The first races took place at the 1967 Diamond Jubilee TT as the ACU celebrated the occasion with the newly introduced format of racing. Held over three laps of the 37.73-mile Mountain Course, the race was split into three categories – 750cc, 500cc and 250cc – and held under a national licence, and was seen by many as being a return to the original Tourist Trophy concept. It also has a unique spot in the TT’s history as it featured a Le Mans style start.
At the time, Production racing was very much seen as a growth class and it had the backing of Britain’s biggest manufacturers, the BSA-Triumph combination and Norton Villiers. They couldn’t produce pure Grand Prix machines to match the Italian and Japanese factories but they could still race showroom models which acted as an extremely useful marketing tool.
Despite their common ownership, the BSA and Triumph race teams had a healthy rivalry and they concentrated on the 750cc class with
John Hartle coming out on top for the latter. Riding the popular 650cc Bonneville sports machine, albeit with clip-on handlebars, aluminium fuel tank, race fairing and slight engine tweaks, the popular Hartle came
home almost two minutes clear of Paul
Smart on a 750cc Dunstall Atlas, with Tony Smith almost four minutes further adrift on a 654cc Spitfire.
In the 500cc class, Velocette made their comeback to the TT and Neil Kelly became only the second Manxman to win a solo TT (after Tom Sheard in 1922 and 1923). Riding a Venom Thruxton single he got the better of Keith Heckles and whilst the bikes sounded remarkably quiet compared with the full blooded racers in the open classes, the same couldn’t be said in the 250cc category where the rather noisy Bultaco Metralla two-strokes ruled the roost.
TT aces Bill Smith and Tommy Robb enjoyed a race long tussle on their identical machines and the duo kept the crowd on their toes as they were never more than yards apart. Coming out of Governor’s Bridge on the final lap, it was still anybody’s race but Smith took it by 0.4s in one of the closest TT finishes ever.
Read more in the September/October issue of Classic Racer – on sale now!