Ton-up TT racer wins recognition

CHAPEL-en-le-Frith's John Hartle was a massively successful motorbike racer with an impressive list of victories under his belt.

He raced in practically every country in Europe during his 16 year career, and narrowly missed out on being World Champion three times.

Sadly, John died racing at Scarborough in 1968. But now, his family and friends have come together to create a lasting tribute to him in the town he called home...

A LASTING memorial to one of the High Peak's forgotten heroes was unveiled last week.

John Hartle was born and raised in Chapel-en-le-Frith and went on to have a hugely successful motorcycle racing career, winning two Isle of Man TT races and narrowly missing out on being World Champion three times.

John sadly died in a crash while racing at Oliver's Mount in Scarborough in 1968 aged just 34. And now a memorial plaque has been unveiled at the site of his former home in Chapel.

The plaque, paid for by contributions from the High Peak Motorcycle Club and the Manchester 17 Motorcycle Club, sits on the side of the New Inn pub on Manchester Road.

It was unveiled last Thursday evening by John's daughter Lesley along with his lifelong friend Pete Dale and motor racing journalist Julian Ryder in front of a crowd of more than 200 people.

Lesley said: "I am just very touched. It is 43 years since he died and this is lovely. It is a very proud moment.

"To me, he wasn't a motorcycle racer, he was my dad.

"He was a fun-loving person with a great sense of humour who was always playing jokes on people.

"I'm still finding things out about him now – like someone told me recently that he was the first Englishman to lap the TT course at 100 miles an hour."

John and Pete worked together for Eric Bowers Motor Cycles on Hayfield Road. Paying tribute to his long standing friend, Pete said: "He was a racing man through and through that was admired and respected by his fellow competitors and was loved by race fans around the world for his unassuming attitude and his way of always being approachable if they just wanted to speak to him or be photographed with him. His never-give-up style and his courage to bounce back from injuries made him the fans' favourite all through his career. I'm proud to have known him."

John took part in 45 grand prix, finishing on the podium in 34 of them. Speaking of that impressive record, Julian Ryder said: "In my view that is a record up there with the best.

"It is a strike rate any racer would be proud of."JOHN'S former team-mate John Surtees had hoped to be at the unveiling of the plaque on Thursday but was in the Middle East with Formula One commitments.

However, the former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer and Formula One driver who remains the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels, sent this tribute to John – a friend and fierce competitor.

"I first got to know John when he, I and veteran Norton works rider Jack Brett all came together in the new look Works Norton team on 1955, put together by the legendary Team Manager/Engineer Joe Craig. We had no team orders and John not only proved himself a fearsome competitor but also a good friend.

"We came together again after I had suggested to Count Agusta that John should join the team. In those days we travelled to most Grand Prix and between the UK and Cacina Costa, the MV base near Milan, by car and most of that mileage was done in my BMW 507.

"In 1958, I received an invitation to test the Aston Martin DBR1 that Stirling Moss had won the Nurburgring 1000km race with, at Goodwood. I invited John along as well and also persuaded Reg Parnell the team manager to let John have a go. That day the seeds were sown for our careers to go in different directions in 1960 with my changing to four wheels.

"But none of this would have happened if it had not been for John. The Norton team had, early in 1955, been to Hedemora in Sweden for a race. We and some local girls we had met after a practice gone down to the local lake. I was a non swimmer and got rather frustrated at not being part of the fun in the water. Thinking I had seen how it was done I put it to the test, ran down the jetty and jumped in quickly to find, particularly in the lake water, that it wasn't as easy as it looked and I was in trouble. But luckily help was at hand as John raced to the rescue and dived in and brought me back to the surface and no doubt saved my life.

"Racing as life, can be very cruel and both the Hartle and Surtees families have experienced this. I will always remember John and times that we spent together."

John Surtees

- March 10, 2010Three times narrowly beaten to World Championship title

IT WAS in late 1952 that John Hartle started his racing career at Brough Aerodrome near Hull.

His first race saw him riding for Eric Bowers on a BSA Gold Star. In 1953, he made more progress at British short circuits such as Cadwell Park and Oulton Park.

That year also saw John taking part in his first race in the Isle of Man, the Manx Grand Prix, for which he won a best newcomer award.

He finished third in the junior race and was leading the Senior Race by nearly six minutes in driving rain when he ran out of petrol up on the mountain on the last lap.

Two years later, he was recruited by Norton Motor Cycles and teamed up with John Surtees in the official factory team.

He stayed with Norton until they withdrew from racing at the end of 1956, when he returned to ride for Eric Bowers in 1957.

After that, he was recruited to ride for the Italian factory MV Agusta team with John Surtees again being his teammate.

John won two Isle of Man TT races, one in 1960 riding the MV and the other TT victory came in the 750cc production TT on a Triumph in 1967.

This was after what had been a three year retirement recovering from serious injuries.

John was narrowly beaten three times to the ultimate prize of being a World Champion by finishing second in the 350cc World Championship in both 1958 and 1959 and in the 500cc World Championship in 1958.

During his 16 year career, he rode in practically every country in Europe, taking part in 45 Grand Prix races and finishing on the podium, in either first, second or third place, in 34 of them.

He died on August 31, 1968, while racing at Oliver's Mount in Scarborough.