next to the old stonewall at the Tynwald Inn, while the blackboard from the nearby schoolhouse served as a scoreboard. In view of the way the TT was to develop from these origins in the years that followed, it is clear that, as well as being brave, those early pioneers were a very far-sighted group of people who shaped the future of racing for the next 100 years.
Charlie Collier and Rem Fowler carved their own niche in motorcycle history by winning their classes in that first race.
The expected battle between the Matchless machines of the Collier brothers and the Triumphs of those early trailblazers Hulbert and Marshall soon materialised in the single-cylinder division. Marshall took the lead when his teammate Hulbert stopped to change a plug, but fell on the second lap. He continued with a twisted ankle.
Collier took over on his pedal-assisted Matchless, but his brother Harry was not so lucky. He was forced out with serious engine trouble, having set the fastest lap in the class: 23m 05s (41.81 mph). Charlie Collier went on to win from Marshall and Hulbert but his victory, like many subsequent TT wins, was not without controversy. With the help of his pedals, Collier completed the race at an average of 94. 5 miles to the gallon. The Triumph of Marshall, without assistance, averaged 114 mpg, and it was argued that Marshall would have won if he'd fitted pedals. The easiest means of avoiding such disputes was adopted the following year when pedals were banned.
Fowler had an even tougher time winning the twin-cylinder class on his Norton. At one stage he'd had so many problems changing tyres, plugs and belts that he decided to call it a day. It was only when a spectator told him that he was leading his great rival Billy Wells by half an hour that he decided to continue. He was glad he did as he not only won the class but also set the fastest lap overall (22m 06s) at a speed of 42.91 mph. His time for the complete ten laps was over 13 minutes slower than Collier's despite that fastest lap, which shows the problems he experienced.