Serving the Cookstown 100 road races is an honour for devoted volunteer Norman Crooks
Cookstown 100 stalwart Norman Crooks is embracing his 53rd year of involvement with the Irish road race with renewed enthusiasm after recently taking delivery of his British Empire Medal (BEM).
The 74-year-old from Moneymore was awarded the accolade in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List last October in recognition of his contribution the sport as a long-serving member of Cookstown and District Motor Cycle Club Ltd.
Mr Crooks received the medal via courier, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic denying him the opportunity to participate in the traditional presentation ceremony, when recipients receive the medal from the Lord Lieutenant of their county on behalf of the Queen.
He first joined the Cookstown Club in October 1968 and took on the role of assistant race secretary, before he was promoted to race secretary in 1979 – a position he has held ever since.
Upon learning he had been nominated for the honour, Mr Crooks told the News Letter in October: “It was a big surprise.
“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.”
Mr Crooks has witnessed many changes in road racing over the last half-a-century, including within his own club, but his approach to his job as race secretary for the Cookstown 100 has remained largely unchanged.
“I usually start my preparations in December, getting entries sent out to all competitors, plus other bookwork, which continues throughout the year,” he said.
“I’ve built up a great rapport with competitors over the years and I know most on a personal basis these days. The pandemic situation certainly changed many things, but we still managed to get our race over and fingers crossed, we can do likewise this year,” added Mr Crooks, who is particularly looking forward to the 100th anniversary of the Cookstown 100 in 2022.
“It’s being part of a great club that gets me up in the morning,” he concluded.
Ireland’s most successful ever Irish road racer, Ryan Farquhar, also received the BEM last year in recognition of Services to Motorcycling.
The Dungannon man went into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2019 for his staggering feat of 357 road racing victories.
A multiple North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix winner, the 45-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.
He previously told the News Letter of his pride in being honoured with the British Empire Medal.
“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.”
The rescheduled Cookstown 100 was the only Irish road race that went ahead in 2020, with all other events on the calendar cancelled as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Once again, the race has been switched from its traditional April weekend to September 10-11. All other Irish road races have been cancelled this year with the exception of Armoy, which the organisers are hopeful will go ahead as planned from July 30-31.
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