John Cooper (motorcyclist)

John Cooper
Nationality United Kingdom British
Motorcycle racing career statistics
Grand Prix motorcycle racing
Active years 1964 - 1972
First race 1964 500cc Senior TT 9th, 250cc and 350cc TTs both DNFs
Last race 1972 350cc Junior TT DNF
Starts Wins Podiums Poles F. laps Points
11 0 2 0 0 26

John Cooper (born 1938 in Derby) is an English retired garage proprietor who was a prolific short-circuit motorcycle road racer during the 1960s and early 1970s. He also entered selected Grands Prix motorcycle road races. His best season was in 1967 when he finished the year in seventh place in the 500cc world championship.[1] Cooper was a two-time winner of the North West 200 race held in Northern Ireland.[2] He is remembered for his upset victory over the reigning 500cc world champion, Giacomo Agostini at the 1971 Race of the Year held at Mallory Park.[3] Cooper rode a BSA Rocket 3 to finish three-fifths of a second ahead of Agostini's MV Agusta, achieving his fifth victory in the race since 1965.[4]

John Cooper's BSA Rocket 3

Racing career

John 'Mooneyes' Cooper had the given name of John Herbert Cooper. He started motorcycle sport local to Derbyshire by riding a rigid-framed 197cc James entering off-road trials in 1954 at age 16. He progressed to a plunger-sprung James track race bike[5] tuned by Harry Lomas (father of racer Bill Lomas) entering informal events organised by his local Derby club at Osmaston Manor. For 1958 Cooper had a different James powered by a tuned Triumph Tiger Cub engine, which he raced against Percy Tait who also had a Cub.[6]

Cooper had a long-standing association with motorcycle dealer Wraggs.[7] By 1960 he was riding their BSA Gold Star for the 500cc class and later a 350cc Gold Star engined Norton.[6]

1961 saw Wraggs providing him with 1960 350 and 500 Manx Nortons which he later purchased in 1964, selling them on in 1966.[5] A trained mechanic, he preferred to work on his own bikes, excepting the engine preparation which was by respected tuner Francis Beart.[6]

Cooper first entered the TT races in 1964, scoring ninth-place in the Senior 500cc race,[8] failing to finish in the other classes and again in the 1965 races when riding a 250cc Greeves with 350 and 500 Nortons.[9]

Cooper was famously known as 'Mooneyes'. He initially decorated his helmet with the initials 'J C' followed by a hand-drawn cartoon character "Jiminy Cricket", continuing the 'J C' theme. His helmet was rejected by race officials, so he painted a new helmet red but found it plain. Adding two stick-on giant 'eyes', a motoring gimmick of the 1960s, endured as his personal design throughout his career.[6][10]

Cooper's experience and successes continued throughout the 1960s becoming a rival to Derek Minter who retired from racing in 1967. Minter was known by his race successes as 'King of Brands', and Cooper as 'Master of Mallory'. A section of the Mallory Park, Leicestershire circuit has been renamed from Lake Esses to the John Cooper Esses in his honor.[11]

Cooper rode a variety of machinery during his race career, including a Kawasaki 250 cc twin in the 1967 Lightweight TT,[12] Norton twins, Seeley AJS 350 cc and Seeley Matchless 500 cc,[5] 250 cc and 350 cc Yamsels – Yamaha two-stroke engines fitted into Seeley frames,[13] and in the 1970 Production 750 cc TT race on a works Honda CB750,[7] finishing in ninth place,[14] before being associated with the works BSA Rocket 3.

Personal life

Cooper was a trained mechanic and after National Service in 1958 he worked as a manager for his father's gents' outfitters in Derby.

Establishing his own garage in 1965[13] and later car sales, he retired from the businesses between 2007 and 2011.

After this time, there are two separate businesses associated with his name, one being a car and motorcycle garage in the old premises at Chandos Pole Street, Derby, and the other a motorcycle tyre retailer in a nearby unit.


  1. ^ "John Cooper career statistics". Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  2. ^ "North West 200 race results". Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  3. ^ "Mallory Park history". Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  4. ^ "John Cooper". Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Motorcycle Mechanics, December 1970, p.36/37, John Cooper interview by Charles E Deane. Q: "When did John first take up road racing"? A: "Fourteen years ago..I started on a 197cc 1961 my entrant Wraggs motorcycles bought me a pair of Nortons...I bought the bikes off them in 1964. I sold these machines in 1966 and went over to Seeley machines...I wish I'd started on the Matchless earlier, they're much cheaper to run than Norton. I still have the Seeley 500 and now the 250 and 350 Yamsels". Accessed 2013-12-01
  6. ^ a b c d Motor Cycle, 10 September 1964. Meet John Cooper by Bob Currie. Accessed 2013-06-13
  7. ^ a b Motorcycle Mechanics, December 1970, p.36/37, John Cooper interview by Editor Charles E Deane. Q: "Have you had any rides on works machinery"? A: "No, I've always been a privateer with Wraggs Motorcycles as my entrant. That is, unless you classify this year's ride in the Production TT on the Honda-four a works ride". Accessed 2013-12-01
  8. ^ Official TT results, 1964 Senior 500cc race. Retrieved 2013-06-13
  9. ^ [1] Official TT results, 1965 Race results index page. Retrieved 2013-06-13
  10. ^ Motorcycle Sport, November, 1964, Mallory Park Race of the Year report. "Knees, elbows and the Moon eyed helmet were constantly—sometimes simultaneously—in constant motion". Accessed 2014-04-06
  11. ^ "Mallory Park circuit map". Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  12. ^ [2] Official TT results, 1967 Lightweight 250 race. Retrieved 2013-06-13
  13. ^ a b Motorcycle Mechanics, December 1970, p.36/37, John Cooper interview by Charles E Deane. Q: "Who prepares the very successful Yamsel twins"? A: "Ron Herring prepares the engines and I look after the cycle parts...we're now producing the Yamsel road racing frames as kit for sale...for the road racing boys who want a decent frame for their TR2 or TD2 motors. I have them in stock at my garage". Accessed 2013-12-01
  14. ^ [3] Official TT results, 1970 Production 750 race. Retrieved 2013-12-01

External links