A Brief History Of Aussies At The TT | News
With AMCN’s inaugural Heritage Issue just one day away, we look back at our country’s rich and celebrated history at one of the toughest and oldest road races in the world, the Isle of Man TT.
Keeping a history of one of the oldest races in the world ‘brief’ is harder than it sounds, as is keeping track of the many Australian riders who have braved the many variants of the TT circuit over the years.
In terms of the number of competitors, Australia’s most celebrated era of TT racing was when the Mountain circuit formed part of the Grand Prix world championship between 1949 and 1976. But there’s been some very successful Aussies since those days and the difference in technology, machinery and infrastructure means it’s very difficult to discern who Australia’s most successful Isle of Man TT rider would be.
If you classify most successful by the simple amount of victories, then two-time world champion Barry Smith is Australia’s most successful Isle of Man TT racer with four wins to his name. Using this formula, Kel Carruthers and Cameron Donald are next in line with two victories apiece, followed by Australia’s very first TT winner Ken Kavanagh and Jack Findlay, who both reached the top step of TT podium once in their careers.
Or, considering the severity of the race and the sheer punishment it deals both riders and machinery, you might classify most successful by the amount of TTs a rider has simply finished, regardless of which position he or she crossed the line in.
Using this formula, Cameron Donald is Australia’s undisputed hero of the Isle of Man TT with 29 finishes. Jack Findlay would be our second-most successful with 15, followed by both Jack Ahearn and Barry Smith who have both crossed the line 13 times apiece (the same amount, it needs to be noted, as the legendary John Surtees).
Some may argue the bloke with the most DNFs is deserving of the most successful crown based on pure bravery. If so, Jack Findlay suffered 26 DNFs in the notoriously dangerous race, Barry Smith was a non-finisher 18 times while Ken Kavanagh recorded 11 DNFs.
That being the case, Jack Findlay started a total of 41 TTs to notch up one win. Cameron Donald has lined up at the TT 39 times to notch up two wins. Under this guise Barry Smith comes in in third place with 31 starts for four wins. David Johnson’s 25 starts and no wins puts him in fourth place while both Kel Carruthers and Jack Ahearn are tied in fifth, both with 19 TT starts to their name.
Other notable TT heroes are Bob Brown who, from just 13 starts, recorded some remarkable consistency with one second-place, four third-place finishes and only one DNF. Australia’s first-ever world champion Keith Campbell managed a second-place finish from just four attempts and one DNF. Tom Phillis was no stranger to the podium with a second-place finish and four thirds from 16 attempts while Jeff Sayle came close to a podium on two occasions with two fourth-place finishes from 13 starts.
Eric Hinton and Kenny Blake both left the start line 10 times. Josh Brookes and Alex Pickett have both started seven TT races, while sidecar father-and-son duo of Dwight and Noel Beare have raced in four TTs.
Without any official record of TT riders’ nationalities, we’re bound to have forgotten someone. We’re aware of a few Australians who have raced the TT once or twice, but to mention them and not the many, many other brave men and women who have made the 15,343km journey from Australia to the Isle of Man to race – what many consider to be the most dangerous race in the world – would be terribly unjust. So to those, we apologise.
Perhaps, with your help, AMCN can create the definitive record of Aussie TT heroes between now and this year’s event?
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