‘Sox’ Gary Hocking – The Forgotten World Motorcycle Champion
Roger Hughes begins his new book about the late Gary Hocking in an unusual way. Hughes is in the Christchurch Cemetery, Newport, South Wales in the U.K., looking for the resting place of his own grandparents when he stumbles across a remarkable grave marker.
“Gary Hocking MBE, Double World Motorcycle Champion,” is what it said. Hughes could hardly be blamed for taking note of the inscription; first, the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) is awarded for significant achievement or outstanding service.
Second, “Double World Motorcycle Champion” would be worthy of note to anyone but particularly to a countryman and motorsports enthusiast. All that said, Hughes confessed he had never heard of Gary Hocking. In his quest to learn about Hocking, his book on a remarkable, though tragic, young superstar of motorcycle GP racing emerged.
Hughes traces Hocking’s childhood as his parents move from the U.K. to Rhodesia in search of greater economic opportunity. He grows up in Bulawayo and there as a teen still in school begins his move toward a life where motorcycles play a big part.
Hughes provides such details in Hocking’s background as how his nickname, “Sox” came to be—in that he hated to wear socks and often went about without.
With the help of John Wells and Norton dealer and major race sponsor, Reg Dearden, Hocking went from road racing in Rhodesia and South Africa to the U.K. Hocking stars in races in the U.K. and takes victory in the Isle of Man TT.
Ultimately, after showing his rear tire to the likes of John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Geoff Duke, Derek Minter and many others, despite often riding on barely competitive bikes, Hocking is offered a works ride from MV Agusta in 1959 at the age of 21.
By 1961, Hocking topped both the 350cc and 500cc GP series to win the world championship in both classes on MV Agusta machines.
Hocking had achieved the ultimate success in his chosen profession, but as is often the case, the reality didn’t match the dream. The pace, the travel the uncertainties and the politics wore on Hocking. The loss of some of the top riders he competed against, including his close friend, Tom Phillis, in fatal crashes brought him to a surprising decision.
In 1962, after winning his first Isle of Man Senior TT and a final race featuring his last head-to-head meeting with Mike Hailwood, Hocking went to Italy and asked Count Agusta to be released from his contract; retiring from professional motorcycle racing.
But that wasn’t the last chapter in Hocking’s career. By August of 1962, Hocking won his first car race in a borrowed car and went on to buy himself a Lotus 18/21. Almost as quickly as he did on bikes, he started winning races in cars and got an offer of a more competitive V-8 powered Lotus 24 as part of the Walker Racing Team.
In December, 1962, at the South African Grand Prix, Hocking’s amazing career came to an end in a fatal crash during practice. The circumstances of the crash remain unclear to this day, but the brilliance of Hocking’s brief career shines through in Hughes’ book.
The book includes an appendix summarizing Hocking’s racing career results and has two galleries of period images of Hocking and others in action.
- Title: ‘Sox’ Gary Hocking—the Forgotten World Motorcycle Champion
- Author: Roger Hughes
- Published: 2016 Hardcover, 176 pages. 5.75” x 8.25”
- Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England
- www.veloce.co.uk and www.velocebooks.com
- ISBN: 978-1-845848-62-0 MSRP: U.S. $30.00 U.K. £16.99 Canada: $35.99