The Isle of Man is celebrating 100 years of motorcycle racing around the famous mountain course this Saturday. The centennial celebration will honor riders like Giacomo Agostini, Joey Dunlop, Mick Doohan, and the man who preceded all other TT Champions, Oliver Godfrey.
Godfrey, from London, won his one and only TT in 1911 at the age of 23 during the first Isle of Man race held on the Mountain Course. (The TT has been around since 1907, but those races were held at St John’s Short Course. Godfrey raced at St John’s from 1907 to 1910, but he never won on the short course.)
Godfrey was one of five riders to compete in the 1911 TT. Arthur Moorhouse, Charles Franklin, Jimmy Alexander and Jake De Rosier lined up next to Godfrey for the first laps around the Isle of Man’s mountain course, but Godfrey was the only rider to have a smooth ride for all five laps of the inaugural race. The length of the TT and the unpaved country roads made crashes just about inevitable. Moorhouse, Franklin, and De Rosier were slowed by a crash or fuel problems during the first TT, leaving Godfrey, riding an Indian motorcycle, the opportunity to cruise at an average speed of 47.6 mph to take the first ever TT victory.
Godfrey was never able to duplicate the results that he achieved in 1911. He would fail to start in 1912 and he earned a DNF in 1913. Godfrey was able to climb back up to the podium, however, in the 1914 TT.
Godfrey may have been able to claim another TT victory, but when World War I broke out he joined the war effort. Godfrey flew for the 27 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. Godfrey would die at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
You can read more about Oliver Godfrey here. Tim Pickering, one of the authors of the upcoming book “Franklin’s Indians” and Chris Smith, of Motorsport Publications LLC ( www.ClassicBikeBooks.com ) have come up with a great mini biography for Oliver Godfrey.