Tai Woffinden was awarded the prestigious Royal Automobile Club’s Torrens Trophy on Thursday 7th March 2019 at the Pall Mall clubhouse, London.
In 2018 the British rider raced into the history books when he won his third speedway world championship title and became the most successful British speedway rider of all time, emulating British riders Freddie Williams and Peter Craven.
“2018 was a fantastic year for motorcycle racing,” said Barrie Baxter, Chairman of the Torrens Trophy Nominations Committee. “The Birchall brothers Ben and Tom had us on the edge of our seats with their spectacular showdown victory at the final round in Germany when they secured the 2018 FIM World Sidecar Championship.
“Leon Haslam won the British Superbike Championship and dominated the whole racing season, taking 15 race wins and finishing 70 points clear of his nearest rival – plus Peter Hickman won both the Superstock and Senior Isle of Man TT races and set a new outright lap record of 135.452mph.
“All of which were worthy contenders for the 2018 Torrens Trophy. However, the Committee unanimously agreed that Tai Woffinden should be honoured for not only his outstanding racing achievement but representing Britain on a world stage.”
“To be world champion in something as demanding as speedway is very special but to do it three times is a remarkable achievement and one that deserves far more recognition than it currently receives.”
Woffinden, who also won world championship titles in 2013 and 2015 said: “I’m pretty strong in the head but there were times when I was thinking ‘wow, man, this is tough.’ This was my hardest one to date, both physically and mentally.”
Woffinden explained speedway in a nutshell: “It’s pretty much motorsport in its rawest form. We race 500cc motorbikes that weigh around 77g, and they accelerate faster than an F1 car with top speeds of up to 80mph. The big difference is we don’t have brakes! The bike just has a throttle, clutch and one gear and we race on shale-based oval tracks and you basically power-slide around the corners.”
Former Red Bull Air Race champion Paul Bonhomme said: “Please pass on my congratulations to Tai. I think he’s completely mad. A few years ago, I had a go around King’s Lynn speedway track on various types of speedway bike and was amused by having no brakes and opening the throttle to go around the corners and closing the throttle on the straights. I’ll stick to low level aerobatics and flying through hangars. I think it is safer…”
Seven-times Isle of Man TT winner Mick Grant said: “His unflappable approach is an example many of his competitors should try to copy. Last year in Slovenia he was unfairly excluded for being late to the tapes by a fraction of a second by a very biased referee. (The names I called him wouldn’t look good on his birth certificate). I saw Tai, not kick his bike, and not verbally abuse the referee, but just come out stronger! He is a credit to the sport and deserves this recognition!”
Former professional Grand Prix road racer and current MotoGP commentator Keith Huewen said: “I am absolutely delighted that Tai has been awarded the Torrens Trophy! Speedway is so often overlooked and yet is one of the toughest sports to consistently stay fit enough to take a GP title. Taking three is special!”
The Club’s Torrens Trophy Nominations Committee consists of Chairman and ex-bike racer Barrie Baxter, Royal Automobile Club Chairman Ben Cussons, well-respected motorcycle journalist and TT winner Mat Oxley, commentator and former racer Steve Parrish, Club member Richard Bourne (son of motorcycle journalist, Arthur Bourne, in memory of whom the Trophy is awarded) and Queen of Bikers Maria Costello MBE who has held the Guinness World Record for being the fastest woman to lap the Isle of Man TT course.
The Torrens Trophy
The Royal Automobile Club has always had a close association with the motorcycling world. The Club formed the Auto Cycle Club in 1903, which went on to become the Auto Cycle Union in 1947. The first motorcycle race was held on the Isle of Man in 1905 for cars – two years before the first Tourist Trophy for motorcycles.
The Torrens Trophy recognises an individual or organisation considered to have made an outstanding contribution to the cause of safe and skilful motorcycling in the United Kingdom OR to have made an outstanding contribution of technical excellence to further the cause of motorcycling in the United Kingdom OR to have shown outstanding skill in international motorcycling sporting events in the United Kingdom.
The Torrens Trophy was first awarded in 1978 in memory of Arthur Bourne, a motorcycling journalist who wrote a column under the name Torrens. Arthur Bourne was also a Vice-Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club. It has only been awarded 11 times in its history and only when the Club feels that the achievement justifies it.
Previous winners of the Torrens Trophy include:
* 2017 Jonathan Rea MBE for being the first rider to win three consecutive World Superbike Championships.
* 2016 MotoGP racer Cal Crutchlow for being first British rider to win a premier class World Championship Motorcycle Grand Prix in 35 years.
* 2015 Eleven-time TT winner Ian Hutchinson for his outstanding determination, courage and overcoming adversity to win multiple TTs.
* 2014 Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne for becoming the first man in history to be crowned British Superbike Championship on four occasions (2003, 2008, 2012 and 2014).
* 2013 Tom Sykes for being crowned the 15th World Superbike champion, the fourth from Great Britain and only the second rider to win for Kawasaki in the series for 20 years.
* 2008 World Superbike champion James Toseland was awarded the Trophy for his immense contribution to raising the profile of motorcycle racing in this country.
* 1998 Ian Kerr MBE of the Metropolitan Police for 20-years of tireless work in promoting safe and responsible motorcycling.
* 1989 BMW in recognition for their contribution to motorcycle safety through their development of their anti-lock braking system.
* 1981 Dave Taylor MBE for his vast contribution to motorcycle road safety.
* 1980 Transport and Road Laboratory.
* 1979 Lieutenant-Colonel Fredrick Lovegrove OBE.
The Royal Automobile Club
The Royal Automobile Club was founded in 1897 and its distinguished history mirrors that of motoring itself. In 1907, the Club was awarded its Royal title by King Edward VII, sealing the Club’s status as Britain’s oldest and most influential motoring organisation.
The Club’s early years were focused on promoting the motor car and its place in society, which developed into motoring events such as the 1000 Mile Trial, first held in 1900. In 1905, the Club held the first Tourist Trophy, which remains the oldest continuously competed for motorsport event. The Club promoted the first pre-war and post-war Grands Prix, at Brooklands in 1926 and Silverstone in 1948 respectively, whilst continuing to campaign for the rights of the motorist, including introducing the first driving licences.
Today, the Club continues to develop and support automobilism through representation on the Motor Sport Association (MSA), Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and RAC Foundation, while continuing to promote its own motoring events, such as the free-to-attend Regent Street Motor Show and the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, which are two of the highlights of the Club’s London Motor Week, which, this year, runs from Monday 28 October to Sunday 3 November 2019.
The Royal Automobile Club also awards a series of historic trophies and medals celebrating motoring achievements. These include the Segrave Trophy, the Tourist Trophy, the Simms Medal, the Dewar Trophy, the Torrens Trophy and the Diamond Jubilee Trophy.