By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
Ryan Farquhar says he is ‘proud and honoured’ after being awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
The Dungannon man is Ireland’s most successful ever Irish national road racer and his achievements were also recognised last year, when Farquhar went into the Guinness Book of World Records for his staggering feat of 357 road racing victories.
A multiple North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix winner, the 44-year-old has focused solely on running his KMR Kawasaki team since a life-threatening crash at the North West in 2016, although Farquhar has refused to rule out a return to the sport he loves in the future.
On Friday, he told the News Letter this latest accolade – awarded for Services to Motorcycling – was particularly special.
“For anyone to say they’re not proud of being recognised in this way I think they’d be lying,” he said.
“I feel very honoured because when I started in this sport it was just a hobby for me. At no time was I ever a factory rider and although there are a lot of people who deserve a lot of credit for helping me over the years, I got the majority of my wins off my own back.
“I built my own bikes and ran my own team and the fact that I’ve never been a factory rider makes this even sweeter for me,” added Farquhar.
“In motorcycle racing and especially road racing, there are not many riders who have raced at a high level even on factory bikes that has received an award like this, so from that point of view it’s something I’m personally very proud of.”
Farquhar, who surpassed Ulster legend Joey Dunlop’s record of 118 Irish road racing wins at Killalane in 2009, says there is nothing he would change about his illustrious racing career.
“I just grew up in a housing estate and my grandad gave me the opportunity to go racing, so to end up with an award like this is special,” he said.
“One thing I am really proud of was to race against Joey Dunlop and everybody classes him as the benchmark in road racing, so it was a privilege to be on the same track as him.
“I was over the moon the first time I beat Joey and then to win more road races and beat his record of wins was really special.
“I went and on and won more road races than anyone else in the world to get into the Guinness Book of Records and some people might make light of it, but you will always have differing opinions in sport and I wouldn’t swap my career for anybody else’s.”
Recounting the moment he received a telephone call informing him of his inclusion in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list this year, Farquhar said he thought it was a ‘wind up’.
“I was in the workshop one evening and I got a call from a private number. I don’t usually answer if it’s a withheld number but I did this time and there was a polite-spoken English fella on the phone,” he explained.
“I thought it was someone trying to wind me up but they sounded the part and I think he said he was from the Br
itish Cabinet Office. I was playing my cards close to my chest and I asked him how I knew this was legit, and he asked me for my email address.
“Sure enough, the next thing all the official documents came through and it was then that I obviously knew it was for real,” he added.
“I think for this kind of accolade I’d probably receive it at somewhere here like Hillsborough Castle for example, but at this minute in time I haven’t been told where I will be presented with it or when because of the current situation we are in.”
Also within Irish motorcycling, Norman Crooks – Secretary of Cookstown and District Motorcycle Club – has been honoured with a British Empire Medal. Mr Crooks has been a member of the club for more than half-a-decade.
“It was a big surprise,” he said.
“I’ve been in the Cookstown Club for 52 years and I’ve helped a lot of other clubs out during that time as well.
“I just love the banter in racing and it’s very nice to be recognised like this.”