The History of the Clubman's TT Races 1947-1956, by Fred Pidcock and Bill Snelling

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Are you a TT enthusiast? Geof Staples reviews the story behind the Clubman’s TT races and reckons this book will fascinate you…

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I was very pleased when this book dropped through the letterbox, as it fills a gap in my knowledge of the TT races. It is quite a large volume, in softback, a little more than 10″x7″ in cover size, with 264 pages of text and photos.

Many have heard of the Clubman’s TT, but there has, until now, been little available in print about it. This book addresses this lack of information most admirably.

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The story of these races is told by the authors, with a well-written and authoritative text, and by the reminiscences of many of the riders who took part in them.

These were a rather remarkable series of races, as the riders were not international stars, but genuine real life clubmen, some with no racing experience, let alone experience of riding the most (in)famous race course of all.

The bikes used were showroom standard bikes, as they came out of the crate in other words. These bikes and their riders were then pitted against the TT course. A real baptism of fire. For some strange reason, some manufacturers were not keen supporters of the idea!

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Although the modern TT races have their equivalent in Supersport and Superstock races, there is no equivalent in the riders. It would be far too dangerous today, with the performance of even stock 600s being far in excess of the top works GP bikes of the 1950s and 60s.

Much of this book is devoted to facts and figures and blow by blow, lap by lap accounts of each race. I have to say that I enjoyed this format, having read many of Geoff Davison’s (founder of the TT Special newspaper) books about the TT and MGP, which summarised the races in a similar way. However, it does not appeal to all, and this book will mainly suit those who want to learn the full history of the TT races, and have an abiding interest in them.

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To someone like me, brought up on a diet of TT, MGP and Southern 100 pure road racing, this book is almost heaven. Many racing stars of the 50s and 60s had their first crack at the TT course in the Clubman’s race. I hadn’t realised until I read it quite how many, nor how many of the competitors I had actually met over the years.

Quite a few of the competitors tell their own stories in this book, and they make some entertaining reading too, with humour and humanity. They tell a tale of a different time, when Health and Safety hadn’t been invented, and authority was not so heavy handed on ‘high spirits’ but, more than that, they provide a window into the past, and the era which produced some remarkable men and bikes.

(TT racers had a reputation sometimes as hell-raisers. Mike Hailwood and Bill Ivy amongst others got up to a few interesting exploits, there was a legendary one involving a new Ferrari, a TT course wall, women and probably too much to drink…)

It took me some time to read this book, mainly due to other commitments, not because of any lack of interest, on the contrary, it held my interest from start to finish. It is the kind of book that you can either read from start to finish, or pick up and read a section on its own. Each year of the races has its own chapter, with race ‘commentary’ and a lap by lap breakdown of each race, and each makes its own separate story. All good stuff in my opinion, but with perhaps, a limited audience.

I do not know Fred Pidcock, but I do know his co-author, Bill Snelling. Bill used to be a very useful racer himself with a nice Velo, whom I had a few dices with many years ago. Bill has since written and published a number of books about racing on the Isle of Man and has a phenomenal knowledge of his subject.

Bill might be my friend, but that doesn’t influence my comments on this book. I thoroughly enjoyed every page, as it has filled quite a considerable knowledge gap for me. I have to be honest and say that it will not appeal to all, as I have already mentioned, but it may surprise you, even if you thought you had no interest in the TT.

It is an important historical document which very capably illustrates a short period in the rich motorcycling history of Britain. With a good narrative, and excellent black and white illustrations, it is well worth more than a dismissive glance. There are some interesting glimpses into the opinions of some of the manufacturers and their management, which in some cases hint towards them not being totally confident in their own product…

What does come across, however, is that many these products were in fact capable of repeated high speed laps of the 37¾ mile TT Mountain course without undue difficulty.

In all, a book well worth reading if you are interested in the bikes and riders of the time. I would rate it at 10/10.

Reviewed by Geof Staples

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The History Of The Clubman’s TT Races 1947-1956 by Fred Pidcock and Bill Snelling is published by by Amulree Publications, Lossan-y-Twoaie, Glen Road, Laxey, Isle of Man, ISBN: 978-901508-10-9

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