Road Racing

by Dawn Whiteoak

Clubman's TT, Quarter Bridge 1951
Douglas 90 Plus machines at Quarter Bridge, 1951 Clubman’s TT

Douglas had achieved success as early as 1908 in events such as ACU trials and, for 1911, they set their sights on the the Isle of Man TT with an entry of four 2.3/4hp machines in the Junior Class. This was the first year that all events were run over the now famous mountain circuit. Two Douglas machines finished, with Willie Douglas in seventh place followed home by G.L. Fletcher in twelfth. Success followed in 1912, with five machines entered in the Junior event which was won by Harry Bashall, with three other Douglas machines in the first five. Two of these machines were subsequently entered in the Senior event where they finished fifteenth and seventeenth. Successes continued in The Island as well as at Brooklands and other circuits and in 1923, twelve Douglas motorcycles were entered in both the Junior and Senior TT classes, with a further three in the Sidecar race. This gave Douglas their first Senior race victory with Tom Sheard winning on a 500cc machine. Douglas also won the first ever Isle of Man Sidecar race with Freddie Dixon and the famous banking sidecar outfit, while Jim Whalley had the fastest lap in the Senior with a time of just under 60 mph (97 km/h) during a wet race. A Douglas also came third in the Junior TT that year.

Douglas RA with banking sidecar, 1923 TT
Douglas RA with banking sidecar, 1923 TT

1923 saw victories in the French Grand Prix, and another Douglas won the 430 miles (690km) Durban-Johannesberg Marathon. 1923 also saw Jim Whalley win the Spanish 12-hour race and Alec Bennett win the Welsh TT race. Throughout the 1920s, racing continued at Brooklands with exponents such as Graeme Brown, Douglas dealer for 70 years and former president of the London Douglas MCC.

Financial problems and the loss of talented designers and riders like Cyril Pullin, Rex Judd and Freddie Dixon made the 1930s lean years for Douglas’ success in competition. Post war, the factory developed and homolgated the 90 Plus models in order to qualify for entry in the Junior Class of the new Isle of Man Clubman’s TT but ultimately they could not compete against BSA’s Gold Star and the Triumph twins.

Clearly Douglas had not totally given up the idea of racing involvement in the fifties and a prototype racer was designed and manufactured. The prototype survives in the ownership of an LDMCC member but ‘Works’ involvement in racing went no further at this late stage in the life of the company.