There were 35 entries for the first Manx Grand Prix back in September 1923 which consisted of just a single 500cc race. Winner Len Randles on a Sunbeam completed the five-lap 188-mile race in just over three and a half hours at an average speed of just over 52mph.
The fastest lap by Bob Lowe on a Norton was 55.79mph but he crashed out after suffering a puncture.
A total of 18 riders finished the race and 11 were awarded medals which were the equivalent of today’s replicas.
As this year’s event celebrates its 90th anniversary it has seen growing popularity with increasing numbers of newcomers wanting to undertake the challenge of riding the 37.73-mile Mountain Course, unique in any motorcycle racing event.
Visitor numbers have also been steadily increasing in the years leading up to 2013.
This year’s event which retains its amateur status, can see the best riders lapping in excess of 120mph on a range of machinery from 125cc to 1,000cc.
Each race will be run over four laps and the winning riders will be completing the distance in around an hour and a half.
To mark its anniversary the race organisers, the Manx Motor Cycle Club, are holding a reception at the Crescent and there will also be a past winners’ parade on Wednesday in which riders from the 50s up to the modern era are taking part on a range of period machinery.
The oldest surviving winner to receive an invitation was Dr Kelly Swanston, winner of the 1935 Senior. Dr Swanston later gave up motorcycle racing to concentrate on his medical career but did keep contact with the Isle of Man, attending the event’s 75th anniversary in 1998. Sadly Dr Swanston died earlier this year a few weeks short of his 105th birthday.
Chairman of the Manx Motor Cycle Club Harvey Garton said this year’s event was going well and living up to expectations: ‘We are a number of riders up this year so it’s looking like the good old days,’ he said.
With so many riders taking part this year, the scrutineers have been kept extra busy checking every bike before every practice and every race. Riders’ kit is also checked over at the start of the week to ensure helmets, leathers boots and gloves are all up to the job.
Harvey, who works with the scrutineering team, said they had been dealing with record numbers this year.
‘On Tuesday night it was non-stop with 390 bikes passing through our bay,’ he revealed.
‘By Wednesday we had already dealt with more than half the number of bikes we saw through the whole of this year’s TT.’
In 1923 the event was known as the Manx Amateur Road Race Championships and was run under stringent rules defining precisely what constituted an ‘amateur’. In 1930 it became the Manx Grand Prix.
This year the event has seen further changes as it becomes part of a series of attractions collectively branded as the Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling. This includes not just the Manx Grand Prix races for a range of modern bikes but also the the Manx Classic and two-day trials, Sunday’s popular Festival of Jurby run by the island’s Vintage Motorcycle Club and the new Classic TT event which sees the classic races run over many years by the MMCC taking place separately on the opening bank holiday weekend.
Many of the top TT riders like Ryan Farquhar, Guy Martin and Michael Dunlop have regularly competed in the MGP classic races and extra big names for this year include multiple TT winner John McGuinness.
A film made by island film makers Greenlight capturing the spirit of last year’s Manx Grand Prix – Grand Prix Racer – had its island premier at the Villa Marina earlier this year and has since been aired twice on ITV4.
‘Last year’s film was really something special,’ said Harvey. ‘It certainly captured the spirit of what it’s all about for me.’
He has been involved with the event since 1961 and can speak from first-hand experience of racing on the TT course.
‘I never competed in the Manx but I drove a side car in the TT in 1991,’ he said.
‘It was a wonderful experience to race over the Mountain Course and after doing that I didn’t enjoy any of my other racing.
‘It simply didn’t live up to that experience so I decided to give up and concentrate on bike touring instead.’