• Tue. May 21st, 2024

Ron’s happy memories of motorcycle scrambling


Oct 11, 2022

In the 1950s, Oxfordshire could boast one of the finest motorcycle scramble circuits in the UK.

Who says so? None other than Ron Slater, former rider who, at the age of 96, still remembers almost every race he competed in.

He has sent in these pictures from the early 1950s capturing the thrills that riders from the Oxford Ixion club gave to hundreds of spectators over the years.

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Many readers will remember the fine local course Ron is talking about – it was at Shotover Park at Headington.

He recalls: “It attracted large crowds of spectators and in 1951, was selected to host the southern leg of the annual North v South scramble.

“In those days, courses were really tough, not like today where they are man-made. Our machines were heavy by today’s standards and therefore pretty hard to handle over a 30-minute race. My own machine was a 500cc BSA, quite a handful.”

Picture 1 shows the Oxford team which beat Cambridge in 1950 – left to right, Pip Barrett, Alan Cole, John Draper, John Keeley, John Avery, Dave Curtis, Jack Stocker and Ron Slater.

Photo: Oxford Mail

In Picture 2, Ron has the edge on Dave Curtis at Shotover Park, while Picture 3, taken after a race at Brands Hatch, shows Ron, left, who finished second, with Doug Wheeler, centre, who was third, and the race winner, international Harold Lines.

Photo: Oxford Mail

Ron is seen in Picture 4 on a muddy day at the 1950 Lancashire Grand National at Holcombe Moor.

Photo: Oxford Mail

He writes: “It was a 30-mile race with 100 starters. John Avery and I travelled together in his little Austin A40 pick-up. I finished 21st and John was second.”.

Picture 5 shows Ron in action at Brill.

In Picture 6, we see how it all began – after Ron volunteered to join the RAF in 1943 and trained as a motorcyclist. He is on the left with Gordon Gerring, of Carterton, in Singapore in 1945.

Photo: Oxford Mail

He writes: “I started work in a garage age 14, serving petrol, repairing punctures and sweeping up, but working on motorcycles was always my aim.

“I trained as an RAF motorcyclist for all kinds of duties, convoy escort and much off-road riding. I loved the off-road bits and on pass-out, topped the entry with 89.6 per cent.

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“By Christmas 1944, l was in India still riding motorcycles and in August 1945, was among the first to set foot in Singapore for the reoccupation. The RAF and motorcycles off road gave me the desire to be a motorcycle scrambles racer.”

Ron continued in the motor trade during his working career, running the BMW dealership at junction seven of the M40 near Milton Common.

He also kept in touch with the motocross scene as a race commentator, with his son Ian as his No 2.

“We were quite successful and did a number of British Championship 125/250/500cc rounds plus the icing on the cake, the 1980 and 1981 British rounds of the World Sidecar Championship.

“I am still above ground at age 96 and remember almost every race I competed in. I wish l could do it all again. I loved every minute of it.”

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.ffrench@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF