This week’s rider segment looks at British racer Derek Minter, who dominated short circuit racing in the 1950s and ‘60s. Known for his versatility, Minter rode various motorbikes in different classes. Mike Hailwood famously described him as his toughest ever opponent. He was so successful at the Brands Hatch that he became known as ‘The King Of Brands.’ Minter’s accolades include winning the 1960 North West 200 and 1962 Isle of Man 250cc Lightweight TT.
Minter, the son of a Kentish miner, grew up in the village of Littlebourne. From a young age, he knew he would be riding motorbikes one day. During weekends he went apple picking, putting every penny into his motorbike fund. He became an electrician and in 1948 he bought his first bike, a 350cc BSA.
After serving in the RAF, Minter took a job with motorcycle dealer Ray Hallat. He eventually persuaded the company to give him a BSA Gold Star so he could race.
Minter debuted on the Gold Star in 1955, working his way up to professional races. His performance in 1956 impressed Ron Harris, MV importer of Wincheap Garages. Harris employed Minter as a car mechanic and provided him with a team who created 350cc and 500cc Manx Nortons.
In 1960, Minter became the first rider to lap the Isle of Man TT course at over 100 mph on a single cylinder machine. Minter won the 1962 250cc TT on a Honda 4 and he came to realise he could earn more money by being a ‘guest’ rider for several teams rather than being tied down to a factory team. This gave him the opportunity to become even more versatile with the vehicles he used.
For the 1963 season, Minter was picked to ride for Geoff Duke’s Scuderia Gilera team. He joined teammate John Hartle to try and match up to Mike Hailwood’s domination on the race track. The same year he was involved in a race against Dave Downer and Minter suffered serious injuries during an accident on the last lap. He soon recovered and went on to win more races on Manx Nortons, a 250 cc Cotton Telstar and Seeley 350 cc.
Minter retired from racing in 1967 and became involved in the road transport industry, delivering trailers from Europe to the UK. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 82, but his legacy lives on.