The first time...
‘We won the world endurance title’
artin Prout and I started Phase One in 1985. As far as we were concerned, international endurance racing was the absolute pinnacle of motorcycle sport. Each race had a season’s-worth of GP racing in it. Most importantly for us, teams could come up through the rankings without much money, but relying on engineering prowess and rider skill. We had five years of the steepest learning curve you can imagine. We had to learn how to engineer the bikes for a 24hr race, how to form a coherent team, and how to hold it all together for the racing. By 1990 we knew what we were doing. It was time to make the hay. We started off the 93 season with Simon Buckmaster, Mark Linscott, and Steve Manley as our riders. All three were ex of Howard Lees Racing, the team behind Team Bike and Team MCN back in the Eighties. We were doing really well at Le Mans, up to third place. Until Linscott crashed the bike that is. He broke his shoulder and couldn’t get the bike back to the pits. That was our Le Mans over with zero points. Very quickly after that, we were off to a 24-hr race at Anderstorp in Sweden. American rider Doug Toland was with us in place of Linscott. Off we went into 22hrs of racing in rain. The track looked just like a river. At Anderstorp, the garage had only a roof. It was impossible to work so the first thing we had to do was buy a load of timber to fabricate our own garage walls. That wind and rain carried on all through the weekend. It was a real war of attrition, but the Kawasaki ZXR750 we were running was tremendously reliable. Thanks to help from Phil Jessop, we’d grabbed the first two ZXRs that had made it into the UK in 91. We’d got the Kawa pretty damn competitive by 1993. It was one of the quickest Kawasakis out there, and with quite a modest tune. We’d learned over the last eight years that there was a lot of old rubbish spoken about engine tuning. We’d gone our own way on tuning, all of it in-house. Starting at the bottom, we undercut the gearbox to make sure the bike didn’t jump out of gear. We lightened, knifeedged and polished the cranks. A lot of time was spent adding venting to the crank cases to free up the flow of air underneath the piston, and adding jets to oil the piston’s underside. The rods got polished, balanced, and xylan coated. We were running two out of three piston rings as well – the top and oil rings. We machined a pocket on the top, and a 13 degree squish area like a two-stroke’s on the cylinder head. Mez Porting were doing our heads at the time, and kit valves, springs, and kit cams finished off the engine work. We used bespoke looms with kit ECUs, flat slide Performancebikes.co.uk | JULY 2013
Who is Russell Benney?
Russell Benney has raced internationally and managed privateer team Phase One to glory in the 1993, 2000 and 2003 Endurance World Championships. In 2011 and 2012 he turned his attention to managing the Honda TT Legends racing team. Bikes have never been a full time job and Russell’s spent his time off in Hinckley Point Power Station, supplying Somerset with electricity.
Top RIGHT The season would end badly for Buckmaster. Meanwhile here he is partying with one of the fastest Kawasakis on any grid that year Bottom RIGHT The next season Robert Holden joined Phase One, forming, with Manley, a legendary endurance partnerships of the 1990s. This is the Bol d’Or at Paul Ricard down the Mistral Straight
carbs with race kit bits in and race kit bellmouths, and finally exhaust systems by Pete Gibson. So we did a load of work, actually. It was quite full on. The most frightening part of Anderstorp was Pete Linden doing a fly-past in a Saab Viggen jet fighter at 100ft above the track. The instant noise frightened us all witless! The garage walls all blew down. That and the swimming race are what I remember about Anderstorp. I think Doug got us fourth position. The third championship race was at Spa Francorchamps. After the first hour of racing, Steve Manley had the Phase One bike in third, with Dafix Honda in second, and TKF – the works Kawasaki team – in first. In the next few hours TKF lost three laps with a leaky alternator oil seal, and then Dafix abandoned with a broken piston. Doug Toland suddenly found himself in the lead. By early morning TKF were back and were three laps ahead of us. Then TKF rider Vielle broke the monotony by jumping off at high speed and concussing himself. We were back in first position. The works Kawasaki team tried again for the lead and Steve Manley battered the hell out of them, getting fastest lap after fastest lap. Manley pushed them so hard they seized their bloody motor. We pushed TKF’s limits. We stressed their bike and stressed their riders. And for the spectator it was magic. For the rest of the race we put a rev limit on the bike, and just cruised. And by 3pm we’d done it. It was the first British endurance win in over a decade. Phase One was second in the championship behind TKF. The next race was Suzuka. Manley and Buckmaster fell in practice, and 12 hours were taken off qualifying to repair damage to the bike. We came 18th, so no more points to help us challenge TKF. Our final race at the Bol d’Or was cut short six or eight hours in. Simon Buckmaster and Michel Graziano on the factory Suzuki were having one hell of a ding dong when Simon fell and caught his leg under an armco barrier. It was a terrible crash and he lost his ankle. The whole team was devastated. We wanted to walk away from motorcycle racing. Since then Simon’s recovered fantastically and has gone on to be team manager of his own team at world championship level. For the Bol d’Or, Doug Toland had jumped ship back to MSC. He only came sixth or eighth place at the Bol but that was enough for him to claim the riders’ championship. Phase One had given him 66 points, more by far than he’d got riding for MSC, so we claimed the winning team title on that basis. From the serious highs of Spa, to the serious lows at the Bol d’Or, 1993 was an eventful year. And yet out of all this, we’d won the World Championship!
Interview Benjamin Lindley Photography Russell Benney, Bauer Archive
Phase One is the best performing privateer team in the history of endurance racing, winning three world championships. This is the story of their first big win...
‘We pushed the works Kawasaki team’s limits. For the spectator, it was magic’ JULY 2013 | Performancebikes.co.uk