“It is an absolutely superb effort which will enshrine the North West 200 forever in history. It is now the best motorcycle racing book in my vast collection,” says five-time NW 200 winner, between 1959 and 1965, Tommy Robb about a newly published book charting the 90-year history of the event between 1929 and 2019.
The brainchild of Limavady man Ian Foster, who now lives and works in Hong Kong, NW 200 90th Road and Race is a unique design with a raft of never before seen colour and black and white images from decades gone by, sourced from a variety of individuals and libraries.
Accompanying words detail each year chronologically and then when you think you have reached the end, you are led into a ‘Scrapbook of Images’ of people and their machines from around the province that blend in extremely well with the racing element of the book.
Racing greats Stanley Woods, Jimmy Guthrie, Ernie Lyons, Artie Bell, Geoff Duke, Bob McIntyre, Sammy Miller, Tommy Robb, Dick Creith and Ralph Bryans through to the Dunlops, race wins record holder Alastair Seeley with 24, Tony and Michael Rutter, Bruce Anstey and Jeremy McWilliams, to name but a few, are all in this remarkable publication plus many, many more, some you will remember, some you will not.
Foster, an architect and urban designer, takes up the story behind the book, saying: “There has been a North West 200 Classic Bike Show at the old Town Hall in Limavady for the past three years displaying our classic bikes, attracting some of the tens of thousands of visitors, who flock to the North Coast for the races and bringing trade to our local businesses.
“I had gathered a collection of old local photos that were displayed beside the classic bikes and had a thought that it would be possible to collate these into a book to be sold to raise funds for the North West 200 and charity.
“Originally, I was going to write the Road section and get race chief Mervyn Whyte’s team to write the Race section, but no volunteer could be found and I ended up with the unenviable task of writing the whole book — talk about landing myself in it!
“I was just a keen enthusiast of my local race, growing up in Limavady. I have learned so much from the research and interviewing riders from through the decades that this became a very interesting project.”
Over a year and a half in the making, this self-published book is now available with all proceeds from sales going to the NW 200.
According to Ian: “During the lockdown in Hong Kong from February, I had two solid months to get the book completed. Then with the cancellation of the North West this year our marketing strategy was floored, but luckily the book won’t be outdated next year. All being well we will have a proper formal launch at the North West in 2021.”
The book can be purchased now from various outlets in Armoy, Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush, the North West organising Coleraine Motorcycle Club or via firstname.lastname@example.org priced at £36 plus postage and packaging.
This may seem expensive, but for the 485-page 2-in-1 hardbound book comprehensively charting the history of Northern Ireland’s most prestigious road race, it is well worth the outlay in my book as it is a real collector’s item and a credit to author and publisher Ian Foster.