Sunday, 19 June 2011

Riders I admire - Jimmy Guthrie

Jimmy Guthrie was born in Hawick, Scotland and prior to WW2 he was (to me) the finest professional motorcycle racer. Early successes for Jimmy included winning the Scottish Speed Championships at St Andrews (on Sand) in 1926 and 1927.

Jimmy Guthrie after winning the 1936 Senior TT
Jimmy’s first TT victory came in the 1930 Lightweight race aboard an AJS. However, he will always be synonymous for riding with Joe Craig’s Norton team, who he joined as a Works Rider in 1931. With the Norton team Guthrie became almost unbeatable. In his career he took 19 Grand Prix victories, 6 TT victories and three wins at the NW 200.  
As well as in his own country, on the European continent that Guthrie was held in very high esteem. His performances on Nortons had taken him to four European Championships and the Works teams from Germany and Italy couldn’t beat the British combination of man and machine. Jimmy would get to the different European races with his bike in the parcel carriage of trains!
His most famous trophy was for his victory at the 1936 German GP, which was presented by Adolf Hitler (who was expecting a German victory). The following year he was invited back to race in Germany, where the German BMW were planning to beat Guthrie and his Norton. In the race he had built up a two minute lead as he headed into the final lap. It was on that final lap that he crashed and sustained fatal injuries. Stanley Woods who was an eye witness to the crash insisted that Guthrie was taken out by Kurt Mansfeld on his DKW. Jimmy was lapping Kurt, and according to Woods, Mansfeld pulled out in front of Guthrie and drove him off the road. Some say it was an accident, as Mansfeld was trying to prove he was as quick as Guthrie, but Woods went even further to suggest Mansfeld did it on purpose as the Nazi regime was unhappy at the British riders being so successful. Stanley Woods' explanation does seem a little far fetched. Other sources clamined the connecting rod on Guthrie's machine was broken and this could have caused the crash (however it is possible that a con-rod can break after a crash due to the engine over-revving). 

NSU team paying their respects at the Guthrie memorial in 1954. From left to right Paul Hermann Muller, Rupert Hollaus, Werner Haas and Hans Baltisberger.

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