Rocket Men - The Racing Haslam Family

The story behind the racing Haslam family

Here's a favourite Haslam anecdote. First race of the season in March 1999 at Brands Hatch and in the 125 race are two Haslams, Ron and his son Leon. Towards the end of the race, Leon is lying in third place with Ron just in the points in the top 15.

Suddenly, Leon crashes at Graham Hill Bend. Ron, against racing protocol (but understandably) comes straight off the track to see what has happened to his 15-year-old son. He eventually catches up with him in the pits as he's getting into the ambulance with a broken wrist. His mum, Ann, is being comforted by a Honda PR man, as she's understandably upset at seeing her first born connect with a tyre wall. Ron rushes up as Leon is bundled into the waiting ambulance.

"What worrit son, wot worrit?"

Leon replies: "It just nipped up, dad."

Ron, finally getting to the bottom of the problem, suddenly has a half smile on his face and says: "I knew it were running lean." Before rushing off to the team garage to check the spare bike was okay.

There's a few versions of that one, but true or not, it illustrates the simple fact that a passion for racing and a thirst for what makes racing motorcycles work, battles for space in the Haslam veins alongside red and white corpuscles and haemoglobin. So much so that Ron lied about his details so he could race (illegally) at age 15, in 1972 at Cadwell Park.

In the years since, he became 'Rocket' Ron, famed for his fast starts. He enjoyed a career spanning British Championships, TT glory and 500 Grand Prix podiums. He's experienced the highest highs and the lowest of the lows in racing, suffering many crashes, injuries and the loss of his brothers Terry and Phil to race accidents. Finding out what made bikes tick was what interested Ron as much as the silverware. He had the title of the 'best development rider in the world' after riding the funny front-ended Honda Elf 500 and then the JPS Norton. He's never really retired and every year his race licence and new Frank Thomas leathers still turn up, despite the increasing number of years that Ann has tried to get them off him.

As well as his own son, and nephew Gary, it's also a fact that Ron has helped some other big names over the years. Little known, but 1992/2001 British Superbike champ John Reynolds was helped in his switch from vintage bike racer to modern bike racer by Ron. 2001 Supersport champ Karl Harris was originally spotted and groomed. By Ron. Ex-Virgin Yamaha rider and now Team Foggy Petronas rider-in-waiting James Haydon, was another schooled by Ron under the auspices of the Team Great Britiain scheme, which saw Ron take youngsters with a precocious talent under his wing and under his roof in a bid to build Britain's next world champs. Remember, this was way before the Red Bull Rookies and was funded by Donington Park's Robert Fearnall. And Ron.