Classic Festival boost to motorcycling heritage
The first ever Go Irish Classic Festival took place last weekend at Bishopscourt race circuit and thousands of fans witnessed one of the best ever weekends of motorcycle history in action.
In a bold move by organisers, Robin Titterington and multi North West 200 and IoM TT winner Philip McCallen put together a fantastic festival of our racing heritage, both with bikes and riders, headed by the former 350 World champion, South African Jon Ekerold.
A heavy shower of rain on Saturday afternoon failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the large crowd of spectators. This festival is something this wee country has been crying out for. Across the globe we have the infamous Goodwood festival, the large gathering at Spa in Belgium and the forthcoming Isle of Man Classic Festival, so it is only fair that a country which has so much heritage on motorcycling should have their own classic festival.
On show were bikes such as those ridden by the late Joey Dunlop, Tom Herron and Gene McDonnell. Other bikes of note included works Yamahas, Kawasakis and Suzukis as ridden by messers Kenny Roberts, Mick Grant and Roger Marshall.
A stable of bikes owned by Joe Millar and ridden by Con Law, to name but a few, were also on display, as well as the bikes raced by another Joe Millar-sponsored rider, Eddie Laycock and his LayLaw team.
On track we had the infamous RC45 Honda as raced by Joey Dunlop, and ridden by his son, Gary Dunlop, and Philip McCallen. McCallen also paraded the City R1 Yamaha, which was the last bike he rode before he retired from racing.
The Irish Classic Superbike guys had all their team in action, including bikes as raced by the team in the Australian Classic series last year. Scotland's Ian Simpson was in action on his Honda Britain RC45 and was putting in some very respectable laps. In fact, despite this bike being a 750, his lap times would see him qualifying for USBK races.
Also in action was fellow countryman Robbie Burns on his Yamaha, reminiscing the glory days of the 250 and 350 two stroke racing bikes included riders such as Gerry Brennan, reunited with his 250 Cleaver Browne EMC, Alan Caughey, former 125 road racing champion who was reunited with his 250 Honda. Assistant Clerk of the Course for the North West 200, Stanleigh Murry, was back in action on two wheels for the first time since he retired from racing in the 90s, The McClenaghan brothers Stephen and Mark were out on various Yamahas, including the legendary TZ 750 Yamaha.
Trevor Scott rode the ex TT winning 750 Rea Yamaha, as ridden by many of our top riders over the years including Joey Dunlop, Alan Irwin, Mark Farmer, Courtney Junk to name but a few. Manx rider Dave Madsen Mydgal was in action on his 500 RG Suzuki, as was well-known commentator Geoff McMullan.
Former classic rider Billy Keenan was in action on the ex Sam McClements 1,000 Suzuki, better known to many as Sue Ellen, while Lewis McClements, grandson of the late Sam McClements, was also in action on his 500 Honda.
Star guest Jon Ekerold rode a 500 RG Suzuki similar to what he rode to second place in the Senior TT, and he spoke of his delight to be back in Northern Ireland. He also was amazed by the knowledge that the Irish fans had of his racing exploits.
I am sure that I speak for many when I say a big thank-you to the festival organizers, Robin Titterington and Philip McCallen, for having the foresight to bring such a unique festival to our own shores.
Both these men are off to the Classic TT at the end of the month, where they will start preparing for a similar event next year. Unfortunately, this year's event clashed with a similar event at Donington Park.
Let's hope that this could be the start of a revival as we need to make sure that our racing heritage is never forgotten.
Keep 'er lit!