The world famous Dundrod circuit, nestling in the hills above Belfast has witnessed many great performances over the years and August 1978 was no exception.

Tom Herron lived a short distance down the road in Lisburn so Dundrod was essentially his home circuit and he arrived at the Ulster Grand Prix that year determined to produce the goods - that he did, and in some style.

Tom's season on the continental Grand Prix circuit up until then had been on the whole somewhat frustrating by his own high standards, although the previous week he put in arguably two of the finest performances of his career with second place finishes in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in the 250cc and 350cc classes to Anton Mang and Kork Ballington respectively. The 'Ulster' that year featured six International races with big prize money up for grabs and Tom was determined to grab a big slice of it!! 

Practice was tragically marred by a crash involving Jeremy Montgomery Swann. Tom actually arrived on the scene but could do nothing to help the unfortunate rider. 

One noticeable absentee from the meeting was star rider Phil Read.
Read didn't show up for practice and as such wasn't permitted to race. 


An appeal had been made by Honda team manager Barry Symmonds but the race officials stood by their decision. 
 
Racing got underway with the 12 lap 500cc Race.
First off the line was John Williams on a Suzuki, however Tom had a disastrous start and the leaders were on to the 'Flying Kilo' as he finally got away. 
As they came round at the end of the opening lap it was Williams by 15 seconds. However Tom, fired up by his uncharacteristic poor start, was on a charge on the Jim Finlay RG500 and was making his way through the field with a new lap record in the process. 
Early retirements were Dave Potter and Kevin Stowe with Roger Marshall (Yamaha) joining them. Williams was well clear of the field but Tom had ridden brilliantly into second place ahead of John Woodley, Stan Woods, George Fogarty and Dennis Ireland. At the chequered flag 'John G' had the race under control by some 20.8 seconds from Tom with Woodley a further 17.4 seconds back in 3rd place.

The expected three-man battle between Tom, Ray McCullough and Jon Ekerold in the 250cc race never fully materialised as McCullough retired on the opening lap with engine trouble. Despite only intending to do a few laps on his bike in order to run it in for the following week's West German GP, the final round of the world championship, Tom got a flier and knuckled down to the task in hand with Ekerold, Trevor Steele and Graham Waring in close proximity. Tom was running away with the race, meanwhile behind him Ekerold had hit bike trouble with the breather on his engine and had dropped into the clutches of Dromara's Trevor Steele. Eventually the problem was sorted and Jon fought his way back up to 2nd place, but by this time Tom was too far up the road. Herron finished over twenty seconds clear of Ekerold, while Steele was a further six seconds back. Tom recorded the fastest lap of the race at 109.56 mph.

The TT Formula 1 saw Tom bring the Mocheck Honda to the line. 
He had campaigned this particular bike in the same event at the Isle of Man TT races in June where mechanical problems forced him out whilst pushing for the lead. This time there would be no such problems.
The leader on the opening lap was fellow Mocheck Honda mounted Tony Rutter. In fact Rutter led for the first few laps from John Williams who was riding Phil Read's Honda GB machine. but on Lap 5 Tom put in a lap of 113.96 mph to take the lead and gradually pulled away with a fine piece of riding on the big bike. But as he calmly went about his business on the Dundrod circuit, back in the pits his team were anything but calm. His mechanic, thinking the race was over 10 laps and not 12, had fitted Tom's Honda with a small fuel tank and as such there was some serious doubt as to whether the bike would last the distance. They needn't have worried as Tom brought it home with just three quarters of a pint to spare.
At the flag it was Tom by 21.4 secs from Rutter with John Cowie third.

'We couldn't have cut it any finer' said Tom afterwards. when he also revealed that he had a small moment of drama at Leathemstown on the last lap when he had to swerve round a slower rider and his bike hit neutral. 'Once these machines stop it's almost impossible to get going again' he added.

Tom decided not to contest the 350cc event as he wanted to save his bike for the following week's German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. The race was won by his good friend Jon Ekerold with Graham Waring second and Steve Tonkin third, Williams fourth and his Honda team-mate Ron Haslam fifth.

And so to the feature race of the day, the 1000cc Superbike race. Tom was chasing a treble but again it was John Williams who took the lead. In pursuit were Dudley Crammond and Charlie Williams. At the end of the opening lap Charlie Williams moved into 2nd place, followed by Crammond, Tom Herron, Roger Marshall, Kevin Stowe, Dave Potter and John Woodley. Ron Haslam and Jon Ekerold were early retirements. There was drama at Wheelers when John Williams crashed out. John was taken to hospital with what were thought to be minor injuries but he sadly passed away later that evening in hospital. Meanwhile Tom was absolutely flying and easily ran out the winner with Tony Rutter and Roger Marshall completing the top three. Tom toured on round the circuit to check on the condition of John Williams and after establishing that John was seemingly alright, he continued round to the paddock.

So a treble for Tom on a day overshadowed by the events surrounding his good friend and top rider John Williams.

Ulster Grand Prix Results 1978.

250cc 
1st: Tom Herron - Yamaha - Av Sp 107.50 mph (172.0 km/h) - Time 49 m 34.2 s
2nd: Jon Ekerold - Yamaha - Av Sp 106.75 mph (170.80 km/h) - Time 49 m 55 s
3rd: Trevor Steele - Yamaha - Av Sp 106.52 mph (170.43 km/h) - Time 50 m 1.6 s

350cc
1st: Jon Ekerold - Yamaha - Av Sp 111.44 mph (178.30 km/h) - Time 47 m 49 s
2nd: Graham Waring - Yamaha - Av Sp 110.44 mph (176.70 km/h) - Time 48 m 15 s
3rd: Steve Tonkin - Yamaha - Av Sp 110.16 mph (176.26 km/h) - Time 48 m 22.4 s

500cc
1st: John Williams - Suzuki - Av Sp 111.95 mph (179.12 km/h) - Time 47 m 36s
2nd: Tom Herron - Suzuki - Av Sp 111.14 mph (177.82 km/h) - Time 47 m 56.8s
3rd: John Woodley - Suzuki - Av Sp 110.47 mph (176.75 km/h) - Time 48 m 14.2 s

1000cc
1st: Tom Herron - Yamaha - Av Sp 116.71 mph (186.74 km/h) - Time 38 m 3 s
2nd: Tony Rutter - Yamaha - Av Sp 115.24 mph (184.38 km/h) - Time 38 m 32s
3rd: Roger Marshall - Yamaha - Av Sp 114.39 mph (183.02 km/h) - T ime 38 m 49.2s

TT F1
1st: Tom Herron - Honda - Av Sp 110.46 mph (176.74 km/h) - Time 48 m 14.6 s
2nd: Tony Rutter - Honda - Av Sp 109.65 mph (175.44 km/h) - Time 48 m 36 s
3rd: John Cowie - Kawasaki - Av Sp 109.19 mph (174.70 km/h) - Time 48 m 48.2 s

Lap records on the 7.401 mile (11.842 km) circuit introduced in 1965.

500cc: Tom Herron Suzuki - 115.74 mph (185.18 km/h)
1000cc: Tom Herron - Yamaha - 118.84 mph (190.14 km/h)
TT F1: Tom Herron Honda - 113.96 mph (182.34 km/h)

Tom'TW'Herron.com
April 2010



Tom and his mother Mrs. Elizabeth Herron present a Kawasaki motorcycle to Ulster Grand Prix Supporters Club competition winner Mr. Thomas Hugh Ross, left. Included is the competition organiser Mr. R. Singer.
Photo: Herron Family Archive
By Kind Permission

Tom closes in on early race leader Tony Rutter at Rock Bends during the TT Formula 1 race.
Photo Courtesy: Eddie Mateer
By Kind Permission

First three home in the 500cc race. Tom 2nd, race winner John Williams and John Woodley 3rd.
Photo Courtesy: Eddie Mateer
By Kind Permission

Main Photos
Tom at the Lindsay Hairpin on the Jim Finlay RG500.
Photo Courtesy: Eddie Mateer
By Kind Permission
..........................................
Tom on his way to victory in the TT Formula  One race on the Mocheck Honda.
Photo: Norman Ross
By Kind Permission