Norman Hanks – out at the top
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 wind.you 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.