It was in 1959 that the Senior TT, postponed until the Saturday for only the second time in history, was described by winner John Surtees as the worst he had ever raced in.
The organisers, under huge pressure to run the race at all costs, sent riders down Bray Hill with the light rain beginning to fall. It did not deter Surtees, a rider whose greatness has never been properly recognised in the Isle of Man, from breaking Bob McIntyre’s historic lap record with a speed of 101.18mph from a standing start.
But two laps later the heavens opened, the wind increased to gale force and top riders fell like nine pins. Mike Hailwood and Dickie Dale crashed at Glentramman; local man Sid Mizen at Kirkmichael and Surtees’ MV teammate John Hartle at Ballagarey, both hospitalised but survived; Alan Trow, blown off at Alpine Cottage.
After seven laps, taking over three hours - the organisers refusing to reduce the race - Surtees won averaging 87.94mph. He had to be lifted from his machine and led away, his frozen hands being massaged to get the blood circulating.
While rating the victory as one of his finest he said:”The conditions were probably the worst I ever rode in. You didn’t only have the rain but also sleet which were as big as marbles -
they actually damaged the fairing on the MV.”
Only 22 of the original 58 starters finished. Alastair King was second and Australia’s Bob Brown third, both on Nortons; followed by Derek Powell, Matchless, fourth; Bob McIntyre, Norton, fifth after stopping to change his clutch; and South Africa’s Paddy Driver sixth.
One race which was reduced was the 1954 Senior won by Ray Amm on a Norton, beating the Gilera of Geoff Duke. It was halted after four laps, Duke pitting for petrol after three. And in 1987 the Senior, delayed until Saturday, was also reduced to four laps and won by Joey Dunlop who, never one to normally complain, said: ”It should never have been run, it was desperate.”
Those were the days…
* Thanks to TT News