Saturday, May 10, 2008


by Dennis Quinlan

With the huge figures earned today for top MotoGP riders, I often wonder how it compares to the pay of the top pre-war riders. Stanley Woods was at his peak in the late 1930's, and won the TT for Velocette in 1938 and '39 - their first wins since 1929 ('a long time between drinks' is the old saying...).
As I have some of the correspondence between Veloce Ltd and Woods during 1938, I was able to calculate some of his expenses in modern equivalents. (pic 1; Stanley at practice on the 348cc Velocette)

Stanley was contracted by Veloce to ride in four events; three Irish road races (Leinster 100, North-West 200, and the Ulster GP), plus of course the Isle of Man TT. For these races he was paid a yearly retainer of £400, plus race entry fees (£10 for the TT in 1937 - a lot of money in those days), expenses, and insurance.
Stanley's expenses for the TT totalled £23.14.6, which included:
20 days' personal expenses @ 20/- = £20.0.0
Round trip ticket from Dublin to IoM = £0.18.6
Round trip cabin on boat = £1.1.0
Unloading cycles and boxes from boat = £1.0.0
Road tax, 'M.G' car and cycles = £0.15.0
Stanley won the Junior TT on the Velocette, and came in second in the Senior TT. The ACU (Auto Cycle Union, the organizing body for UK racing) paid him a bonus of £150 for riding in the TT (starting money for a 'name' rider), Ferodo Ltd paid him a bonus of £50 for using their friction materials in his brakes, Tecalmit paid him a bonus of £30 for using their grease nipples, KLG paid £50 for using their spark plugs, Dunlop paid £150 for using their tires and tubes, Webb paid £8 for using their front forks, the ACU paid prize money of £100 for winning the Junior TT, and £70 for his second place in the Senior TT.
Veloce paid Stanley a bonus of £250 for winning the Junior, and £100 for his second in the Senior, on their machines.
Total prize money and bonuses for the TT; £981.14.6. Added to this would be his yearly retainer from Veloce (£400), and Stanley was chasing Veloce for a 'Bowdenex bonus' for using Bowden control cables, which is unresolved in the correspondence I have! (pic 2; after winning, Stanley is congratulated by the IoM governor. Mildred woods stands behind with her 16mm movie camera - yes there is film of 30's racing events)

As a point of reference, a new production racer Velocette (the MkVII KTT) cost £105 in 1938. Stanley earned over 9 times the cost of a then current production racer, for two races. A Yamaha production racer today costs around AUD$30,000... so you could say he netted the equivalent in today's money of AUD$295,000...ouch!

[As a further note; in 1938, the average house price in England was £605. Thus, Stanley could have bought himself a nice house for his £981! - p'do]

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