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On 1 July 1925, the Motorcycle club Assen en Omstreken organises the first edition of the 'Tourist Trophy', a 28.4-kilometre motorcycle race through Drenthe. Over cobblestone and unpaved surfaces, motorcycles race the triangle of roads between Borger, Schoonloo, and Grolloo. The race is a success and becomes an annual event.
This first Tourist Trophy, or ‘TT’ for short, is won by Piet van Wijngaarden on a 500cc Norton. His average speed around the track is 91.4 kilometres an hour. The success of the race leads to a second edition. It takes place south of Assen, on a 16.5-kilometre street circuit. A race is held in every following year, with the exception of the period of 1940-1945.
The impact of the TT on Drenthe is huge. For several days every year, the usually quiet province turns into a 'motorcycling mecca'. From all over the country and abroad, motorcycle enthusiasts flock to Drenthe. Riders work on their motorcycles in the village. Farms along the routes offer accommodation to the riders, as well as the many visitors who are drawn to the event. The race is very good for Drenthe's local businesses. Contractors build stands and bars and restaurants are crowded.
When the TT is organised for the 25th time in 1955, they use a new street circuit with a total distance of 7.7 kilometres. An unprecedented number of participants sign up. Every year the recognition and popularity of the 'TT Assen' grows in the Netherlands and abroad, with the race still being held on a street circuit. Only in 1992 is it decided to close the circuit to traffic, giving the TT a formal racetrack that can be used all throughout the year.
In 2003 'TT Circuit Assen' gets a professional makeover. It gets better crowd accommodations, better safety measures for riders, and an enormous motorcycle park is created where 12,000 motorcycling enthusiasts can park their bikes. The turns of the 4,545-metre circuit bear the names of the villages in Drenthe that were part of the old street circuit; Haarbocht, Madijk, Ruskenhoek, and Strubben.
Attending the annual TT is an unforgettable experience. The website of the TT has more information. Today other activities are organised there as well, such as festivals and concerts. You can also experience the history of the TT yourself with the 'Tour de TT': a 65-kilometre tour that takes you along the two old street circuits.
Photos: Paul Lodewijkx (Nationaal Archief), Jerko Scholten, and Box Repsol.