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Rocket Man

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Ron Haslam was my racing hero before I even knew who Barry Sheene was. World of Sport was a Saturday afternoon TV show that screened everything from darts to wrestling, and occasionally a bout of road racing. Watching him wrestle Mal Carter’s Yamaha TZ750 around some gnarly British track was to behold a supernatural talent. Yet when post-race interviewers asked him how he was so quick he’d reply with something typically modest, including “I just lean it reet over”. He certainly did Halifax strong man Mal Carter was the man who sponsored the young Haslam – funded by his Pharaoh car dealerships – and when Ron went to Honda UK Mal spent another fortune on his sons’ careers, pushing Alan towards Grand Prix success and older brother Kenny to speedway victories. Alan Carter’s biography is hugely insightful but disturbing reading – the clue’s in the title: Light in the Darkness: The truth about Mal, Kenny and me. He writes, for example that: “When someone asked for my dad’s paddock pass he’d simply point to his face and say, that’s my fucking pass, don’t you know who I am? Sometimes he’d threaten them. Occasionally he might even hit them.” Tragedy overtook the family in 1986 when Kenny murdered his wife and then turned the gun on himself. Alan’s story proved to be that of a nearly man, despite great opportunities. Yet Ron Haslam lived an apparently charmed life after Mal gave him a leg up to the big time. Without the distractions of the NR500 and Elf projects I genuinely believe he could have been a 500 world champion. Not that it seems to bother him: a few years back I was in the paddock at Thruxton and he was leaning against a fence chatting to son Leon. I braced myself, walked over and said “Mr Haslam I’d like to shake your hand”. Leon put his hand out and I blustered “sorry I meant your dad". They both laughed and I got to shake hands with Rocket Ron.

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