Celebrating 100 Years of the Manx Grand Prix Search of iMuseum

Celebrating 100 Years of the Manx Grand Prix

Posted on 22.08.2023

This year the Manx Grand Prix celebrates its centenary, so let’s take a look through the Manx National Heritage collections using the historic newspapers (1792-1960), motorsport biographies and photographic archive, all available through iMuseum.

In The Beginning

We’ll begin with a Peel City Guardian report from that first race. The Amateur Motorcycle Championship, as it was known in 1923, was first run on the Mountain course on the 20th September of that year, with 31 entrants qualifying to start after a series of morning practice sessions. Despite the weather being cold, there was a good turn out of spectators, with many Peel shopkeepers making it a general holiday. The 5 lap race was won by Len Randles riding a Sunbeam – he completed the race in just over three and a half hours at an average speed of 53mph.

PG/8319/34 W.L. Whittle (number 10) with other racers in the Amateur TT.

Interestingly, a little snippet to be found in the Ramsey Courier the following week tells us that Kenneth Twemlow, who finished in second place, was fined 10 shillings for riding without a horn. His explanation to the High Bailiff at Douglas Court was that it had been lost in practices the previous morning!


PG/0329/2 Kenneth Twemlow, winner of the 1924 Junior TT.


Ramsey Courier 28 September 1923.


By 1929 Percy Tim Hunt aboard a Norton (number 25) was lapping at a record speed of 71.05 mph.

PG/7654 Percy Tim Hunt at Ballacraine Corner, 1929 Senior Amateur TT.

The Manx Amateur Road Races were renamed in 1930, becoming the Manx Grand Prix.

Post-War Racing

In 1946 the Isle of Man echoed with the sound of racing motorcycles for the first time since before the start of the Second World War. On 24 August the Isle of Man Times  reported a record entry of 194 riders who were warned by the Chief Marshal, Mr Hanson, that with such a long absence from racing on the TT course, competitors should ‘hasten slowly’ rather than go all-out in the first practice and risk ‘broken engines and limbs.’ The Grandstand, control room and scoreboards had to be re-erected after 8 years of no races and the Manx Government agreed to provide almost double the pre-war amount of financial assistance to the organisers. Run over two days, there were 3 races. Ken Bills, who had served in Fighter Command won the Junior race on a Norton, Len Parsons took victory in the Lightweight on a Rudge and the Senior honours were taken by Northern Irish Triumph rider Ernie Lyons.

PG/8347 Consett Iron Company, Co. Durham at the 1946 Manx Grand Prix.

Local Heroes

In 1954’s Senior MGP, it looked as though local man Derek Ennett was on form to take the double, having won the Junior MGP race earlier in the week, but it was another Castletown rider who took victory in appalling weather conditions. The Isle of Man Weekly Times breathlessly reported that, ‘For the greater part of the race conditions were bad, but Derek Ennett had built up a lead of over a minute from Hartle in only two laps of a race which started at a fast speed and then deteriorated with the conditions to a speed well under that of Tuesday’s Junior Race.’

PG/7937/10 Derek Ennett aboard AJS number 30, Glencrutchery Road, TT.

However, half way through the race, things changed: ‘then came the shattering news that Derek Ennett, who had led the race brilliantly for two laps was touring in to retire on the fifth lap, leaving Hartle well in the lead.’ Job done for Hartle? Well, no actually – ‘From the Mountain Box came the sensational news that Hartle, who had been leading the race comfortably by over four minutes had run out of petrol.’ This meant there was going to be a very close finish between Derek Powell and George Costain, but Costain prevailed and won the race, his only victory in 7 years racing in the MGP and TT. He continued to race, also taking part in the Southern 100 Races, and his involvement there carried on after he hung up his leathers as he joined the organising team. In 2007 he finally retired from the racing scene but continued at spectate keenly until his death, aged 89.

PG/7937/8 Derek Ennett with George Costain on return from the North West 200 (1950s).

As it turned out, 1954’s Junior MGP race victory would be Ennett’s only Isle of Man win too and sadly he died in 1956 at the Ulster Grand Prix.

Carolynn Sells Makes History

Finally, we can’t talk about the history of the Manx Grand Prix without mentioning Carolyn Sells, seen here with Beryl Swain (the first woman to ride at the TT) at the launch of the new TT Gallery at the Manx Museum.

Carolynn Sells (pictured with Beryl Swain mannequin) at the TT Gallery opening.

Carolynn competed in the 2003 MGP with a very impressive 4th place finish. In 2005 she became the first woman to win at the Southern 100 in its 50th anniversary year. In 2009 Carolynn made motorsports history when she became the first (and so far only) female to win a solo race on the Mountain Course in the Manx Grand Prix Ultra Lightweight race. “I certainly don’t consider myself a woman in a man’s sport – other people make more of an issue about it than I do. It’s good to be the first woman to do this but it’s not why I’m doing it. My goal is to achieve things as a racer not as a female.” Carolynn retired in 2009 to start a family. She’s still involved in Manx Motorsport as a Rider Liaison officer at the MGP taking newcomers around the course. She is also on the Manx Motor Cycle Club’s board of directors.

The TT Gallery at the Manx Museum is open daily 9.30-4.30 and you can see the digital TT & Motorports exhibition on iMuseum.

You can see every TT and MGP race result, and read in full newspaper race reports from all the races of the 1950s, on

Emma Morter (Digital Collections Assistant, Manx National Heritage)

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