PLUS: RADAR - WRENCH­ING FOR THE BEST

You know the face. You know the story. Well, you might recog­nise the face. But you prob­a­bly don’t know the FULL story. ‘Radar’ Cullen ex­plains the ins and outs of big days, big teams and big rid­ers – in de­tail.

Classic Racer - - FRONT PAGE - Words: Norm De­witt Pho­tog­ra­phy: Im­age of Radar to­day, Norm De­witt. All oth­ers Mor­tons Me­dia Ar­chive, ex­cept where stated

Dave ‘Radar’ Cullen got the mo­tor­cy­cle bug early in life. “There was al­ways an in­ter­est there as my brother had some mo­tor­bikes… Suzuki Hus­tlers and a Suzuki 80. He was a bit older than me and we’d go trail rid­ing a lot, back in the days of the DT-1 Yamaha. Even­tu­ally, I went through what we call ‘go bikes’, which were made from bi­cy­cles, a push­bike frame with a small wheel­bar­row wheel. “My brother and I put an out­board en­gine in mine, so it went a bit harder than ev­ery­one else’s. It sort of blew them away the first time we took it around some cir­cu­lar horse trotting track we used to go to. That’s prob­a­bly where the com­pe­ti­tion side… the in­ter­est in per­for­mance started. “They’d have th­ese or­gan­ised trail rides on Sundays, the use of 10 square miles of land on the Great Di­vide moun­tain range. We would camp and we built a ‘humpy’ up there, a big dor­mi­tory that got blown over by a cy­clone but it’s been re­built. I did a lit­tle bit of tri­als and a sea­son or two of mo­tocross, but the main thing was trail rid­ing through the un­du­lat­ing for­est with creeks run­ning down a moun­tain range. It was al­ways an ad­ven­ture.” What was the in­tro­duc­tion to the even­tual ca­reer wrench­ing on mo­tor­cy­cles? “Play­ing with bloody Jawa 250s, BSA C-15s and ran­dom Beez­ers when I was at school… it took a bit of ef­fort just to keep them run­ning. The in­ter­est was there in just hav­ing some­thing to ride. I had a book – a re­pair man­ual on mo­tor­cy­cles – so I guess that made me the most qual­i­fied in the area. I be­came the go-to-man… or boy. I did the nor­mal ap­pren­tice­ship for cars, trucks and sta­tion­ary en­gines and then worked for a mo­tor­bike dealer in Makay, JG Yamaha, who was very proac­tive in the rac­ing. “I had taken up mo­tocross by that stage in 1976-77. At the end of the sea­son I was prac­tic­ing and while rid­ing a wheelie I hit a big hole and went straight off the back. It frac­tured a ver­te­bra up near the top, the C12, so I de­cided to give it a bit of a rest for a while. So, I went to Lon­don, which was a big es­cape for Aussies. I trav­elled with a mate from home who had rel­a­tives there. That was quite con­ve­nient, as they were ex­actly one mile from Suzuki GB in Croy­don and we would go past it reg­u­larly.” Dave put in his job ap­pli­ca­tion at Suzuki GB, which ap­peared to be go­ing nowhere. He took an­other job af­ter a cou­ple of months of con­stantly re­mind­ing Suzuki of his in­ter­est. “I went by Suzuki GB and caught Mike Sin­clair as he was clos­ing his brief­case and go­ing home one night. Mike said he would see the team man­ager next door, Rex White. Ol’ Sexy Rexy said: ‘Oh, we may do, we haven’t de­cided,’ which went on for a cou­ple of months and that was the story I kept get­ting all the time. I’d sort of given up on it, and then saw an ad in Mo­tor­cy­cle Weekly. I took up a job at Comi­fords, the KTM im­porter. I was work­ing for a cou­ple of weeks with Ivan Miller, tak­ing over from Ken Fletcher, who was do­ing it for a few years be­fore he left to work with Barry Sheene. Suzuki then phoned ask­ing if I would come for a try-out. I went down and met Mar­tyn Og­borne and he ran me through a bit of a test on put­ting an RG mo­tor to­gether. They of­fered me a job and I thought… wash­ing and work­ing on muddy mo­tocross bikes still in the mid­dle of win­ter, or go to the first Grand Prix down in Venezuela. So I went back to Comi­fords and told Keith I was leav­ing. He said: ‘Why are you leav­ing al­ready, where are you go­ing?’ I told him Suzuki GB, to which he said: ‘Why is every­body go­ing down to bleed­ing Suzuki GB road race?’ as that was where the guy I re­placed had gone a few weeks ear­lier.” Dave was now on the Suzuki GB fac­tory team. “I didn’t re­ally know what was go­ing on there, be­cause they didn’t tell me. I was build­ing an en­gine and they told me: ‘That’s for Hail­wood.’ I thought, ‘hmmm, his son must be rac­ing now.’ Soon af­ter, the new­comer found him­self on the Isle of Man work­ing with the leg­end (see Part 2, Radar on the Roads). I did a few other things, the Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship look­ing af­ter Stan Woods, who was rid­ing one of those 650cc Suzuki Square 4s and I was look­ing af­ter the spare parts for all three rid­ers who were rid­ing for Suzuki GB – Barry Sheene, Steve Par­rish and Tom Her­ron. It wasn’t long be­fore Dave picked up his nick­name. “Oggy (Mar­tyn Og­borne) had started it at the Isle of Man, just mess­ing around he started call­ing me ‘Radar’ be­cause he thought I looked like Radar (from M*A*S*H) as I was al­ways run­ning around with a bloody clip­board. By the time I got back all the guys were onto it. Th­ese things stick don’t they?”

The year 1980 would bring Radar and Graeme Crosby to­gether at Suzuki GB for Grand Prix rac­ing and the Isle of Man. Radar: “Barry (Sheene) went and did his Yamaha thing, and Croz and Mamola came on the scene.” Crosby and Mamola must have been an in­ter­est­ing and po­ten­tially com­bustible com­bi­na­tion. “There was his­tory there, but it was mostly a wa­ter-un­der-the-bridge sort of thing. It didn’t emerge in any sort of con­fronta­tion. I was with Crosby and Jerry Burgess was with Randy Mamola. Mick Smith was with Croz as well and Mick had got Jerry Burgess the job. Jerry was stay­ing at Mick’s half­way house with Dozy Balling­ton.” From the sto­ries that have emerged over the years, stay­ing at Mick’s half­way house was like be­ing in the Rolling Stones. “Yeah, it was a bit of a bash in that place. In­ter­est­ing days – we worked hard and played hard. We all did our share.” Mamola had the ben­e­fit of prior Grand Prix ex­pe­ri­ence. Radar: “Randy def­i­nitely got the jump there as he had rid­den the 500s the year be­fore. He was run­ning at the front at Le Mans with him­self, Barry and Kenny put­ting on quite a show for the crowd – a bit of a wheelie ex­hi­bi­tion – when there was all this talk of a World Se­ries. “We had four of those XR23S (650cc square fours), and I had to build one bloody XR23 for chair­man Peter Agg. He was a pretty big wheel at Heron Suzuki and he had a mu­seum. So I built it up out of all th­ese frac­tured and cracked parts… cracked Cam­pag­no­los and all, as it’s never go­ing to fire a shot, you know. Then we were away for the an­nual break at Ma­cau and Sandown in Aus­tralia. I got per­mis­sion to do some races with Crosby, as we were go­ing to be work­ing to­gether that next year (1980) in Grand Prix. We get back from that an­nual break and they told me: ‘That bike in the mu­seum, we have to use it in the Trans-at­lantic’.” Radar: “Croz was do­ing dou­ble duty on the four-stroke races. We started off the year at the Trans-at­lantic. Fred­die won the first race on a sil­ver TZ750 and Croz got sec­ond on the XR23. Randy didn’t re­ally like rid­ing the XR23 and went straight onto the 500s. Croz didn’t mind the XR23S, while Randy was rid­ing the 500s as test­ing for the Grand Prix. “It was a crazy sched­ule. We were also do­ing the 500 Bri­tish cham­pi­onship. We went to Mal­lory and did the 500 race and Croz hadn’t had that much time on it. He lost the front at Devil’s El­bow and slid into the Armco fencing, put­ting a big hole in his leg. Then it was straight off to the first Grand Prix. Noth­ing was bro­ken but he had this bloody great hole in his leg. So, he started off the Grand Prix with a lame leg, so he didn’t make the start that we would have liked. Randy was em­ployed as the won­der-boy hired to fly the Suzuki Grand Prix flag, where Crosby was hired for the four-stroke races.” Mamola had put in his con­tract that he would get all the best parts and first crack at any of the new devel­op­ment parts. Radar: “The devel­op­ment def­i­nitely went Randy’s way. He got all the M1 chas­sis, the first monoshocks and all that. Croz didn’t get one un­til we found one dis­carded in the corner, built one up and tried it. It was a very early ver­sion and the link­age ra­tio wasn’t at all right, so we went away from it any­way.” Joey Dun­lop was to ride for the Suzuki GB team at the Ul­ster Grand Prix, so Radar got to work with him as well. Radar: “The first race meet­ing I worked with Joey was at Cad­well Park. I couldn’t re­ally un­der­stand too much of what he was say­ing, it was quite dif­fi­cult and ev­ery­thing was ‘dead on, dead on’. He went out to prac­tice be­hind Crosby and just fol­lowed him. The han­dle­bars weren’t straight when they pulled it out of the box, so I got him to sit on it… so he’s look­ing at me like ‘Why would I sit on it, it’s Tues­day.’ I tried to ex­plain it to him

I RE­MEM­BER WHEN DOOHAN GOT THE PIN IN HIS FIN­GER CAUGHT IN THE CAR SEAT AND PULLED IT OUT, HE SAID: ‘THAT’S THE END OF THAT, I WON’T BE PUT­TING THAT BACK IN.’

and then he got on it… ‘dead-on, dead-on’. I think that was the last time I put a span­ner on the bike all week, I just filled it with fuel. How’s the mo­tor feel? ‘It’s still go­ing’. How’s the gear­ing? ‘Oh, the mo­tor’s got plenty of torque.’ How’s the sus­pen­sion? He’d look at you like ‘Why, what does it mat­ter, what are you go­ing to do?’ It was like he was obliv­i­ous to how you could ad­just it.” Graeme was a great deal like Joey Dun­lop in that he was an­other great tal­ent that would just swing a leg over and get on with it. Radar: “Crosby could ride any sort of bike. In the early days he was learn­ing about it. He got much bet­ter in 1982 with the Yamaha – he could get them set up in a hurry and we had to, as in the sec­ond half of 1982 he prac­ticed on the V4 try­ing to de­velop it for Yamaha. He’d come back and say: ‘Get the old girl ready (the square four), we are go­ing to race that one.’ But you haven’t done any laps on it? He’d go out and do a lap or two to qual­ify and that would be it.

Be­ing a devel­op­ment rider is a skill you have to de­velop – it’s not some­thing any­one is born with. It is some­thing that is learned along the way. There are many that know there are prob­lems but can­not com­mu­ni­cate what the bike is do­ing or what is go­ing wrong.” It had been a big year for Crosby and Radar. Radar: “Graeme won the 500 Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship, the TT Cham­pi­onship for F1 and a few other things.” At the end of 1980 Croz fin­ished sec­ond to Lucchinelli at the Nur­bur­gring in the 500cc Ger­man Grand Prix. 1981 saw the bike be­ing much im­proved, now called the RG500 Gamma. Radar: “It was a smaller, lighter bike with more power, a bike with big­ger brakes, a monoshock and it was a quan­tum leap.” That year turned out to be less than en­joy­able for Graeme Crosby, who was al­ready up to his ears with in­tra-team pol­i­tics in­volv­ing the peck­ing or­der at Suzuki and his team-mate Randy Mamola in 500 Grand Prix. It was Graeme’s sec­ond year in Grand Prix rac­ing and his in­creased fa­mil­iar­ity with the 500GP bike and the var­i­ous tracks meant there was less of the typ­i­cal Croz re­sponse to the un­known re­quired, which had al­ways been “Which way does the track go, and by the way, what’s the track record?” For the 1981 Grand Prix sea­son, Crosby was start­ing to race with the lead­ers and gain­ing con­fi­dence. Croz was to fin­ish fifth in the World Cham­pi­onship. At the end of the year, things were chang­ing fairly dras­ti­cally at Suzuki and Crosby didn’t have a job as well. Crosby told Radar: “I guess we’ll have to go some­where else to find a job.” Radar: “We flew first class to Chicago on Bri­tish Air­ways and went to Honda Amer­ica and ver­bally agreed on a deal to do the Su­per­bike cham­pi­onship in Amer­ica. Then my phone rang one day dur­ing the break and Croz said: ‘We’ve got a deal with Ago – do you want to go and do that?’ I re­ally wanted to do the Honda Amer­ica thing to be hon­est, but I asked him: ‘You re­ally want to go do Grand Prix, don’t you?’ He said: ‘Yeah, I re­ally do’ so I agreed to do that. So I got to do a crack course in Ital­ian in about three weeks.” ‘Night­mar­ish’ best de­scribes the fa­cil­i­ties. Radar: “It wasn’t so much when we saw the bikes, it was when we saw the work­shop. We called it ‘the dun­geon’ as it was a tiny

work­shop un­der­ground, be­hind a BMC Ley­land dealer. It was like an ice block in there, it was freez­ing cold. We didn’t see the truck un­til it was de­liv­ered at the Imola 200. We were told it would have a work­shop and ev­ery­thing. When the tail­gate came down it had a steel ta­ble in the mid­dle with a vice at­tached to it. So, we had to set the trailer up too. The whole set-up in Italy was far from ideal.” Radar: “The bikes just didn’t have the power of the Suzukis and they were prob­a­bly a lit­tle heavy too. It looked like they built them with a 650 (ver­sion) in mind. Crosby still turned in a quick lap with them and put it on pole in a lot of places on new tires. “It had an un­con­ven­tional steer­ing head in it, with three de­grees built into the triple clamps. To use con­ven­tional clamps like from the year be­fore, Trevor Tilbury and I had to cut the frame. We went up to Am­s­ter­dam and did the work up there and one of them ended up with crazy steep num­bers. “Croz was strong enough to hang onto it and he liked it. He did a lot of devel­op­ment on the V4 bike but never ac­tu­ally raced it.” Crosby started slow, but later in the sea­son, with the square four, he scored sec­ond place at Ri­jeka, Yu­goslavia, fol­lowed by three straight third-place fin­ishes. At the sea­son fi­nale, the off-song Honda of Fred­die Spencer was passed by Randy Mamola on the fi­nal lap at Hock­en­heim. To make mat­ters worse for the young Amer­i­can, Franco Uncini then crashed into Spencer while try­ing to pass and both were knocked out of the race. As a re­sult of this last lap fiasco, Graeme Crosby se­cured sec­ond place in the 500cc World Cham­pi­onship. Radar con­tin­ues: “Ago was a real fan of Kenny (Roberts). Kel and Kenny’s deal was a fac­tory Yamaha deal and rider con­tracts struck Crosby again as he wasn’t in­cluded, so that’s what hap­pened and in the end Croz just walked away from it and de­cided to go and do some­thing else. I stayed on with Ago, as he wanted me to look af­ter Law­son. I didn’t have any­thing else go­ing, so I stayed on with the team. We did a bit of test­ing with Kenny and worked with Ed­die. We got on pretty well, but it was a tough year for Ed­die, learn­ing the tracks and how the Euro­pean sys­tem works. No­body put any pres­sure on him for re­sults, al­though the press gave him a hard time with it all and he re­mem­bered that through­out the rest of his ca­reer. “We were los­ing quite a few peo­ple back in those days and los­ing John New­bold had a bit of an ef­fect upon me and I was get­ting over it (the rac­ing), with the dan­gers of it all. So I did some World Cham­pi­onship mo­tocross for a year with Jeremy What­ley and won a few Grand Prix. But he ended up with a bro­ken nose from a so­cial in­ci­dent and it was down­hill from there and we fin­ished third in the 250cc World Cham­pi­onship.” Radar came back to Aus­tralia, un­sure what he was go­ing to do next. He found his way to the en­durance rac­ing se­ries, with events like the Cas­trol Six Hours, which was the biggest bike race in Aus­tralia at the time. It was tyre wars… Dun­lop v Pirelli. “For 1985 and 86 I did pro­duc­tion rac­ing and had a shop. Then Jerry Burgess rang me up and asked if I wanted a job in Europe. He told me it was with Roth­mans Honda, watch­ing out for Shunji Yat­sushiro. There were quite a few fac­tory 500s out there in 1987. “I knew Mick (Doohan) from the coast when he was rid­ing in Aus­tralia. I was moved to look af­ter Doohan in 1989. It was a bit frus­trat­ing be­cause we knew he had all this tal­ent but the Honda at that stage wasn’t a pleas­ant or easy bike to ride. It didn’t have the han­dling of the Suzuki or the Yamaha and for a young guy to come in it would have been quite daunt­ing. The 500s had a fairly sav­age power de­liv­ery any­way, and com­bined with a pack­age that was not work­ing real well, it was a real eye-opener for him, a bit like ‘Oh God, what have I got­ten my­self into here?’ He crashed a cou­ple of times and had that dam­aged fin­ger. He’s very tough and wouldn’t sit out. I re­mem­ber when he got the pin in his fin­ger caught in the car seat and pulled it out, he said: ‘Well, that’s the end of that, I won’t be put­ting that back in.’ It was a re­ally ugly in­jury, there was a lot of skin miss­ing off it.” Tough does not be­gin to de­scribe Mick Doohan. Doohan had a sin­gle podium (third) in 1989 and fin­ished ninth in the cham­pi­onship. It has been said that Erv Kanemoto and Ed­die Law­son went through nine frames in win­ning the cham­pi­onship that year with their Honda. Radar: “You had to keep adding me­tal to it un­til it stopped mov­ing. Erv had the free­dom to do pretty much what­ever he liked, but with the HRC team you couldn’t mod­ify or change run the frame from what you were given.” Radar was with Rob Phillis in 1991 for World Su­per­bikes. They did quite well

in fin­ish­ing third in the World Su­per­bike Cham­pi­onship against Polen, Roche, Falappa, Mertens and the other Du­cati rid­ers. Radar: “Kawasaki made some im­prove­ments in 1992 and we’d been work­ing with Öh­lins and they’d come up with a link ra­tio that would be the same as the Suzukis and the Yama­has. They did some draw­ings and that helped out the Kawasaki quite a bit. “That was a pretty good year un­til Mugello dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing he popped up over one of those hills but on the other side there was a Suzuki blow­ing up. He got a con­cus­sion and missed two races. That ended the sea­son and he got an­other third in the World Cham­pi­onship. “For 1992, Aaron Slight joined the team but I was mainly fo­cused on Rob Phillis’s stuff. In 1993 Kawasaki de­cided on a new di­rec­tion and Muzzy Kawasaki got the gig with Doyle and Scott Rus­sell. I went back to Team Kawasaki Aus­tralia with Rob Phillis. He was in the Aus­tralian Su­per­bike cham­pi­onship and he led it by a heap of points un­til we went to Lake­side and it hap­pened again, like at Mugello, com­ing over a hill and he got an­other con­cus­sion and it wrecked his sea­son. For 1994 we went with Kawasaki Ger­many with Rob Phillis again, do­ing the Ger­man cham­pi­onship.” For 1995-6, Radar was do­ing a bit of work with mo­tocross bikes while be­ing a dad to his two daugh­ters. In 1997, he worked with the Yamaha road race team in Aus­tralian Su­pers­port. This turned into ‘Radar Team Yamaha’ for 1998. “It was a pre­cur­sor to the R1. The Yamaha guys had been out of rac­ing for a while and they were look­ing for some­one to run a race team. We got the main gig for 1998 when the new R1 came out. It was a bit of a game-changer that one, as I’d done a bunch of work with Kevin Cur­tain and he won two Aus­tralian cham­pi­onships with it. We went on through the end of 2002, win­ning at least one cham­pi­onship ev­ery year. Then they took the deal off me and gave it to some­one who would run it for half the price.” Radar is now a free­lance me­chanic, do­ing sus­pen­sion set-ups with a part-time race team and has been do­ing scru­ti­neer­ing for the past three years too. He is also work­ing with Rob Phillis’s son Alex on the Su­pers­port MV in Moto Amer­ica.

Radar with the YZR – the shorts weren’t fac­tory is­sue. 1980 on the grid for Croz.

1982 wheelie.

1982 and Crosby was in GP mode.

Left: Crosby in full flight (im­age: Don Mor­ley).

Above: Radar as he is to­day, a free­lance me­chanic to a squad of MVS.

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