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Meetings 1907 - 1930

TT 1911

With increasing speeds a worry and constant technical innovations improving machinery by the minute, a fresh challenge had to be found.

Little did the 1911 entry of 104 riders realise just what a challenge the Mountain Circuit would present. In particular, the seven-mile climb from Ramsey to the Bungalow would place unprecedented demands on machinery while providing riders with a completely new insight into stamina and fatigue.

Single-gear machines were out of the question if the Mountain was to be conquered. Indian and Scott were already using chain drive, but now all the manufacturers poured their resources into devising the best methods to tackle that climb. Just under a third retained the single gear, with Triumph using a three-speed Sturmey-Archer hub gear similar in principle to that employed on modem-day push-bikes. Matchless devised a six-speed belt, while AJS designed a three-speed gearbox. The American Indian factory took great interest in the problem before coming up with two-speed gears driven by chain drive to the rear wheel. It proved to be a winning combination.

For the first time the event was split into two separate races. The four-lap Junior event was introduced for 300cc singles and 340cc twins while 500cc singles and 585cc twins contested the five-lap Senior.

Much of the course consisted of dusty tracks with loose, rutted surfaces. When it rained they were slippery and muddy, while straying sheep and cattle were a constant problem. Competitors also had to pray that somebody had remembered to keep the gates open on the Mountain open at all times.

The course measured 37 1/2 miles, about a quarter of a mile shorter than the modem Mountain Circuit, the difference being that riders turned right at Cronk-ny-Mona, instead of left towards Signpost, and came out at the top of Bray Hill via Willaston. The start was on the Quarterbridge Road, with refuelling depots at Braddan and Ramsey.

Thirty-four riders lined up for the start of the Junior and the first confrontation between men, machines and the Mountain. After a hard-fought 150-mile encounter Percy Evans, riding the twin-cylinder Humber, saw off the considerable challenge of Harry Collier and his Matchless single.

The Senior, three days later, promised a battle royal between Matchless-mounted Charlie Collier and the flamboyant American, Jake de Rosier, riding one of the bright-red Indians. The race was billed as a confrontation between the champions of Britain and America, and the two later met in a series of much-publicised match races around the 2.75-mile banked Brooklands circuit.

Despite no fewer than six accidents during practice, de Rosier led on the first lap, only to crash again on the approach to Ramsey and drop out of the reckoning. Oliver Godfrey, who was later killed in the First World War while flying with the RFC, continued the duel with Collier, who had to stop out on the course to refuel.

Godfrey won the 187.5-mile race but Collier, who crossed the line second, was disqualified for taking on fuel away from the official refuelling points. This made it an Indian one-two-three, although Frank Philipp and his two-stroke Scott restored some British pride. He set the first 50 mph lap on the Mountain Course and paved the way for Frank Applebee's win the next year.

Sadly during practice the battle with the Mountain had claimed its first victim. Victor Surridge paid the ultimate price when he died after crashing his Rudge in the Glen Helen section.