Un­der the Chequered Flag Jack Ahearn

Old Bike Australasia - - UNDER THE CHEQUERED FLAG -

and Se­nior races. But the time spent at home had failed to cure him of the wan­der­lust, and by early 1958 he and wife Betty were on the high seas again, bound for Eng­land. Jack had come to an ar­range­ment with the AMC fac­tory whereby he would re­ceive a 350cc 7R AJS and as­sist with the de­vel­op­ment of the new 500cc Match­less G50 – a works ride at last. His de­but on the G50, which was still in the ex­per­i­men­tal stage, was in the 1958 Se­nior TT, where he strug­gled to 29th place with a dis­in­te­grat­ing gear­box. Re­turn­ing home at the end of a fairly dis­ap­point­ing sea­son, it seemed Jack’s Euro­pean ad­ven­ture had fi­nally run its course. With the Bri­tish fac­to­ries drift­ing in­ex­orably to­wards obliv­ion and the Ital­ian works teams (with the ex­cep­tion of MV Agusta) pulling out of rac­ing at the end of 1957, the whole face of in­ter­na­tional sport was chang­ing. At 34 years of age, Jack was no longer a fired-up young­ster, and for the next four years he set­tled into some­thing re­sem­bling a nor­mal life, con­fin­ing him­self to var­i­ous races around Aus­tralia. Not that he was idle; he col­lected a bunch of Aus­tralian Speed Records at Coon­abarabran, and took out the cov­eted Bathurst Se­nior three years on the trot 1959-1961. But by 1962 he could no longer re­sist the temp­ta­tion to chance his arm again in Europe, and set off once again to col­lect a pair of new Nor­tons. Pick­ing up where he left off, he again rep­re­sented Aus­tralia at the TT, fin­ish­ing 12th in the Ju­nior. As he nudged 40 years of age, Jack seemed to be rid­ing bet­ter than ever, to the point that he was given a trial on the Ge­off Duke-run Gil­era 500 squad at Monza. Then in 1964 Suzuki of­fered him a ride on the fast but flawed four-cylin­der 250 – a mo­tor­cy­cle that Jack said was the best he ever rode. He took things care­fully dur­ing TT prac­tice, run­ning in the Suzuki and get­ting the mix­ture cor­rect, but crashed on a damp patch in the race and ended up in No­bles Hos­pi­tal with a head in­jury. But de­spite this set­back, 1964 was Jack’s best-ever year, scor­ing his first and only 500cc Grand Prix win in Fin­land, and fin­ish­ing run­nerup to Mike Hail­wood’s all-con­quer­ing MV in the 500cc World Cham­pi­onship. He called time on his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer at the end of 1966 and headed home. For the first time in his life Jack had a ‘real’ job, run­ning his own mo­tor­cy­cle busi­ness on Vic­to­ria Road, West Ryde, as well as con­tin­u­ing to race lo­cally, and quite suc­cess­fully too. The pres­sure of run­ning the shop did not sit well with him how­ever, and he soon sold it to in­dus­try per­son­al­ity and part-time ac­tor Lester Mor­ris. To oc­cupy his time, and make ends meet, Jack be­gan a ca­sual work­ing re­la­tion­ship with car dealer Chris Mitchell, cre­at­ing a friend­ship that en­dured the rest of his life. “He was the best sales­man I ever had,” says Chris, “pro­vided he showed up for work, which he some­times did not.” When the Pro­duc­tion Rac­ing boom be­gan around 1970, Jack joined in, com­pet­ing in the Cas­trol Six Hour race at Ama­roo Park each year un­til 1974. That year, he en­tered a Nor­ton Com­mando In­ter­state with Chris Mitchell as the nom­i­nated co-rider. He reck­oned that the Nor­ton’s abil­ity to need only two fuel stops would be a fac­tor at the fin­ish, but he only made it to half dis­tance, crash­ing out in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion in Dun­lop Loop. Jack main­tained that he had mo­men­tar­ily blacked out, but what­ever the rea­son, the crash was a big one and marked the fi­nal time he raced in Aus­tralia. Ear­lier in the same year, he had once again sad­dled up for the TT af­ter a break of eight years, rid­ing a 350cc Yamaha in the Ju­nior TT and fin­ish­ing 34th.

There was one fi­nal chap­ter left in Jack’s ca­reer. In 1975, he took a 350 Yamaha to the Isle of Man for Robert Mad­den to ride, and while he was there, ac­cepted an of­fer from Honda dealer Bill Smith to ride a CB400/4, with John Kid­son as co-rider, in the ten­lap Pro­duc­tion TT (the open­ing race of the TT week) where they fin­ished 24th out­right. It was not a happy time how­ever, as the new Honda leathers that had been pro­vided for Jack were stolen, and ac­cord­ing to Mad­den, “he spat the dummy big time and stormed off back to Eng­land, tak­ing his tools and equip­ment with him.” For­tu­nately Chris Mitchell was also there, and in Jack’s ab­sence, helped Robert to con­test the 250cc and 350cc TTs. Back home, Jack took young star Ron Boulden un­der his tu­tor­age, rid­ing the same TZ350 Yamaha used by Mad­den at the TT. In 1976, Jack and Betty moved to Lis­more in north­ern New South Wales, where they set­tled into a re­laxed coun­try life. Jack be­came pa­tron of the lo­cal North­ern Rivers Clas­sic Club and bought him­self a Honda 400/4 on which to at­tend the club’s ral­lies. In 1998, he was in­vited to the Assen Cen­ten­nial Clas­sic TT, or­gan­ised by Ferry Brouwer, where he rode a See­ley G50 Match­less.

In re­cent years, Jack’s pub­lic ap­pear­ances be­came fewer, but he con­tin­ued his pa­tron­age with the NRCMCC up to his death. With the pass­ing of John Cor­nelius Ahearn, one fur­ther link is lost to the heady days of the Con­ti­nen­tal Cir­cus, where a de­cent re­sult of­ten meant lit­tle more than be­ing able to buy enough petrol to get to the next race. In an era where vi­o­lent death was part and par­cel of race meet­ings, Jack sur­vived vir­tu­ally un­scathed, and de­spite be­ing a life-long smoker, lived to a ripe old age. He was farewelled by fam­ily and friends in Lis­more on Tues­day 18th April, 2017.

On the Lis­ter-framed 500cc Manx Nor­ton at Bathurst in 1967.

Rid­ing his Manx Nor­ton in dirt track trim at the Aus­tralian Short Cir­cuit Cham­pi­onships, Muswell­brook 1961.

Typ­i­cal Con­ti­nen­tal Cir­cus ac­tion with Jack lead­ing Trevor Barnes, Godfrey Nash (15) and Aussie Mal­colm Stan­ton (4). Aboard a Tri­umph Bon­neville in the 1970 Cas­trol Six Hour Race. LEFT Un­load­ing from his Nor­ton Com­mando in the 1974 Cas­trol Six Hour Race. RIGHT Jack on a 350 Tri­umph, sim­i­lar to his first rac­ing bike, at the 2013 Sum­mer­land Clas­sic Show. In the 1974 Ju­nior TT, Jack ex­its Gov­er­nor’s Bridge on his 350 Yamaha.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.