‘As soon as I felt un­able to win, I didn’t want to do it’

The ex-125cc Bri­tish cham­pion and race team man­ager talks hand-built be­gin­nings and point­less sen­ti­men­tal­ity

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

Clas­sic Bike Live burst on to the clas­sics scene at the Peter­bor­ough Arena last week­end, with a stun­ning ar­ray of clas­sic bikes, stars and live start-ups.

Guests of hon­our, TT leg­ends John Mcguin­ness and Mick Grant, head­lined the show with a stun­ning se­lec­tion of their own ma­chines. Mcguin­ness rolled out a unique se­lec­tion of TT bikes from his pri­vate col­lec­tion, cov­er­ing ev­ery era of his Moun­tain Course ca­reer, from his de­but race 20 years ago in 1996 to the present day – in­clud­ing his stun­ning 1999 Honda TSR250.

Grant was also on hand through­out the week­end, re­liv­ing the glory days, show­cas­ing his rarely-seen leg­endary Kawasaki KR750, and talk­ing about his in­fa­mous rivalry with Barry Sheene in the 1970s. Many of Sheene’s bikes also took pride of place as part of the huge num­ber of road and race bikes on show.

On Sun­day, Clas­sic Bike mag­a­zine’s Rick Park­ing­ton was joined by TV’S Shed and Buried stars Henry Cole and Sam Love­grove to talk all things rust and resto. Show­go­ers also got plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to stick their fin­gers in their ears as many glo­ri­ous his­toric ma­chines fired into life – in­clud­ing Eric Pat­ter­son’s deaf­en­ingly bril­liant Nor­ton JAP which claimed a land speed record at the Bon­neville Salt Flats in the USA.

Among the hun­dreds of rare bikes on dis­play was Andy Bald­win’s ‘Best in Show’-win­ning Suzuki TC250.

Roll on Clas­sic Bike Live 2017!

How did you first get into bikes?

I got my first bike for Christ­mas when I was about seven. This was be­fore Yamaha TY80S and the like so it was a home­made thing – a con­verted Honda C70 with a tri­als frame. Then I started to get into tri­als and a lo­cal engi­neer called Til­lot­son, who died many years ago, built a Yamaha 100 for me that we called the ‘Tilly Spe­cial’. Then the TY80 came along and I got into that.

What about rac­ing?

We al­ways had a rac­ing her­itage. My fa­ther raced; we used to watch a lot – my fa­ther used to help a lot at the Isle of Man and Match Races. I re­mem­ber all those races as a kid so my first love was mo­tor­bike rac­ing.

How did you start?

We spon­sored a lad called Chris Thorne in the Honda RS125 race se­ries. We used to sup­ply the bikes and parts for that be­cause we were an HRC cen­tre. Then, as soon as I could, I got an RS125, an air-cooled one to start with, and the rest is his­tory.

What was your first race?

At Cad­well Park in 1981 which would have been maybe April time, on an RS125, and I think I came 17th.

How quickly did you im­prove?

In 1982, in my first full year, I won the 125cc Marl­boro Club­mans cham­pi­onship, which was a big thing back then. Then I won the Bri­tish cham­pi­onship in ’84 and then, af­ter the ACU fast-tracked me for an in­ter­na­tional li­cence, went to Europe and then into Grands Prix.

What bikes were you rid­ing?

Back then the 125s were Mor­bidel­lis or MBAS – Ital­ian twins. I then did GPS from 1985 through 1992 and in 1988 GPS went back to sin­gles and I raced Hon­das from then on.

Best race­bike?

The RS125. I rode many dif­fer­ent ver­sions but they were all fan­tas­tic. My best RS was in 1990 when I got some HRC sup­port.

What was your rac­ing high­light?

At world level it was Aus­tralia, I was seventh, which was good. I then came back to Eng­land to race from 1993 to 1998 and won the Bri­tish cham­pi­onship a cou­ple of times.

What about since?

I did a bit of mo­tocross, a bit of tri­als but to be hon­est I’ve run a race team ever since so I didn’t have the time – or the de­sire – to ride a bike at all.

When I raced I didn’t ride a bike for the en­joy­ment; I raced be­cause I wanted to race, and win. Some peo­ple are quite happy to ride around in seventh or eighth po­si­tion but as soon as I felt I couldn’t win any­more I didn’t want to do it.

My buzz nowa­days is try­ing to drive the busi­ness on. We en­joy run­ning our two race teams, rep­re­sent­ing the com­pany out on the track, so I spend a lot of time with mo­tor­bikes, but I don’t ride very of­ten now.

Any ex­pe­ri­ence you’d like to have again?

If you could wind the clock back a lit­tle bit I’d love to do some­thing like the beach races at We­ston again. I did that four or five times and it was ab­so­lute mur­der, be­cause I wasn’t very good! But it was fan­tas­tic.

Have you still got any of your old race bikes?

None of them. I think those who do are all sad b**tards! It just doesn’t in­ter­est me one bit. When I’ve got a bit of free time I en­joy keep­ing fit, foot­ball, ten­nis, a bit of squash and I’ve got into moun­tain bik­ing, too.

‘Peo­ple who keep their old race bikes are just sad b**tards’

Jap-en­gined Nor­ton smells as good as it sounds

Mick Grant’s race ma­chin­ery was one of many show high­lights

Mcpint poses for his six-hun­dredth pic­ture of the day. That boy puts the hours in, you know...

Vis­i­tors picked up parts for projects

Stun­ning Nor­ton Com­mando Fast­back

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