Home » The Motorbike Mavericks: Documentary examines position of NI engineering pioneers in highway racing

The Motorbike Mavericks: Documentary examines position of NI engineering pioneers in highway racing

A one-hour documentary to be broadcast by BBC Northern Eire will study the position performed by engineering pioneers from Northern Eire within the sport of motorbike highway racing.

Made by DoubleBand Movies, ‘The Motorbike Mavericks’ airs on Tuesday 20 September at 22:40 BST on BBC One NI and BBC iPlayer.

Street racing is synonymous with Northern Eire and this programme explains how engineers labored in backyard sheds and workshops to tackle the world within the quest for velocity.

Supported by Northern Eire Display’s Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund, the movie reveals how that reference to highway racing has been formed for the reason that wheels of trade put Ulster on the map.

Whereas racers have been making historical past for 100 years there’s one other story working alongside – the need to know how the motorbike works, to make it go higher and go sooner.

Introduced by photographer and journalist Stephen Davison, who has been chronicling the game and capturing the motorcycling household on movie for greater than 30 years, The Motorbike Mavericks tells how individuals from Northern Eire, many with an Ulster-Scots background, turned pioneers in highway racing.

Stephen takes viewers on the journey that united engineering innovators and racers for nearly a century.

Earlier than there was highway racing, there was sand racing

With Ulster’s industrial heritage, it is not stunning that the curiosity in equipment led to a ardour for bikes and sparked a want to innovate.

However earlier than there was highway racing, there was sand racing. Stephen catches up with John Scott and David Boyd on Benone Strand with one of many bikes which might have raced there when sand racing first occurred in 1911.

With the creation of Northern Eire in 1921, a brand new alternative arose for these in energy and people racing lovers.

The Ulster Grand Prix was proposed by racing fan and entrepreneur Harry Ferguson with the backing of recent Northern Eire First Minister, James Craig.

The unprecedented sporting occasion could be a possibility Craig wouldn’t move by. Ferguson wrote that the occasion would entice an infinite variety of individuals to the nation and profit each trade.

Motorbike highway racing was rising as a well-liked sport. And never only for males. Stephen talks to 2 of at this time’s main ladies racers, Melissa Kennedy and Yvonne Montgomery, reflecting on trailblazer Muriel Hind who was the primary girl to compete in an Irish motorbike occasion.

Stephen visits the unique Clady circuit, residence of the Ulster Grand Prix.

Stephen Davison with Dick Creith
Stephen Davison pictured with Dick Creith who gained the 500cc Ulster Grand Prix in 1965

He follows the trail of a few of our most profitable riders together with Joe Craig who would go on to better success as supervisor of the manufacturing facility Norton group – among the finest on this planet.

Additionally working with the group within the late ’40s was self-taught engineer and designer, Rex McCandless, from Hillsborough – the inventor of the game-changing ‘Featherbed Body’.

Norton destroyed the opposition on the Isle of Man TT in 1950 and McCandless would change motorbike racing design for many years to return.

Native riders and engineers continued to hunt success. By the early Nineteen Sixties, Italian and Japanese equipment had been starting to dominate. However a Bushmills farmer, Richard Creith, using a Norton tuned by Ballyclare fire salesman and fitter, Joe Ryan, proved that the well-known marque might nonetheless compete – successful two North West 200s and the Ulster Grand Prix in 1965.

That yr, a motorcycling fanatic from Larne, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Queen’s College Belfast, Gordon Blair, turned concerned in Irish highway racing.

The college designed and constructed the machines yielding large success.

Stephen meets one among Blair’s college students, Robert Fleck and ex-rider Ray McCullough.

The group at Queen’s would go on to develop a partnership with Yamaha to assist develop their engines. Robert himself would go on to develop into Professor of the Mechanical Engineering division and take the College to a worldwide viewers competing in Grand Prix racing with rider Jeremy McWilliams.

Stephen Davison and Jeremy McWilliams
Stephen Davison and Jeremy McWilliams

Ardour handed from era to era

However with success there typically comes tragedy. Some have paid a heavy value within the sport – none greater than the Dunlop household from Ballymoney. Stephen meets Jim Dunlop from the well-known racing dynasty to seek out out the place they realized their mechanical data and skill to arrange and tune their very own equipment and their ardour for motorbike racing.

The eagerness for motorbike racing has additionally been handed from era to era in one other well-known racing dynasty from Larne. Stephen talks to six-time World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea, son of Johnny Rea – TT and Irish championship winner.

Stephen Davison has been a fan of motorbike sport since he attended his first race in 1974 and is the writer of 9 books on the topic.

He mentioned: “Lengthy earlier than I ever picked up a digicam I had heard of the nice racers who hailed from this a part of the world prior to now. Making The Motorbike Mavericks has allowed me to dig a lot deeper into that wealthy historical past and uncover the massive influence they made on the worldwide stage.

“Studying books about figures like legendary Norton group boss, Joe Craig, sensible engineers corresponding to Rex McCandless and Joe Ryan or nice riders like Joey Dunlop is one factor however assembly historians and individuals who knew them personally has introduced their personalities and legacies to life.

“Seeing the machines they designed, exploring the circuits they raced on and listening to the tales of legends corresponding to Dick Creith, Ray McCullough, Jeremy McWilliams and Jonathan Rea has been thrilling. And right here and there alongside the best way I even received to have a go on a motorbike myself!”