Classic Racer - - FRONT PAGE - Words: Bill Smith and Malc Wheeler Photography: Bill Smith Ar­chive

TT team that never was

In 1965 at Suzuka, a Bri­tish-aus­tralian team raced in the Ja­panese Grand Prix. Aus­tralians, Jack Find­lay and Jack Ahearn, joined by English­men, Bill Smith and Steve Mur­ray rode a com­bi­na­tion of AJS 7R, Nor­ton 350, and Bri­tish Greeves, Cot­ton, DMW, and Bul­taco in the 250cc Class. Bill Smith ex­plains what hap­pened next.

This was a time of Ja­panese dom­i­na­tion and ma­chines like the Honda 250cc six-cylin­der, and Yamaha and Suzuki fours were dom­i­nat­ing in the World Cham­pi­onships and would com­pletely show up the out­dated Bri­tish bikes. It was also the time of a fierce battle be­tween Jim Red­man on the fac­tory Honda and Mike Hail­wood on the MV 350 for the world cham­pi­onship. Honda in­tended to sign up Mike and take him away from MV. The now fa­mous words ut­tered by Hail­wood, af­ter testing the Honda at Suzuka, af­ter be­ing asked by the press what he thought of the Honda and replied: “It was rapid but han­dled like a bag of s**t!” Only Mike could get away with this crit­i­cism but Honda needed him more than he needed Honda. The team of Jack Find­lay, Jack Ahearn, Bill Smith and Steve Mur­ray was a com­plete sham­bles, ar­riv­ing at Suzuka from Monza only to find that only three bikes from the first con­tainer had ar­rived. Th­ese were 350cc bikes and the sec­ond con­tainer with Smith’s 350 and the four 250s were still held up in Hong Kong for some rea­son. The team knew it had only been in­vited to Suzuka on the premise of show­ing to the Ja­panese fans just how slow and out of date the Bri­tish bikes were, par­tic­u­larly the 250s which were to be com­pet­ing in the same class with the Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki works bikes, which were putting out in ex­cess of 50bhp com­pared to the Bri­tish bikes of only 26bhp. How­ever, when the Bri­tish bikes were started in the pad­dock they at­tracted huge in­ter­est from the press and the fans, ba­si­cally out of sheer cu­rios­ity and the ex­otic Ja­panese bikes tended to be ig­nored. The team was hauled in front of the MFJ Jury and asked for an ex­pla­na­tion of the miss­ing bikes. Jack Ahearn ab­so­lutely hated the Ja­panese, the big Aus­tralian did not like be­ing in­ter­ro­gated and showed his per­sonal feel­ings by paint­ing two zero de­signs in white on his red Jake­man fair­ing on the Manx 350, which re­ally up­set the Ja­panese or­gan­is­ers. Team Gb-australia had been al­lo­cated two pit garages with their names il­lu­mi­nated over the top. Much laugh­ter was cre­ated when the team Bill Smith Rac­ing Team was changed to Bill Smith Rav­ing Team. It was never dis­cov­ered how this hap­pened but the names of Hail­wood and John Cooper were bandied about. In the mean­time Bill had been do­ing some in­ves­ti­gat­ing and dis­cov­ered a large shed con­tain­ing a lot of old Honda race bikes, which looked like they had been dumped and aban­doned. He asked if he could bor­row a CR77 305cc to use, as his bike hadn’t turned up and was given per­mis­sion to use the aban­doned bike. Af­ter sorting it out as best he could, Bill used it and fin­ished sixth in the race with Ahearn eighth, Find­lay ninth and Mur­ray re­tir­ing with en­gine trou­ble. The other bikes turned up two weeks af­ter the event due to be­ing mis­placed in Hong Kong af­ter a ship­ping strike.


It’s easy to see from this im­age why Bill Smith strug­gled with the tiny Bridge­stone 50.

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