As the only American ever to take a win at the Isle of Man TT, Dave Roper stands alone in the history of the famed island racing circuit. The Isle, which lies in the Irish Sea west of the U.K., hosted its first races in 1907, making the 2007 event a special centenary celebration (turn to page 30 for an inside look at this year’s event).
Throughout its 100 years of racing history, the Isle has drawn racers from around the globe, including the U.S. Although Indian motorcycles took the top three slots in the 1911 TT — with U.K. riders — victory eluded American racers until 1984, when Roper bagged first place in the 500cc Senior Classic Historic race.
Roper’s riding skills first started grabbing attention in the mid-1970s, and he raced in the TT three time in the 1980s. He came in 12th place in the Formula III class his first time out in 1982, even after the chain fell off his Aermacchi 350. But 1984 was his year, when he came back for the win riding the Team Obsolete Matchless G50. Both rider and bike were in top form, and Roper posted the fastest lap in his class, 97.21mph.
Roper, still a top competitor in the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association’s historic race series, was invited back to the Island for this year’s centenary, reliving the glory of the Isle of Man TT with other past champions in the Isle’s annual Lap of Honor. His ride? The same Matchless G50 pictured above — now freshly restored — that he rode to victory back in 1984.