In my earliest days, of watching racing, it was the era of the late Barry Sheene. I wasn’t a fan of Sheene, but my favourite rider was Ron Haslam. I still remember the day I met Ron, vividly, I would only have been about seven or eight years old.
It must have been Transatlantic Trophy weekend, GB vs USA, and that day the meeting was held at Oulton Park. By that time, Sheene was already World Champion and a huge crowd was surrounding his trailer, a converted flatbed truck. Mother asked if I was interested, which I wasn’t and nor was she, so we carried on walking round the paddocks. As we got closer, to the pits, we came across Ron Haslam’s Ford Transit. Transit vans were a popular way of transporting bikes, in those days.
So we had a chat with Ron’s crew and they ended up giving us a couple of photographs, of Ron. We were happy enough. If I remember correctly, Ron had just raced, coming from the back of the grid and finished second. Mother said we should carry on, because Ron would be busy. As we were about to leave, around comes Ron and asked if we wanted our photographs signing. We were delighted and had a quick chat before continued having a look around.
The next person I remember talking with was a female racer, from the US. Women in GPs, then, was virtually unheard of, never mind racing. The lady in question was Gina Bovaird and she still holds the record as being the only one to race in the premier class. It was 500cc two strokes in those days, now MotoGP. The smell of a two stroke still reminds me of my childhood but they are a dying bread these days.
Ron carried on racing on some of the most iconic bikes. I remember the hub steered Elf Honda and couldn’t get my head around it. Even in the modern era, hub steered bikes are few and far between. Then there was the JPS Norton rotary, a four stroke in principle, with a unique engine note. The first thing I always recall, about Ron, was the iconic helmet design, originally pure white with the red initials R and H intertwined.
Fast Freddie, King Kenny and Rocket Ron