In the fast paced world of motorcycle racing, a relatively unremarkable statistic. 

But when used in the context of an average lap speed, achieved over 30 years ago on a closed public roads circuit, then we are truly looking at something quite remarkable. 

It was speed racing at its finest and propelled the North-West 200 circuit to the status of being the fastest in the British Isles, a record only bettered some 24 years later when Ian Lougher lapped the Dundrod circuit at 127.82mph. 

Tom Herron arrived at the 1978 North-West 200 after a four year absence, fresh his latest Grand Prix travels.

His early season results hadn't been to his liking but he had finally got his season back on track with top six finishes at the French Grand Prix at Nogaro and the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello respectively. 

There's no doubt he was the big attraction on Ulster's North Coast and in practice he very nearly grabbed pole position for the big races. 

However he got his day off to a great start when he won the six lap 750cc race. 

Mick Grant was the early leader and at the Shell Hill Bridge on the opening lap it was Ron Haslam from Steve Parrish, Dave Potter, Tony Rutter, Grant, John Newbold, Charlie Williams and Tom. Grant then 'dropped' it at Metropole Corner, with oil on the rear tyre cited as the cause.
Ron Haslam still led at the end of the lap but Tom was on the move and was now third. Haslam went out at the Metropole on the second lap and Tom moved into first place. 
He was riding well, and within his limits, but still increased his lead every lap over Rutter and Charlie Williams. He also upped the lap record with a speed of 124.14 mph (198.62 km/h). He eased off on the final few laps because of rear tyre wear but at the finish it was Herron, Tony Rutter and Charlie Williams.
It was Tom's first international Superbike win on the North Coast circuit. 

He then took part in the 500cc race, but was forced to retire with mechanical trouble whilst in with a great chance of winning. 
The 250cc race gave Tom his second win of the day as he took 6.4 seconds off Derek Chatterton's 1975 lap record, with a speed of 113.81 mph (182.10 km/h). 

But then came the second 750cc race, and with it, Tom's name in the history books. 
The organisers had decided to reduce the race distance to five laps after the tyre problems in the first race, non-starters were Joey Dunlop and John Williams. 
Tom took the lead at the start, with Mick Grant and Tony Rutter in close proximity. On the high speed run to Coleraine, Grant slipstreamed Herron and Rutter but by the end of the lap Tom led once more with all three lapping at over 126mph. 

Tom broke the lap record on the second lap with a speed of 126.65 mph (202.64 km/h and on the third lap on his TZ750E Yamaha, he took a full 8.2 seconds off the old lap record as he recorded an astonishing lap of 127.63mph!! 
However, on the fourth lap Rutter closed up on Tom in the University area and pointed to his tyres. 
With smoke and chunks of rubber coming from the rear slick on his bike, Tom eased up and Rutter took the lead. Grant meanwhile had stopped to also check his tyres and couldn't get going again. Rutter was also experiencing tyre problems but held on comfortably for the win. 
Tom had continued at a slower pace and came home in sixth place. 

The 1978 North-West 200 saw an alarming wear on the rear tyres of some competitor's superbikes, especially those of Tom and Tony Rutter. 
The problem was investigated by the tyre company involved and diagnosed as 'the travel on the rear suspension allowing the tyre to lift off the ground at over 185mph and when it made contact with the road again, chunks of rubber were being brought off with the snatching action.' 

Could Tom have lapped the circuit at 130mph that day in 1978. 
Well that's a question that can never fully be answered but yes, it's possible that he certainly could have. 
Two things conspired to possibly prevent him from doing so. 
Firstly the deterioration of his rear tyre due to the speed he was lapping at, and secondly, the introduction two years previously of Ballysally Roundabout on the high speed run between the iconic Shell Hill Bridge and Metropole Corner. 

As the spectators gathered round his blistered rear tyre, Tom would only comment by saying:
"It's a good job they don't make contraceptives!" 

Tom Herron at his brilliant best, on and off the track.

May 2009

Tom's rear slick after the second superbike race at the 1978 North-West 200.
The shattered tyre almost certainly cost Tom a hat-trick of wins at the meeting.

Main Photos
Tom Herron at York Corner on Jim Finlay's TZ750E Yamaha.
Tom sweeps through Church Bends on his record breaking lap.
Courtesy: Norman Waddell
By Kind Permission