THE 1934 GOTLAND TT
The people in Gotland had enjoyed a busy summer with many tourists. This popular island is still an attractive travel destination for both foreigners and Swedes who want to relax and enjoy the sun in the city of Visby. Therefore, in the 30s, there was no big fuss about a motorcycle race among the local inhabitants - it was said to be an interesting break from the daily work in the ‘City of Roses’.
The parties started early in the week and were held within the old City Walls - defensive 3.4-kilometre walls from the 13th and 14th centuries. Visby is the best-preserved medieval city in Scandinavia. The riders did the cultural walk during the day and visited the local bars and restaurants after sunset. The most indulging food and drink venues were gathered near the ‘Gunpowder Tower’, which was erected by the harbour in the 12th century. So, no calm on the Savannah!
The track was a 16-kilometre circuit on ordinary roads, which were only closed off during race day. But during the practice sessions, the riders had to take the risk of encountering traffic as the organisers took no consideration to formalities such as safety or risks. Mind you, officially, practice was not allowed, but who could afford not to learn this 10-mile circuit in advance?
The island of Gotland consists mainly of limestone and consequently the roads were full of dust from lime deposits. The track was sometimes dusty as a true smokescreen, which hampered the riders’ visibility. It is also important to mention that the deposits from limestone were an effective power-source killer as the material tended to clog the breathing of engines. Consequently, it would be of great importance to be among the leaders when the flag dropped. The straights on this rectangular track were faster than those at Saxtorp, so it was full throttle for long periods, which was very demanding on the machines. The gear ratios were upgraded for higher speed and some of the 27 entrants had to go to the local blacksmith in order to manufacture a new sprocket for their transmission.
Between 5,000 to 6,000 spectators turned up to watch on this sunny race day. Three classes were run with a collective start of all the riders. There were 18 laps to be covered among the 500cc machines, while the 350s did 16 laps. So, the race would not be too long, but was instead very demanding on both riders and machines.
Ace Ragnar Sunnqvist took the start on his fast 500 Husqvarna, but slipped in the first corner and had a minor spill before he could re-join. It did not take ‘Ragge’ more than a good lap before he overtook the front-runner again – Finnish rider Raine Lampinen. On the third lap Lampinen set a new record time of seven minutes, which corresponded to a speed of 138.5 km/h. Meanwhile, Sunnqvist lay ahead and took it easy as he preferred safety before disaster. Some laps later, Lampinen came closer to the leader, who in turn would ride faster in order to keep his gap. Lampinen had to settle in the dust. On lap 11 Ragnar stopped in the pits to fill up his tank with fuel. It took 40 seconds before he was back on track - still in a comfortable lead ahead of the Finn. After over two hours of racing, Ragnar crossed the finish line as the day's overwhelming winner.
In the B class, the fights were closer and more interesting to follow. The Swedish rider Sten Edlund had received Husqvarna's latest twin-cylinder 350cc bike, which had made its debut at Saxtorp. He encountered difficulties when running away at the start as the engine would not fire up. But being persistent, Edlund kept on pushing and finally he got away after the field could be seen in the distance. This did not bother Sten Edlund who was mounted on a fast machine. Therefore, he soon caught up with the leaders and took command on the ninth lap when the previous man in front, the German rider Richnow, went into the pits. It was thought that he was in for petrol, but instead the German retired with engine problems due to too much dust from the limestone deposits. So, Edlund was now on top of things and set a pace that no other rider could match. He crossed the finish line as the day's first winner having completed the distance of 16 laps. It took him two hours and five minutes with an average of 123 km/h. Husqvarna riders Helge Carlsson and Eyvind Eklund came third and fourth respectively, which summed up a fantastic race day for the team of the Husqvarna factory.