70 years of Oliver's Mount racing: Special Feature
Revs are up this weekend for the 70th year running at England's only real road racing circuit. And it is right here on our doorstep.
While crowds flock excitedly as usual to Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount for the thrills – and even the spills – of the new season, kicking off this weekend with the Spring Cup, there is much more being celebrated behind the scenes,
2016 sees the 70th anniversary of motor-racing at Oliver’s Mount and also 50 years since the Auto 66 Club was formed – both of which have become steeped in local history and also the development of motorbike racing in this country.
While the original plan was to create a circuit for both cars and motorbikes it is the latter that is more synonymous with the 2.43-mile circuit nowadays.
And a flick through past programmes and entry lists reads like a who’s who in the motorcycling hall of fame.
From Geoff Duke, John Surtees, Bob McIntyre and Mike Hailwood in the very early days, fans of another era will also remember Mick Grant, Steve Hislop, Joey and Robert Dunlop, and former world champions in their respective classes, a certain Barry Sheene and Carl Fogarty.
Not forgetting some of the best riders from the continent such as Jarno Saarinen, who even in passive conversation now instils a sharp intake of breath as his eccentric riding style is recalled, and of course Giacomo Agostini.
These days Guy Martin, the second generation of Dunlop brothers William and Michael, and Ryan Farquhar always prove crowd pullers.
And there is a new line-up emerging also fighting for their place on the podium and essentially the history books – the likes of Ivan Lintin, James Cowton and Dean Harrison.
Each one will admit they used to peer through the fences because they weren’t old enough to see over them and that while all race overseas for the ‘big’ ones, the North West 200, the TT and the Ulster – they all have a sentimental affection for the Scarborough circuit.
Ian Lougher has taken the top step on the podium an incredible 132 times between his first race win at the 1989 Gold Cup on a 125cc and the 2013 Gold Cup.
He told the Scarborough News: “1985 was the first time I came to Oliver’s Mount, I was British Champion at the time and I enjoyed it but I was scared of it.
“There was no Farm Bends at the time and it took me a couple of years to get my head around it but there are some good memories and I have enjoyed going there.”
In a recent interview, reigning Cock O’ The North Champion, Dean Harrison, now with the Silicone Engineering team, said: “When I first watched Guy Martin I didn’t even race a motorbike. I used to stand at the fence at the hairpin in Scarborough. I couldn’t even see over it, I had to look through it.
“I was watching Ian Lougher, Dave Jefferies, Ivan Lintin...I remember all of that.”
It is this kind of recollection that prompts the man behind Oliver’s Mount and the Auto 66 Club to say, and justifiably so, that both organisations have had a massive influence on the careers of many a racer.
Peter Hillaby founded the Auto 66 Club on behalf of a group of lads that were into cars and bikes and had nowhere locally to ride other than Hull of Driffield.
Within three years the club had over 1,000 members and now hosts the four race meetings at Scarborough as well as rounds at Cadwell Park.
He said: “With us running club meetings at Cadwell that has got more locals interested. We are short of venues and because of that we have brought on a lot of future world champions and TT winners through the club.”
When asked what memory stands out over the years, Peter says: “In 1996, it had not happened anywhere before. We flew Agostini in by helicopter. When it arrived you could hear a pin drop and the banking was loaded but then there was just big applause.”
Despite being steeped in history, legacy and enough stories and anecdotes to fill a fair few history books – the future of Oliver’s Mount and road racing in Scarborough is moving with the times.
Step in Scott Beaumont, Peter’s nephew and world champion mountain bike racer who is driving social media and high profile sponsorship.
He said: “I have got my own racing which is not motorbikes but the thrill of speed and danger was instilled in me from a young age. But road racers – what they do is phenomenal, it is a jaw-dropping sport.
“The history of Oliver’s Mount is something incredible and to say we are England’s only road racing circuit is something we are extremely proud of. For our anniversary we have all the top riders coming to the four events this year and it is a very exciting time.”