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|
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