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Memories galore on two wheels in labour of love

 

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Super Seeley: Alistair Seeley just one of the Ulster greats profiled in Ulster Road Racing in Focus - Volume 2

Super Seeley: Alistair Seeley just one of the Ulster greats profiled in Ulster Road Racing in Focus - Volume 2

Tommy Robb at the North West 200 in the 1960s

Tommy Robb at the North West 200 in the 1960s

Legend: The late, great Tom Herron is featured in Eddie Mateer’s book

Legend: The late, great Tom Herron is featured in Eddie Mateer’s book

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Super Seeley: Alistair Seeley just one of the Ulster greats profiled in Ulster Road Racing in Focus - Volume 2

Motorcycle racing has been ingrained in the hearts and minds of local people for well over a century and, as Lisburn man Eddie Mateer writes in his latest book, The History of Ulster Road Racing in Focus - Volume 2: "Ulster tarmac racing has been second to none and has laid a trail of great riders who will be remembered for many years to come."

Mateer, an ex-Stranmillis College teacher and, like many before him, drawn to the sport by his father, Sammy, went on to cover motorcycle sport as a reporter for his local newspaper which eventually became a platform to produce Ulster Road Racing in Focus first produced in 1994 initially to help fund the racing exploits of his son David (now a football referee in the Manchester area).

David's claim to fame was once beating future MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner in a 125cc race at Brands Hatch.

Now, 26 years later, Eddie has self-funded and produced a second extensive 220-page hardback book including a treasure trove of superb photographs and editorial reflecting on tarmac racing, the personalities and fans from all our yesterdays right up until the modern era, including those who have travelled abroad to bring glory back to our local shores.

The book not only features the household names but also the unsung heroes without whom there wouldn't be any racing - those with the money and those who scrape by week on week just to go racing.

"Remember motorcycle racers are the only sportsmen and women who pay to entertain the public," Eddie says in his closing statement.

The front cover, and rightly so in my opinion, is adorned by our four World Champions - Ralph Bryans (1965 50cc champion), Joey Dunlop (five-times TT F1 champion between 1982 and 1986), Brian Reid (1985 and 1986 TT F2 champion) and now six-time World Superbike champion (2015-2020) Jonathan Rea. Yes, our wee country certainly punches above its weight when it comes to motorcycle racing.

On a more sombre note, Eddie also points out: "Unfortunately some of our racing idols are not with us anymore, but that makes our content even more valuable to have because we owe them all a large debt for their many years of entertainment through their time with us."

This is a publication filled from front to back with great pictures and stories of Ulster motorcycle racing including classics such as the return of the Ulster Grand Prix in 1947 after the second World War and Honda's early adventures into racing, Frantisek (Franta) Stastny and Jawa 1965 UGP 350cc winner and tiddlers teamwork (50/80cc racing), including a story of a young Robert Dunlop who joined the Irish Match race team on their trip to Carnaby, near Bridlington to do battle with their Anglo counterparts, causing mayhem along the way.

There are articles and pictures on redundant race tracks, a Dromara Destroyers tribute, while Tom Herron, Super Seeley, Jonathan Rea, the Laverty dynasty, Norman Brown, Alan Irwin and Len Ireland are among the plethora of competitors acknowledged in this fascinating book.

Ireland, in particular, a highly respected star of the 1950s and 60s, has a great recall of names, events and incidents in his career - a story racing enthusiasts will really enjoy.

Tommy Robb recalls his first Ulster Grand Prix in 1957 on Terry Hills' 250cc NSU and his return to Dundrod in 2017 as a guest of Ulster Road Racing in Focus witnessing the improvements made to the Dundrod circuit and its facilities.

In Tommy's words from 2017: "It still is a thrill for me to visit, 60 years after my first race around these very special 'Ulster Roads' which still feed speed to the masses of riders and race lovers." Tommy was the winner of the 1962 250cc UGP on a works Honda.

Does anyone remember scooter racing at Nutts Corner?

Twenty-five years ago, Billy Nutt and the Coleraine Club introduced a 'one-off' scooter racing event to the province and two pages are dedicated to this meeting where Lambrettas and Vespas replaced the Yamahas and Hondas for a day.

Motorcycle road racing has always had issues surrounding it and Jim McCullagh, a keen motorcycle historian and former racer in the 1970s and 80s asks the questions: Road Racing - Why? Which road do we take?

Eddie Mateer himself raises the second big issue point: "It's 20 years ago since an article I penned appeared in Issue 14 of Ulster Racing in Focus.

"It might as well have been 100 years as the only thing to have moved forward has been the clock - with not a sign of the proposed 'Phantom Race Track' promised and talked about by almost every outlet in the country."

There is page upon page of picture montages entitled Faces at the Races, No Show Without The Sheriff, Picture Post, Who Stole The Fun, photographer Rowland White's Faces Remembered, Only Kids Play, Ulster Grand Prix through the looking glass (lens), a three-page Joey Dunlop montage and Pride of Ulster page that has Mick Chatterton from Barnsley included (of course Mick has been a stalwart of racing here over four decades as John Bell recalls in a separate article).

John also features in an in-depth look into the exploits of Moira's Bell Brothers (John, Gordon, Brian and Freddie) who left their mark in motorcycle racing

Mervyn Whyte, the 90th Anniversary of the North West 200 and Alastair Seeley on the North Coast, all feature in what is an almanac of racing, as do Geoff Duke, Bill Smith, Tommy Robb, Ian Lougher, Paul Cranston, Patricia Fernandez, Ulster racing abroad, riders not forgotten and of course Peter Hickman's 2019 Ulster Grand Prix Bike Week's dismantling of the Dundrod course - seven wins from seven starts, an absolute lap record of 136.415mph, reinstating the Ulster as the current fastest circuit in the world.

As the headline says: Simply the best, better than all the rest.

I'll leave the last word to Eddie: "This was a labour of love and putting it all together brought back many memories."

The History of Ulster Road Racing in Focus - Volume 2, is one book that should not be missing from your collection but it can only be bought from Ulster Speed Promotions Ltd, 6 Parkland Avenue, Lisburn, BT28 3JW or by phone on 028 92 664366, e-mail ulsterspeed@btinternet.com or via Facebook.

Belfast Telegraph


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