Monday 17th December: Tracks Closed.

Dixie Dean at Waiheke

NZ’s Isle of Man

maddix park mx

The 2011 Isle of Man TT which marked the Centenary of the Mountain course concluded last week. This Mecca for motorcyclists once again had Kiwis both racing and spectating. But from the 1930s to early 50s, NZ itself held a "Kiwi Isle of Man" around Waiheke Island which, for many riders, was a first stepping stone to the British iconic event.

Dixie Deanthe “dix” half of Maddix Park – was a racer who did not race at the Isle of Man. In 1949, he was selected to represent NZ at the event, but, because of business and family commitments, was unable to avail himself of the opportunity.

However, Dixie regularly raced at New Zealand’s equivalent of the Isle of Man, the just as iconic Waiheke Island TTs. In 1931, Waiheke Island had become the first New Zealand TT venue and the link to the Isle of Man is obvious. Both venues were rural islands welcoming an invasion of riders and spectators from over the water.

Dixie was there in 1949 as is witnessed in the following Waiheke Island Senior T.T. Report published in the N.Z. Motor Cyclist magazine on 1st February 1949. “The Race is run – WET or FINE,” said the programme. It was wet. The race was run. It took place “under conditions more typical of the Isle of Man” on a course that would “live up to the old Isle of Man saying “mist on the mountain.”

Dixie Dean had by this time become the hero of the race, and all the crowd were taken by his dashing style. As it became more and more apparent that the 1949 T.T. was a duel between Dixie and Len(Perry), in the fifteenth lap, the announcement that Dixie had come off the road on the mountain and had stalled put the crowd on its feet. Hard on this followed the news that Len had got himself tangled with a radio aerial near Billing’s Corner. This quickened the excitement, but almost immediately it was announced that both were on their way again. A lap or two later, Dixie went over while coming round the finish bend, but quick as a flash was back on his bike again and away. “Dixie” commented the announcer, Mr M.J. Maiden, “does this every morning before breakfast.” Dixie’s practice trials must have been worth watching!

Sid Jensen seemed to have gained heart again and was lapping ever faster. Len, too, was steadily pulling up on Dixie, and at one stage took the lead down to 35s. This caused Dixie to wind it up a bit more and he shot off the mountain on his second to last lap.

According to eye-witnesses, Dixie turned over three times. Dixie was not sure. He was a bit groggy, and, when he recovered, he was offered assistance, but turned it down flat when he still saw his wheels were going round all right. He struggled his bike back on the road with his number plate bent, his seat bent into a V, and his mudguard battered. In addition, his forks were tight, and he was still a little groggy.

No-one expected to see him again as he staggered away on his last lap, but he rounded it and came in first.”

Why did Dixie wind it up unnecessarily in that last lap? Miscommunication is the answer. Evidently the guy doing the pit board had been writing up Dixie’s lead in seconds but the lead had now stretched out to over a minute so the guy wrote 1m2 sec. on the board. Dixie, passing at speed, interpreted the sign as a 12 second lead and thought he’d better up the pace, with unfortunate results.

With 3 cracked ribs and a bike with everything wrenched around, it was quite an achievement that Dixie finished the event at all, just missing out on 2nd place by a mere 4 seconds. The pit guy was near tears.

You will note that the style of the above extract is a little different from modern day journalism. These are only the last couple of paragraphs of a report that was very detailed and written to make the race come alive for its readers – there was no TV in 1949. Multi world champion Hugh Anderson remembers such articles and says how he was inspired by a journalist’s report on the 1946 Isle of Man that he read when he was 10. (See www.maddixpark.co.nz/articles/the-isle-of-man.html)

The photo above shows Dixie on his Norton at an earlier Waiheke race meeting accompanied by Roy McLeod, grandfather of local trials rider Paul McLeod.

To the left is a picture of Dixie and the brand new Triumph as it came out of the box and before it was converted for racing in the normal manner of the day.

Family history tells us that the bike nearly never made it to a race track. His wife, Margaret, was helping run the Triumph in when she came round a corner near Affco to find herself face to face with a herd of cows. Some slick braking and fast manoevring meant both she and the bike survived, with just a few chunks of cow hair on the handlebars.

Was she the one who started the 50s-60s handlebar trend of dangling leather tassles ?

On the left is a photo of Dixie in action on the Triumph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those interested, below is the full text of the NZ Motorcyclist report, journalist unknown.

Waiheke Island Senior T.T. Report N.Z. Motor Cyclist 1st February 1949

Perry leads through Downpour: Seventh T.T. Win

Jensen 2nd Dean 3rd

Under conditions more typical of the Isle of Man than of Waiheke Island in the middle of summer, Len Perry won the Senior T.T. over the five and three-quarter-mile course on the island in 138m 2s. As with his other senior wins he was riding the works model Velocette, first introduced to New Zealand in 1934, and still among the best machines on the road.

Runner-up was Sid Jensen of Palmerston North on a Manx Grand Prix triumph with a lap time of 140m 38s, brought up into second place by his fast lapping in the last part of the race. Sid, who won the Junior T.T., was a late entry, and drew the last starting position in a field of 29. He was closely followed by A.J. Dean of Tauranga, who was only four seconds behind him in time. Dixie Dean who had the fifth position at the start, was leading through the race on time, and finished first, but because of the time lost when he spilled in the penultimate lap, once again lost his chance of inclusion among the T.T. winners, an honour his riding well deserved. Fourth was L.R. Wyllie, of New Plymouth, also mounted on a Triumph with a time of 142m 6s.

“The Race is run – WET or FINE,” said the programme. The race was run. It was wet. At times it seemed as if the course would live up to the old Isle of Man saying “mist on the mountain,” but although clouds did not come that low, drifting showers of rain which later developed into a steady drizzle, governed the course. In contrast to the Junior where the main nuisance was dust, in the Senior, the big machines and their riders suffered from a steady stream of mud thrown up from the clay roads of the island. Men and machines finished the course mud bespattered and with numbers obscured. Many riders elected to ride without their goggles, finding it much easier to scrape the mud out of their eyes than to smear it off their glasses.

A sidelight on the conditions was the apparent optimism of many riders – seemingly justified by the fine Christmas week – about fine weather. When it rained, and the course was cut about, several bikes were totally unprepared for the flying mud. Only by courtesy did their mudguards deserve the title, and airscoops for front brakes, in spite of the gauze filters, became clogged, and little air could have got through. Similarly many of the engines were caked in brick-like clay, and it seems a wonder that no overheating resulted. One rider particularly troubled by the mud was Sid Jensen who spent much time in dodging a stream thrown back at him by his front wheel.

A surprisingly large crowd attended, and enthusiasts were arriving all morning, undaunted by the bad weather. On the boats on the way over types discussed the chances of riders and the best places to see the race from, which views could be seen in the positions selected. Some chose the straight to see the speed, others the mountain to see the cornering, and a few decided on Billing’s corner (“You see some wizard prangs there”). The largest crowd was near the official stand and pits at the start and finishing point. These were kept informed of the progress of the race by a public address system relaying a radio link around the course.

THE START

After the track had been cleared and radio observers dropped at points around the course, the race was begun. First to push his bike down the hill, jump on it and go roaring off, was J.M. Scurrah of Auckland, mounted on a Rudge. He was followed at 10 second intervals by the rest of the field which had been reduced to 29. Among the withdrawals was John Dale whose performance on his Matchless was largely anticipated. Riders who were given a hand for the take-off were Digger Hallam (riding this year a Manx Norton and an old favourite of the Waiheke course, being a past winner and the lap record-holder), Rod Coleman on his Velocette off 24, Len Perry, the winner off 27 and Sid Jensen, a late entry and winner of the Junior T.T. off 33. Len Perry, suffering from an ankle injury, was assisted by a pusher at the start, but it did not affect his eventual chances.

For the most part, the first lap was cautious. Dixie Dean completed it in the fastest time of 7m 4s, closely followed by Rod Coleman and A.G. Holland at 7m 5s in second position with L.R.Wyllie fourth at 7m 8s. Len Perry lost some time in the first lap when his bike came to rest neatly in the bus shelter at Billing’s Corner, but in spite of his injury, he managed to start it again, and roared off. Digger Hallam, by his own admission, a bit impetuous, was taking the course too fast, and went over at the base of the mountain. Try as he could, he was unable to get his T.T. Norton started again by pushing it up the hill, and by the time he had got it to the top in order to start it down the other side, time had flown – and with too much leeway to make up, he withdrew.

As the race progressed, Sid Jensen came up. At the end of the fourth lap the order was Dean (27m 31s), Jensen, Wyllie, Holland, Fraser, with Len Perry lying seventh with a time of 28m 56s. A few riders had already retired, and the field was tending to open out. The fifth and sixth laps saw some spectacular riding by both Dixie Dean and Len Perry, Dixie with a time of 41m 19s had increased his lead to 1m 9s, Wyllie was still second, Len had moved up and passed Sid Jensen and was 8s ahead of him.

By this time the race had begun to settle down, and that order remained fairly well unchanged for some laps. A feature of part of it was an effort by Sid Jensen which brought him up onto Len’s tail where he steadily absorbed all the mud thrown up at him. After a while, Len drew away again, and by dint of winding it up on the straight, put himself well ahead. By the ninth lap, Len was in second place, but Dixie’s lead remained unchallenged.

The tenth lap saw Dixie still ahead and undisputed winner of the Matchless trophy for the rider leading at the tenth lap. Len showed signs of drawing up on him slowly, but Dixie still had over a minute in hand. Len broke the minute by lap 12 where he made 6s on Dixie. The order remained unchanged, but Sid Jensen seemed to be dropping behind L.R. Wyllie.

For the thirteenth lap the first seven were: Dean, Perry, Wyllie, Jensen, Mudford, Coleman, and Gordon Stewart.

Dean had noticed Len’s gradual encroachment on his lead, and had started to draw off again, and made four seconds on him. The tendency by this time was for all the leading riders to space their times, and at the end of the fifteenth lap Dixie was 1m 29s ahead of Len, whom in his turn, was 37s in front of Wyllie, with 1m 26s between him and Jensen.

 

Mudford, while never riding spectacularly, was steady, and by the end of the sixteenth lap was up into fifth position. Rod Coleman was still lying sixth, and it looked as if all were in a good position. However, soon after this, after a magnificent steady ride, Rod was forced to withdraw. Times at the end of lap 17 were: Dean 116m 29s, Perry 118m 42s, Jensen (who had passed Wyllie) 120m 40s.

 

Dixie Dean had by this time become the hero of the race, and all the crowd were taken by his dashing style. As it became more and more apparent that the 1949 T.T. was a duel between Dixie and Len, in the fifteenth lap, the announcement that Dixie had come off the road on the mountain and had stalled put the crowd on its feet. Hard on this followed the news that Len had got himself tangled with a radio aerial near Billing’s Corner. This quickened the excitement, but almost immediately it was announced that both were on their way again. A lap or two later, Dixie went over while coming round the finish bend, but quick as a flash was back on his bike again and away. “Dixie” commented the announcer, Mr M.J. Maiden, “does this every morning before breakfast.” Dixie’s practice trials must have been worth watching!

Sid Jensen seemed to have gained heart again and was lapping ever faster. Len, too, was steadily pulling up on Dixie, and at one stage took the lead down to 35s. This caused Dixie to wind it up a bit more and he shot off the mountain on his second to last lap.

According to eye-witnesses, Dixie turned over three times. Dixie was not sure. He was a bit groggy, and, when he recovered, he was offered assistance, but turned it down flat when he still saw his wheels were going round all right. He struggled his bike back on the road with his number plate bent, his seat bent into a V, and his mudguard battered. In addition, his forks were tight, and he was still a little groggy.

No-one expected to see him again as he staggered away on his last lap, but he rounded it and came in first. The race was anybody’s when the other riders were in and the results were still in doubt among the spectators until the announcement. All this time Sid Jensen was coming up and lapping faster, and his second to last lap was the fastest of the day. He reached a provisional time of 6m 3s.

The following riders gained the A.C.U. Certificate by finishing within 15m of the leader.

Results were:- L. Perry (Auckland, Velocette) 138m 2s, 1; S.Jensen (Palmerston North, Triumph) 140m 38s, 2; A.J. Dean (Tauranga, Triumph), 140m 42s, 3; L.R. Wyllie (New Plymouth, Triumph), 142m 26s, 4; K.Mudford (Tauranga, Triumph), 144m 20s, 5; G.Stewart (Auckland, Triumph), 148m 6s, 6; L.C.Dixon (Kawakawa, Triumph), 148m 38s, 7; R.Marsh (Whakatane) 151m 36s, 8; G. Dixon (Pukekohe), also completed the course.

 
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