[Translated and edited from Cesar Estornes’ blog of Bilbao sporting history]

A short history of the little-known Bilbao Tourist Trophy race, held on Aug 14th and 16th, 1932.

One of the first Spanish riders at the Isle of Man TT, in 1914: Luis Arana [The Vintagent Archive]

Since 1907, the Tourist Trophy race has been held on the Isle of Man, between Great Britain and Ireland.  The current course, established in 1911, crossed through towns, going up and down the only mountain on the island, which thirty-three miles long and thirteen miles wide. The first Isle of Man TT was held on May 28, 1907: the circuit was 15 miles and 10 laps, in an urban circuit closed to the public.  The English decided to organize a race on this island because open road races were banned in Great Britain, and since 1903 the blanket speed limit was 20mph.  As the Isle of Man has its own Parliament and laws, there were no such limitations on speed or public racing events, and the government there proved amenable to the idea of racing (both cars and motorcycles) as a possible tourist attraction. How right they proved to be, as the race is currently attended by tens of thousands of fans, and provides the bulk of tourist income to the Island.

Santiago Herrero racing an Ossa two-stroke single at the 1970 Isle of Man TT [Pinterest]

On June 10, 1970, racer Santiago Herrero died while racing on the Isle of Man, which deeply impacted the Bilbao motorcycle community: he was a person closely linked to motorcycling in Bilbao.  But the love of motorcycling goes way back in Bilbao, including racing at the Isle of Man TT: Pedro Sorriguieta and Luis Arana participated in the 1914 Isle of Man TT.  Together with other partners they created the Bilbao Sports Club with its own premises to promote the love of motorcycling. Sorriguieta was a model of expertise and softness while Luis Arana was a force of audacity and energy, destroying and burning his motorcycle frequently, seemingly unable to move forward with the same agility of his thought.  

Pedro Sorrigueta at the 1914 Isle of Man TT [The Vintagent Archive]
In a telegram sent to his family Pedro Sorriguieta once noted of his race: “Broken gearchange and a blowout, but I have reached the first of my team and I have qualified in the eighth position of the general.”  Luis Arana, in a cablegram sent to the newspaper Euzkadi, reported he was “third in the last lap, but had a fall caused by a collision with another racer, which disabled his motorcycle, and came in fifteenth place.” These two bikers, along with the shirtmaker and tailor Rodolfo Cardenal, who was champion of Spain in 1915, formed the Bilbao Sports Club.

Members of the Pena Motorcycle Club horsing around for a club photo in the 1930s – BSA, Ariel, Douglas, and AJS machines are clearly visible. [Cesar Estornes]
The Club germinated a group of good and excellent riders years later: first of all Alejandro Arteche the motorcycle master, Oswaldo Filippini (the dentist), Eduardo Rubio, Fernando Ripalda, and Juan Palacio. There were others with more national and international renown such as Luis Bejarano, the manufacturer of the house Lube, Ortueta, and Alejandro Arteche. The Peña Motorista was founded in 1926 and took on an official charter in 1927. In 1928 it organized small races without official sanction, which woke up Bilbao racer fans, a hobby which had been asleep since the time of the Bilbao Sports Club.  In 1929, they officially organized races including the fifth Cuesta de Castrejana hillclimb, the first Circuito de Getxo-Berango (Vizcaya Championship) and the first Cuesta de Cristo hillclimb.
Races they organized for 1930 included the sixth Cuesta de Castrejana hillclimb, the Ordiuña hillclimb,  the second Circuito de Getxo-Berango.   In 1931, they organized the seventh Castrejana hillclimb, the third Circuit ode Getxo-Berango, the second hillclimb Cuesta de Cristo, etc.

A very wet hillclimb in Spain…yes there is ‘rain in Spain’, and it falls mainly in the mountains! Senor Andorilla- Luis Martin LaFont, principal organizer of the Bilbao TT [Cesar Estornes]
In the year 1932, the club organized the First Tourist-Trophy in Spain, at Bilbao, as well as the Championship of Spain for 250cc and 350cc machines.  The Peña Motorista was formed by many members of the Bilbao Sports Club, such as Eduardo Lastagaray, José María Picaza (Excelsius journalist and expert in the motor world), Eduardo Rubio, Gregorio Pradera, Jacinto Miquelarena (sports journalist), Juan Palacio, Luis Arana and many others who put dedication and enthusiasm to motor racing.

Senor Andorilla- Luis Martin LaFont, principal organizer of the Bilbao TT [Cesar Estornes]
But one of them stands out above all, he was nicknamed “Andorrilla” and his name was Luis Martín Lafont. He plied his trade at number 8 Carrero St., “Tailor made clothing, fancy ties, novelty socks, good tastes and not expensive.”  This man was the organizing soul of all these motor races, supported by a good staff of employees. He was one of the founders of the club and was then honorary president.  Andorilla told many anecdotes of motorcycling, such as when British racing superstar and Norton team member Jimmie Guthrie arrived in Bilbao to race, and demanded more money to race than had been agreed! Lafont replied: “Well, don’t race, but this conversation will be made public tomorrow, that the famous racer got scared and didn’t participate in the race.” Another rider named Alegre, who was full of enthusiasm but with empty pockets, arrived convinced that he was going to win a prize, but won no title or prize. Andorrilla gave him money from his pocket to return home.

Local Spanish riders of the Peña Motorista c.1931, including l. to r. Ortueta (on a Rudge Ulster), unknown on a Rudge Ulster,  Bejarano on a Douglas TT Model, and Palacio on a Douglas T6.[Cesar Estornes]
On Saturday, September 13, 1930, a tribute was given to Luis Martín Lafont, of the many he would receive throughout his life, with the assistance of the president of the Peña, Mr. Francisco Ibarra, at the Torróntegui Hotel at 9.30pm.  The guests participated with joy and good humor, with this excellent menu:  Ox-Tail soup,Lobster Parisien, chicken en Cocotte, French peas, house made ice cream and pastries, fruit and coffee, and sangria. The rider Juan Palacio supplied the red wine and spirits, and the whole meal was offered for the economic price of 18pesetas. Hungry yet?

Spanish rider Fernando Aranda and his Rudge Ulster racer [Cesar Estornes]
The Bilbao TT, August 14th and 16th, 1932

Martín Lafont finalized the preparations for this important race, held on the 14th at 3.30 in the afternoon. The organizers were assured the presence of several professional English racers, especially from Norton and Rudge, who have promised their best men. French riders included Clermont, Nandon, Lafon, Terige, Boulanger and more. The President of the Italian Federation promised to send Alfredo Panella, Ricardo Brusi, Carlo Fumagalli, who would be accompanied by their 250cc and 500cc Moto Guzzi racers.  Contacts were made with DKW for their star riders as well. Two Portuguese riders particpated as well: Jorge Black, the Portuguese champion with a 500cc Rudge, and the engineer Feixeira with a 350cc Norton. Among the Spaniards wre Fernando Aranda, JMA, Manuel Alegre, Ernesto and Joaquin Vidal father and son, Ignacio Faura. from Biscayn came Luis Bejarano with a Douglas, Alejandro Arteche and Careaga, both with a 500cc Ariel Red Hunters. Madrid’s Santos Mateo rode a 500cc Moto Guzzi.

Fernando Aranda and Javier Ortueta. [Cesar Estornes]
The Bilbao team worked with total activity to have the circuit ready for the August 11th and 12th practice period. The grandstands were raised in Basurto, in front of the hospital, and were admirably located, picking up a wide field of vision.  The price for bleacher seating was 7.50pesetas, and 60pesetas for a box: there were six entrances to the field. The winner’s trophy cup was donated by the President of the Spanish Republic, Mr. Niceto Alcalá Zamora, while the City Council donated the Junior trophy and the Provincial Lightweight trophy. These trophies were replicas of those awarded for the Isle of Man TT.  Bilbao Mayor Don Ernesto Ercoreca delivered the trophies to the winners.

Professional racer Graham Walker of the Rudge factory team, the year after he won the Isle of Man Lightweight TT on this make. [Cesar Estornes]
The champion rider Arthur Simcock arrived, made his entrance through the Achuri train station, and awaiting him at the platform was Careaga, Arteche and Palacio.  Simcock was the earliest of the arrivals, on August 6, and stayed at the Carlton Hotel, and he retired early at nine o’clock at night and says: “I have to prepare my body and my machine for tomorrow’s training.”  This is inconceivably early for the Spaniards, who usually don’t dine until 10 or 11pm!  Rumors swirled of the arrival of Felice Nazzaro the Italian champion and Grahan Walker, who replaced Ted Mellors in participating in the 250cc and 500cc events.

Ernest Loof and his Imperia in the wet 350cc race. Loof raced Imperia and BMW motorcycles, and contributed to the design of the BMW 328 sports race car. Postwar, he was co-founder of the Veritas race car company.[Cesar Estornes]
In the garage of Alejandro Arteche the motorbikes of the English and Catalan racers rest until the day of the race. The Portuguese racer Black made the trip from Lisbon with some friends, bringing his Rudge motorcycle in his car. José Miguel Careaga, known by the nickname of “Morrosko” is a solid proponent of Ariel, but he had an absence of something and that something he carried in his heart: the loss of his dog called “Techi,” who traveled thousands of kilometers on the tank of the Careaga’s motorcycle.  Techi will not do it again, leaving his master in the greatest grief.

A sea of umbrellas in the stands for the 250/350cc Bilbao TT. [Cesar Estornes]
As the the ’32 TT was the first time it was held in Spain, it was important for motorcycling due to the importance of this competition in the motorcycle world. Fans came from all over Spain and abroad. On August 14th, from five in the morning onward it rained until shortly before starting the race, continuing with more or less intensity and did not cease until the end of the race. In spite of everything the audience was numerous, which looked in the stands and surroundings to be a sea of umbrellas.

A wet start to the 250/350cc Bilbao TT. [Cesar Estornes]
The two displacements of 250cc and 350cc came out, with the larger bikes starting first, then a minute later those of 250cc. This is the list of participants of the 250cc race, held over 15 laps with a total 135.75km:

#1 Graham Walker, English – with a Rudge
#2 Edmond Boulanger, French – with a Terrot
#3 Marcel Clermont, French – with a Rudge
#4 Antonio Moxó , Spanish – with a Rudge
#5 Emilio Tintoré, Spanish – with a Dunelt
#6 Valerio Riva, Italian – with an Aquila
#7 Francis Beart, English – with a Cotton
#8 Leo H. Davenport, English – with a New Imperial

Winners: First Walker with 1h.43m.10s won the T. Trophy trophy of the Vizcaya Provincial and a cash prize of one thousand pesetas and one hundred pesetas for the fastest lap.  Second Moxó with 1h.43m.47s. Champion of Spain, Minister of Public Works Cup (Indalecio Prieto) and four hundred pesetas in cash. Third Davenport with 1h.44m.22s. and a cash prize of three hundred pesetas.

A wet hairpin bend proved slippery and took down several riders. [Cesar Estornes]
In the displacement of 350cc, 17 laps with a total of 153.85km:

#19 Sid Gleave, English- with a New-Imperial
#20 Arthur Simcock, English – with a Velocette
#21 Fernando Aranda, Spanish – with a  Rudge
#23 Roxey, Spanish – with an AJS
#24 Marcel Goedhuyss, Belgian – with a Norton
#25 Eric Fernihough, English – with an Excelsior
#27 Felice Nazzaro, Italian – with an Aquila
#28 Ernest Loof, German – with an Imperia
#29 Ernesto Vidal, Spanish – with a Norton
#30 André Naudon, French – with a Velocette

Graham Walker winning the 250cc race on his Rudge. [Cesar Estornes]
350cc race: Aranda had a bad start, started late and was unlucky. He left the race, it was the rain that soaked his magneto and produced ignition deficiencies. The English do not neglect these things, as they are more accustomed and take precautions. Ernesto Vidal had a mishap and collided with another motorist and was in fifth place. In the first round, Loof stood out and made his machine respond very brilliantly. He was the favorite, the German champion, a modest boy and with great sympathy, he put the audience in his pocket and won the race, followed by the Italian Nazzaro, with Eric Fernihough third.  The English riders Arthur Simcock and Sid Gleave both had falls and retired.

Ernest Loof of Niendorf and his 350cc racing Imperia – note the strutted Druid racing forks with speedometer clamped to the fork tubes. [Cesar Estornes]
First Loof with 1h.51m.12s. won the T. Trophy trophy of the Bilbao City Council and 2750 pesetas in cash and 100 pesetas for the fastest lap. Second Nazzaro with 2h.3m.25s.with a cash prize of 1,100 pesetas. Third Fernihough with 2h.5m.35s. 825 pesetas cash prize.

On the second day, August 16th, 1932, the 500cc race was held, with 18 laps and a total of 162.90km. 29 riders were registered:
#1-Manuel Alegre (England) with a Rudge
#2-Manuel Ruiz (Spain) with an Ariel
#3- Valerio Riva (Italy) with an Aquila
#4-Joaquín Vidal (Spain) with a Norton
#5- André Naudon (France) with a Velocette
#6-Alejandro Black (Portugal) with a Rudge
#8-Marcel Goedhuyss (Belgium) with a Norton
#9- Alejandro Arteche (Spain) with an Ariel
#10-JMA (Spain) with a BSA
#11-Ernest Loof (Germany) with an Imperia
#12- Craker (Spain) with a Norton
#14 -CT Atkins (England) with a Cotton
#15-Graham Walker (England) with a Rudge
#16-Luis Bejarano (Spain) with a Douglas
#17-Ignacio Faura (Spain) with a Rudge
#18- Eric Fernihough (England) with an Excelsior
#19-Jean Terigi (France) with a Rudge
#20-Leo H. Davenport (England) with a Sunbeam
#21-Fergus Anderson (England) with a Cotton
#23-Emilio Dubois (Spain) with a Sarolea
#24-Edouard Lafon (Belgium) with a Soyer
#25- Marcel Clermont (France) with a Motosacoche
#26-José Miguel Careaga (Spain) with an Ariel
#27-Clemente Picas (Spain) with a Motosacoche
#28-Juan Gilí (Spain) with a Rudge
#29-Giovanni Paze (Italy) with an Aquila

Eduardo Rubio on a Velocette KTT, perhaps one of three delivered originally to dealer Manuel Conto of Madrid? [Cesar Estornes]
On this second day, the riders were much faster, and the enthusiasm from the public also grew. The departure was spectacular, as it was clogged by a dog! Aranda lost several minutes and Anderson had to stop because of a machine breakdown. In the second circuit Aranda is in the lead due to the mechanical failure of Castrejana, but Walker is standing out from the rest of the group.The audience is already focusing on these two runners – Aranda and Walker. Ortueta from Madrid left on the third circuit due to a break in the gearchange, and in the fourth circuit Luis Bejarano retired, the great Basque hope. Alejandro Arteche stopped on lap 16 due to breakdown. Walker is placed at the top of the race and it takes Aranda a minute to follow. A win by Walker, followed by Fernando Aranda.

Alejandro Arteche and his Ariel Red Hunter, which was a popular club racing machine. [Cesar Estornes]
Classification of the 500cc test: First Graham William Walker time 1h.45m.0.6s. Winner of the President of the Republic trophy, 3500 pesetas cash prize and 100 pesetas for the fastest lap. Second Fernando Aranda time 1h.46m.47s. Winner of the Spanish Champion Cup for 1932. 1400 pesetas cash prize and 500 pesetas for the Spanish Championship. Third Joaquín Vidal time 1h.50m.36s. 1050 pesetas cash prize. The fastest lap was given by Walker at 96,304kmh.

A grainy picture of the start of the 500cc Bilbao TT. [Cesar Estornes]
Thanks to Frank Charriaut at MotArt for the article!