NOBBY CLARKE

RIP to the leg­endary GP span­ner­man

Classic Bike (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: MICK DUCK­WORTH PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: BAUER ARCHIVE

Leg­endary Grand Prix me­chanic Nobby Clark has died aged 81. Tall, slim Nobby (whose real first name was Derek) en­joyed the re­spect of the world’s top rac­ers.

Orig­i­nally a rail­way ap­pren­tice in his home town of Bu­l­awayo, South­ern Rhode­sia (now Zim­babwe), he span­nered for his friend Gary Hock­ing who signed for MV Agusta and be­came 350cc and 500cc World Cham­pion in 1961. When Hock­ing left MV, Nobby re­turned to Africa and worked in a cop­per mine un­til Rhode­sian GP rider Jim Red­man per­suaded the Honda team to re­cruit him as their only non-ja­panese me­chanic in 1963.

Al­though paid con­sid­er­ably less than Honda’s own men, there were gen­er­ous bonuses for suc­cess. In­creas­ingly trusted, Nobby as­sisted team boss Michi­hiko Aika with team lo­gis­tics as well as work­ing with care and un­der­stand­ing on the twins, fours, fives and sixes of Honda’s trav­el­ling cir­cus. His col­leagues ad­mired him for learn­ing Ja­panese, call­ing him a hen’na gai­jin (the funny for­eigner), a name he took as a com­pli­ment. Fol­low­ing Honda’s 1968 with­drawal from GPS, Nobby span­nered Yama­has for Kel Carruthers, help­ing him fin­ish sec­ond in the 1970 250cc and 350cc world cham­pi­onships. Recog­nis­ing his tal­ents, Yamaha put him on their pay­roll to help ’70s stars Gi­a­como Agostini, Jarno Saari­nen, Kenny Roberts and Kent An­der­s­son to their world ti­tles. Among the count­less suc­cesses Nobby di­rectly con­trib­uted to were 17 FIM world cham­pi­onships, three Day­tona 200 and four Imola 200 wins. In 1978, Nobby’s good friend Mike Hail­wood asked him to help at his vic­to­ri­ous IOM TT come­back. In the 1990s Nobby was taken on to tend his­toric ma­chines of New York’s Team Ob­so­lete (see p40), par­tic­u­larly its 250cc Honda Six. But his re­la­tion­ship with team owner Robert Ian­nucci soured and in 1998 Nobby pleaded guilty to theft charges brought against him. Nobby be­came a US cit­i­zen in 2004 and in 2012 was in­ducted into the Amer­i­can Mo­tor­cy­clist As­so­ci­a­tion’s Hall of Fame, al­though the process was ini­tially bungled by the AMA due to what it called ‘an er­ror in the bal­lot­ing process’.

In re­cent decades Nobby lived in New York State, ser­vic­ing su­per­cars. For the last 15 years he was also crew chief of the Mckeever/nor­ton Manx team con­test­ing the Amer­i­can His­toric Rac­ing Mo­tor­cy­cle As­so­ci­a­tion cham­pi­onships. De­spite be­ing di­ag­nosed with can­cer sev­eral years ago, he still fre­quented pad­docks. Fig­ures from the rac­ing world ral­lied to sup­port him be­fore his death on De­cem­ber 16.

‘HAIL­WOOD ASKED HIM TO HELP AT HIS ’78 TT COME­BACK’

Agostini, Saari­nen, Roberts... Nobby fet­tled for them all

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