Ron Slater recalls thrilling years of motorcycle scrambling

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Ron Slater in the lead at a ‘bomb hole’ at […]

Ron Slater in the lead at a ‘bomb hole’ at Brands Hatch in 1951 (Scramble 8)

Ron Slater competed in motorcycle scrambling for only three years, but achieved considerable success in that time.

It was an expensive sport and without commercial backing or a rich family, it was difficult for the average rider to keep going.

As we reported last week, Ron, who is 96 and lives in Thame, got a taste for motorcycles while serving in the RAF during the Second World War.

Read again: Ron’s happy memories of motorcycle scrambling

He rode for the Oxford Ixion club in the 1949, 1950 and 1951 seasons, but with money running out and a wedding pending, he was forced to give up.

The picture above shows him leading as he leaps out of the ‘bomb hole’ at Brands Hatch on Good Friday 1951 – in his words, “a great race at a superb circuit”.

He tells me: “My machine was a 500cc BSA, very heavy but in its day, one of the best for the job in hand. I had a fair bit of success winning races at many events in the South Midlands and at Southern Centre venues.

“In 1950, I finished second to international Graham Beamish at the Bucks Grand National, followed by fifth place in the Gloucester Grand National.

“These big events were described as trade supported which meant manufacturers were there to support riders and keep an eye open for talent.

“That may have led to BSA entering me in their No 2 team in the Lancashire Grand National, Sadly, we did not win.

Photo: Ron Slater (Image: Photo: Ron Slater)

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“In 1951, I came fifth in the Hampshire Grand National which probably led to me being selected for the South of England team against the North at my favourite track, Shotover Park at Headington. At the end of that season, I was running out of money – the sport was quite expensive, with travel, fuel, entry fees, machine maintenance and insurance. I also had plans to marry in early 1952.

“Who knows, with a rich dad, I might have made the higher echelon. I raced for only three seasons, but loved every minute of it.”

Ron recalls how scrambling became the ‘in-thing’ as servicemen left the armed forces after the war full of pent-up energy.

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“New clubs sprang up in abundance and the Oxford Ixion club quickly blossomed with talent. Most meetings were on Sundays and we would look to get a ride every week from early April to late October. It could be Cambridge this week, Swindon next week. The two local venues were Shotover Park and Brill, both well run.

“Two riders, John Avery and Dave Curtis, made the huge step to international, which meant factory support with all its benefits. Doug Wheeler and I did a few of the big trade-supported meetings and although we enjoyed them, it was tough as a ‘privateer’, although we both had a few good results.”

Other Oxford riders included Pip Barrett, Freddie Mynheer, Alan Cole, Tony Bartrum, Cliff Washington, John Avery and Nibbo Wheeler, all of whom were fiercely competitive. After his early retirement, Ron returned to the sport in 1957 with a new 150cc BSA trials machine, winning a collection of trophies, which he displayed on his sideboard at home. He continued in the motor trade during his working career, running the BMW dealership at junction seven of the M40 near Milton Common.

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

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