This was the first winner of the Ulster (Ards) TT, 21st August 1928. This Lea Francis driven by Kaye Don, was one of six Lea Francis entered for the race. It is now resident in the Coventry Transport Musem. The car was brought over for the 80th anniversary of the race in Conway Square Newtownards ,18th August 2008. Along with many other vintage classics gathered together to commemorate the Ards TT, first held in 1928. The race was the culmination of much thought and enthusiasm by two men. One was the legendary Harry Ferguson and the other was Wallace McLeod. Wallace was head of the motor engineering school at the Belfast Tech. The men were helped in their dream by the fact that (unlike the rest of the British Isles) the law in Ulster enabled roads to be closed off for motor racing. In 1927 the two men visited a race at Brooklands and persuaded some of the drivers that, if they could find a suitable Ulster road circuit, then they would participate. The venue was found and the six hour race was organised under the auspices of the Royal Automobile Club.
The circuit was in the form of a triangle 13.7 miles in total. The race started at the pits on the Newtownards Road Dundonald , and there still is a little commemorative building at that spot to mark the location. The cars then set off towards Newtownards via Quarry Corner then up and over Bradshaw’s Brae and into Conway Square, Newtownards .
There are still marks on the masonry made by the cars as they clipped the corner into the square, now a pedestrian precinct.
At its peak the Ards TT attracted over a half a million spectators.
The Ards TT race continued very successfully each year until 1936 when one of the competing cars crashed at Newtownards killing eight spectators and injuring 40 others. The Ards TT was never held again.
1928 ‘Ulster TT’ winning, Lea Francis ‘Hyper’
This vehicle was recently bequeathed to the museum (Coventry Transport Museum) by ‘Tom’ Delaney, an icon of motor racing. Tom’s father was MD of Lea Francis and oversaw most of the company’s serious car production, including in 1927 the first supercharged models known as ‘Hypers’. This car was one of a team of six Lea Francis cars entered in the ‘Ulster TT’ on the 21st of August 1928 and went on to win the race at an average speed of 64 mph.
Although driven in the race by Kaye Don, the car was raced by Tom Delaney between 1930 and 1934 mostly at Brooklands,but also at Donnington, and Brighton, Shelsly Walsh speed trials. Tom stopped racing in 1935, but continued to be involved with Lea Francis. He resumed his interest in motor racing after the sale of his own company in 1959. Tom was reunited with the car by chance, while president of the Lea-Francis Owners Club. The car had been extensively modified and stored in a barn for a number of years and Tom spent six years rebuilding it to its original TT winning specification, completing the project in time to attend the 50th anniversary of the Ulster race it had so famously won.
In 1988 a 77 year old Tom drove in his first competitive race for 53 years. While his initial return was in another ‘Hyper’, Tom started competing again regularly in the TT winning car from 1989, both car and driver became a familiar and popular sight at vintage speed events right up to Toms last race in 2006 at the age of 95. Sadly Tom died later that year, but generously donated this iconic vehicle to Coventry Transport Museum, where he was a regular visitor.
The car joins the museum’s other famous ‘Hyper’, winner of the 1929 1.5 litre class at Le Mans.
WK6537 has also been seen out at many recent Goodwood Revivals
Nikon s-200 7.1 vintage pixie