Rider Of The Week features a famous rider and looks at the highlights of their career. Walter Handley was a talented racer who operated during the years before WW2. He became the first rider to win two Isle of Man TT races in a week and set a record for the three fastest laps. Handley was a tenacious competitor who went on to serve as a pilot in the army, but died in a plane crash.
Handley was born in 1902 and he didn’t have an easy life growing up. His father died of cancer when he was nine and by the time he was twelve, Handley had left school to try a variety of jobs. He eventually joined the OK motorbike firm and became a Junior Tester.
After competing in speed trials, Handley made his racing debut at the 1922 TT. The story of how he set off in the wrong direction during practice is well documented. He was mocked by the press, but on race day it spurred him on to gain the fastest lap from a starting position. Yet he lost the lead on the second lap due to a broken inlet valve. During the Lightweight Race in 1923 he was awarded the Nisbet Shield for his endurance after suffering a ‘packet of troubles.’
In 1924, Handley joined the Rex Acme Company. The next year he won the Junior TT, with a record speed of 65.02 mph. Handley’s success continued, as he won the solo and sidecar events at Brooklands in 1929. He also won the Klausen Hill Climb to win the 350 cc class. In the 1930 Senior TT he set another record of 74.24 mph. 1930 was also the year he set several other motorbike world records, such as at Arpajon and Montlhery. In 1937, he gained a gold star for BSA by lapping the Brooklands circuit at over 107 mph.
Before WW2, Handley was already an accomplished flyer, having been trained by famous aviator Tommy Rose. When the war broke out he volunteered to join the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). On the 15th November 1941, Handley was killed when the engine of his Bell P39 Airacobra caught fire.
Handley was commemorated on the TT course with ‘Handley’s Cottage’, a bend in the road and the sight of his crash at the 1932 Senior TT.