One of Scarborough’s biggest annual tourist attractions, Oliver’s Mount road races, have drawn a huge following throughout its celebrated history. Up until the mid-1950s the biggest crowd ever seen at Scarborough was when nearly 40,000, poured through the gate to watch John Surtees and Geoff Duke go head-to-head in the September 1953 International meeting.
One rider who always believed Scarborough to be one of the best events of the year is Mick Grant. ‘It’s a real riders circuit that has to be treated with respect’, remarked Grant, who freely admits to being a supporter of the pure road-type circuit. Legendary duels between the ‘local hero’ Grant and ‘Londoner’ Barry Sheene, regularly attracted 35,000 through the gate in the 1970’s.
The narrow and twisty Oliver’s Mount is a great bike leveller. Sheene’s incredibly quick 680cc Suzuki had no great advantage over Grant’s better handling, 750 three-cylinder Kawasaki on the short straights and hairpins which tested each rider’s nerve in the braking stakes. Their battles for points in England’s most important road race series caused fierce loyalties amongst the crowd to the point of Sheene complaining of fist waving and insult hurling by Grant’s fans.
However, it didn’t stop Barry Sheene naming Oliver’s Mount as his favourite circuit out of the many he raced on, in one of the most illustrious racing careers on two wheels lasting more than a decade and a half: “Yes, I think so, mainly because of the atmosphere and the fact that the actual racing was so much fun with the track being so tight.” After an epic 1970’s duel in which he narrowly beat Mick Grant, he announced “I never thought a bloody cockney would be applauded by 20 odd thousand Yorkshire people after beating their favourite racer. You buggers must really love your racing!”
At the 50th Anniversary celebrations in September 1996 a record crowd of over 63,000 people squeezed through the gates to see their heroes from yesteryear, who could between them boast 32 World Championships. The star line-up included 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini reunited with his former factory MV Agusta, Jim Redman on the fabulous Honda-6, Barry Sheene on a Suzuki RG500 and World Superbike Champion Carl Fogarty on his Honda RC45.
Skip forward 18 years and Oliver’s Mount is still attracting record crowd numbers. The Spring Cup, Barry Sheene Festival, Cock O’ The North and Gold Cup events are capitalising on the publics’ appetite for road racing.
With the advance of social media, websites and the popularity of road racing on television, crowds are flocking to Scarborough to see the best riders in the World battle it out on England’s only road race circuit.