Ask Ron Young

Ron, Thank you for agreeing to answer a few question for the many fans that still remember you.

1:         On a recent discussion on the forum about Left Hand Sidecar racers, you and the late Bob Penn, were nominated as the greatest L/H sidecar crew of all time. After so many years in retirement from the sport, how do you react to the fans nomination?

A:        I am completely ‘gob smacked’ by the reaction to our grass track days, and wish to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all the fans. We had some very loyal fans, and I recall one elderly gentleman who used to appear at various meetings, shake my hand, and give me a five pound note (a lot of money in those days) He said it was the best afternoon’s entertainment and worth every penny!

2:         You started racing in 1958 on a 500JAP aged just 19. What do you recall of those early meetings, and were you underpowered?

A:        We really did not know what to expect and whilst Bob (Penn- passenger) had been racing before it was an interesting learning curve for me, and yes we were definitely underpowered on the JAP.    

3:         You rode mainly in the South East Centre for seven years before retiring from the sport in 1965 aged 26. Why did you retire so young?

A:        By 1965 we felt that we had achieved as much as we could. We had won several Championships, with the exception of 1961 when we came a very close second to John & Frank Shears. Also at that time there was considerable discussion about changing to R/H racing. I must say that Bob and I did not have much interest in R/H racing, and as Bob once said ‘You could do better without me’ and he was probably right! In our opinion it was a bit like running Speedway clockwise with a pillion passenger.

4:         After the JAP you switched to a 650 Triumph. Who built the frame for that successful outfit?

A:        We purchased a Norton Featherbed frame, but I cannot recall what type of front forks we used. We managed to fit the Triumph engine and a Norton gearbox into it, and our local motorcycle shop made the sidecar frame with an adjustable wheel assembly. Basically you could slide the sidecar wheel backwards and forwards, and this proved very successful. In 1963 we modified the frame so we could sit lower down and the engine was tilted at a 45-degree angle. We had front forks specially made with a sliding spindle, so that you could adjust the wheel backwards and forwards, and once again was a huge success.

5:            According to my records, you were the SE L/H Champion for four consecutive years 1960/61/62/63. Who were your main opposition in those days?

A:        I think everybody was, especially in the Handicap races (or Devil Take the Hindmost as the late Bill Chesson called it) 12 laps of hell. In the scratch races I think I would say The Shears Brothers, but there were lots that got in the way (especially George Cross) particularly in the Handicaps. Hilton Woodrow who calculated the timings was always about 90% right.

6:         Why did you ride No 111 and have a cloverleaf on your helmets?

A:        At the first meeting we were number 11. Originally I painted number one on the bike but Bob said we were ‘pushing our luck’. I think in 1958 we applied for a particular meeting and out number came back as 111, and the rest is history.

With regard to the cloverleaf, one day I was working in a field on a farm-mowing machine and found a four-leaf clover. Then when Bob was painting the helmets he asked about a design and I mentioned the cloverleaf, as simple as that!

7:         You were online to cause an upset in the Nationals at Pinvin in 1962, after winning your semi-final, much as Freddie French had done in 1959 at Ely. What went wrong?

A:        We were on course for a R/H win at the Nationals in 1962. I think that we got ‘lucky’ winning the semi-final, but in the Final we were running third on the last lap and were extremely close to the guy in front. As we went through the last bend, his motor was misfiring and unfortunately we hit the back of his outfit and went skywards. Not only did it damage our bike, and our pride, but I also broke my wrist!

8:         You & Bob won the ‘Grand Slam’ at Rhodes Minnis in 1961. How did you rate that track?

A:        We always went well on the various occasions that we were there. We rode both L/H & R/H there, and it was quite an easy track as it was quite smooth. Unfortunately there were a couple of bad accidents there involving John Shears and of course Brian Stibbs. The untimely death of Brian came as a great shock, as we were riding at Pulborough on that day.

9:         Your main opposition in the SE Centre came from The Shears Bros (444) and the late Brian Stibbs (351) Did you enjoy the tussles you had with them, and was it always ‘clean’?

A:        Yes. John & Frank together with Brian, and others like Frank Barwick and Alan Smith. There were several outfits that went very well in their day and a high degree of competitiveness and comradeship. Should you encounter any sort problem, you could always be sure of help from fellow competitors. There may have been a lot of expletives in the paddock, but there was also lots of laughter!

10:       Do you attend any meeting nowadays, and if so who do you rate of the ‘new’ boys?

A:        In a word NO, although I have been invited by Graham Hurry to go to Rhodes Minnis. It’s nice to see how it is done these days, but I feel that it is not quite the same experience. When you see the passengers leaning over the sidecar wheel it looks like sidecar racing, but R/H is not as thrilling for me. I understand that there are no longer Handicap or Pursuit races, and apparently they even water the tracks now!!!

Thank you Ron for talking to me, it was a pleasure, which I am sure others, will enjoy reading about.  


John Toogood

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