Yes, we know Ron is well-known and hardly ‘unsung’, but read on: Bertie Simmonds makes the case for Rocket Ron being knighted for the passion he’s put into motorcycling, despite the odds and some tragic personal losses.
It’s always those people who are quiet and unassuming whose talents and efforts get ignored, or passed over by those more willing to talk about themselves or big up their achievements.
I think this of Ron Haslam and I’m making a pitch for final recognition of the passion, dedication and sheer effort that Ron has put into motorcycle racing and two-wheels in general since he first took to the track back in 1972 at 15.
Since then he has seen all the highs and lows of racing. It must be bitter-sweet for Ron to love racing motorcycles but then have it also take from him two brothers: Phil in 1974 at Oliver’s Mount and Terry at Assen in a sidecar crash in 1984.
Ron was prolific, taking many British titles in the 1970s and 1980s, nine podium finishes in an eight-year grand prix career and TT success before coming home to race the iconic Norton in 1991, finishing the British Superbike series second. These results are all the more important when you realise he raced in an era of greats both home and abroad from the 1970s to the 1990s.
When he ‘quit’ racing, he spent time helping people’s careers. He and friend Robert Fearnall at Donington Park helped set up Team Great Britain with the aim of bringing on the cream of British riders, but this was just an extension of what he’d always been doing. Racers such as James Haydon and even triple BSB champ John Reynolds owe Ron a debt of gratitude.
With the Haslams, it’s always been a family affair and his rock has been wife Ann. In the past, she told me: “Sometimes I see Ron always helping people: he’d never say no and always gives of his time but I would think ‘don’t do that, we could charge people for that!’ But it’s because Ron is like that, so giving, that I love him. He would help anybody, he really would and he has.” Help extended (naturally) to his own son. Leon initially had a promising career in schoolboy motocross and got involved in two-wheels after mucking about on bikes at the farm in Smalley, Derbyshire. Ron said: “I really tried to stop him, to be honest. But he wasn’t having any of that. When he was doing motocross people thought I was giving him lots of attention, but he had to really make me help him, because I wanted him to do it for himself, not go racing to please me. When he broke his leg badly for a second time and had to be airlifted to hospital I tried to put him off, told him to play football instead.”
Leon was having none of it. And by 1997 he’d won the National Scooter Championship and in 1998 was a regular in the UK 125cc class. By now, Ron had seen Leon wanted it badly and backed his son to the hilt even dusting off his leathers to join the 125cc class in 1999.
Since 1996 Ron has given the opportunity for us all to experience the highs of going out on track at the Honda Ron Haslam Race School.
Ron really believes that going out on the track can help your riding — whatever you ride. He said: “It doesn’t matter what you ride out on the road, actually going out and experiencing your bike or any bike at the edges of its performance in relative safety on track is going to help your riding. I love seeing people suddenly get it right when I’m helping them ride smoother and faster. It makes you safer, too.”
Since starting the school, many thousands of road riders have been given training by Ron and his hand-picked cadre of instructors.
Others may have more titles, or an MBE, but for me, Ron Haslam is a true unsung hero.