Woods, Stanley (1903–93), racing motorcyclist, was born 28 November 1903 in Rathmines, Dublin, son of Edward H. (‘Ted’) Woods, company representative, from Rathgar, Dublin, and Lily Menzies Woods (née Stanley), both of 21 Brighton Avenue, Rathmines. He was educated at the High School in Dublin. Woods's interest in motorcycles was kindled by a friend, C. W. (‘Paddy’) Johnston, who went on to become a noted motorcycle racer in his own right, and he persuaded his father, a commercial traveller for a confectionery firm, to purchase a motorbike and sidecar, and allow him to leave school and drive him around the country on business. Motorcycle racing became tremendously popular after the war, and over the next twenty years Woods established himself as one of the most famous and consistent racers in Europe. He began racing when he was seventeen, his first race being the St Patrick's Day trial in Dublin in 1920. His first road race was the Banbridge ‘50’ in October 1921, riding his Harley-Davidson, and his first Isle of Man TT race was the following year when, riding a Cotton machine he had persuaded the manufacturer to lend him, he caused a stir by finishing fifth despite going on fire on the second lap and riding without brakes. The following year he won the Junior TT race, and in 1926 he won the Senior TT for the first time at a record speed. In eighteen years’ competing, he won ten Isle of Man TT races, a record he held for twenty-eight years until it was eclipsed by England's Mike Hailwood in 1967 and subsequently by his fellow Irishman Joey Dunlop (qv).
His most successful year was probably 1927, the year after he turned professional with the Norton team, when he won the Ulster, Dutch, Belgian, and Swiss Grands Prix, finished second in the German Grand Prix, and led the Senior TT for forty-one laps before being forced to retire. He dominated road racing in the 1930s, winning both the Junior and Senior TT races in 1932 and 1933, and the Lightweight and Senior titles in 1935. His other TT victories came in 1923, 1938, and 1939 in the Junior event and 1926 in the Senior event, giving him ten titles in all. He was placed in eight Senior TT races; of thirty-seven TT races, he managed to finish twenty-one of them, and had eleven fastest laps. In addition to his successes in the TT, he won twenty-two continental Grand Prix races between 1927 and 1936, and seven Ulster Grand Prix titles between 1924 and 1939. Although he retired from road racing in 1939, he continued to ride in speedway, hill climbs, trials (he won the Portland Cup Motorcycle Trial on five occasions: 1926, 1929, 1931, 1932, and 1938), sand racing, scrambles, grass-track, and long-distance record events. In the 1930s he also competed in ice racing in Scandinavia while racing for the Husqvarna team. In 1957, eighteen years after retiring from the TTs, he set a TT course record speed of 86 mph (138.4 kph) during a jubilee celebration, and at the age of 87 he completed a lap of the almost thirty-eight-mile course at an average speed of over 80 mph (128.75 kph).
For most of his career he rode with Norton, but he left them in 1934 over a dispute about team orders, and later rode for Continental, the Swedish Husqvarna team, Moto Guzzi of Italy, and the Velocette team. In 1967 he was voted the greatest TT rider of all time. He was the first motor sports participant to be elected to the Texaco Irish Sports Hall of Fame. His bravery was legendary; in 1921 he completed the Banbridge ‘50’ with a holly tree branch replacing his broken handlebars and subsequently rode home to Dublin. In the Junior TT event in 1925 a similar thing happened and he had to be disqualified for safety reasons to prevent him from trying to steer with what was left of the bar. He was also a master of tactical racing and a tremendous improviser.
Before turning professional in 1927 he had followed his father into the confectionery trade as a sales representative for Mackintosh's, and for a few years in the 1930s he had his own factory in Dublin manufacturing ‘TT Toffee’. At the outbreak of the second world war he joined the Irish army and rose to the rank of major as officer in charge of motorcycle repairs and the training of motorcycle riders, bringing his own high standards from the world of top-class sporting competition. After the war he went into the motor trade with a brother-in-law, where he remained until he retired in 1966. He married (1936) Mildred Burney. Described as a man of great integrity, self-discipline, and commitment, he was modest about his sporting achievements. He was a keen skier. After retirement he moved to Tyrella, near Downpatrick, Co. Down, where he died 7 September 1993.