|G-UP AUG 2011
Aberdare Park Road Races is a truly unique motorcycling event. It is the only race circuit in the UK that is less than half a mile from a town centre.
As a race track, it has an enviable reputation as one of the world's best short circuits. Set in fifty acres, the 0.9 mile park road winds itself through trees and around the perimeter of Aberdare's picturesque town park.
For history buffs, the park opened on the 27th July 1869 and was landscaped and planted by William Barron who had designed many parks in England. The original park was created and instigated by R H Rhys and in 1956 the National Eisteddfod was held at the park. A Gorsedd stone circle was erected to commemorate the event - it still stands.
Less than thirty miles from the Welsh capital, Cardiff, Aberdare Park is now one of the 'must-ride' circuits on the planet and every year rumours abound as to which racing celebrity will turn up to race. This year, there was a buzz around the paddock that Guy Martin was going to race - alas it wasn't to be but the Park has had its fair share of racing royalty over the years.
All this from its humble beginnings back on the 30th September 1950, when the first meeting took place. Despite being run in very poor weather, it still managed to attract a crowd of over 15,000 spectators.
Dave Bennett from Birmingham won the main race of the day and also the fastest lap of the day on his 500cc Norton at an average race speed of 49 mph. Doesn't sound fast until you watch the riders up close. Trust me, that's quick.
May 12th 1951 was the date of the second Aberdare Park Road Races and also marked the first appearance of Aberaman Motorcycle Club president Herbie Davies riding his 350cc Royal Enfield. Herbie continued racing at the Park until the end of the 1954 season and rode a 350cc BSA in later years. Up until 2004 Herbie was the starter at the Park. There was a second meeting that year in July.
In 1952 things changed, the May meeting went ahead as usual but the August meeting was upgraded to National status, the feature race of the day being won by a young eighteen year old rider by the name of John Surtees.
Racing continued at Aberdare Park until 1964 with two meetings a year attracting some of the country's leading riders like Mike Hailwood, John Surtees, Bob McIntyre, Phil Read, John Cooper, Syd Barnett, Dan Shorey, Malcom Uphill, Ray Cowles, Ivor Lloyd and Selwyn Griffiths to name a few. Then the local authority carried out major alterations that heavily restricted the number of safe spectator areas available so racing was stopped.
Aberdare Park set another record in its early years. June 18th 1955 saw the first live television coverage of motorcycle racing anywhere in the country. In June 1978 racing resumed with spectators only allowed on the inside of the circuit. Still only a club event, it attracted an excellent class of rider.
1980 saw Aberdare once again being granted National status, and in 1982 the outright lap record of 45.2 sec held by John Cooper since 1964 was finally beaten by Andy Hawkins in a time of 45 seconds flat. In the final of the 1988 Welsh Open, Carl Fogarty smashed the outright lap record by posting a time of 42.5 seconds. Aberdare Park is a really special event. This quotation from one of the motorcycling forums sums it up, "If anyone is tired of paying ridiculous prices to stand thirty yards or more from their racing heroes whilst in action and then stand even further from the paddock. Get yourself to Aberdare Park in Wales."
The atmosphere is incredible, the buzz, the smells, the sounds, the camaraderie. Aberdare is out on its own. I've been to the Isle Of Man TT and Aberdare is cut from the same cloth. Absolute nostalgia and immense fun.
WORDS MARK ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY MOJOFFOTO
The G-Up team would like to
thank everyone who helped us
to produce this issue, especially
Aberaman Motorcycle Club.
We really appreciate your support.