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Competitor Profile: Eric Oliver

TT Career Summary

No of times1112216

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Eric Oliver first entered the record books, when he won the inaugural sidecar world championship in 1949 on his pre-war 596cc Norton. He went on to win 3 further world championships in 1950, 1951 and 1953.

In 1954 when sidecars returned to the TT for the first time since 1925, on the newly introduced 10.79 mile Clypse Course, Eric with passenger Les Nutt they entered the record books by becoming the first sidecars winners on the ‘new’ course creating lap and race records in the process.

There was to be no fairy-tale repeat of their 1954 victory, the following year, as the Norton outfit succumbed to the ‘might’ of the BMW competition. Eric retired from Grand Prix racing to open a motorcycle shop in Staines, Middlesex. Never losing enthusiasm or interest, he returned to the Isle of Man in 1958, to compete in the Sidecar TT, on a “standard” production Norton Dominator twin fitted with a Watsonian chair, with Mrs. Pat Wise as the intrepid passenger. Neither was disgraced as they provided perhaps the spectacular racing during the 10-lap race taking the chequered flag in tenth position, collecting a Bronze Replica for their efforts.

The TT organisers were contemplating moving all the races to the Mountain Course, so in 1959, Eric and his passenger Stan Dibben, were asked to proceed the roads-open car on a lap of the 37.73 mile course at the conclusion of the Senior TT of 1959, to see if the ‘chairs’ could cope with the course!

All was satisfied, and the 1960 TT saw Eric and Stan entered for the three-lap race. However, a dramatic accident during practice when the bolt holding the forks sheared put them out of contention. Eric broke his back in two places and Stan came close to be decapitated as the outfit plunged off the circuit heading straight for a wire fence. Luckily the sidecar broke the wire fence as it came into contact with Stan's throat and he was thrown clear. Eric recovered fully from his injuries and Stan was not seriously hurt. Both men decided to retire from racing.

Eric sadly died as a result of a stroke on 1st March 1980.

Information supplied by Elaine Matthews, Eric's daughter.

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