Race to Disaster – The Ards TT

Racing Daydreams - Colin Johnston - Ards TT - BBC

The phone vibrated on my office desk. A glance to see the notification… email… subject line, “TT Film”. Curious, I locked the work laptop and read the message… it was about the Ards TT.

Dear Colin,

I came across your website in the course of doing some research for a film I am making for the BBC about the Ards TT. I would love to have a chat with you about it – is there a number I can reach you on?

Many thanks,


And so, in very short order, I found myself having coffee with Paul McGuigan of Northern Star Pictures, then at the Ulster Transport Museum for day one of shooting on a new production.

Paul’s eye had been caught by my writing about Wallace McLeod, Harry Ferguson, and how they had conspired to reinvent the RAC Tourist Trophy race for then-new Northern Ireland. And so a planned hour or so at Cultra turned into a morning or more, as I blethered away on camera. Waffling, on a Homeric scale. A not-so-potted history of how racing came to be, came to these shores, and inspired generations.

Racing Daydreams - Colin Johnston - Ards TT - BBC

Over the following months I answered questions, and clarified history for the production. When it was decided that an Ulster Grand Prix driver would be an excellent addition, I insisted on my childhood hero John Watson – and was able to initiate that contact. I helped with introductions for other routes that the documentary may have taken… but like almost everyone else, my first experience of the finished work was upon broadcast on BBC One.

What a fine job. I think it’s fair to say that those involved are not ‘petrolheads’, and I think that has been a great advantage – for they have told a very human story in a special way. And while they have been very kind in acknowledging the part I had to play, I think it is a subtly different – and better – film than what I would have chosen to make.

Bravo, one & all… now… who will sponsor a 90-minute version, to include the ideas we had and the footage already ‘in the can’?

UK readers can watch the film at the following link:


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