MOTORCYCLE HERO: BOB MCINTYRE
TODAY WE DO THE TON
A mechanical mastermind and determined professional. A racer whose natural talents shone on the track. Overwhelmingly popular, yet modest and fiercely loyal. Bob McIntyre may not have ever won a World Championship, but he won the hearts of many.
Bob McGregor McIntyre was born in Scotsoun, Glasgow, on November 2nd, 1928. Although he had no particular interest in racing or motors during his childhood, he landed himself a job in a garage at the age of 14. His working-class background making him keen to learn a trade.
His first motorcycle came at the age of 16, much to his parents' disapproval. It was a 1931 Norton 16H. He'd bought it for £12, and sold it for £50 six months later, having applied his new skills to get it looking good as new.
By 17, his interest had been rooted. He bought a 1935 Ariel Red Hunter with the previous bike's profits and a loan from the 'rents and joined the Mercury Motor Club, whose emblem would adorn his crash helmet throughout his entire career.
After returning from a time doing National Service, Bob saw that many club members were now taking part in trials and scrambles. Of course, he wanted in. He'd already shown his ability to fine-tune his machines, the obvious next step was to show his ability to race.
After seeing him on his Ariel, a fellow club member offered him a go on his BSA. Bob won three races before falling off in the fourth. The pair began to share the bike. Bob selling his Ariel to pay for the parts they'd need to fully kit the BSA on race days.
By now, he'd started working for a motorcycle business, Cooper Brothers. Noticing his talent, the company asked if he would like to ride its BSA Gold Star in the 1951 Isle of Man Junior Clubman TT. As an employee, the pressure was on. But Bob finished 2nd and even set a new lap record of 80.09mph.
In September that year, he rode a works AJS to victory in the Junior 350cc Manx Grand Prix. Two days later, he rode the same bike to 2nd place in the 500cc Senior race.
Like all great racers, Bob took the sport seriously. His ability to tune his bikes working very much in his favour. He also made sure he was in peak condition by regularly playing sports to keep fit and eating a healthy diet. His level of determination apparent in that, unlike many from his time, he was also teetotal and never smoked. Keeping healthy coupled with looking the part. And Bob, with his custom-made racing kit, certainly did.
Bob joined the AJS works team for the 1953 season. After winning his first international race at the North West 200, the team offered him an invitation to ride in the Grands Prix World Championship.
Following a few disappointing years for the team, AJS pulled out of racing. Being mechanically minded, Bob was keen to have more of a hand in the bikes he was racing, so decided to go into partnership with Glasgow's Joe Potts.
Upon the Potts Norton, Bob managed to come 2nd in the 1955 Junior TT and 5th in the Senior. A very good feat for a private entrant among work teams. He was being offered deals left, right and centre. But being the loyal guy he was, stuck with Potts for the '56 season, though they had to retire from both TTs due to mechanical problems.
It was in 1957 that Bob cemented himself in racing history. After talks with Potts, the pair had decided Bob couldn't win Classic races unless he had better machinery. Works machinery. He struck a deal with Gilera, having never tested the four-cylinder Gilera that he'd be riding. To add to the evidence of his popularity, and to his loyalty, it was also on the grounds that he could still ride for Potts during non-TT and classic races.
After signing with Gilera, Bob tested his machine extensively. It paid off. He won the Junior TT on 3rd June with a record speed of 94.99mph. A week later, he won the Senior, becoming the sixth in TT history to record a double victory. But it wasn't this achievement he'd be remembered for.
The 500cc Senior was part of the Golden Jubilee IOM TT. It was a special year, so the race was extended to eight laps (302 miles!).
Bob's Gilera had pannier fuel tanks built into the side of the fairings to carry the extra fuel he'd need. But the added weight didn't stop him from becoming the first person ever to lap the 37.73-mile Mountain course at over 100mph. By the second lap, he'd reached an average of 101mph.
McIntyre had made racing history, and would forevermore be considered one of the greatest TT racers of all time.
It was a great year for Gilera. Bob's teammate Libero Liberati had won the 500cc World Championship. Bob himself coming 2nd and 3rd in the 500cc and 350cc World Championships respectively. But, due to increasing costs, Gilera had to quit Grand Prix racing at the end of the season.
So Bob was back on his Potts Norton and AJS machines for '58. He would have become the first racer ever to lap at over 100mph on a single-cylinder bike that year, had he not suffered gear problems. Instead, Bob broke the record three years laters, on Pott's Norton.
That same year - 1961 - he signed with Honda to ride in Grand Prix races, and would ride with both Honda and Potts until disaster struck the following year.
It was the British Championship meeting at Oulton Park on August 6th, 1962, and Bob was in the 500cc race on his Manx Norton.
After starting in wet conditions, he managed to fight his way to 2nd place, when, at Clay Hill Corner, his bike slid into the bank. His front wheel hit a ditch and he was thrown from his bike into the trees.
After nine days of remaining unconscious in hospital, he died from serious head injuries, aged just 33. His wife had recently given birth to their first baby and there had been talks of him quitting after the season.
An extraordinary racer, tragically taken at a very young age. Bob's career was short-lived and he never made it to a World Championship title, but his mark in racing history will last forever.
Bob McIntyre Victories
Manx Grand Prix races
1 (1952 Junior)
Isle of Man TT
3 (1957 Senior TT, 1957 Junior TT, 1959 500cc Formula 1 TT)
First person to lap the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course at over 100mph
Others in the Motorcycle Heroes series:
22/04/17 - Legend
22/04/17 - Brilliant article! Racers like Bob should never be forgotten! I can remember seeing a display of his Manx Norton’s and was surprised to see a 250 sitting alongside the 500 and 350! Apparently it was a 350 that had been sleeved down especially for Bob to use in 250 races! I never discovered anything more about it!
23/04/17 - a great racer. a true legend.
23/04/17 - ive i had been a boy i was to be named after bob . the duke or chris vincent.
23/04/17 - I was at Oulton Park that day he came off, great racer, so sad.
23/04/17 - 1957' he was one of my favourites.
24/04/17 - A true legend and a fellow mercury mcc member.
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