So long, Ryan

Published: 27 March 2016

This feature, from late 2012, marked the retirement (albeit only temporary, as it turned out) of Ryan Farquhar. At the time of his retiurement he had amassed 80 more Irish National races than Joey and won 98 times at Scarborough. 

hen Ryan Farquhar announced his retirement from racing between the hedges in September 2012, he had amassed an incredible 199 Irish National road race wins. The only other person to come close was one William Joseph Dunlop, whose total fell 80 short. It was the death of Ryan’s uncle, Trevor Ferguson, in a crash during the Manx Grand Prix which led to the 36-year-old Dungannon rider calling it a day.
Alongside these achievements he has scored 98 wins at Scarborough and won at the North West 200, the Ulster Grand Prix and three times at the TT, including the inaugural Lightweight TT in 2012 for the 650 Supertwins.
This last is a class Ryan virtually invented with his KMR team. The immaculate ER6-based Kawasakis emerging from the little workshop beside his home have dominated the class over the last three years. KMR-built ER6s were first second and third in this year’s North West 200 650 race in the hands of Ryan, Jeremy McWilliams and Michael Rutter.
It is poignant that Ryan stopped just a few races shy of the round figures that would have completed neat and major milestones. But the death of his uncle, a man Ryan had shared his entire racing career with since he began in 1993, was a blow he could not withstand. It was a sad way to bring things to a close, but a courageous one also.
Now Ryan hopes to continue to run other riders in his bright orange KMR colours. It would be a double blow to the sport if the vast experience that he has accumulated over the past 20 years were lost with his retirement.
Ryan brought down the curtain on his outstanding career at Oliver’s Mount with three parade laps in front of a huge Gold Cup crowd. As a road race photographer and fan I’ve documented the career of Ireland’s most successful racer. Here are some of my favourite pictures of him, along with Ryan’s own comments on them.

 

1982: with uncle Trevor Ferguson’s first race bike, a Yamaha RD350LC, at Aghadowey

“I went with my uncle Trevor and my granda to every race from when I was about six or seven. I’d carry his helmet and as I got older push the bike to the grid or to scrutineering. But at this stage it was all about getting money for burgers and sweets. It must have been a wet day because I have my duffle coat on.”



1993: first season’s racing, on a TZ350 Yamaha at Nutt’s Corner, Co Antrim

“This bike had belonged to my uncle Trevor and when I started racing it in ’93 I really struggled. I had never ridden anything any faster before than a Honda step-thru and I had no feel for the speed of the Yamaha. But every time I went out I got quicker, and within a year of starting I got a podium spot at Kirkistown against top 350cc men like Michael Swann, Nigel Moore – and my uncle Trevor.”



2004: being congratulated by wife Karen after winning his first TT, the Production 600 race, on the McAdoo Kawasaki

“Karen and I had just got married in 2004 and it was a very, very big year for us. A lot of the emotion of it all is in this picture. I had taken a gamble by giving up work to go racing full-time and our first chid, Keeley, was born in December. Winning my first TT was the highlight, especially as I had to race all season in agony after breaking the scaphoid bone in my wrist in a quad crash at the start of the year.’



2002: full commitment around the 140mph Tournagrough during the Ulster Grand Prix

“This is the most famous picture there is of me. Even though it was taken way back in 2000 I still get asked to sign it. I was grinding the R1’s clutch housing on the road here. David Jefferies was riding the V&M Yamahas that year and when he saw photograph he told me he thought I was mad.”



2004: surgeons work to perform a bone graft on Ryan’s wrist after he broke his scaphoid in a quad-bike accident

“It was a big year for me, 2004. I’d just got married, had my first child, given up work to go racing full time – and then I got injured. I couldn’t afford not to race on, even after I broke my scaphoid bone. So I had to wait until the end of the season to get the bone graft to put it right. There was a lot of pain that year.”



13 September 2009: Ryan’s 120th Irish National road race win at Killalane, overtaking the late Joey Dunlop’s record of 119

“At no stage did I ever consider myself as a better rider than Joey Dunlop, but to beat his record was really exciting and I am very proud to have done it. I had raced against him quite a few times, mainly on 250s. Everybody was talking about me beating the record that day at Killalane and there were lots of media there. I was trying to play it down because I had broken my hand in a crash at the Manx the week before and I wanted to keep a low profile in case I wasn’t allowed to race. I had to dig really deep to get there in the end.”

 

2012: celebrating winning the Supertwins race at the North West 200 with runner-up Jeremy McWilliams (right) and third-placed Michael Rutter. All three were mounted on KMR 650 Kawasakis which Ryan had built

“This picture is a dream – it is my happiest day in racing. It is one thing to win a brand new class at the North West, but to have three bikes on the podium that I built myself was unreal. I don’t think it will ever happen again.”



2009: being presented with the NGK Enkalon Irish Motorcyclist of the Year trophy

“This is one award I never thought I would win because it was based on a public vote, and over the years I have often been slagged off. I speak my mind and tell the truth, and that doesn’t always go down well. When things weren’t right I’ve said so; I’ve had some run-ins with the powers that be in racing and some fans have taken offence. At one time I was branded ‘Cryin’ Ryan’ but it was water off a duck’s back. Actually, it worked to my advantage.
I would often be working at the bikes for days on end in the garage and I would get totally fed up looking at them. But if I lifted a magazine or read a forum and saw someone having a go at me I was back out at the bikes like a shot, all fired up and ready to prove them wrong.”



2011: with daughters May and Keeley (hence KMR Racing), just after winning the Junior Manx Classic Grand Prix

“Karen and the girls go most places with me. It is great to have them there but I know that I have been selfish too. I have struggled to balance racing with seeing the girls growing up. For weeks I would only see them at breakfast and at tea-time – the rest of the time I was stuck in the workshop. There is a price to pay for everything and that is the price I paid for being successful at my sport. But that will all change now.”

 

 

 

 

2009: getting airborne close to the crowd on the ZX-10R at Armoy road races, Co Antrim

“This is one of the most technical jumps in Irish road racing because you are jumping off a corner with the bike leaned over. Get it wrong and it can go very wrong. I enjoyed racing on the tighter, twistier wee courses, doing things like this – and I learned how to ride fast but hold a defensive line. I often won when I didn’t have the fastest bike.”

Words Stephen Davison, Ryan Farquhar  Photos Stephen Davison/Pacemaker