Monday, 27 February 2012

Jim Redman Interview

Jim Redman – 80 Not Out

Jim Redman needs no introduction to motorcycle sport fans; 6 World Championships, 6 TT wins in the 250 and 350cc class, the first rider to win 3 World Championship rounds in one day, the only rider to win the same two classes at the Isle Of Man three years running, 45 GP victories spanning a 7 year career and a record 6 World Championships for Honda.

When I caught up with Jim at the Zwartkops Day of Champions he was more than willing to talk and showed that, whilst he is undoubtedly qualified to talk about racing alongside the greats of the sport  (of which he is most certainly one) from 1959 to 1966, he still has his finger on the pulse of modern motorcycle racing.
iRide; Are there any similarities between your day and the modern racing scene?

No, I think the racing has changed dramatically from our day. One of the biggest things was the danger and they’ve taken the risk out of racing so much; it shows because there have been only two fatalities in the last ten years and in my career of ten years there were a hundred, so it’s a big difference.

iRide; I suppose for you at each race weekend you weren’t sure if you were going to be saying goodbye to one of your friends?

Well, we had a bad year in ’62 where two of the team, out of four of us, were killed and one of my best friends Gary Hocking as well and Mike Hailwood said to me ‘you know we’re on the shortlist now, don’t you’ and I said, what do we do, pack up? And he said ‘no, make a will!’

That was the attitude in the sixties and I never expected to get to 40, let alone 80!
Jim Redman (right) and Mike Hailwood at the '66
Dutch TT

iRide; In regard to the modern era and all the rider aids and electronic trickery, is it detracting from the spectacle?

I don’t know; I’m the other way round. I think that in Grand Prix racing – Formula 1 and MotoGP – the senior class, I think it should be a free for all; they can limit the capacity and that’s all. For example you could have as many gears as you wanted. In the sixties when I was riding the five-cylinder Honda 125 we had nine gears and could rev it to 22,000! I would come in and they asked which gear I was in and I said; ‘I don’t know, I didn’t count.’

iRide; You just kept going until there was no more?

Exactly! As soon as it got to 22,000 I’d just change gear. So I think instead of having more regulations, they should have less and let the winners win. I mean, if Ferrari can get one over on McLaren because they’re better at something then let them win and it’s the same with the motorbikes.

iRide; But the problem with that is that in your day all you needed was a bike, a garage and a cup of tea and you could go racing but that could never happen nowadays so surely the money has spoilt things in a way?

No, funnily enough I think it’s gone back to that. Today you can buy a fast bike like a Fireblade and you could show up on it enough for someone to take a look at you. And that’s all we did with the Nortons; we went racing and tried to be the first single [cylinder bike] home, probably in third or fourth place, but that was a win for us and you hoped a factory would see you. So a guy could do it on a Fireblade today and if the talent is there, they’ll pick it up.

iRide; If you were to go back to racing today, would you go for MotoGP or would you return to the Isle of Man and do battle with the likes of John McGuiness?

I think the prestige is with the MotoGP but the fun is with the road racing. So I don’t know. I have always, in my life, gone for the fun but I think in this case I would go for the MotoGP; the money is so tempting and what I see, and it annoys me a little bit, is that you get the second rate riders and they’re all drifting around in twelfth place and suddenly, when its getting near the end of the season, they’re all trying and getting up to sixth or fourth and I can see they’ve been cruising and making another million a year. I’m not cross with them; I just wish I was doing it!

iRide; Talking of the Isle of Man, were they right to take away its World Championship status in 1976?

I think the IoM can stand on its own, as it does now. I was very cautious on the island; I did ten years here, three classes and I never failed to complete a lap; I gave it complete respect and managed to get six wins and four second places. The Isle of Man as a MotoGP race just doesn’t fit as they crash every meeting. If we crashed more than three times, the factories just wouldn’t look at you – you were a crasher and you would probably kill yourself. So it’s changed; you can’t take the MotoGP bikes and mentality and put it in the Isle of Man; you’re going to kill a few people.
Preparing the Honda-6 250

iRide; what about Guy Martin who is the people’s favourite at the moment; can he break his duck and finally win one or will he always be the bridesmaid?

Well you see my favourite friend and rider is John McGuinness so….

iRide; you’re biased

No, I’m not biased; I’m very biased! And I hope John keeps winning – he’s trying to get as close as he can or to beat Joey Dunlop and he’s 15 up against 26 [wins] so he’s got a lot of work to do but he’s a lovely guy so as much as I admire Guy Martin I hope John keeps beating him.

iRide; Let’s go back to the great Mike Hailwood, against whom, of course, you competed and were great friends with. What was your reaction when he decided to come back after 11 years away to the Isle of Man in 1978? Was it a case of ‘what are you doing?’

Yes, I flew to the Island and said to him ‘you’re crazy, don’t do it’ and he said ‘I’m committed now.’ So I told him to be ‘sick’ on the morning of the race but he said ‘I can’t do that; it was going to be a bit of fun then [Mike’s sponsor]Martini came along and painted the bike in their colours and suddenly I was going to the gym and getting all serious.’ So I said ‘you’re f***ing mad! You’re going to get beaten by guys who have filled your boots but of course then he won it so I said to him ‘I told you you could win it.’

iRide; so you suddenly changed your tune?

Absolutely. Then we walked into the Douglas Head pub and George Turnbull, who was always in the pub, never anywhere else, and wrote the best race reports, said; ‘Here they come; the living legends.’

I said, ‘not me; the boy here’ pointing at Mike. But George said if I had done it I would have won so I got the kudos without the hard work!’

I got a lot of fans because I had nothing and Mike [Hailwood] had everything and so everyone was rooting for me to beat him; it’s the underdog situation that the British like. Usually the boy with the silver spoon turns out to be an arsehole but Mike turned out to be the best. We had so much fun together and used to say, just before a race, ‘last five [laps] to count?’ which meant we would play around and entertain the crowd and then get down to it seriously in the last five laps. Other riders would say ‘you can’t do that’ so Mike would say to them ‘well, pass us if you can then…!’

iRide; You are still very involved with the modern MotoGP scene.

Well, my best friend in MotoGP was Marco [Simoncelli] so I’m a bit gobsmacked that we lost him. I was working on him and his crashing and he used to come in and say ‘Sorry Jim, sorry!’ and I’d say ‘I want to kick your bloody head in…’ and he’d say ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’

I am very close to Nicky Hayden; I got to him at Honda in ’04. I was at Valencia and they introduced us and out of the blue he said ‘My hero’ to me and I said ‘Oh, OK!’ I mean, he’s too young to have ever known about me except in books.

I said to him ‘in my opinion you’re the only guy who could take the championship away from Rossi. It won’t happen next year (’05); you’ve got to do a few things and then in ‘06 you could be world champion. But then I’m an old fart; what do I know!’

So he said ‘let’s go and have coffee.’ So we went and I said to him ‘I think this and this and this; you target the Dutch TT (at Assen) and you’ll walk Laguna Seca and in ’06 you’ll be World Champion. And he did exactly that and he was World Champion and afterwards he said ‘this bastard told me in Valencia in ’04 that I would be champion in ’06 if I do as I’m told so I did as I was told and here I am.’

But he [Nicky Hayden] is a lovely guy. I get grid passes for the races I attend and my son said to me at one race ‘what did you say to Nicky because he pushed you away off the grid?’ And I told him I’d said to Nicky ‘well, no instructions today; just one place better than last weekend,’ - he was second the week before - and he said to me ‘get out of here!!’

You might think that a man of 80 would be slowing down and taking things easy. But such is not Jim’s way.

From Left to Right; Ian Groat, Jim Redman, Paddy Driver and
Jimmy Guthrie at the recent Zwartkops Day of the Champions
 ‘I wasn’t expecting to get to forty and I’ve got to 80 and I’m good for another 40 years. People keep asking me; ‘when are you going to pack it up’ and I say ‘when I get old! Whilst I’m still young I’ll keep going.’

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Never a truer word spoken......

This is Just Gorgeous!

This is a concept bike based on a Triumph Bonneville, created by two young designers, Roy Norton and Tom Kasher. It has the complete blessing of Triumph Motorcycles, who even donated the frame and engine to help the guys create this masterpiece.
Their idea was 'a bike taking retro themes in a modern direction,' being influenced by cafe racers, bobbers and Triumphs of old. Judging by the results, they have succeeded 100%.
As a result of the exercise, Roy and Tom, who were University of Northumbria students at the time, have landed a job at UK based Xenophya Design to work on future motorcycle design projects. And their influence can't come soon enough if this is what they are going to come up with!
For more pics and info, go to www.bikeexif.com

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dani Pedrosa Slides It In....

He might not be the most interesting guy on the grid, making Kimi Raikkonen seem talkative, but you have to admit that he can ride!

Castrol Day of The Champions, Zwartkops, South Africa, 2012

In the coming weeks I'll be publishing interviews with Mick Grant, Phil Read, Jim Redman and Jimmy Guthrie, once I've transcribed them from the tapes. For now, however, here is a selection of photos to whet your appetite.

Mick Grant on his RG500 Suzuki

Paddy Driver trying to find out where his career went

OK, So Phil Read has a bit of an ego!

Lap timer and counter on a Norvin

Left to Right; Ian Groat, Jim Redman, Paddy Driver and
Jimmy Guthrie

Phil Read's MV. This is about as far as it went all weekend

Redman and Guthrie warm up the Honda 250-four and Norton Manx 350

Land Speed Record Part 1 – The Birth of Speed

It is a source of not a little regret that the days of mighty battles for the Land Speed Record (LSR), where the record changed hands monthly, if not at times daily, have long since gone. The last era of that happening was in the sixties, when Craig Breedlove and the Arfons Brothers - Walt and Art – challenged each other on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
No, it couldn't go both ways. Jenatzy's La Jamais Contente

With the increase in speed came a proportional decline in the number of challengers until we were left relying on Richard Noble and Andy Green to challenge their own record, albeit with a 14 year pause. The seemingly impossible task coupled with the enormous finance required had weeded, and continues to weed, out the realistic challengers to virtually none.
Chasseloup Laubat aboard the Jeantaud. Quite why he
thought the chisel nose would help,when he was perched
up there is not recorded

If the early days of record breaking lack the brutal power and speed of even the next generation of LSR contenders, they are no less interesting, as they chart the very birth of motoring as we know it today, when innovation at workshop level had a long-standing effect on motoring in general.

Of even more interest, particularly in this day and age with its emphasis on renewable energy, is that the first throws of the LSR dice were made by electric- and steam-powered cars. Vehicles driven by petrol were woefully unreliable; their component parts not yet attaining that vital balance that remains such a vital aspect of performance.

It was the French who embraced competition initially. At a meet near Paris, in 1898, no fewer than 54 cars entered and the fastest time of the day was a rousing 18mph (29kmh) set by Camille Jenatzy in a battery-driven vehicle. Men being men, that spurred others on to beat the speed and thus the LSR was born.
First challenger to come forward was Comte Gaston de Chasseloup –Laubat who had been among those beaten by Jenatzy near Paris. The Comte also relied on electrical traction for his car, named Jeantaud and, once again leaving the petrol engine rivals spluttering in his wake, raised the bar to 39.24mph (63.15kmh).
Record breaking in those days was nothing if not civilised and Jenatzy immediately issued a challenge for the two men to meet and settle the matter of who was fastest. Jenatzy struck first and went 41.24mph (66.65kmh) but the Comte retaliated immediately with 43.69mph (70.31kmh).

Only days later, Jematzy – the ‘Red Devil’ on account of his flaming red hair and beard – got to within an ace of 50mph only to once again be beaten by Chasseloup-Laubat, who by this time had cunningly streamlined the Jeantaud by fitting a wedge-shaped nose.

Jenatzy then revealed his latest weapon, the torpedo-shaped La Jamais Contente (the Never Satisfied). Achieving 65.79mph (105.87kmh) he sealed the lid on the very first battle for the LSR.
The next increase was recorded by a steam-powered vehicle created by Leon Serpollet in 1901. Once again the petrol driven cars had to give best to alternative propulsion as Serpollet streaked to 75.06mph (120.79kmh).

But by 1902, the internal combustion engine was in the ascendancy and racing cars from Mors and Mercedes set the next slew of records. By 1905 the 100mph barrier had been breached and the record sat at 109.65mph (176.45kph), the car driven, predictably, by a Frenchman.

Not that the Americans had been idle. Apart from William K Vanderbilt’s 1902 record set in France, no record set on American soil had been accepted by the French as they hadn’t used approved timekeeping apparatus.
Henry Ford's Arrow. Simplify and add lightness?

Henry Ford displayed a rare flash of showmanship and in 1904 piloted his own ‘Arrow’ across frozen Lake St. Clair at 91.37mph (147.04kmh) whilst William K. Vanderbilt made the significant first use of Daytona Beach in Florida to record 92.30mph (148.53kmh). The beach would become the principal venue for record attempts for the next 30 years.

Perhaps the most interesting record attempt by the Americans in the pre-sanctioned days of US record breaking was by another steam-powered vehicle, the Rocket, designed by the Stanley Brothers, who were to remain faithful to steam for traction in their road cars until 1925.

In 1906 driver Fred Marriott reached 121.57mph (195.64kmh) at Daytona in the long and low red car, a figure which the Europeans took 3 years to match. It could have been even worse for, in 1907, a re-engineered Stanley steamer reached ‘in excess of 190mph (305kmh)’ but hit a gulley and was smashed as it tumbled along the beach before it could complete the run. Marriott survived.

Marriott in the Stanley Rocket.
It was the Stanley steamer that showed the Europeans that the future of record breaking would have to rely on custom built vehicles and not the proprietary chassis and engines they had been using up to that point. The Europeans were slow to recognise this and then the First World War put a stop to any further record activities, but not before possibly the most significant development of the rules.

The Stanley Rocket. Also only a one-way vehicle, albeit
the fastest thing around
                                                                       After L.G. Hornsted had raised the official LSR to 124.10mph (199.71kph) in a 21.5 litre Benz in 1914, the governing body of motor sport, the A.I.A.C.R (Association Internationale des Automobiles Clubs Reconnus) decreed that, from that point on, all record attempts would have to be made over runs in opposite directions, to even out discrepancies in course gradient and wind direction. That meant that the record would be the average of elapsed times in each direction, with 1 hour allowed for turning round, refuelling, changing tyres etc. It was this rule that thwarted many a record attempt whilst defining all record breaking activities.

The Blitzen Benz
When the First World War came to its bloody close in 1918, the internal combustion engine had been developed out of all recognition and so the stage was set for the great years of the LSR.

BMW K1600GT wins IBOTY 2011 Award

The worldwide shift in motorcycling trends has been amply illustrated by the success of the BMWK1600GT in the International Bike of the Year 2011. 25 magazines from around the globe voted the big BMW into 1st spot, ahead of Ducati’s Diavel and Aprilia’s Tuono V4 APRC (see test somewhere in this issue).
If BMW were happy with the result, their cup must have overflowed with joy as the K1600GTL and the S1000RR came in fourth and joint fifth respectively.

The BMW press release reads as follows; “The K 1600 GT convinced the motorcycle journalists with its unique combination of comfort, performance and use of innovative technologies. The powerful in-line 6-cylinder engine was said to offer power, refinement and lots of fun. The bike's sophisticated technology – in addition to ABS, traction control and navigation system, an adaptive headlight and electronically controlled suspension with various modes increase active riding safety – makes the K 1600 GT an incomparable touring motorcycle. On the road, the outstanding qualities of the K 1600 GT are its agile chassis and unusually light handling. All this gives the rider a unique riding experience, according to the jury, impressing the most demanding touring and sports motorcyclists.”

The top five were;
1) BMW K 1600 GT (41 points)
2) Ducati Diavel (32 points)
3) Aprilia Tuono V4 APRC (22 points)
4) BMW K 1600 GTL (18 points)
5) BMW S 1000 RR and Kawasaki ZX 10R (16 points each)

Aprilia Tuono V4 APRC - The Emperors New Clothes

Aprilia have come a long way in a few years. The 2012 line-up is pretty mouth-watering but the Tuono V4 was one of those bikes that, when I first saw it, made me stop and stare gormlessly, as it looked, especially in matt black, almost perfect. I wanted to do nothing but to get on it and ride.
There is always a danger with love at first sight; things can go from good to bad with the turn of a wheel. But, to be fair, in this day and age there is no such thing as a bad bike; merely one that you just don’t get along with.

From start-up, you just know this is going to be a bit of an adventure. There is something about the rumble of a V4 and the Aprilia engineers have given the Tuono a standard exhaust that allows that rumble to escape, without being too noisy. No doubt most owners would go for an aftermarket system but the standard one is fine and, for once, not too hideously ugly.

On the move the rumble gives way to a rising banshee bellow of a note that must sound awesome as the bike passes you, but on the bike it is somewhat drowned by the rush of air. This is a naked bike after all.
Performance. Yep! Plenty of that. In fact, bloody loads of it. Far more than any rider could make use of on the open road, but then, isn’t that the case for nearly every bike of any substance these days? But, flipping ‘eck, this thing flies. I think I only ever saw seven- or eight-thousand on the rev counter (out of a possible million or so) but by then my arms were being ripped out of their sockets and I used what little movement I had left to close the throttle.

There’s good reason for this; this is the most powerful naked bike ever, apparently. It churns out 162bhp (120Kw) which is 5Kw more than the Ducati Streetfighter. The Aprilia shares its frame with the RSV4 superbike and receives a de-tuned motor from the same bike. Braking power comes from radial Brembo monobloc calipers mated to 320 mm discs up front. Suspension is done by Sachs, with 43 mm titanium nitride (TiN) forks and a four-way adjustable (compression, rebound, pre-load, and ride height) rear shock with piggyback reservoir.

Blah, blah, blah. Who really cares? Any naked bike these days is derived from a faired superbike so of course it’s going to stop on a sixpence, go like stink and corner as if on rails. But it’s the emotion that a bike evokes and somehow a naked bike looks a bit rougher than its fared brother; like it will kick your head in rather than buy you a cocktail.

Almost as if Aprilia recognise this nature, they have stuffed the bike full of electronic trickery. One special feature of the new Tuono is the APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) joystick, the second generation electronic dynamics control package developed by Aprilia to get as close as possible to the physical limits of riding. APRC is based on an automotive inertia sensor platform, with two gyrometers and two accelerometers allowing the ECU to determine the dynamic state of the motorcycle and control engine torque accordingly to help the rider exploit the full performance potential of the bike in all conditions. Sorry, what was that?
The APRC package includes ATC traction control (Aprilia Traction Control), with eight selectable levels, which controls sliding when accelerating out of a curve in relation to bank angle and throttle aperture and AWC (Aprilia Wheelie Control), which helps the rider control extreme wheelies by gradually bringing the front wheel back to the ground. Absolutely essential for every day riding!

But there’s more. AQS (Aprilia Quick Shift) allows instantaneous upshifts without closing the throttle or using the clutch; it’s a quick shifter!  Completing the suite of four functions is the most exhilarating of all: ALC (Aprilia Launch Control) which links you to NASA for moon shots.

OK, so I’m getting flippant, but does a bike really need all this technology? It may have been developed through racing, but is it necessary on a road bike? Isn’t racing becoming diluted because of electronic rider aids? If bikes are becoming so fast that they need all this electronic control then isn’t it time we looked at how much power a bike produces if the average owner is going to need help controlling it? And, let’s face it, unless you happen to be a Rossi or C. Pienaar you are average.

But, at the end of the day, it’s up to the rider how much of the available power he uses and, if it was me, I’d just regulate my right hand for the sake of being able to stop at the end of the journey, get off and walk a few paces, then turn and look back at one of the best looking naked bikes around.

There are a few details that niggle. The tank badge is a real afterthought – just a sticker with a coat of clear over it and the gearbox is pretty rough and noisy (at least on the test bike) but really, given the positives of the bike – looks, noise, performance – it’s not too much to ask the prospective owner to overlook these.

When all is said and done, the Aprilia V4 APRC ticks all the right boxes and, what is more, gives you what every good bike gives you; something more than just a means of transport; more than just getting from A to B; it’s an experience each time you swing your leg over the seat. And that’s just as it should be.

The Ultimate Movie About the IOM TT?

TT3D – Closer to the Edge (DVD, Blu Ray)

I would find it hard to believe that anyone who had even an ounce of interest in motorbikes would fail to be completely awed by the Isle of Man TT races.  No matter how accomplished a rider there is simply no easy way to grasp exactly how the likes of John McGuinness, Guy Martin and Ian Hutchinson do what they do without wrapping themselves round a lamp post every time they get on a bike.

How anyone could be ignorant of the challenge thrown down by the TT course is beyond me, but for those whose education is incomplete, let me attempt to enlighten you; 37 miles of country roads, over 200 bends, rising from sea level to 1,300 feet, passing through villages and towns; the course lined with houses, stone walls, fences, hedgerows, lamp posts, sign posts, garden gates, tree trunks, blind brows, hairpin bends, flat out straights, up hill and down dale, all at an average speed in excess of 130 miles an hour (200kmh+).

Words simply cannot describe it, which is why you should all go out and buy or rent this DVD. Following the 2010 TT races, the film concentrates on Guy Martin, the straight talking, no-nonsense, completely entertaining rider out to claim his first TT win. Against him is the formidable John McGuinness, winner (at the time of filming) of 15 TT races and not a few other brilliant riders, some of whom have opened their account on the Island with a win or two.

It is a fascinating insight into the mind (or lack of!) of a TT racer and what he has to do to achieve the seemingly impossible. Death is never far away at the TT, but the film does not dwell unduly on this aspect whilst acknowledging that no account of the TT would be complete without reference to it.

Rather, the film revels in the glory of free choice that makes such an amazing race possible. Every year there is talk of banning the races due to the death toll, but thankfully, wiser heads prevail and the TT goes from strength to strength as the last bastion of the great, uninhibited road races that are the stuff of legend in motorsport.

This documentary is sufficient evidence to show that, whatever else the bureaucrats do in our ‘interest’ for the sake of safety, they must never be allowed to stop something whilst there are racers who are willing to risk all just to see their name on a trophy alongside the greats.