Stirling Moss, 1955 Tourist Trophy Dundrod, Mercedes-Benz 300SLR

Tourist Trophy – History & Ultimate Guide

History of the Tourist Trophy – Page Two

During the period 1928 through 1959 and again from 1964 through 1969, production sports cars were allowed to run, even though it was still called the Tourist Trophy. A handicapping system was used so that, in theory at least, tourers had an even chance. Sports cars were allowed again from 1998 through 2001. Otherwise, TTs have been for Touring Cars except in recent years—starting in 2005—when they have been for Grand Tourers.

In 1928, the event moved off of the Isle of Man to Northern Ireland using what was called, the Ards circuit. It was 13.6 miles around an irregular triangle on public roads. An accident in which eight spectators were killed during the 1936 race spelled the end of the Ards circuit. In 1937 and again in 1938, TTs were held at Donnington Park, a 3.125-mile purpose-built course. Starting in 1950 and ending after 1955, the events went back to Northern Ireland using what is called the Dundrod Circuit, 7.42 miles of narrow, twisty public roads. Although potentially dangerous, it was the only place the RAC could find to lay out a true road course. At the first race after WWII—1950—21-year-old Stirling Moss demonstrated his potential, winning in an XK120 Jaguar. He repeated the next year, this time in a C-Type Jaguar.

Perhaps the most noteworthy year was 1955, the year of the horrendous tragedy at Le Mans. For one thing, it was Golden Jubilee year for the Tourist Trophy. Also, it was one of the events that decided the World Manufacturers Championship. Fifteen manufacturers entered including those in the run for the championship: Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Porsche. John Fitch called parts of Dundrod “narrow and treacherous.” In Racing With Mercedes, he wrote that, “I’d considered it extremely dangerous when I competed there in 1953 and found no reason in 1955 to change my opinion.” On the second lap, Jim Mayers in a Cooper crashed and was killed, as was Bill Smith in a Connaught. Later in the race, Richard Mainwaring was killed when his Elva overturned. Mike Hawthorn and Desmond Tittering were leading on the last lap in their Jaguar when the engine blew. Stirling Moss and John Fitch took the checker in a 300SLR. The Tourist Trophy was never held at Dundrod again. After Moss and Peter Collins won the final race—the Targa Floria—Mercedes-Benz won the Championship.

Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, 1955 Tourist Trophy Dundrod, Stirling Moss
While in front by 1.5 minutes, Stirling Moss clipped a hedgerow. The brittle magnesium tore and the tire went flat. The falling tread ripped the fender away. Moss stopped for repairs in the Mercedes-Benz pits after which Fitch took over while Stirling rested. (Photo credit: Daimler AG)
John Fitch, Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, 1955 Tourist Trophy Dundrod
John Fitch took over the Mercedes-Benz 300SLR after the mishap. During the pit stop, Mike Hawthorn had taken the lead in the D-Type Jaguar. Fitch remained in second until the next stop when Moss took over for the finish. (Photo credit: Daimler AG)
Stirling Moss, victory 1955 Tourist Trophy
Stirling Moss took the checkered flag in a clean sweep for Mercedes-Benz. The Fangio/Kling 300SLR was second with Von Trips/Simon in third. With only two laps to go, the engine in the Hawthorn D-Type Jaguar gave up. (Photo credit: Daimler AG)

In 1956 and the following year, there were no TTs, but from 1958 on, all have been on purpose-built courses in England. Goodwood, Oulton Park, Silverstone and Donnington Park, all have hosted England’s premier race. In 1958, Carroll Shelby, with co-driver Steward Lewis-Evans, was third in an Aston Martin and the next year, Shelby, with Jack Fairman and Stirling Moss won in the same marque. In recent years, TTs have been at Silverstone including 2011 when Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr won in a Nissan GT-R GT1.

[Source: Art Evans]

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  1. I believe that the oldest race in the world is the Shelsley Walsh Hill climb.The Tourist Trophy is a revived title these days.

  2. Thanks for the memories – The ’55 Ulster TT is the first race that I ever attended with my father at the age of 11. Talk about a case of sensual overload!