Rider Of The Week is a segment that looks at the career of a famous motorcyclist and examines what they’ve achieved. Tom Herron established himself as a talented rider, winning several accolades, including the 1970 350cc North West 200. Herron was one of the best privateer riders of all time. His promising career was cut short when he crashed in the 1979 North West 200.
Born in Northern Ireland, Herron started his riding career in 1965. He gained experience by competing in various events, becoming more confident. Herron’s tenacity was one of the defining parts of his personality, and it paid off when he won his first race in 1970. A gruelling experience, the 350 cc North West 200 ended with Herron as the victor.
Eager to build on his success, Herron competed throughout the 1970s and took the win at the 1973 Irish 350 cc championship. At the time, Herron competed as a privateer against factory sponsored riders. In 1976, he came fourth in the 250 cc and 350 cc world championships. He came second in the 1977 350 cc world championship. Herron continued to gather momentum as a privateer, coming fifth and sixth in the 1978 250 cc and 350 cc world championships.
In 1979, Herron got his chance to shine by becoming part of the Texaco Heron Suzuki team. He joined motorcycle legend Barry Sheene and future truck racer Steve Parrish. During the 1979 season, Herron started off well, but ended up breaking his thumb in the Spanish fourth round.
Unperturbed, Herron returned to Northern Ireland to compete in the North West 200. The event became known as ‘Black Saturday,’ after Herron, Brian Hamilton and Frank Kennedy died. Herron crashed in the last lap of the final race while competing for third place alongside Jeff Sayle, Greg Johnstone and Steve Parrish. He passed away in Coleraine hospital.
Motorcycle racing is about perseverance. Herron started out at the bottom and worked his way up from a privateer to a fully sponsored rider. It demonstrated his talent, drive and determination. Herron was certainly one of the greatest Irish motorcyclists of all times, joining the likes of Joey Dunlop.