The International Historic Racing Organisation (IHRO) was proposed in 1985 by the journalist Alan Cathcart and some like minded enthusiasts after having competed in a race at the Le Castellet circuit in the south of France. Looking to expand the idea of a class for ‘proper’ classic racing machines to compete in around Europe, a plan was formulated over the inevitable post race glass of wine and as a result IHRO was started. The first race was held as a support race to the French Grand Prix at Le Mans in 1986 and IHRO has come a long way since then.
The idea of a modern day ‘Continental Circus’ but for period machines, was soon accepted by race organisers at major international events, and the sight and sound of these thoroughbred Grand prix machines of yesteryear was soon a regular feature at major events. In it’ early days, IHRO raced the length and breadth of the European continent, from Pergusa in Sicily to Linkoping in Sweden, over the years however, the circuits have tended to be more central European, with Monza as the southern extreme and Assen as the northern boundary.In 1997 IHRO organised the first ever race for Historic machines at a motorcycle meeting in Germany.German rules had previously limited the ‘Oldtimers’ to regularity and demonstration events, but following the amazing success of that first race at Schleiz IHRO, has been invited by other organisers to hold races at major German historic circuits.
Thrilling competition has always been the major feature of IHRO races and these races have gone a long way to introduce the concept of ‘old bike’ racing to an audience raised on the modern two stroke GP bikes. We insist on only machines of a type which raced at Grand’s Prix in the period, the fact that a machine is old does not automatically qualify it for competition within IHRO and we are very strict about the modifications which we allow. Except in the case of safety features, we insist on period modifications only. All of our machines race with drum brakes on the front and rear wheels and must be of period appearance with regard to fairings, seats etc. IHRO’s rules have evolved over the years, but still remain true to the original concept. The quality of the machines being raced has always helped to put the IHRO races a cut above other classic racing. The quality of racing is also a factor which has helped distinguish IHRO, with top quality riders battling fiercely for the honours and close racing continuing throughout the field. This combination has ensured that the IHRO race is the most eagerly awaited of the day’s events, with many organisers giving IHRO the top billing on their programmes.
The prospect of competition has lured some of the famous stars of the past into competing with IHRO, ex world champions have come back to prove why they were the best, then having proved to themselves and their fans that they were not ‘past it’, have decided to continue with an historic racing future, or retire gracefully again, confident in their abilities. However it is the vast majority of ordinary classic racers which have kept IHRO alive and allowed it to prosper, even in the face of strong opposition from a short lived Classic World Championship series.
From the outset, IHRO has always placed a large emphasis on the social side of their events, with social gatherings and bar-b-queues playing a major part in recreating the ‘Continental Circus’ atmosphere of the past, yes the racing is serious, but the IHRO ‘family’ also knows how to enjoy itself and there is a wonderful camaraderie which ensures that if anyone has a problem, his fellow competitors will assist as much as they can, a far cry from the cut-throat regime of modern racing.
The increasing commercialisation and TV scheduling that has come into all forms of sport over the past few years has meant that IHRO has been reduced to a smaller number of meetings, but has chosen to concentrate on the Historic circuits and venues for its recent racing, but still with a sprinkling of Grand Prix events.
With a rider base of over 100 active competitors spread throughout Europe, IHRO is flourishing and with a policy of providing good meetings at accessible venues looks set to continue providing the sights and sounds of yesteryear for modern race audiences.