Nor­man Hanks – out at the top

Classic Racer - - PEOPLE -

While Roy’s 1997 TT win topped his ca­reer, brother Nor­man’s peaked ex­actly 25 years ear­lier. He won the 1972 Bri­tish side­car ti­tle and ar­guably should have won in 1971 too, but soon re­tired. He was at the top of his game but it was not what he had planned. “I won in 1972 but in 1971 I’d been taught a les­son. My dad had a big bore 750. I had a long stroke 750. So I had my dad’s top half on my bot­tom half at the Lord of Ly­d­don meet­ing, and I beat Vin­cent and Brown. But it showed them what I’d got, so I think they de­vised a plan for the last meet­ing at Snet­ter­ton. I had a bad start and got mixed up with loads of peo­ple, in­clud­ing Brian Rust. But I thought: “Calm down now. Don’t panic. you’ve got this big 840 thing un­der you.” I knew that I’d got the legs on them. But I think Vin­cent let Brown lead, so vin­cent was in front of me go­ing: “Have a look at that gap there. Oh no.too late. Bad luck.” Block­ing. So it got to the chi­cane on the last lap. It’s not like it is now, but a proper chi­cane with built up banks and vin­cent held in tight all the way round Coram’s, so I had to come around the out­side. He suck­ered me into that, know­ing that he could just drift across the road and leave me look­ing at a grass bank, los­ing enough mo­men­tum to end up third. Brown, vin­cent, then me. And what that did was make me third in the cham­pi­onship too. which is why he let Brown go in front. vin­cent was first and Brown was sec­ond in the cham­pi­onship, even though I’d gone into that race lead­ing it. they’d worked out ex­actly what they needed to do, but it was bad rac­ing by me. I should have known bet­ter. I won in 1972 and was third in 1973 but I was me­chanic-ing on the BSA works mo­tocross team for Ge­off Smith at the time.the first Amer­i­can se­ries they had in 1970 was the trans-ama or some­thing. Dave Ni­col won it I think (he did, for a BSA 1, 2, 3) and I went for two months, and it was fan­tas­tic. I just didn’t want to come home. then Smithy went to work for Bom­bardier, who formed Can-am. they were go­ing to have a road bike loosely based on an Ariel Ar­row, so they got me to buy this unadul­ter­ated one to air freight for them to look at as the Ar­row frame was years ahead of ev­ery­thing else. By then Can-am had of­fered me an en­gine to do the­world Cham­pi­onships, so I started build­ing an­other out­fit to house it. they gave me the draw­ings for their en­gine, made by Ro­tax, as Bom­bardier owned Ro­tax too, which was a six-speed, laid-down, wa­ter-cooled, twin-cylin­der, two-stroke 500cc with a disc valve on the top. I thought: “Wow this couldn’t be bet­ter.” Es­sen­tially it was a unit con­struc­tion Konig. I made a wooden mock-up en­gine and a bike with hub cen­tre steer­ing and wish­bone sus­pen­sion. Ev­ery­thing was more mod­ern than we’d been rac­ing so far, nearly slip­ping into a LCR type. I knew I’d have to have a year off, so in 1974 I was build­ing the bike and then it was: “No, it’s go­ing to be an­other year”. By 1976 they still had prob­lems get­ting it through omis­sions, then re­alised to pass in Canada and Amer­ica it was never go­ing to hap­pen. So it was: “No. Big two strokes are dead”.to start again then it would have been mas­sive. I bor­rowed Roy’s bike, but I’d got straight off a BSA onto ATZ and I was like a flag in the might as well have had a switch on the han­dle­bar be­cause it was ei­ther on or off, noth­ing in be­tween. And com­ing from a BSA I couldn’t change gear quick enough. I had three or four meet­ings with Don­nie Wil­liams and while my head knew what to do, the bike was too much for me. With Roy car­ry­ing on, year af­ter year, it made no dif­fer­ence. He was ob­vi­ously go­ing for his 50th year at the TT last year, but then I think Roy was on 94 starts, so he was think­ing: “This means I’ve got to come again an­other three years for 100?” His bike was ready, so I didn’t see it com­ing when he said he was re­tir­ing. But as he got older and it ached more I think he said that was enough. Roy was never go­ing for a ride. He was al­ways ex­pect­ing to win.

Roy and daugh­ter Julie at Dar­ley Moor. She could have been pas­sen­ger­ing again in 2017.

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