The New Zealand TT was first run on June 3rd 1931. The event was organised by the then Sports Motorcycle Club (Inc) of Auckland (In 1932 there was a name change to the Auckland Motorcycle Club). The Secretary of the club, Harry Fletcher, had been working for 3 years prior to 1931 to gain permission from various local authorities and bodies for the road closures required to run the event.
What follows here is a very brief history of the event while it was on Waiheke Island up until 1950 when the event was moved back to mainland NZ.
Bear in mind that for the 1931 -1950 period the course consisted of shingle roads(sometimes referred to as metal). Each lap of the course was 6 3/4 miles. The race started in Ostend. The route was along Belgium St, Ostend Rd, Onetangi Rd and then around the Seaview Rd loop.
View Waiheke TT Course 1931- 1950 in a larger map
1931 June 3rd. The first race was run over 20 laps giving a 135 mile total distance. 25 riders lined up for the inaugural event and after drawing for their starting or grid position were sent off in 15 second intervals. The first rider away fell at the first corner and his machine went over a bank, he eventually remounted and completed a lap but retired early with mechanical failure. Sid Moses rode a Rudge to victory in 2 hrs and 45 mins with Len Sowerby 2nd on a Douglas
1932 January 29th. 22 riders entered the event with 17 starters. The race length was increased to 25 laps giving a total distance of 168 miles. The winner was Alf Matson, Norton, followed closely by Sid Moses on his Rudge. Alf completed the race in 3hrs and 11 minutes and was one of the few riders who didnt fall during the race.
1933 January 30th. This was a race of attrition, as by lap 17 only Len Sowerby and Sid Moses were left on the course. On lap 24 Lens bike broke a rocker-arm and he had to withdraw, leaving Sid to finish the race as the only rider left on the circuit to cross the finish line.
Based on excellent performance, Sid Moses and Alf Matson were selected to represent NZ at the Isle of Man TT for 1933. Both acquitted themselves with distinction and returning with coveted replica trophies and, additionally, Sid also received the Nisbet Cup for Pluck and Courage.
1934 January 29th. The NZACU ( New Zealand Auto Cycle Union) promises to those competing at Waiheke to give consideration to the selection of its riders for the Isle of Man. 25 competitors started. Sid Moses won the event on his Rudge with a time of 3hrs and 14 minutes.
1935 A. Bradley from Nelson riding a Rudge won this event, he reduced the previous years time by 7 minutes. ( 3hrs and 7 minutes)
Representation at the Isle of Man was now part of the Waiheke honours. A. Bradley made the trip to the UK. Unfortunately he crashed during practice and suffered a concussion which finished his racing career.
1936 Charles Goldberg riding a **works** Velocette set a new record of 3 hours 4 minutes 38 seconds.
At the Isle of Man in June he rode a junior race class 350cc Velocette into sixth place in the Senior 500cc race, eclipsed only by the works entries. This performance has never been equaled. Unfortunately misfortune overtook him at Waiheke the following year when he collided with a sheep during practice and while he made a marvelous recovery his racing career was over.
** Works machines are defined as special factory prepared racing motorcycles not available over the counter to ordinary customers. Riders are selected to race these machines.
1937 Poor weather conditions featured for the 1937 event and riders faced a continuous deluge of rain. Retirements came fast but Alf Matson pushed his Velocette to its second win in 3 hours 27 minutes & 5 seconds.
1938 Lloyd Dixon of Kawakawa, riding the 1937 race winning Velocette, won with a time of 3 hours 5 mins 25 seconds. Private affairs prevented him from attending the Isle of Man races.
1939 Len Perry, riding a Velocette, won this event with a time of 2 Hours, 47 minutes and 31 seconds. Len had competed in every Waiheke TT event since its inception.
At the Isle of Man, Len rode well but crashed in practice and injuries eliminated him from the event.
1940 First war time TT was won by Bill Grey of Rotorua on a Rudge. Velocette offered considerable competition early on in the race, but were unable to triumph.
As the I.O.M TT races were suspended due to WW2 no representative was sent to the Isle of Man.
1941 With much required manpower sought overseas a token race of 18 laps was staged before the event was abandoned for the duration of the war. A competitor for a number of years, Digger Hallarn and mounted on a J.A.P was first home against a much reduced field of competitors.
1942 1945 No racing during the War years.
1946 Len Perry wins again on a “works” Velocette. Although petrol restrictions still limited motor cycle sport, the event was revived with a 20 lap race.
1947 A milestone in the development of the NZTT was reached when the 1947 fixture was expanded to include a separate Junior and Senior race . The Junior race was for motorcycles up to 350cc and the Senior race was for motorcycles up to 500cc. Run on separate days the bracket of races proved a triumph for Len Perry and Velocette, for this combination won both events. The Junior race was 15 laps while the 20 lap Senior resulted in the now famous works Velocette 500 scoring another victory at an average speed of 61 miles per hour.
1948 Retirements were at this event were high, with of 15 of the 23 entrants not completing the race. The winner of the Junior event was Len Perry mounted on Velocette. This was also Lens hat-trick for Senior event ( Velocette again). GP Triumphs are starting to make their presence felt as pre- war machinery is put to the test.
1949 Varying weather conditions created challenges for 1949. In the Junior event race dust was a problem for the competitors. Due to the wet weather the Senior race riders suffered from a steady stream of mud which was thrown up from the clay roads of the Island. Len Perry riding the 1934 Velocette was triumphant in the Senior, while the Junior race win went to Sid Jensen, also Velocette mounted.
1950 This was the final year the TT was held on Waiheke. The Senior race had many prominent riders retiring through either machine or rider failure. The win went to Ken Mudford on a GP Triumph. The Junior race once again went to Len Perry riding a Velocette KTT. The AJS 7Rs were making their presence felt in this event, although the minor placings are dominated by Velocettes.
I have added the 1934 and 1950 Programme in PDF form. Please bear in mind that the 1934 programme is a scanned copy of a photocopied photocopy and therefore the quality isn’t great. It does make for interesting reading.
Finally I need to make a couple of Acknowledgements.
Firstly to Judith Phillips for making a this material available, enabling me to reproduce it here. Judith is involved with the Waiheke Museum (click to go to their website) .
The main source of the information provided and reproduced above came from the ‘New Zealand Motorcyclist’.
Another source of information was a book called a book on the Auckland Motorcycle Club history called “Seventy-Five Years on Two Wheels” A History of the Auckland Motor Cycle Club Inc 1926-2001 by Calum Gilmour. Its available as a research tool at the Auckland library or you buy a copy from the Auckland Motorcycle Club.