Queens University Belfast, Two-Stroke Engines and Motorcycle Grand Prix Racing Legends
While in school I decided that I wanted to become a mechanical engineer. I always had an interest in machines and engines and I managed to get myself into the mechanical engineering degree course at the Queen's University Belfast. While there I found myself working in the engine lab with a guy called Ray McCullough.
Although I'd didn't realise it initially, Ray was a legend for many years before I was even born, having won many road races on two wheels.
By the time I got to Queen's, Ray had retired from racing and was working as a technician in the mechanical engineering lab in the Ashby Building on Stranmillis Road. He was working with students on various research projects related to the development of two-stroke engines.
I was working on a project involving dual ignition, under the supervision of Professor Robert Fleck, former head of the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering in Queen's. Ray was in the lab to help me build (and rebuild) the test engine on the dynamometer. He was a complete gentleman and I have fond memories of working with him, we even managed to blow the odd piston.
The mechanical engineering department of Queen's isn't just involved in the development of two-stroke engines, it also has a long history of involvement with World Championship Grand Prix motorcycle racing. At that time it had teamed up with OPTIMUM Power Technology and Jeremy McWilliams as QUB Team Optimum. Jeremy was riding a 250cc Honda that year (1997) and it was this Honda engine that I worked on. Jeremy is a nice bloke too, he has managed some impressive feats on two wheels, including 2nd place on a 250cc at the German grand prix in Sachsenring in 1998.
This is just a small part of a broader story about QUB's involvement in motorcycle racing. I was interviewed for an article on this story for the September 2020 issue of Road Racing Ireland magazine.
Some more vintage racing footage featuring Ray McCullough, Joey Dunlop and more: