MEMORIES are fading but I vividly recall as a ten-year-old, sitting in the windswept and decidedly damp grandstand at Croft when the PA crackled into life.

I don’t recall exactly who the announcer was, or his exact words, but it wasn’t long before my ears pricked up as the content of the broadcast become more significant. News had filtered through that Ken Redfern, the quiet and unsung local motorcycle racing hero, who had taken on and regularly beaten the best in the world, had been killed.

I’ll admit I was too young to know of Ken’s exploits on his home-prepared 750cc Norton Domiracer where on consecutive weekends back in 1969, at Cadwell Park and Mallory Park, he had finished second to the Italian megastar Giacomo Agostini on the works MV Agusta. Cheered on by crowds in excess of 50,000 at both venues, one of the famous names Redfern beat at Mallory Park was a certain Mike Hailwood.

Originally from Stockton before moving to Hutton Rudby, Ken and latterly his brother Mike, made his debut at Croft on a Manx Norton and quickly became the man to beat. His first major victory came at Snetterton, however, as he climbed the ladder from clubman to established star in a relatively short period of time.

He progressed from the 350cc and 500cc Nortons to a 350 Aermacchi and then onto the 750cc Norton, scoring considerable success at meetings around the country. One such result came at the famous 1971 Race of the Year at Mallory Park when he enjoyed a race long battle in the MCN Superbike race to claim third behind works stars Ray Pickrell and Percy Tait.

Following those races Ken went on to ride for London-based team owners Paul Dunstall and Gus Kuhn, continually perfecting and developing the bikes, but his life was cut tragically short when he was involved on in a freak road accident on Saturday, June 30, 1973 between Yarm and Kirklevington.

Just about every year since his accident, the perpetual Ken Redfern Trophy has been fiercely contested by the sport’s leading lights. Held at venues such as Croft, Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough and East Fortune, names including everyone’s favourite TV biker Guy Martin, local Guisborough ace Dennis Hobbs as well as TT legends Joey Dunlop and John McGuinness, are on the famous Flying Geese cup which replicates Redfern’s unique helmet design.

One such meeting took place at Croft in September 1975 with the North East Motor Cycle Racing Club hosting a National Road Race Meeting for the Ken Redfern Trophy. As ever there was a star-studded field to contest the various races including future double world champion Kork Ballington from South Africa. A fledgling 21-year-old Ron Haslam was there along with other National stars Steve Manship, Roger Marshall and Scot Bill Simpson.

Local honour was in plentiful supply too with Guisborough’s Alan Stewart, Shildon ace Neil Mason, John Webb and Mark Middleton from Middlesbrough, Redcar riders John France and Graham Petite along with Chris Hopes from Stockton. Richmond’s star of the future Geoff Johnson was entered too as were Tyneside sidecar legends Mac Hobson, Geoff Bell and Ken Blacklock.

Ballington kicked things off with a win in the 250cc race on his Yamaha ahead of local hero Stewart (PA Yamaha) with Hobson, and passenger Gordon Russell, (700cc Ham-Yam) taking the first sidecar race. Manship edged out Ballington to win the 10-lap 350cc race on his Manchester Yamaha with Haslam third on Mal Carter’s Pharaoh Yamaha before Shildon’s Ray Bell/T Bradley (Konig) won the second sidecar race.

Manship won the 500cc race ahead of Haslam and Paul Cott before the gladiators lined up for the feature race for the Ken Redfern Trophy over 15 laps. As expected, the leading lights scrapped it out with the lap record smashed on a number of occasions. Ballington, Haslam and Manship all took it in turns to lead before the latter two succumbed to the pressure and left the South African to pick up the prestigious trophy on his 350cc Yamaha.

Second place went to Roger Marshall (750cc Yamaha) with Cott third again. Fourth and best local was Graham Petite (350cc Yamaha) ahead of Barnsley coalman Rob Brown (352cc Yamaha) and another South African Greg Barsdorf (350cc Yamaha) in sixth.

The late and well respected photographer, Spencer Oliver, paid tribute in the programme by saying: “In my association with motorsport, stretching back over half a century, I have seldom met anyone more fitted to the title of ‘Gentleman’ than Ken Redfern and for those that knew him, his passing has left a void which will never be filled.”

In recent times, there has been calls for a section of track at Croft to be renamed in Ken’s honour. How fitting that would be if it came to pass as we near the 50th year of his passing?

Dateline: Saturday, September 20, 1975

Location: Croft Autodrome

Meeting: National Ken Redfern Trophy Meeting