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six-cylinder, and Yamaha and Suzuki fours were dominating in the World Championships and would completely show up the outdated British bikes.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 The team knew it had only been invited to Suzuka on the premise of showing to the Japanese fans just how slow and out of date the British bikes were, particularly the 250s which were to be competing in the same class with the Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki works bikes, which were putting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 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.”
It’s easy to see from this image why Bill Smith struggled with the tiny Bridgestone 50.