Dynamic Duos

David E Langford Continues his series on heroes who have inspired his work Oxfordshire motorsport

One of the finest examples of motorsport journalism ever written was by ex-world sidecar champion and editor of Motor Sport magazine, Denis Jenkinson, describing his winning car ride with Stirling Moss during the 1955 Mille Miglia road race in Italy.

Ranking alongside 'Jenks' for journalistic excellence is the account by the well known Oxford journalist and broadcaster Nick Harris. in his superb book The Motocourse History of the TT Races: 1907-1989. published by Hazleton (ISBN: 0-905138-71-6).

Nick recalls his own experience of riding sidecar with Swindon's four times TT winner Trevor Ireson during practice for the 1981 Isle of Man TT. Here is a brief description from his book as the pair make the rapid descent from the mountain section of the course:

'...coming Out of the Creg, Trevor looked down, grinned and indicated< to hang on because he was going to give it the works

...for the first time he burst the 750 Yamaha motor to over 11,000 rpm, a speed of about 150 mph in top gear, and we rocketed down to Brandish, where the braking for the corner caused me more pain and problems than the speed down the straight'.

Here the reader should be reminded that a sidecar passenger has no seat belt or safety harness, he or she relies on sheer strength to hold on to the grips that are strategically placed around the outfit. The acrobatics required to stabilize the machine around fast corners has to be seen to be believed.

My illustration (left) shows Nick and Trevor rounding the right hand corner at the Quarter Bridge Hotel. My grateful thanks go to Nick for giving permissson to use his book, his vivid account brought back memories of driving the TT course on numerous occasions in the past, although not at quite the same speed.

When I interviewed Denis Jenkinson at Prescott Hillclimb in 1991 he was well past retirement age, but still fit enough to ride his 750 Triumph/BSA at record speeds. We recalled his sidecar racing days as passenger to the great Eric Oliver when they became the first ever world champions in that category in 1949.

The world of road racing being a small close knit community it was interesting to discover that Eric Oliver's nephew, Alan Peck, was our instructor when I first enrolled at the Tom Kirby racing school at Brands Hatch in 1970. Alan was also a talented author who wrote the biography of the late Bill Ivy entitled No time to lose. Bill was a much loved world champion for the Yamaha factory in the l96Os. Tom Kirby was Mike Hailwood's sponsor on many occasions. 'Uncle' Tom was strict but fair and always first to hand round his king size cigarettes during the post-race assessment, regardless of performance ratings. Tom also sponsored sidecar driver Terry Vinnicombe for a number of years with a BSA 650 engine unit. After seeing boxing commentator Harry Carpenter as well as John Noakes of Blue Peter riding as sidecar passengers, I decided to try it Out and arranged to meet local driver W R (Rick) Turner at a Mallory Park test day.

Unfortunately carburettor problems on his 900cc Honda outfit cut short the lesson, but it was an interesting experience while it lasted (see photo).

Earlier this year amid a deafening silence from the media. Steve Webster MBE was presented with a lifetime achievement award for winning a total of TEN world championships in grand prix sidecar racing.

This unassuming Englishman is the most successful sidecar driver in the history of a sport that was traditionally dominated by German and Swiss drivers; colourful characters like Florian Camathias, Max Deubel and that brilliant innovator Helmut Fath.

Fath's home-built sidecar engine the fabulous U.R.S or 'Fath Four', was also used in a solo machine and recently offered for auction at Bonhams for an estimated 130,000-160,000.

A radical designer, engineer and driver, Fath was a genius who achieved the almost impossible task of winning with his own machine after building it from scratch. Steve Webster had a great deal to live up to, but managed to surpass his forerunners with great dignity.

Wrongly perceived as a 100 per cent male dominated sport, motorcycle road racers have never had any problem sharing the track with female opponents. Sidecar racing is no exception and teams frequently include both male and female crews.

Two Stars from the 19605 were Norman Hanks and Rose Arnold, in the 1990s. husband and wife team Denis and Julia Bingham were constantly placed high in the results of the TT races. It would be good to see other sports exhibiting the same level of tolerance.


• For commissions and details of DE Langford's work tel: 01865 434359
October 2006 Oxfordshire Limited Edition 57