The Royal Automobile Club’s Tourist Trophy was awarded this weekend – But what exactly does the world’s oldest trophy depict?
The Tourist Trophy is the oldest trophy in motor sport that is still being awarded and is unlike most other trophies seen in the sports world. Rather than being an over-sized cup it is an elegant sculpture – the winged feet and cap announcing the subject to be Hermes, one of the gods of ancient Greece. This delicate trophy was first handed to a victor in 1905, John Napier in an Arrol-Johnston being the lucky recipient. He won the world’s first endurance race on a huge 50 mile-a-lap circuit on the Isle of Man. He managed an average speed for six hours of 33mph – an average that was always expected to be broken by 2013’s winner! Nowadays the trophy is awarded to the winners of a selected UK race, which this year was the World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Silverstone. Audi drivers Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval received the 2013 honours. They are in good company, other winners having included Stirling Moss and Graham Hill and McNish’s fellow Scot Innes Ireland who was also the first Scot to win a Grand Prix.
But what is it that this famous trophy depicts? The main design is a figure of Hermes, son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, cast in 18 carat gold. In mythology Hermes was the Greek messenger god who also cared for sportsmen and travellers. As well as his winged feet and cap he can be identified by the golden wand that he holds – a gift from his half-brother Apollo. To demonstrate his speed he stands on a breath of wind, in a pose based on a work by Giovanni Da Bologna. Beneath him two nude figures recline. The female represents Victory holding a laurel wreath, the male holding a mallet is Industry, resting after his travails. The base is inscribed with references to past winners and it is signed by Sydney March of the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts.
Over the years the trophy has been awarded for races of various classes at various UK circuits. These include the Isle of Man, the Ards circuit in Northern Ireland, Goodwood, Oulton Park and Silverstone. One of the drivers on the 2013 World Endurance Championship grid had already added his name to the list of TT winners – Jamie Campbell-Walter having won the trophy in 2010. He remembered that the trophy was very heavy and added ‘Any driver that wins the Tourist Trophy can feel very special. It is a fantastic piece of history.’
The trophy was refurbished two years ago by the silversmith Paul Davies who has also created smaller replicas of the statue for the drivers to keep. It must have been a nervous moment for the curators when the TT trophy was handed to the drivers on the Champagne-soaked podium, but it survived intact and will soon be returned to its permanent home at Beaulieu.
When asked if it was the TT was the most beautiful trophy he had raced for British driver Darren Turner of Aston Martin claimed that ‘Blackbushe Kart Track had some great trophies’, although he admitted they were probably not on the same scale!
The Royal Automobile’s Tourist Trophy really is a stunning prize. As well as being one of the oldest and valuable, it has to be one of the most beautiful trophies awarded in world sport.