In early April 1979 the British team for the annual Transatlantic Trophy Match Races against a USA select was announced and for the first time in his career Tom Herron deservedly took his place in the team.

Also in the squad were Tom's Suzuki team mates Barry Sheene and Steve Parrish, all three would compete on the new 652cc bikes specially made for the series. 

Managed by Percy Tait, the British team captain was Mick Grant with Barry Ditchburn and Dave Potter completing the line-up of seeded starters. 

Thursday practice before the opening encounter at Brands Hatch was used to determine the three remaining riders for the team with Ron Haslam, who was showing superb early season form, John Newbold and Keith Huewen eventually clinching the places.

With big names like Kenny Roberts and Pat Hennen missing from the American team, the home team were confident of overall success. Nevertheless the USA, captained by the experienced Dave Aldana, still boasted a solid squad with a mixture of experience and youth. 

Names like Kawasaki mounted Mike Baldwin, Steve Baker, Dale Singleton who in March had become only the second privateer to win the Daytona 200, 23 year old Wes Cooley and Randy Mamola, who for years had been competing against world class opposition despite his youthful 19 years.

A false start in race one at Brands Hatch on Good Friday did little to calm the nerves not to mention a few overheating engines, and with Sheene getting a bad start and setting about battling his way through virtually the entire field, it was left to his team-mates to take up the challenge in the early stages. Baldwin set the early pace and led for the opening few laps with Herron and Aldana in close proximity, but Sheene was now on the move and to the delight of the home crowd he took the lead in the closing stages to claim the win with Baldwin second and Tom fully justifying his team selection with a fine third. Fourth was Dave Aldana followed by John Newbold and Mick Grant as the home team led by 70 points to 65. 

But with the weakened Americans also missing Skip Aksland, and with Steve Baker on a borrowed bike from Sid Griffiths, a five point lead was not a good omen for the rest of the series, and it was about to get a whole lot worse. 

In the second race, spectators were greeted to the sight of a trio of Americans (Aldana, Baldwin and Baker) leading the way with Haslam, Herron, Potter and Sheene in hot pursuit. 

But Tom was about to become a television star for all the wrong reasons............... 

With three quarters of the race run, as second and third placed Sheene and Herron swooped down the fast Hawthorn Hill and exited Hawthorn Bend in pursuit of lone leader Dave Aldana, Tom lost the back end of the fearsome 652cc Suzuki in full view of the cameras and crashed spectacularly into the armco barrier. 

With his bike momentarily catching fire and looking decidedly second hand, Tom thankfully was seen crawling away from the scene but in obvious pain. 

His injuries would have understandably deterred many a rider from even considering taking any further part in the day's racing, and indeed at first Tom stated that he would not be out again in the ShellSport 500cc Championship race later in the afternoon. 

However, Tom Herron was a tough, determined character and he brushed himself off, borrowed a helmet from team-mate Sheene and took his place on the grid. 
The Ulsterman rode bravely to finish a brilliant second but unfortunately took no further part in the remaining Match Races at Mallory Park and Oulton Park. 

Tom's crash was unfortunate as he was proving to be one of the team's top scorers and with his absence went any real chance of a home victory. 

Despite a British double success at Mallory with firstly Sheene, followed by a fine win by John Newbold, and also the loss to the American team of Dale Singleton who crashed heavily on his Yamaha at The Esses, the Americans took a 30 point lead into the final races at Oulton. 

Luck was not on the home team's side at Mallory as Ron Haslam suffered clutch problems in race one and retired with a rear wheel puncture whilst comfortably leading the second race, whilst Keith Huewen retired from a strong fourth in the first race with brake trouble. 

The Americans claimed their first wins at Oulton Park thanks to a Gene Romero double and eventually won the series by 448 points to 352, leaving the home team to rue the loss of Tom from the series at Brands Hatch and ponder what might have been had he been fit to compete at Mallory and Oulton.

January 2012

Tom acknowledges the crowd following his excellent third place in the opening race at Brands Hatch.
Photo: Jim Yarwood
By Kind Permission

Main Photo
Tom pictured on the works 652cc Suzuki at Brands.
Photo:  Jim Yarwood
By Kind Permission
Tom has a close look at team-mate Barry Sheene's Suzuki at Oulton.
Photo Courtesy: Caroline De Prez Benzies
By Kind Permission
Tom chats to Pat Mahoney at Oulton Park.
Photo Courtesy: Caroline De Prez Benzies
By Kind Permission