The sport of sidecar racing sadly lost a great campaigner in January with the passing of Derek Yorke. Few riders – either on solo or sidecar – can have achieved such a successful and lengthy career as he enjoyed and who won many titles both in and out of the Eastern Centre. A founder member of the Eastern Sporting Sidecar Association in 1954, Derek was already a top-flight sidecar performer in grass track racing. Initially riding for the Chelmsford A.C, he secured a hat-trick of Centre grass-track sidecar championship wins from 1954 to 56, and took two further titles in 1958/9. Whist still performing on the grass in the 1960`s, he turned his attention to road-racing – again on three wheels.
A mechanic by trade he worked alongside the late E.E.(“Dusty”) Miller at Chelmsford but later went on to form his own business: “Essex Wheels”, specialising in spoked wheel repairs and manufacture. He operated from Sible Hedingham and many an Eastern Centre rider and racer would have availed themselves of his specialist service.
It follows that Derek`s skills would pass to modifying his own machinery for three-wheeled racing and indeed one of his winning grass track combinations was the “Trudge,” indicating a mixture of Triumph, JAP, and Rudge. Derek continued his long spell in road racing, including many appearances at the T.T. where he achieved a commendable run of finishes over the grueling circuit.
In 1960, he was part of the ESSA team to win the team prize at the T.T, and in the 1973 event, along with Roger Dutton and Mike Potter, the team won both 500cc and 750cc team awards. Derek mainly rode Norton or Triumph powered machines in his road racing but during an era which saw many developments in sidecar racing and varied from the ultra-low “kneelers”, to literal three-wheeled cars, he tended to favour the conventional ”sitter” layout.
He retired from his business in 2011, passing it to Mark Clements but had already found another occupation – somewhat distant from high speed sidecar performing – by taking up the in the mouth organ where he featured in a four-piece harmonica group and played as entertainment at a Centre Board prize-giving ceremony in 2005.
His health deteriorated over a period of time and he died at Colchester hospital just a few days short of his 89th
birthday. – The funeral will be at 11am on Monday February 20th
at Sible Hedingham Church.