Belfast Telegraph

Neill aims to enhance his status as an Ulster legend

By Paul Lindsay

Tyco Suzuki team boss Hector Neill is a popular and gregarious character, and the Belfast-born Hillsborough resident has certainly become a mini-celebrity in road racing circles — none more so than in the paddock at this week’s Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix.

Stopping to chat to organisers, fans, fellow team bosses and the various top competitors who have ridden for his TAS Racing team over the years, is just part and parcel of the road racing circus that the septuagenarian lives and breathes for.

It’s a far cry from the 1950s when as an enthusiastic teenager, Neill used to walk to Dundrod from Belfast with his buddies to hear the distinctive sound of Gileras, MV Agustas and Nortons.

Smiling as he recounted the early days, Neill said: “I remember it well, walking from the Old Park Road in a pair of water-boots with my mates. They were cutting the legs off me so I had to keep rolling them down bit by bit to stop them hurting,” he laughed.

“In those days we just threw ourselves in a hedge at the hairpin and watched the likes of John Surtees and John Hartle flying round. Those are the days that planted the seed and here I am back at Dundrod 50 years later as a team owner.”

Hector’s first victory as a team owner at Dundrod was with Ivor Greenwood on the Hector Neill Racing RG500, and as Hector admitted: “There was some celebrating after that win!

“We beat Tom Herron that day and everyone thought he had let Greenwood win because they were mates, but my wee RG was faster than Herron’s and Greenwood had it well covered,” beamed Hector in the UGP paddock, reminiscing like the win was fresh and not some 30-odd years ago.

Hector has also won races at Dundrod with great names such as Joey Dunlop, and in later years, when he returned to racing with his son Philip as team manager under the TAS Racing banner, the likes of Ian Lougher, David Jefferies, Adrian Archibald and Bruce Anstey.

Hector’s Tyco Suzuki team currently have William Dunlop and last year’s treble winner and TV celebrity Guy Martin in their rank and file for this week’s event — and going on previous results, the Hillsborough man is confident of grabbing victory action.

“Guy Martin is a man’s man and I can work with him the best,” said Neill, when questioned of Martin’s commitment. “I don’t see him as a celebrity; I see him as a bike rider. I haven’t watched his programmes,” he quipped.

“We do our deal every year with a handshake and that’s it,” added Neill, which explains why the Lincolnshire rider has been known to say he would be happy to end his career with Neill and his TAS Racing team.

Concluding, he said: “We have a strong team for this week’s Ulster Grand Prix with Guy and William Dunlop.

“Michael (Dunlop) always pulls something out of the bag, but both Martin and Willie have proved how good they are around Dundrod, and I’d love to see them both standing side by side on the podium in the big race.”

Thinking out loud, he added: “Now that would be something else.”

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