History 1929 – 1950

In their new and ambitious venture The Derry and District Motor Club, were staunchly supported by officials involved in the running of the, by then, well established, Ulster Grand Prix. Their expertise was put to good use in time keeping and general marshalling duties. As the officials took their places and the riders and machines began to file from the paddock and onto the track, it was obvious that not all the thirty- five entrants had made it to the line.

Due to the non-arrival of his OK Supreme, Tommy Stewart was relegated to the role of marshal, and Belfast riders J Carson and E Brooks also failed to take their places. J McKane, a local rider from the nearby village of Dervock, was amongst the list of non-starters. Whilst practicing on the course the previous evening, McKane was thrown from his machine after colliding with a car at Dhu Varren. He suffered a broken arm and leg, as well as serious facial injuries. As the field of thirty-one starters awaited the starter’s flag, McKane was beginning his recovery in Portrush. Hopefield Hospital.

As the Union Jack and Irish Tricolor, flown in honour of the six competitors from Eire, fluttered in the southerly breeze over the expectant gathering, the writer in the Belfast News Letter, 22.4.29, commented that, “The scene at the start resembled a miniature Grand Prix.”

At precisely 1pm the starter, Mr. W Simms, sent the first three riders on their way. Belfast rider W Sullivan, took over the ride on George McIntyre’s 250cc New Imperial at the last minute, and he was first man through Magherabuoy at the end of lap one, closely followed by A McIntyre on the little Abingdon.

As they started, McCracken and Dolan had a coming together, the one slowing the other as they began the 200 miles.

Coleraine rider Malcolm McQuigg, was the first man to complete the second lap, and by that stage it looked like he had a fighting chance of making up the two laps he had conceded to McIntyre on handicap.

As the clock ran down, E G Lammey got away on his Rex Acme on 38 minutes. S A Crabtree followed on 26 minutes on his 246cc Excelsior. On 19 minutes J W Shaw joined the fray, riding a 349cc Norton, and a minute later W H T Meagean set off down the hill on his 346cc JAP.

C W Johnston (498cc Cotton-Blackburn), started on a minute. Thirty seconds later Percy “Tim” Hunt and Ernie Nott, both on board 490cc Nortons, left together. Another thirty seconds passed before the “scratch men”, Stanley Woods (490cc Norton), and HG Tyrell Smith (499cc Rudge-Whitworth), finally took up their challenge against the clock, and the 29 men on the road ahead of them. Their starts were equally poor, and they lost valuable time straight away.

Tyrell Smith was back in the pits at the end of lap one. Frantic adjustments were made to the big Rudge’s steering, and over two minutes lost before Tyrell Smith changed goggles, and pulled away, knowing he had a mountain ahead of him to climb.

Woods’ suffered even worse fortune. After what seemed like an eternity, the Dubliner pushed home to complete his first and only lap. He retired at the pits with ignition problems.

After six laps, one third race distance, the top eight positions:
1. A McIntyre 57 min 25 sec
2. M McQuigg 1 hr 15 min 3 sec
3. J Woodside 1 hr 9 min 6 sec
4. E G Lammey 1 hr 11 min 57 secv
5. WJ McCracken 1 hr 3 min 8 sec
6. SA Crabtree 1 hr 8 min 44 sec
7. WHT Meagen 1 hr 2 min 19 sec
8. JW Shaw 1 hr 4 min 35 sec

As the miles reeled by, Hunt and Tyrell Smith had found their rhythm, and upped their pace with each circuit. Hunt completed his first lap in 9 min 58 sec. His time for lap four was 9 min 25 sec. The race was on.

Dublin rider T G Byrne had had his handicap reduced from 17 minutes to 10 minutes, as the grid had assembled. By the midway point it was irrelevant. Lack of spark saw him join a list of retirements that included Chas Brockerton, who’s 348cc AJS expired at Blackhill, on lap one, with just over a mile of the two hundred completed. Also out were Stanley Woods, FJ Drummond, J Gordon, RG Corry, and SA Crabtree who had at time held a place in the top six. George Brockerton’s challenged had also ended on the third lap, with a broken con rod.

As the race approached half distance, it was clear that the fastest man on the road was Hunt. His average time for the laps was 68.77 mph, but the handicap placed him only eighth on the leader board. Hunt was one place above J Gordon Burney, who was turning in a stunning ride on a Royal Enfield that would only select one gear from lap one.

Burney had almost failed to make it to the start at all. Whilst completing an early morning sighting lap, he had discovered a broken clutch spring. Last minute repairs allowed him to make the start by the skin of his teeth.

By lap 11, C W Johnston was out, sidelined with a burst oil union. By the end of the lap Hunt’s name would also join the steadily growing, list of retirements.

As the race entered it’s second half, an unexpected, additional hazard developed, as the dry, whin bushes at Blackhill, caught fire. The gorse bank was quickly ablaze, and now the riders relied on blind faith as they drove on through a pall of dense smoke, that hung and drifted across the road. Speculation amongst the crowds at Magherabuoy looking down on the town was rife as to the cause of the added drama.