Radar Part 2: On the roads

Classic Racer - - WHAT'S INSIDE - Words: Norm Dewitt Pho­tog­ra­phy: Im­age of Radar to­day, Norm Dewitt. All oth­ers from Mor­tons Me­dia Ar­chive, ex­cept where stated

The other part of his pro­fes­sional life saw Dave ‘Radar’ Cullen get out on the roads work­ing for the likes of Crosby un­der the watch­ful eye (lit­er­ally) of Pops Yoshimura.

Dave ‘Radar’ Cullen was a new ar­rival at Suzuki GB in the spring of 1979. While build­ing an en­gine in their Croy­don shops, he was told that the en­gine he was cur­rently work­ing on was for Mike Hail­wood. “I didn’t re­al­ize what they were on about when it sort of dawned on me that Mike must be rid­ing a Suzuki at the Isle of Man. So, I did the Isle of Man with Hail­wood.”

Rac­ing on the roads was an in­cred­i­bly dan­ger­ous oc­cu­pa­tion, as at the pre­vi­ous year’s TT in 1978, Pat Hen­nen had his ca­reer end­ing accident on the Suzuki GB ma­chine. Radar’s big op­por­tu­nity had also come in the im­me­di­ate wake of Tom Her­ron’s death rid­ing a Tex­aco Heron Suzuki GB bike at the NW 200. Radar: “The Suzuki high­light was prob­a­bly Hail­wood’s win in the Se­nior TT. Mike was a re­ally great guy – there was no su­per­star stuff and he would call and see us on his way out in the evening. He’d drop in just to see how things were go­ing and we re­ally did en­joy work­ing with him. “Prac­tice went pretty good and we put in the good race en­gine but it smoked. It had pushed the spring off the main oil seal be­yond the drive gear, and it’s one of those things where once you press the gear on you can’t see. We had to pull it out, strip down the en­gine and put some other cranks in. We worked through the night, went straight to the race and he won, so that was pretty good. It was all a bit sur­real, like be­ing in­tox­i­cated when all you re­ally wanted was a bit of sleep.

“Ray Bat­tersby was do­ing a re­ally good story called ‘Suzuki Say­onara’ about Hail­wood and he was in the garage with us cov­er­ing the tri­als and tribu­la­tions. He wrote how there was ‘Rex and Mar­tyn and a me­chanic… I’m not sure his name but they call him Radar.’” That same year, Graeme Crosby had his de­but at the Isle of Man on the Mori­waki Kawasaki and he brought a cer­tain Kiwi flair to the pro­ceed­ings. “It was a bit hard get­ting up at six in the morn­ing and tear­ing off into the fog and mist. But that’s what it was like in those days. It would be piss­ing with rain, push­ing off and away I’d go, and com­ing over the moun­tain go back on in­stru­ments. But that was the TT and I had such a ball, it was just party time the whole time. There’s also a se­ri­ous side to it, and I wouldn’t for one mo­ment say that there wasn’t, but I would say I was more on the party side of it. That’s how I dealt with it and it was good.” Crosby left a dis­tinct im­pres­sion from the mo­ment TT week started. In the F1 TT, he fin­ished fourth be­hind the Honda trio of Alex George, Char­lie Williams, and Ron Haslam. Be­hind Croz in fifth place was Mike Hail­wood on the Du­cati. As ever, Crosby was quickly up to pace on even this most chal­leng­ing of cir­cuits. For 1980, Graeme Crosby signed for Suzuki GB and Radar was now his me­chanic. At the TT in 1980, Crosby was rid­ing the 500 for the Se­nior TT and in prac­tice the over­size tank came down onto the spark plugs and started shock­ing Graeme to where he couldn’t hang on. Radar: “We had a 42l or 43l tank to get three laps out of them. It was 90-100lbs of weight and when he came down to the bot­tom of Bray Hill the tank mounts flat­tened out and lit him up a bit. He had to let go of the bars ap­par­ently, which must have been in­ter­est­ing at the bot­tom of Bray Hill. But he had just come out of the pits, so he wouldn’t have been go­ing flat out, nah… there was a lit­tle bit of lee­way (laughs).” Per­haps less ‘shock­ing’, Joey Dun­lop sim­i­larly had an eight-gal­lon tank on his Yamaha and had his tank straps break in the race, which must have

been fun try­ing to hold 70lbs worth of tank and fuel in place with his knees around the TT course. Graeme: “He did a good job to hold onto that.” For 1980 the Hon­das were plan­ning on run­ning their bikes in the F1 TT on a sin­gle stop, ver­sus the two stops the Suzuki re­quired. Croz: “We thought that maybe there was some­thing in it as they had car­bu­ret­tors that are maybe a lit­tle more fuel ef­fi­cient, but not to the ex­tent that they should be able to do three laps.” As it turned out, fuel ca­pac­ity was a big chal­lenge in the 1980 F1 TT Honda. Radar: “In the F1 TT, it ap­peared that the Honda was strug­gling to make it, judg­ing by the ev­i­dence of ping pong balls and what­ever else ended up in­side their fuel tank some­how. To be hon­est, we [me­chan­ics] weren’t all that in­volved in the pol­i­tics of it, help­ing out with the TT and mostly look­ing af­ter the chas­sis. Rex and Oggy would have han­dled any protests, but it was a war with Honda. Pops (Yoshimura) turned up there with his wife and one of his daugh­ters. He was very en­thu­si­as­tic about it, and he got a lot of team spirit go­ing with his curs­ing at Honda.”

Barry Sym­mons was man­ag­ing the Honda Team and they weren’t averse to try­ing creative so­lu­tions to fuel ca­pac­ity prob­lems. Barry: “A cou­ple of years later at the 250 Pro­duc­tion race, we stored our fuel in a deep freeze. We put it into the bike on the start line. You know how when you fill up an oxy­gen tank the lines get frost on the out­side? Well, this hap­pened to the tank and Roger Bur­nett was rid­ing and by the time he got to the bot­tom of Bray Hill, not only were his bol­locks frozen, but there was petrol com­ing out the breather pipe, as the fuel was heat­ing up and start­ing to ex­pand. “To con­firm the in­ad­e­quacy of the ACU fuel test, in 1992, when I took the Nor­tons to the TT for Steve His­lop (win­ner) and Robert Dun­lop, we took the two fuel tanks to the IOM Trad­ing stan­dards of­fices in Dou­glas. They mea­sured both tanks and we paid for test cer­tifi­cates. Both tanks were just un­der 24l and af­ter the Se­nior race win by His­lop the ACU mea­sured Steve’s tank. Their re­sult was 21l! That firmly con­vinced me, if con­vinc­ing was nec­es­sary, that they could not mea­sure a pint in a brew­ery.” Af­ter cross­ing the fin­ish line, win­ning the For­mula 1 TT, Mick Grant was bang­ing fu­ri­ously on the tank of his Honda to re­duce the ca­pac­ity af­ter cross­ing the fin­ish line. Croz: “Af­ter you cross the start line at the end of the race, of course you pull off to the left into this lit­tle back road and pull in. Well, there in that lit­tle back road is Mick Grant, who is bash­ing away at his fuel tank. It didn’t ac­tu­ally dawn on me what that was about.” At the end of the day, the protest filed by Gor­don Pan­tall (pri­va­teer and former Crosby Mori­waki pa­tron from 1979) was dis­al­lowed and Honda kept their vic­tory in the 1980 F1 TT, Grant win­ning by about 11sec over Crosby, with Mc­clements a fur­ther two sec­onds back on his Honda. Al­though Suzuki had lost their fuel ca­pac­ity protest against Honda, they re­bounded to win the Se­nior TT by al­most a minute, mak­ing Radar’s bike two for two in win­ning that most pres­ti­gious of races. Suzuki had fin­ished one, two, three, four, ahead of Tony Rut­ter’s Yamaha in fifth. It had been a big year for Crosby and Radar. The For­mula 1 TT cham­pi­onship was de­cided based upon the IOM TT and the Ul­ster GP. Joey Dun­lop was now on the Suzuki team and with Dun­lop and Crosby run­ning one-two ahead of Mick Grant, Joey slowed, al­low­ing Croz into first, se­cur­ing the F1 TT Cham­pi­onship for Graeme Crosby and Suzuki GB. Radar re­counts a few of the high­lights: “Graeme won the 500 Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship, the TT Cham­pi­onship for F1 and a few other things.” At the 1981 For­mula 1 TT, things reached boil­ing point be­tween Suzuki and Honda. Mar­tyn Og­borne: “For 1981, Crosby’s team-mate was Mick Grant. There were Crosby’s spare wheel spares and Grant’s spare wheels. Dun­lop was try­ing a new tyre. They were a lit­tle scared, as the TTF1 bikes were big and they had brought out tube­less tyres for the Isle of Man, where we had al­ways run tubes. They’d done tube­less tires for the bikes at Day­tona, but not at the Isle of Man. We had both the bikes there in park fermé on their stands, and when the first bike was pushed off the pad­dock stand, the tyre had lost all its air and it popped off the rim. There was 15min to go, so they got a huge oxy­gen bot­tle to try and get the tyre to ride up the well of the rim and seal. They failed… They could not get the tyre to seat on the rim. One of the me­chan­ics said to change the wheel, and in the panic they picked up the

other rider’s spare wheel. It was Grant’s spare wheel, and Mick was run­ning com­pletely dif­fer­ent gear­ing. So, it was me on the grid and I looked down without 20sec to go, and saw the chain al­most lit­er­ally drag­ging on the floor.” Dave (Ju­nior) Collins was strug­gling with the sprocket swap, in­clud­ing the panic when the rear wheel nut rolled off and went miss­ing. In the end, the bike wasn’t ready for the grid slot for #18, as as­signed to Crosby. Mar­tyn Og­borne found there was a gap in the grid and wanted to put the bike into the avail­able slot. Mar­tyn: “It was some­thing like 29/30 and the grid was empty. So, up we came and again the start line of­fi­cial put his hand on the front nose cone of the bike and said, ‘you’re not go­ing’. Graeme Crosby con­firms the sprocket problem and tyre choices cre­ated the chaos: “There were in­clement weather con­di­tions and we were ready to go dry, in­ter­me­di­ate, or full wet and made the de­ci­sion but we had the wrong sprocket on one of the wheels. So, we said to the of­fi­cials, ‘is it okay if we’re not go­ing to start here, and if we could ac­tu­ally start a lit­tle far­ther back, when­ever a spot be­comes avail­able?’ … as some­one had va­cated po­si­tion 22 or some­thing like that. And that was approved. Some­where along the line my al­lo­cated spot went, and an­other of­fi­cial came along and told me… ‘No, you have to start in the back.” Barry Sym­mons: “They tried to push the bike into a few dif­fer­ent places, but they were told by Colin Armes that they weren’t al­lowed to do that and had to start at the back of the grid, which he then did.” Mar­tyn Og­borne: “I was s**ting bricks that he would go down Bray Hill and clean him­self out, as there was steam com­ing out of his ear holes as he could not un­der­stand why he was not be­ing al­lowed to start.” Radar: “I missed all that ac­tion, it was prob­a­bly the only race where I went out sig­nalling to the other side of the is­land some­where along Sulby Straight (to keep Croz up­dated with his po­si­tion). I never heard too much be­cause the other guys don’t tell you too much about how they f**ked up. No­body knew ex­actly who was where and that was the con­fus­ing part. We were con­nected by ra­dio lis­ten­ing to the broad­cast as well and no one on the ra­dio knew ex­actly who was where ei­ther. “Af­ter a cou­ple of laps I just stood out there and held my arms out say­ing ‘I don’t know what’s go­ing on!’ Croz went by and looked back with his left hand off the bar kind of say­ing ‘Yeah, I don’t know what’s go­ing on ei­ther!’ Af­ter the race there was so much crap go­ing on, that what hap­pened at the start never got brought up to me. As far as I could see, if you started later you could fin­ish later, as it was all based upon time.” If one just looked at the time on course, Crosby was two min­utes faster than Ron Haslam, who was ini­tially cred­ited with the vic­tory. Steve Par­rish: “Bear in mind that Crosby had to pass lots of slow rid­ers. Most of the top guys don’t want to be lower than 10th, or 12th. If you catch some­one through the Glen He­len sec­tion, you will be be­hind them for three miles. Gen­er­ally, that’s how the TT would work, the or­gan­is­ers know who the fast guys are and who the slow guys are.” In this case they put the fastest guy be­hind every sin­gle rider, which is a deadly busi­ness re­gard­less of what the rule­book says. Croz blew through all the back­mark­ers but the ques­tion came down to what the time penalty would be, if any. Honda was telling leader Ron Haslam that he had a big lead, so of course Ron started tak­ing fewer chances and was fo­cused upon just bring­ing it home. Ron Haslam: “Find the rule­book and you’ll see. I was up­set at the time, but I be­lieve in my mind that I won that race. The or­gan­is­ers… how can they do that, when all the other teams think he’s lost this time?” Even Leon Haslam (who hadn’t been born yet) can’t re­sist chim­ing in: “He was just cruis­ing around…” Graeme: “So, I won the TT F1 race af­ter the podium cer­e­mony. When they ad­justed the penalty time it put me ahead of Haslam.” Steve Par­rish: “Barry Sym­mons at Honda didn’t have him (Crosby) in the equa­tion at all. I don’t think he was get­ting any up­dates. Al­most cer­tainly it would have con­fused the time­keep­ers un­der the cir­cum­stances. They sorted it out in the end, but I know Sym­mons was cross be­cause he had ruled Crosby out.” The re­al­ity was that the protest was over the in­cor­rect time penalty as­signed to Crosby as the time penalty, if any was given, cer­tainly should not have been six min­utes, as Croz did not start on the front row. With the rows flagged away at 10sec in­ter­vals, where Graeme had started was in po­si­tion #60, which was not six min­utes be­hind start­ing spot #18 (90sec af­ter the front row de­parted). Og­borne: “To get Crosby to win that race had noth­ing to do with Honda, and said noth­ing about Honda. The protest said: ‘The time penalty given to Graeme Crosby is in­cor­rect,’ as I wrote it.” Ten­sions quickly es­ca­lated af­ter Crosby was de­clared the win­ner and the next con­fronta­tion was the prize-giv­ing in Dou­glas. As if all the Honda v Suzuki venom wasn’t enough, the fans started to get into the act as well. Croz: “They cre­ated this huge di­vi­sional Suzuki v Honda thing, same as the year be­fore.” Mar­tyn Og­borne: “There were some guys who had way too much to drink that were Ron Haslam fa­nat­ics.” The prize-giv­ing for the F1 TT was threat­en­ing to be­come a Manx ver­sion of an English soc­cer riot. Was the sit­u­a­tion less ob­vi­ous to the Honda team, not be­ing the tar­get of the venom? Sym­mons: “Quite pos­si­bly, and these things do get a bit heated at times, so we left fairly quickly. What hap­pened af­ter­wards is ev­ery­one would go on drink­ing be­cause there was noth­ing to do. At the TT we sug­gested they have a band or some­thing af­ter the prize pre­sen­ta­tion was over… at least the mu­sic would have drowned out the punch­ing.

“A sim­i­lar thing hap­pened at the Ul­ster Grand Prix when Roger Mar­shall over­took Joey on the back side of the cir­cuit and scared him­self silly. He came into the pits and from 100 yards down the road and said he was go­ing to put in a protest against Joey. It was all very pub­lic there and a num­ber of people had heard what was go­ing on. Both were rid­ing for my same team then and I walked up to Roger and said ‘can we talk about this in the truck’. I told Roger there was no way we were go­ing to file a protest against his team-mate. Joey and Roger gave their ver­sions. I went out­side and bunches of Roger fans and Joey fans were squar­ing up to each other, and one had an­other by the throat. The next morn­ing, at the ho­tel in Belfast, some­body cut all the lines to the trailer be­cause they thought we would favour one over the other.” Graeme had an in­cred­i­ble week, de­spite all the dis­trac­tions. Honda’s sub­se­quent black protest may have gar­nered much of the at­ten­tion, but other­wise TT81 was a Suzuki year. In the Clas­sic TT, Crosby led home team-mate Mick Grant by 30sec for a Suzuki one-two. The Se­nior TT was more of the same, as Mick Grant won by 21/2 min­utes over Donny Robin­son’s Yamaha, fol­lowed by the Suzukis of John New­bold, Alex George and Billy Guthrie. In the end, de­spite the team’s stun­ning suc­cess, Crosby had had enough of the con­tentious non­sense go­ing on, and it was suck­ing the joy out of the rac­ing for him. Look­ing back upon the short Crosby era at the TT (1979-81), one has to say that in the pan­theon of quick learn­ers and rapid rid­ers, Graeme Crosby would be near the top of both lists. For the last time, the 1981 For­mula TT cham­pi­onship was de­cided by only two events (in fu­ture years it was de­cided by as many as eight races), and again those races were the TT and the Ul­ster GP. Crosby won the F1 TT cham­pi­onship in 1981 for Suzuki GB. The fol­low­ing five sea­sons saw a sweep of the cham­pi­onship by Joey Dun­lop on the fac­tory Hon­das, not beaten un­til Vir­ginio Fer­rari and Bi­mota did their best David v Go­liath im­pres­sion, beat­ing Joey Dun­lop and the might of Roth­mans Honda with an ad­vanced fac­tory Bi­mota YB4-R Yamaha de­signed by the bril­liant Fed­erico Mar­tini. Al­though Heron Suzuki con­tin­ued to con­tend in F1 TT dur­ing those sea­sons, they were without Graeme Crosby and Radar Cullen, and al­though show­ing great speed at times, Suzuki never won an­other F1 TT cham­pi­onship. For 1982, Crosby and Radar were off to ride Yamaha for Agos­tini, it was the end of an­other legendary era for the TT. In 1998, Radar was back in Aus­tralia with Radar Team Yamaha, which was rac­ing and de­vel­op­ing the Yamaha R1. There were fur­ther con­nec­tions to the Isle of Man TT that bore fruit when, in 1999, a heav­ily mod­i­fied R1 de­feated the might of the Honda fac­tory and their ar­mada of RC45S in the F1 TT. The head­lines screamed how a pro­duc­tion-based Yamaha R1 had de­feated the mil­lion pound ef­forts of Honda’s fac­tory spe­cials. It was a shock­ing re­sult when David Jef­fries won the F1 TT to start off the week, and show­ing it was no fluke, his team-mate Iain Duf­fus fin­ished third on his V&M R1, with Joey Dun­lop sec­ond on the RC45. There were mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances and it should be said that 1999 marked the end of the RC-45 era, the last year the fac­tory ran these bikes in anger. Sadly, the Honda team had also suf­fered the loss of Si­mon Beck at the 33rd mile­stone in prac­tice. Al­though RC45 mounted Jim Moodie shat­tered Carl Fog­a­rty’s all-time lap record (from a stand­ing start!) in the Se­nior TT, there was clearly a special com­bi­na­tion at work be­tween big Dave and his V&M R1. When Moodie used up the RC45’S rear tyre on lap two, from that point on it was all Jef­fries, lead­ing the way to a V&M R1 one-two fin­ish. Radar: “I’ve had a sus­pen­sion busi­ness, dis­tribut­ing Penske rac­ing shocks un­til the in­ter­net killed that off. We de­vel­oped the Penske shocks pretty early on, and they were sent back to the US for eval­u­a­tion and then on to Eng­land. V&M (David Jef­fries) was run­ning our set-ups at the Isle of Man and it was a bit of a break­through at the time.” Jef­fries had cer­tainly ben­e­fit­ted from the ef­forts of Radar team Yamaha down un­der, with their Penske sus­pen­sion de­vel­op­ments. Al­though Radar’s days at the Isle of Man have been over for 18 years, his in­flu­ence has con­tin­ued to play a part in the re­sults. Per­haps there may be yet an­other ‘Radar on the Roads’ era to play out some­day in the fu­ture. One thing is cer­tain. His in­flu­ence will be felt at the front of the pack.

Far right: Graeme Crosby made his mark right from the start on the is­land

Left: Mick Grant in the TT mode.

Be­low: Crosby with Pops. Radar watches on from the me­chan­ics’ place.

Above: Crosby at Water­works on the Mori­waki.

Above: Radar and the team pull an all nighter in 1981. Not easy with Pops over­see­ing every span­ner turn.

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