Southern 100 Hall of Fame
Check out our list of Hall of Fame riders for the Southern 100…
Cheshire’s Bill Smith made his Southern 100 debut in 1956 and remained a permanent fixture on the entry list for the next 20 years going on to win 13 races at the event, still the seventh highest total of all time.
He was victorious in his first year winning the 250cc race something which he repeated the following year and he didn’t have to wait long for his first win in the bigger classes as he took the 500cc race in 1959. Indeed, the 1960s proved his versatility as he won races in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc categories.
With the introduction of the Solo Championship race in 1968, he took third behind Brian Steenson and Derek Chatterton in 1969 and two years got his name on the trophy for the first time with victory over Selwyn Griffiths and George Fogarty. It was his only Solo Championship success but he took third in 1975 when he was still winning races as seen by his Production double in 1975 and 1976.
The first sidecar driver to conquer the Billown Course, Freeman went into the history books when he won the first ever sidecar race to be held at the Southern 100 after a titanic battle with Fred Wallis in 1962. He retired on the first lap a year later but more than made amends in 1964, 1965 and 1966 when he took a hat-trick of victories.
Charlie Freeman in action…
After a two year absence, he returned in 1969 and signalled his intentions for the week with a win in the opening race. He then rammed home his mastery of Billown with a victory by more than a minute in the Sidecar Championship race. It would prove to be his only Championship win but he was undoubtedly the dominant force of the 1960s and the first sidecar hero of the Southern 100.
It was in 1976 when Joey Dunlop made his first appearance at the Southern 100 and what a debut it proved to be as he took two second places and a third before shattering both lap and race records on his way to winning the first of his six Solo Championships.
Three of those came in his first three years of competing at the event before he was finally beaten in 1979 by George Fogarty. Many race wins came during this period and in 1980 he took another double, this time in the 250cc and 350cc races, before a seized engine on the big 750cc Yamaha denied him the chance of reclaiming the Solo Championship.
World Championship commitments meant he was largely absent from the event in the 1980s but he was a regular again in the 1990s and got back to winning ways in 1991 with his fourth Solo Championship, a year in which he won six races from six starts. His fifth title came in 1993 whilst he was denied a sixth in 1994 when Jason Griffiths beat him by just 0.2s. However, 1999 saw him take his sixth victory when he defeated Blair Degerholm and it would prove to be his final success at the Southern 100 as he was tragically killed the following year at Tallinn, Estonia.
His six Solo Championships remain the most anyone has ever won whilst his 31 race wins have only been bettered by Ian Lougher.
Without doubt, Lowry Burton is one of Northern Ireland’s best ever sidecar drivers and many will say he is the best ever to come from the country. No slouch on short circuits, it’s the roads that Burton is best known for and as well as taking two wins and six podiums at the Isle of Man TT, he enjoyed great success at the Southern 100 too. Indeed, with five Sidecar Championships to his name, only Dave Molyneux has won more.
Hailing from Carrickfergus, Burton first made his mark in 1979 when, with Martin Murphy, he won his heat and then took a good second to Mick Burcombe in the Championship race. A year later they made amends to lead from start to finish, setting lap and race records in the process. 1981 saw the Ulstermen take their second successive Sidecar Championship and in doing so they created history as they became the first men to lap the 4.25-mile course at more than 90mph on three wheels.
Third was the outcome in 1982 but in 1983 Burton, now with Pat Cushnahan in the chair, took title number three in convincing fashion. He had to wait a number of years for his next success though as bad luck intervened but in 1987 he was back on the top step winning his fourth Sidecar Championship. And in 1988, he made it title number five, this time with Julian Tailford as passenger. Burton retired at the end of the season but with five Championships and 12 individual race wins, he remains the second most successful sidecar driver of all time at the Southern 100.
Geordie motorcycle dealer Ian Bell has a unique place in the Hall of Fame as he’s the only man to have won both the Solo and Sidecar Championships at the Southern 100. Initially a solo rider, Bell made his debut at the event in 1979 and immediately made his mark coming second in the 1300cc event. He then led for the majority of the Solo Championship race before having to settle for third behind George Fogarty and Joey Dunlop after his clutch failed on the final lap.
He was out of luck in 1980 but was back for more in 1981 when he again claimed third in the Solo Championship. However, he got his first victories at Billown when he won the 350cc and 1300cc races and a year later again took the 1300cc race although a bad crash at Snetterton then curtailed his racing for a number of years. He returned in 1987 going on to win not only the Solo Championship but also the two Match races too.
Bell then retired from racing only to return in the mid-1990s on three wheels where he competed alongside elder brother Geoff. In 1998, he took his first win in the sidecar class and finished second to Dave Molyneux in the Championship race but in 1999 he went one better to create history as the first, and only, man to win the feature Championship races on both two and three wheels. He won the Sidecar Championship again in 2009 and, aside from 2014, he has been on the podium every year since.
The Southern 100 was the first meeting on the roads that Ian Lougher ever contested but since that debut in 1983, it’s fair to say he’s become one of the legends of real road racing. By 1987, his talents were already coming to the fore and that year saw him take both 350cc races; indeed, the next 25 years never saw him far away from the winner’s enclosure.
It may have taken him until 2002 before he first got his name on the Solo Championship trophy but throughout the 1990s, he was a regular race winner and across the classes too, taking victories in the 125cc, 250cc and 600cc races. By the late 1990s/early 2000s he’d mastered the big bikes too and that soon showed at the Southern.
His first podiums in the Solo Championship came in 1990 and 1992 when he placed third but in 2002 he finally took the top spot, two years after finishing second to Blair Degerholm. He more than made it his own and between 2002 and 2008, he took the Championship five times, a figure only bettered by Joey Dunlop’s six. That period also saw him set the first ever 110mph lap of Billown, in 2005, and 2013 finally saw him break Dunlop’s long standing record total of 31 wins with his 32nd and final victory coming in the 125cc race.
Born in 1955, the first year the Southern 100 was staged, Ramsey’s Kenny Harrison remains the third most successful rider in the history of the event with 19 race wins to his name, including two Solo Championships.
It was 1979 when he first appeared on the leaderboard, claiming ninth in the feature race although it was 1983 before he won his first race, victory coming in the 350cc race when he also broke Ray McCullough’s five year lap record. That year proved what a fine road racer he was when he also took second in the Solo Championship and third in the Unlimited race. He repeated his 350cc win in 1984 and a year later he finally took his first Solo Championship on his 750cc Yamaha also winning the two 1300cc races too.
1986 saw him retain his Solo Championship and although he failed to win a third, he was always in contention and the next few years saw him finish second twice (1989 and 1990) and third twice (1987 and 1991). 1991 was the last time he stood on the podium in the Solo Championship but he was still successful in other races, particularly the Classic which he won on no less than six occasions, his last win coming in 1994.
Dave Molyneux was immediately successful at the Southern 100 in 1985 and although a broken chain denied him a chance of Championship success, he made amends by winning the consolation race. There were to be no problems a year later though when, with Paul Kneale in the chair, he took his first Championship.
Second in 1988 and fourth in 1987 were his only placings over the next few years but he was back to winning ways in 1991 this time with Karl Ellison alongside. A year later he added a third Championship to his haul and although it was 1998 before he won his fourth Championship, he was still recording individual race victories.
By 1998, just the F2 class remained and that year saw the Regaby man take his fourth Sidecar Championship and when the 2000s came, he broke Lowry Burton’s long standing records, winning his fifth and sixth titles in 2002 and 2003. He then skipped the meeting for many years but 2014 showed he hadn’t forgotten how to tackle the Billown course as he claimed second to Conrad Harrison in the feature race. With six Championships and 15 race wins, Molyneux is the most successful sidecar driver ever to have competed at the Southern 100.
Yorkshire’s Dave Leach was one of the star privateers that plied his trade on the roads in the 1980s and 1990s and the Southern 100 was no exception with him having countless excellent rides around Billown.
His first notable ride came in 1986 when he finished second to Kenny Harrison in the feature Solo Championship race on his 350cc Yamaha and in 1988 he took a superb hat-trick although the cancellation of the Solo Championship denied him that particular accolade. However, he didn’t have to wait for long and in 1989 he took his first title with the meeting seeing him take five wins from his five rides.
The following year saw a similar story as he retained his Solo Championship and added four more wins in total to his collection and it was only a certain Joey Dunlop that denied him a hat-trick of Championships in 1991. He had to give second best to Dunlop in most of his races although he did get another win in the Supersport 400cc race.
Having based himself in Northern Ireland, Leach sustained massive injuries in a crash at the Tandragee 100 in May 1992 and it kept him out of the sport until 1995 when he was finally able to make a return. His injuries restricted his performance somewhat but ’95 saw him take a strong fourth in the Solo Championship as well as claim wins in the Supersport 600cc and 400cc categories.
They proved to be his 16th and 17th race wins at the Southern 100, the fourth highest ever total but he still took an excellent second behind Jason Griffiths in the 1996 Solo Championship race despite only being on his Supersport machine. He retired at the end of the 1997 season.
Having made his mark firstly at the Manx Grand Prix and then the Isle of Man TT, Jason Griffiths soon did the same at the Southern 100 with his first race win coming in the Junior Solo Founders race of 1993. And for more than a decade afterwards, the Welshman was never too far away from the podium.
In 1994 he won his first Solo Championship as he got the better of circuit maestro Joey Dunlop by 0.2s and in doing so, he emulated the feats of his father Selwyn who had been victorious around the circuit in the 1960s. Having taken third in 1995, Jason won his second Championship in 1996 and then joined a very select group of riders to have won three or more when he again grabbed first place in 1997.
That proved to be his last Championship victory but further podiums were taken in 1998 and 2003 (second) and 2000 and 2002 (third). Fourth in 2005 would be his final year of racing at the Southern 100 with his 12th and final race win coming in the 600cc race of 2002.
Michael Dunlop made his Southern 100 debut in 2006 whilst still a teenager but, like all other circuits, it wasn’t long before he was winning with his first victory around the Billown circuit coming in 2010. Indeed, he took a hat-trick that year and just a year later the took the first of his three Southern 100 Championship titles as he defeated Guy Martin by over four seconds.
Like all other circuits, Dunlop has at Billown won on a variety of machinery and for a variety of manufacturers, his first Solo Championship coming on a Kawasaki with his second in 2012 on a Honda. The Ulsterman enjoy many a battle with Guy Martin between 2010 and 2015 and although he won numerous races in the 1000cc and 600cc categories, he had to wait until 2016 before winning his third Solo Championship.
In 2017, just half a second covered the top three in the Solo Championship race and although he had to settle for third, he claimed the outright lap record with a speed of 115.707mph. He now has 21 wins around the 4.25mile circuit, the third highest in the event’s history.
Bradford’s Harrison made his Southern 100 debut in 2012 and he recorded a whole host of top six finishes in the 600cc and 1000cc races. A year later he claimed his first victory as he got the better of Guy Martin and Michael Dunlop, no less, in the opening 600cc race.
Since then, Harrison has been an ever-present at the meeting and a constant podium finisher, none more so than in the Solo Championship where he finished second in 2014 and 2016 and third in 2013. However, he finally clinched the title in 2017 and followed this up with his second in 2018.
A hatrick was taken in 2017 but the following two years have seen him dominate the event with five and six wins in 2018 and 2019 respectively. With a career total now of 24, he’s the third most successful rider at Billown ever with his win tally set to rise over the next few years.
Words by Phil Wain.