Classic Racer - Special Edition - Freee

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// DATE: JUNE 10, 1963 // LOCATION: ISLE OF MAN Mitsuo Ito, still the only Japanese rider to win an Isle of ManTT victory, was something of an industry legend and – according to the many Suzuki employees past and presen nt – a real character… Ito-san was a dyed-in-the-wool Suzuki man, making his Grand Prix debut in 1961 in France and he skilfully took his Suzuki RK67 to the win in the 1963 Ultra-LightweightTT. If this win cemented his place in racing andTT history, it was his career at Suzuki that made him a company legend. With hisTT win and subsequent four, 5th place finishes in the 50cc World Championship between 1962 and 1965, his last Grand Prix win came at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1967. Following his retirement from motorcycle racing, Ito’s career at Suzuki blossomed as did the legend of the man himself. Moving on to four wheels, Ito was team-mate to the late, great Sir Stirling Moss for a 1968 one-off high-speed run along Italy’s 450 mile Autostrada del Sole (The Sun Motorway) and raced a Suzuki Fronte RF single-seat car in the Junior Seven Challenge Cup Race at Fuji International Speedway in 1970 – an event which he won. In later years Ito-san would be instrumental in the careers of many Suzuki factory riders, including that of Kevin Schwantz, who took the 1993 500cc world title for the factory. Ito himself would return to the Isle of Man in 2008 as a spectator and guest of Suzuki GB, was inducted into Japan’s Motorcycle Sport Hall of Fame in late 2018 and sadly passed away in 2019.

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Photograph: Nick Nicholls Collection at Mortons Archive

Inspirational Ito!

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// DATE: AUGUST 6, 1995 // LOCATION: BRANDS HATCH Yamaha was groomingYasutomo Nagai for success on the world stage in the early 1990s. Yasu raced in the All-Japan championships and took a win in the 1994 Bol d’Or with Christian and Dominique Sarron before joining a young Colin Edwards in the new Yamaha World Superbike factory team for 1995. Nagai was the first regular Japanese star in WSB, paving the way for the likes of AkiraYanagawa, WataruYoshikawa and Noriyuki Haga. He added a welcome dash of colour to the series, with the trademark Japanese ‘mooneyes’ Arai, but including his trademark ‘spiderweb’ design. His style was loose and aggressive (he earned the anger of Brits Carl Fogarty and John Reynolds that season) but he was always entertaining to watch and he took three podiums in his all-too-short WSB career. When this shot was taken – at Brands Hatch – Nagai had taken third in race two, but was deemed to have overtaken under a yellow flag, thus promoting Reynolds into third. TheYZF750SP when it appeared in factory form in World Superbikes was a real screamer. Edwards said: “Yasu and me wanted a bike that would have power from about 8000rpm, but the YZF only really started making power from around 11,000! It really was like the old-style 500cc GP bikes. We were in trouble when we got to tight tracks with corners, but places like Hockenheim (where weirdly we ran EXUP valves in the exhausts) we did well. We needed more torque but only ran EXUP at that race, so the power was either on or off!” Sadly Nagai was to lose his life at Assen in 1995, just as Carl Fogarty wrapped up his second World Superbike championship. The 29-year-old Japanese rider crashed hisYZF on oil left by Fabrizio Pirovano’s Ducati. This was the first fatality in the championship’s history and the Yamaha World Superbike team pulled out of the final two rounds of the series as a mark of respect. He posthumously finished fifth in the overall standings that year.

Photograph: Nick Nicholls Collection at Mortons Archive

Yasutomo Nagai

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Aprilia RS Cube

// DATE: JUNE 8, 2003 // LOCATION: MUGELLO The Aprilia RS3 or ‘RS Cube’ was a problem child, at best. Launched at the Bologna Show at the end of 2001, ready for the new four-stroke MotoGP season the following year, it was to be ridden by former 500cc race winner Regis Laconi. He would take a best result of 8th (twice) with the team taking 33 points in the manufacturer’s championship. Designed by Cosworth Racing, it was thought that the three-cylinder motor was a sliver of a Formula 1 engine, complete with ride-by-wire throttle and pneumatically actuated valves. At times in its debut season, it would record the highest top speeds and was considered equal

with the Honda RC211V’s power output of around 230bhp… For 2003 the bike was ridden by the reigning World Superbike Champion Colin Edwards and fellow WSB refugee Noriyuki Haga seen here – complete with a factory Michelin tyre contract after a year on Dunlops. Edwards had a baptism of fire (literally) on the Cube. As a rider, he’d never had a high-side since 1996… but during Jerez tests in early 2003 he was exiting Curva Sito Pons when the rear began to slide. “I shut the throttle but the rear continued to slide – I told her to back down but she told me to f*ck off! I was in the air and came

down with a thump.That’s what comes of a rideby-wire throttle, I guess…” His later incident was when – at the Sachsenring – a loose fuel cap popped out spraying him with fuel which ignited when he was doing 120mph. He decided to bail out of the fireball that was his Aprilia triple… Edwards’ best finish that year was a 6th and Haga’s a 7th. For 2004 the bikes were ridden by Jeremy McWilliams and Shane Byrne who finished the year in 19th and 20th places in the MotoGP championship respectively. It was to be the last year for the RS3. Aprilia would not return to MotoGP until 2015.

Photograph: Nick Nicholls Collection at Mortons Archive

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COMEBACK! Classic motorcycle racing made a most welcome return at Cadwell Park, when the CRMC held the first meeting since lockdown began. Classic Racer was there, along with a few discerning and socially distanced spectators… Words: JonoYardley Captions: Graham Lawlor Photographs: Pete Morris


ay back on March 23 of this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the nationwide lockdown in a bid to stop the coronavirus outbreak. As we all know, it immediately had a dramatic effect on all aspects of our lives, including all forms of sporting activity, which obviously included our beloved motorsport. This pretty much stopped dead in the tracks all the preparation and planning for road racing and a full and fun season ahead. Prior to the lockdown, the Classic Racing Motorcycle Club had a full calendar planned of seven rounds, which of course was quickly scrapped. For many classic motorcycle racers, the thought of any racing taking place during 2020 was a nonstarter, and for most the race bike stayed at the back of the garage or workshop. The CRMC’s vice-chairman John Davidson is one of the key people who organise their race meetings, he said: “The calendar was put on hold as the ACU first suspended all permits until May 31 and later all permits were suspended indefinitely, as it was realised new safety routines would be required for meetings to take place. “Darley Moor was quickly rescheduled for August 22/23 as there was an available date in the Darley calendar. The CRMC would have preferred to postpone Cadwell until October and have more time to prepare, but this would have incurred a heavy loss on the July Cadwell booking, so this meant that as soon the Government and ACU allowed sporting events to take place, if at all possible we had to run the meeting.’’ The sport’s governing body – the Auto Cycle Union – kept a close eye on developments, and as things progressed produced a number of documents highlighting the implications and the likely restrictions that would be placed on racing in the short to medium term. These covered

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Lynn and Caroline from CRMC doing it right!


Left: Richard Molnar narrowly leads his new Molnar Precision team-mate, Phil Atkinson, through the Woodland section on Andy Molnar’s matching pair of TTF1 1078 Ducatis.

many aspects, including social distancing, increased hygiene procedures and the ban on overnight camping. This restriction was probably the one thing that effectively stopped a racing club from running a race meeting, with the majority of meetings being held over two days. The CRMC undertook a survey of its members and the results clearly showed that most would not be prepared to attend a meeting if they were unable to stay on site. This was understandable – years ago when racing on a single day was the norm, clubs were much more locally based and their riders lived within relatively easy distance of the circuits their clubs raced at. This has changed a lot over the years and the membership of National clubs such as the CRMC, now live across the UK. As the lockdown progressed, the CRMC were optimistic that the ‘no overnight camping’ restriction would be removed and the planning for a two-day race meeting was started. John Davidson: “Putting this meeting together was quite a challenge for all involved. We never knew until quite late in the day how many competitors would actually enter or

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Above: Malc Sampson’s long journey from the West Country proved to be well worth it with two Production second places on his new Yamaha FZ600 and a brilliant brace of Superstock wins on his Honda VFR 750 plus a hard-earned seventh place in the ACU 1300 race.

indeed if we could muster sufficient officials and marshals to actually run the event.’’ Detailed discussions with the ACU continued and their requirements for the issue of a race permit. Part of this planning also included discussions with the management of circuits. Motor Sport Vision, who operate five circuits in the UK, were very supportive of the club’s wish to return to racing and the originally planned weekend for July 11/12 at Cadwell Park was very much back on the cards. One of the things that the ACU wanted to see was the increased use of technology to reduce the amount of human contact and the CRMC’s new online membership and race entry system was used to great effect. The system, although in relatively early stages of development, worked well and had the effect of reducing the amount of paperwork. The ‘no overnight camping’ restriction was finally removed on July 4, by the Government and everything was in place for a weekend of classic motorcycle racing. Amongst the many additional requirements was the need to ensure that everyone involved in running the event had correct

Personal Protective Equipment, this in itself was not an easy task as sourcing PPE in the numbers required and at a reasonable cost is difficult. In addition, all the officials and marshals required additional guidance and training on how to operate under the new guidelines, so that their safety was not compromised. Only one person at a time was allowed in the race office, and a new system employed for signing on. For the bike technical inspection, this was done without the machine actually being touched – a challenge in itself – but a system was developed which worked and was sufficient to ensure that there was no physical contact with anything that could allow transmission of the virus, but still ensuring that every motorcycle conformed to the technical regulations. It was decided that there would be no printed results. This is something that didn’t cause any issues as the club uses the services of Motorsport Timing UK Ltd. As well as providing an excellent and accurate service, which provides almost instant official results through their online website, they also

Above: Dominic Clegg (FZ600 Yamaha) saw off a strong 1300 Production field to win both races by a distance. Left: For the second year running Tom Hayward (1, RS Honda) decimated the rest of the Cadwell P/C 125 field, with “Mr MT” Jerry Lodge also putting in a pair of strong rides to comfortably win the Piston Port class. Below: Rare, beautiful and quick. The 750cc two-stroke three cylinder JPR/ DKW ran beautifully in the hands of Jon Perkins and Ian Nickels, who went home with a first and a second place finish.

provide an online ‘Live Timing’ system, which can be accessed by anyone with access to a smart phone, tablet or PC – anywhere in the world. This has proved to be very reliable, remarkably quick and accurate. Not only does their system provide race results, but also the progress of each and every rider during a race, including their current and fastest lap times. This is in addition to clearly showing a rider’s position in their class, as well as the overall race positions. For those that require a hard copy, this is easily achieved at home via a suitable printer. A revised programme of events was drawn up and the main change was that no racing would take place on the Saturday, just two sessions of untimed practice and a single session of timed practice for each class. It was a schedule that was very well received by the riders, with all appreciating the extra track time with little pressure to perform well right from the start. The additional requirements for increased social distancing were met and followed in all areas, including signing on, technical and noise inspections and of course within the actual race paddock itself. Everyone who attended was happy to comply, just being pleased to be going racing again. ACU Deputy Clerk of the Course Ben Robinson describes some of the challenges he faced: “I think probably the main challenge was ensuring that everything had been

Above: Seventeen-year-old Tom Woodward, who made a big impression on an MT-125 Honda at Donington in 2019, was back out here on dad Symon’s, RD250, enjoying two great battles with the similarly mounted Andy Green (14). Green it was who edged out Woodward by inches in both races but there’s no doubt that the youngster has a potentially strong future in the sport.


Above: Pete Bardell’s (Seeley G50) lightning start allowed him to control the ACU Classic 500 race from flag to flag a couple of seconds ahead of the hard battling Alan Oversby (Ireland Honda) and Richard Molnar (Molnar Manx), the latter man just making it home after his crankcases let go on the run in.

Mike Russell (Suzuki XR69) going hard at it over the Mountain on his way to sixth place in the ACU/ Hercberg International Post Classic race.

thought of prior to the meeting. Making sure that you were happy and confident that all the processes you had developed would be effective and ensure that a second spike wasn't as the result of a CRMC meeting! “Alongside that, I think another challenge was recovery. Having to run with limited resources, and having multiple assets to pick up sometimes (as much as it pains me to say it, sidecars were the worst), ensuring that you utilised your resource in an effective, yet safe way, proved challenging. “Other than that, it was ensuring that you didn't lose your focus and inadvertently revert back to ‘normal’ and you had to

Left: A Saturday night dash back to Lancashire for new ignition components transformed John Dieterman’s weekend on the Baxi Ducati TTF1 1078 as he enjoyed a Sunday to remember. The Preston rider narrowly defeated Ant Hart (Veryard/ Mec-a-Tec Suzuki XR69) in both P/C Superbikes/Superstocks club rounds but the icing on the cake was victory over Phil Atkinson (Rose TZ350) and Hart (Be Event Hire TZ350) in a thrilling Hercberg/ACU Post Classic race, a win that also earned him the Colin Breeze Trophy and the Rider of the Day award.

Above: George Hogton-Rusling was back in action on Peter Hercberg’s 750 triple after a near two-year absence.The popularYorkshireman was quickly back to winning ways in the combined Classic and P/C 750 event but not without difficulty as impressive CRMC newcomer Scott Carson (24, TZRYamaha 250) hassled and harried him all the way. Left: Market Rasen’s Mr Versatile, Pete Boast, was L competing c on three different machines, including this Tigcraft KTM 690 Supermono. T Below: Dom Herbertson (Davies Motorsport K4) was in dominant form in the Classic 350 club races and also took top honours in the new ACU Classic 350 championship race.

remember that you were working under Covid regulations. Whereas normally you’d go and hug someone you’d not seen for a long time, or shake their hand, standing back and thinking ‘hang on, we can’t do that anymore!’ was another challenge. “In terms of meeting efficiency, it’s our names above the door, but it’s all the teams that make up the meeting that make it run. For me personally, very little felt different, however I know that the teams struggled at times, but, as we always do at CRMC, we got through!’’ And the club not only got through, it got through in style. It was a brilliantly successful weekend. The club’s email inbox quickly filled up following the weekend, full of supportive and positive comments: “Thank you very much for putting on a great weekend – we’re so glad to be back, and that was the sentiment in the paddock from everyone we spoke with.’’ “First of all, well done to you and the whole team for the Cadwell weekend. I’m sure that was a major hassle for you to organise but it all looked incredibly easy and normal from my side of the fence.’’ “Great meeting at the weekend, thought you all did a great job in difficult circumstances.’’

“Just a quick one to say a big thank you for putting on the meeting at Cadwell. Please pass this on to everyone concerned in giving us all a great start.’’ One of the concerns was additional delays due to enforced stoppages when dealing with those that had fallen from their machines. In fact there were very few red flag incidents, and credit must go to the marshals who performed an excellent job. There were several relatively minor spills, where an inexperienced marshal could have asked for a race stop, but they kept a cool head and allowed the racing to continue whilst a proper assessment was made. The weather helped too, with just about perfect conditions on both days. Any doubts about how many would enter were quickly put to bed, and as the message got out that the meeting was on and that overnight stays were allowed the entries came in thick and fast. Certainly one of the things that benefited the CRMC was the fact that other clubs had decided not to race this year. One of the big surprises was that spectators were allowed. This was achieved by MSV limiting the numbers and keeping close control on them, which included segregating them from competitors and their

teams, by not allowing them access to the paddock or Grandstands. This is not an issue at Cadwell Park as the wonderful flowing circuit is bounded by large grassy banks, all of which provide excellent viewing from a range of viewpoints. Those that came were all very keen to see some brilliant racing action, and they were not disappointed: race record speeds, some of the best classic riders anywhere in the world battling for the same piece of tarmac, ultraclose finishes, beautifully prepared exotic machinery being used as it was intended. Who could ask for more? The Classic Racing Motorcycle Club has a further three meetings planned for the rest of the year: August 22/23 – Darley Moor September 5/6 – Anglesey September 26/27 – Pembrey This will be a total of 12 championship races for each class, with every round counting for points, i.e. no dropped rounds this year. Also there will be two ACU championship rounds at each meeting, the Classic and Post Classic bikes have a race each. For more information visit

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Words and photographs: Phil Aynsley

In 1988 the NSR V4 500cc-powered machine took to the Grand Prix grid. It was the final design in an intriguing series of bikes begun by Andre de Cortanze – one of the unique engineering brains from Renault’s race department in the mid-1970s. Talk about left-field Grand Prix thinking! ClassicRacer 557

Starting with the ELF3, the earlier front twin parallel swingarm was dispensed with and a MacPherson strut derived design using a single vertical upright and single horizontal swingarm was used. This was developed into the purposeful unit seen here.

The ELF5 certainly looked the part. The 118kg weight (half wet) and 152hp at 11,500rpm from the 1987 NSR motor provided for a top speed of over 186mph.

Above: The cast magnesium top shock mount also held the instrument bracketry.




Above:The two Nissan four-pot calipers were specially made to Honda’s order after previous years’ brakes had overheated due to being shielded by the front rim, and acted on a pair of close coupled 310mm discs.

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Above: Looks sturdy enough! Honda’s Pro Arm swingarm was a lasting result of their collaboration with Elf.

Right: The two twin-choke 36mm Keihin carburettors had been removed at the time of shooting.

Unlike the earlier ELFs up to the 1985 2C, the later Rosset/Trema designs used a seperate steel tube chassis that enabled the alloy (cast magnesium for the ELF5) engine support structure to link the front and rear ends.


For such an unconventional design the bike looks extremely clean and purposeful.

Above: Ron Haslam rode ROC-Elfs in the 1986, 87 and 88 500cc world championships, ďŹ nishing in 9th, 4th (most of the season on a standard NSR as the ELF4 was delayed) and 11th respectively. Left: Five different grades of cast magnesium were used in the suspension and chassis, which were adjustable for head angle, wheelbase, trail, front and rear ride height and weight distribution, plus the usual rebound and dampening.

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“TOUGHER THAN A BANK VAULT DOOR!” …so said Paul Smart of Gary Nixon, the diminutive and charismatic American racer who became a great champion and a legend on two wheels.

Words: Bruce Cox Photographs: Dave Friedman – via the Don Emde Collection, BRG Archives, Mortons Archive.


ary Nixon twice came back from crashes resulting in career-threatening injuries and would return to race harder than ever to enjoy national and international success. Paul Smart was the red-haired American’s team-mate at both Kawasaki and Suzuki and his observation that Nixon was ‘tougher than a bank vault door’ stemmed from the fact that – for three years – Nixon raced with a foot-long stainless steel rod inserted in a leg shattered in one of those big crashes. Perseverance was one of the main attributes that marked out Gary Nixon as special in the world of motorcycle racing. Another was the extraordinary talent that took him to two US National Championship wins (in 1967 and 1968) and 19 individual race victories in some 150 races on the varied dirt tracks and road races of the American Grand National Championship Series. It also saw him come within a single point of

being World Formula 750 Champion in a controversial and hotly disputed 1976 season. To this day, many feel that politics and bureaucracy robbed Gary Nixon of a world title…But more of that next time. Nixon was both a popular and respected racer at home in the USA as well as in Europe and Japan having raced for the factory teams of Triumph, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki. His popularity in Britain came in part because he was in the vanguard of the American rider invasion of the 1970s. He came over to the 1970 Race of the Year at Mallory Park as an unknown Yank to the partisan British fans and left with their respect when he finished 4th in that hardest fought of all UK short circuit races of the period. The field for that race included all of the top short circuit racers in the UK of the time and several top Grand Prix riders chasing the winner’s booty of £1000 – the biggest prize in UK racing at that time.

Stylin' it up: to say Nixon had charisma is a gross understatement. No wonder he and Sheene were buddies.

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CLASSIC RACER PEOPLE That wad of pound notes went to local hero, John Cooper on a Seeley-framed Yamaha – a rider and bike combination that was virtually unbeatable on the UK short circuits at that time. He and most of the 40-strong field were riding fast and nimble Yamaha 350cc twins that were perfectly suited to the tight little Mallory track. In stark contrast, Nixon was on a bike that could hardly have been less suitable – one of the bulky 750cc ‘high boy’ Triumph triples built with the wide-open spaces of Daytona in mind. Also, the bike was not ready for him until morning practice, so to bring it home 4th against the best in the business on a completely unfamiliar track was no mean feat… In fact, Gary’s performance at Mallory Park in 1970 convinced the British track-owning group of Motor Circuits Developments that there was a good chance that it could make money by bringing over American talent to race in the UK. It led directly to the legendary

Nixon in full-flight at the 1967 Daytona 200.

A relieved Nixon wins the 1967 Daytona 200 race.

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Transatlantic Trophy Series of Anglo-American Match Races. Gary’s Daytona 200 win in 1967 and double AMA Grand National Championships in 1967 and 68 meant he already had a reputation come the 1970s – even to British fans – but back then it was generally thought that Americans were regarded as ‘just’ dirttrackers who might be okay on their home ground at the fast but simple circuits such as the speedbowl of Daytona, but who would flounder in the area of ‘real’ road/circuit racing. Nixon’s showing at Mallory in 1970 clearly proved otherwise and would be a precursor to the rise and rise of American racers during the 1970s and well into the 1980s… Nixon began his racing career in 1958 at just 17 years old and moved up to the AMA Grand National Championship level two years later. He showed a great deal of promise in his rookie season, earning a 7th place finish at the Springfield Mile in Illinois but for the next

few years he was regarded as a consistent performer rather than having star quality. He qualified for a number of Nationals and even gained the occasional top 10 finish but it came as a complete surprise to everyone, perhaps even including Nixon himself, when he won his first AMA National in convincing fashion in August 1963 at a road race in Windber, Pennsylvania. He proved the Windber victory was no fluke when three weeks later he won a short-track dirt National at Santa Fe Park in Hinsdale, Illinois. Nixon finished the season ranked 6th in the Grand National Series, his first time in the top 10. Over the next three seasons, Nixon got quicker still: earning a dozen podium finishes, including National wins on miles, half-miles, short-tracks and road-racing circuits and by 1966 he was AMA Grand National runner-up to the Harley-Davidson-mounted champion, Bart Markel. For the Daytona 200 race back in 1964 the full Speedway course, including the steep bankings of the famed tri-oval, was used for the first time – previously the race had been run on the featureless and much slower infield circuit. The faster track suited Gary Nixon and he pulled out a 27-second lead over the massed ranks of Harley-Davidson riders on their fast ‘flathead’ (side-valve) 750cc V-twins. He was using a unit construction Triumph 500cc twin prepared by Cliff Guild, the master engine tuner at Triumph USA’s East Coast facility. It was the first time that the engine had shown its true winning potential at Daytona, but it wasn’t to be a fairytale finish. A long pit stop dropped Nixon back to second – which is where he finished. Even so, it had put down a marker for future years. Triumph would soon be a name to be reckoned with at the Florida speedbowl. That reckoning didn’t take long in coming. George Montgomery and Nixon finished 3rd and 4th for Triumph in 1965 and in 1966 came the long-awaited win. Even though the Triumphs had been beaten in each of the previous two years of the race, the unit construction engine had certainly demonstrated its potential. For that 1966 race, the Triumph factory pulled out all of the stops. No less than six of the special T100R racers were shipped out to Florida from Doug Hele’s race shop in England with the lead riders being Gary Nixon, Dick Hammer and Buddy Elmore. At the sustained high speeds necessary for success, however, these factory Triumphs proved fast but miserably unreliable during practice. The main problem was with con-rod big-end bearings that kept failing, which caused the engines to lose oil pressure.

The classic number 9 in action.

John 'Moon Eyes' Cooper, chases Nixon down at Ontario in 1971.

These problems were so great during the practice week that Gary Nixon opted to ride one of the back-up bikes which Cliff Guild had prepared at Triumph USA’s East Coast HQ in Baltimore. Gary lived in Maryland not far from there, so was very close to the company and had 100% confidence in Guild’s ability to build a machine that might not be as fast as the factory racers, but which, he felt, would be reliable and run the full 200 miles. After all, only a long pit stop had stopped him from winning on Guild’s Triumph in 1964. Hammer and Elmore, however, had no such back-up choices – they were stuck with the factory bikes but at least knew that, while they were running, they were as fast, or faster, as anything else on the track. When the race actually started, Hammer demonstrated the speed of the Triumph by running alongside Cal Rayborn’s Harley for the lead. Unfortunately, his engine blew after only seven laps, causing heaps of nervousness in the other Triumph pits, and perhaps a little complacency in the Harley ranks. By this time, Nixon had joined the lead group, and eventually started to pull away from both Rayborn and his Harley team-mate, Roger Reiman. And when Rayborn went out with an oil leak at lap 15, followed 14 laps later by Reiman, it looked as though Nixon’s decision to ride the Cliff Guild bike had been a wise one. Instead, Nixon had another rival to contend with: fellow Triumph rider, Buddy Elmore. The Texan was moving rapidly up through the field, although a lap-scoring error meant that his number didn’t feature on the infield scoreboard in the early stages.

In fact he had moved from 46th to 19th by the second lap, to 11th by lap four, and into 4th place on lap eight. By the 22nd lap he caught and passed Nixon, although the Maryland rider regained the lead when Elmore pitted on lap 29. Three laps later, however, Buddy was back in front for good. Nixon then held a strong second for the next dozen laps, unable to match the speed of Elmore’s team bike but knowing how fragile it was as well. Gary kept the pressure on the Texan until the 45th lap, when his rear tyre went flat. Nixon limped to the pits and changed the rear wheel, but this cost him three laps and his challenge was over. His reward was a 9th place finish, but Cliff Guild at least had the satisfaction that he had built yet another

engine that had gone the full 200 miles at (potentially) race-winning speed. By the time the 1967 Daytona 200 rolled around, Doug Hele had made sure that the oil pressure and bearing problems that had so nearly cost them the 1966 race were cured. Once again, the lead Triumph team riders in the Florida classic were Nixon, Hammer and Elmore and the British factory was hoping to get more than one of them into Victory Lane this time. Harley-Davidson, however, still showed that there was life in the old dog yet when Fred Nix qualified fastest around the banked oval at just over 140mph. The 750cc V-twin side-valve might have been antiquated in design, but it was still a serious contender for Daytona honours.


1967 Daytona again: Nixon leads Dick Hammer.

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Nixon h Ni having i ffun!!

1971's Match races sees an injured Nixon (right) with Mike Hailwood (left) and Barry Briggs (centre.)

Nixon-style in 1970!

Super-cool Bell helmet advert featuring Nixon.

1968 at the short, tight Loudon track.

Fast though they were on the steeply banked three-mile tri-oval, none of the Harleys proved able to match the pace of the Triumphs of Nixon, Hammer and Elmore around the right and left turns of the full infield course. Nixon and Hammer sped away and led from the start – and for the next 100 miles treated the fans to a fantastic see-saw battle for the lead. By the time they pitted for gas at the halfway mark, they had traded the lead no less than 29 times! And to really put Triumph into the comfort zone, Buddy Elmore was sitting close behind in a comfortable third place. It was during his pit stop on lap 26 that Hammer put himself out of contention. After coming in for fuel he grabbed a rag to clean his face-shield and stuffed it between the fuel tank and seat so that he could use it again later if needed. But, as he accelerated away, the rag was sucked into the intake of one of the massive Amal GP carburettors, causing the engine to run on only one cylinder. Dick quickly realised what had happened and pulled the offending rag from the carburettor bell-mouth but the time lost with this problem had allowed Nixon to get away and put some distance between them. Staying in the slipstream of the rider in front is vital on Daytona’s high-speed banking, often leading to overtake-after-overtake and the vital slipstreaming pass over the finish line… This was what Nixon and Hammer had been doing to each other for the first half of the race – taking it in turns to pop out at the ‘stripe’ to take the money paid to the leader of each individual lap.

Now, not only was the ‘tow’ from Nixon broken by Hammer’s mistake, it had dropped Dick completely out of contention for the win and to make matters even worse, he crashed while trying to catch Nixon and broke his collarbone. Courageously remounting, he limped home to finish 7th while Gary went on to take the chequered flag, well ahead of his other Triumph team-mate, Buddy Elmore. That 1967 racing season turned out to be the best of Nixon’s career, beginning with that hard-fought victory in the Daytona 200. In fact, he scored a double victory as he won the main 200-Mile race on the Triumph and a day earlier had ridden one of the first factory Yamahas in the USA to win the 100-Mile Lightweight (250cc) race. He is still the only rider to have won that Daytona double. By the end of the 1967 season Nixon had scored five National victories and had earned his first AMA Grand National Championship. He followed that up in 1968 with a second title, this time in a close battle with HarleyDavidson team rider, Fred Nix, that came down to the final race. Nixon’s two national race wins in 1968 were both on the dirt and came at the season opener at the Houston Astrodome indoor short track race and on the half-mile oval in Columbus, Ohio. The Triumph 500cc twins were completely overshadowed in road racing that year by redesigned Harleys that had a 10mph speed advantage at Daytona thanks to streamlining developed in a wind tunnel and a new chassis designed with road racing in mind. The following year was little better for either Gary or Triumph at Daytona. Gary, in 9th place,

was the only Triumph rider in the top 10, and two laps down on the winner, Cal Rayborn, as well as behind a mix of other Harleys and the emerging two-stroke challengers from Suzuki and Yamaha. Nixon’s toughness became clear later that 1969 season. A bad crash on the one-mile dirt oval track at Santa Rosa in California was the result of him hitting a neutral while downshifting at 120mph into a turn. He slid wide into a fence post and broke his left leg so badly that the bone in his thigh was protruding through his leathers. The injury kept Nixon out of racing for almost a year and he was never again a leading challenger on the dirt tracks even though he continued to ride the factory Triumphs, including the threecylinder 750cc mile track racers in 1971. By then, scoring AMA Grand National points on the dirt tracks had become less important to Gary than the lucrative rewards available in US road-racing at that time. He came back to racing in time for the 1970 Daytona 200 Mile race, still riding for the Triumph factory team on one of its new 750cc F750 triples. It wasn’t a great return for Gary: he was in the lead just after the halfway mark when the bike expired with overheating problems. In 1971, they and their identical BSA counterparts showed better with Dick Mann (this time on a BSA) winning again from Gene Romero (2nd again for Triumph) and Don Emde (BSA). For Gary, it was almost the same story as the previous year, running at least in contention for a trip to Victory Lane before the bike cried enough at the 150-mile mark.

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Nixon leads Mike Hailwood and Dick Mann at Daytona in 1970.

1970 Mallory Park Race of the Year brochure.

1970 at 120mph: check the rear tyre!

Gary Nixon, Don Castro and Gene Romero with the Triumph 750 triples in 1971.

After Daytona Gary flew to England as one of the all-BSA/Triumph riders selected for the inaugural running of the Transatlantic Trophy series in 1971, but there was only more disappointment in store. A crash in practice for the opening round at Brands Hatch left him with a broken left wrist, so he was unable to ride and contribute any points to the American team effort. There was even greater disappointment at the end of that season in the world’s richest motorcycle race, the Champion Spark Plug 250 at the vast Ontario Motor Speedway in Southern California. Champion had stumped up a massive $50,000 rider purse, with $15,000 of that going to the overall winner on points aggregated from the finishing positions in the two 125 mile qualifying races. In today’s money, those figures translate to $316,000 and $95,000 respectively – at today’s rate of exchange that’s around £240,000 and £72,000 respectively! Gary won the first 125 mile race by going nonstop on his Triumph F750 triple while early

antagonist, Yvon Duhamel had to stop for a quick ‘splash and dash’ refuelling stop with the thirsty three-cylinder Kawasaki two-stroke 500. This pair were again disputing the lead in the second and all-important ‘money’ race when they, and several other front-runners, crashed on an oil slick. Their chance at the big pay day was wiped out and the race for the big bucks was famously won by John Cooper who used the grunt of his BSA 750 triple to edge out Kel Carruthers’ Yamaha 350 twostroke right on the finish line. That was pretty much the final swansong for the big four-stroke triples in major international Formula 750 racing and with the mighty BSA/Triumph group on the fast track to bankruptcy it also signified the end of an era. The Japanese and their two-stroke racers were coming and Gary Nixon had read the writing on the wall, For the 1972 season he would join his Ontario adversary Duhamel and Kawasaki and begin the second part of his incredible racing story, which you can read next time…

Gary Nixon: National Champion in 1968.

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JOEY DUNLOP By those who knew him best

On July 2, 2020, it will be 20 years since the greatest road racer of all time was cruelly taken from us following a crash at Tallinn in Estonia. Few people got close to the intensely shy and private Dunlop but here are some of the favourite tales of those who did, from team-mates and team bosses to mechanics, photographers, racing rivals and even his younger brother Jim. This is the real Joey Dunlop, like you’ve never known him before. Words: Stuart Barker Photographs: Mortons Archive & Nick Nicholls Collection at Mortons Archive

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uch has been written about William Joseph Dunlop in the two decades since his death at an obscure road race meeting in Estonia on July 2 in the year 2000. His incredible life and career have been the subject of numerous books, documentaries and films but despite such intense scrutiny from the media, much of Joey's life remains a mystery. Few people outside of the close circle of friends and family he grew up with got to know him at all, not because he was aloof, but because he was an intensely shy and private man who preferred to let his riding do the talking. But despite this, the success of Joey's career meant he had to work with countless people he would otherwise never have associated with including mechanics, team bosses, photographers, team-mates and even documentary film-makers. And such was the power of Joey's personal charisma and his unique approach to life, that he left an indelible impression on all of them. Everyone who ever had any involvement with the 26-time TT winner has stories to tell and David Wallace is no exception. Wallace is now a well-established, double BAFTA-winning, documentary film maker, but back in the summer of 1977 the Irishman set out to make his first film about an unknown local rider called Joey Dunlop. The result is the classic bike racing documentary The Road Racers which followed the Armoy Armada (Joey, Mervyn Robinson, and Frank Kennedy) as they struggled to make ends meet throughout the 1977 Irish road racing season. Wallace noticed at a very early stage that the world was going to struggle to understand Joey’s mumbling local dialect. “When I showed the film to people in the UK they couldn't understand a word – they had no idea what the guys were talking about. I explained the problem to the riders and they all agreed to be interviewed again and speak in what they called their ‘Sunday-go-to-meeting’ voices, so they spoke more slowly and more clearly. It’s still their voices but it would have been more fun for me, as an Irishman, if we could have used their natural accents!” Wallace wasn’t the only one to come across the language barrier with Joey. Anthony ‘Slick’ Bass is most famous for taking Carl Fogarty to four World Superbike titles but before he worked for Foggy, he learned his trade with another motorcycling legend. “When I was 18 I was approached to work for the Honda Britain Racing Team

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On the bored-out 812cc Devimead Honda in 1978.



It wasn’t just Barry Sheene who rode a Heron Texaco Suzuki.

he had to. Some of the old Formula One world championship rounds were held on short circuits and Joey won at places like Assen and Zolder. But you never knew what frame of mind Joey was in and whether he wanted to win or not. And I didn't ask. You didn’t interrupt Joey – you had to just let him do his own thing,” explained Jim. David Wallace remembers seeing that gritty determination and drive being harnessed by a very young Joey in the 1970s. “There was no doubt about it that Joey was the one who was really focused. I think his ability to concentrate singled him out. He was completely into what he was doing and he was going to do it as well as he possibly could. When I was taking photos at the Mid Antrim meeting I asked a spectator where the bikes would land after the jump as I needed to get my camera focused. He said: ‘Well, they land all over the place – apart from Joey. Wherever you see Joey land on lap one, you could put a coin down on the spot and he'll hit it on every lap after that.’ That summed Joey up. He was disciplined. He was very fast and he was very fearless but he didn't fall off that often. Mervyn Robinson and Frank Kennedy did most of the falling off!” Yet Joey wasn’t entirely fearless. Crazy as it might sound for a man who was as comfortable plunging down Bray Hill at 180mph as he was sat in front of the fire in his own armchair, Joey Dunlop was actually terrified of flying. World-renowned sports photographer and official Honda Britain team photographer Don Morley remembers that: “I quite literally had to hold Joey's hand on flights just to reassure him. He was totally petrified of aeroplanes and was absolutely incapable of saying a word for the duration of the flight. That’s why he drove to all the races in his van whenever he could.” But when Joey was back on more comfortable territory – in a pub – it was Morley’s turn to be afraid. “We spent quite a lot of time in his pub,” he says. “He would just keep pouring me drinks to the point where I couldn’t even see through my camera lens, never mind take a picture! I could never keep up with Joey and his crew when they hit the beers.” Slick Bass was another to get an education in drinking from Dunlop. “I was tee-total until I worked for Joey,” he says. “I was 18 and the most I’d ever had was a shandy. Joey said: ‘I can’t teach you how to fix a motorbike but I can teach you how to drink’, and he lined up three vodka and cokes on the bar!” Paul Iddon – father of current British Superbike star, Christian Iddon – was a Skoal Bandit Suzuki rider in the 1980s and had many a tussle with Joey in the now defunct roads-based Formula One World Championship. He too remembers the dangers of getting involved in a session

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>> Continued on page 36

and the first rider I was assigned to was Joey – that was in 1987,” Bass explains. “I didn’t understand a word he said to me the whole year! I remember he came into the pits midway through the British GP and was muttering something through his helmet. I just stood and looked at him because I couldn’t understand a word. We shoved a paddock stand under him, looked busy for a minute, then pushed him off again. It took me two years of asking Joey to find out why he had actually stopped and he just said ‘For a wee break’.” Another man assigned to help Joey get the best from his bikes was Martyn Ogborne. More famous as Barry Sheene’s right-hand man, Ogborne was also allocated to Dunlop for what was the Irishman’s first ride on a factory machine back in 1980. “When Joey first rode the Suzuki I said: ‘Right, tell me about the bike. What needs done?’ He said it was perfect and nothing needed doing. He was just like Mike Hailwood in that sense – give him a bike and he’d ride it as it was. So I started with the front end – the forks, the brakes, the tyre – and broke things down, and we started getting somewhere. He’d just never had anyone to help him before so he wasn’t used to asking for changes. It took me hours but I finally found out exactly what he needed to go faster.” Although always thought of as being a Honda man, Dunlop could just as easily have become associated with Suzuki had the Japanese factory bosses known what they were about to miss out on. “Joey helped Graeme Crosby win the TT Formula 1 world title for Suzuki and we wanted to sign him but Honda came in with a bigger offer that Suzuki GB couldn’t match,” Ogborne says. “Joey called me and asked what he should do and I told him he should accept the biggest offer because it was up to Suzuki to come up with the cash and if they couldn’t, it was their loss. If someone at Suzuki Japan had woken up to this, Joey Dunlop could have achieved what he did on Suzukis instead.” Suzuki wouldn’t have just been signing up a pure road racer had they taken up the option on Joey for 1981. In those early days he was just almost as happy racing on purpose-built short circuits as he was on the road courses that he later became almost exclusively associated with. His younger brother Jim Dunlop – a handy racer himself until he retired early from the sport in 1982 – says Joey always had the ability on ‘the shorts’ but sometimes lacked the motivation to ride them at 100%. “Joey was great on the shorts when he wanted to be,” he says. “If he opened a newspaper and read that somebody was putting him down or said he was no use he would go out and beat everybody. He did that once at Aghadowey, whereas the week before at the same circuit he’d been nowhere. He could do it when he wanted to – or when


Managing Joey Barry Symmons was the boss of the Honda Britain team from 1977 to 1987 and managed Joey Dunlop at the height of his powers. No easy job, as Symmons explains: “It was Gerald Davison (of Honda) who actually signed Joey but I did the groundwork and the initial negotiations with Joey’s sponsor, John Rea. I got his agreement and we brought Joey over to England and signed him up. “He was very shy. A team manager’s job is not like being a crew chief – it’s about getting people to work well together and creating an atmosphere in which they can perform at their best without me having to wave big sticks around! I quickly sussed out that Joey was fairly quiet. One thing he didn’t like was people who wore ties. I don’t know why – I guess it made him think too much about office people or authority figures. He had his own ideas about who was trustworthy and who wasn’t and if you had a tie on that sort of put you at a disadvantage. “We kept all the bikes at Honda Britain’s headquarters in Chiswick and brought Joey over to England but it was

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fairly obvious that wasn’t going to work because Joey had been used to working on his own bikes with his own team of helpers. So that’s when we agreed to let Joey take some of the bikes back home to Ireland to work on himself.The only bikes he was never allowed to take away were the Formula 1 bikes because they were the pukka works bikes and were not allowed out of our control. “I sent some of our mechanics over to work with him so he could get to know them on a personal level as well as a working level and that gave him the confidence to trust what they were doing. “We always found Joey difficult to

understand for the first few weeks of each season! I’ve lived in Belfast for over 20 years now but I still struggle to understand the way they talk in Ballymoney because they speak so fast. Once you got Joey to slow down a bit he was alright but it was tricky for all of us. I think after the first few weeks of each season he twigged that we weren’t understanding him so he made himself slow down a bit. “People said we changed Joey but we didn’t. Basically, if Joey wanted to do something he’d do it and there wasn’t a lot you could do about it. But it was him who realised the position he was in


The man in his natural environment – on the Isle of Man aboard a Honda.

with Honda and that he’d have to smarten himself up on occasion. I certainly never told him to put a shirt and tie on – I gave him the equipment, but he chose to wear it.The choice was down to him and I was grateful when he did make the effort. “I think the Japanese Honda bosses admired Joey for his individuality. Seeing someone who was an individual was a bit strange to the Japanese who had a bit of a committee approach to things. So to find somebody who knew what he wanted, knew where he was going, and how he was going to do it – and had actually done it – they admired him for that. And consequently, they listened

when he said something. Joey didn’t like doing television interviews and standing up on stage talking to people, but if you engineered it in such a way that he didn’t have to sit and think about it beforehand, he was fine. “If I’d said ‘Right, there’s a man coming at 1pm tomorrow to do a television interview’ then, come one o’clock, Joey would be nowhere to be seen. But if I told the television company that Joey would be around at a certain time and they just turned up and interviewed him he’d be fine. So that’s the way we learned to work it. I once got a TV crew to hide behind the pit building at Vila Real and I walked

Joey along towards them and when the TV interviewer stuck a microphone under Joey’s nose he gave one of the best interviews I’d ever seen him do. He rattled on for about 20 minutes! He did get better at giving interviews though, and once he got better he didn’t mind so much. “A more genuine person than Joey Dunlop you could never hope to meet. He had his own beliefs and his own way of doing things – which made him the individual that he was – but he had a heart of gold, which his later mercy missions to Romanian orphanages proved. He was an incredible man and he’s still terribly missed.”

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The Transatlantic Match Races, on the big Honda. with Joey and his crew. “You could never say no to a drink with Joey’s entourage,” he says. “They’d try and get you blitzed before the race to throw everything against you. One time I was drinking with them but left at about 3am because I was absolutely paralytic. I got up with a thick head in the morning and Joey’s gang were still sitting drinking crème de menthe because that was all that was left behind the bar. It was like a bomb had hit the place – all the curtains had been ripped down and the whole place was wrecked.” And it wasn't just hotel bars that got wrecked when spirits were high. Iddon will never forget one particular victory lap following a Formula One round at Assen. “The night after the race, Joey and about five or six others had been drinking and decided to take the Rothmans Honda car for a lap of the circuit. Joey rolled the car and it ended up on its roof in a ditch. His race trophy went flying around the car in the melee and my teammate, Neil Robinson, spent a night in hospital, Joey broke some ribs, and Neil’s mechanic broke his jaw in the crash. He had to drink through a straw for months after that.” Even when their man was having to race for a living round the TT course, Joey’s crew kept the party going as Slick Bass recalls. “He

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had some of his crew giving him signals at the Gooseneck during a Formula One TT. They had arranged to drink a bottle of vodka for every lap that Joey was leading. He led the six-lapper from start to finish and apparently you could see Joey’s shoulders going up and down with laughter as he rounded the Gooseneck because he knew about the deal and his signal boards were upside down and the wrong way round towards the end of the race. How those boys got back from there after six bottles of vodka I’ll never know.” Yet Joey's focus, determination and will to win were so strong that no amount of high jinks would get in the way of winning. Bass recalls: “Joey and his gang were staying in a tent in Portugal while the rest of us were in a five-star hotel. A mole burrowed its way up into the middle of the tent during the night and they had absolutely flattened the tent trying to batter the mole with their shoes. Joey couldn’t get any sleep so went to sleep in the van but ended up getting so badly bitten by mosquitoes that both his eyes were practically closed with swelling. He could barely see, but I think he still won the race.” It was this single-mindedness that made Dunlop such a fierce competitor and one that his rivals held in awe. Fellow Irishman Phillip

McCallen, himself a nine-time TT winner, was one of them. “Joey was my hero really,” he says. “I remember the first time I beat him I thought ‘Jesus Christ, I’m some rider now. I beat Joey Dunlop!’ It was only afterwards when people told me Joey was having a bad day that I got knocked down a peg or two.” But the most recurrent theme in people’s memories of Joey Dunlop is just how nice a person he was; humble, fun-loving, completely devoid of pretension and always ready to help others. Ron Haslam was not only Joey’s Honda Britain team-mate in the early Eighties but also a kindred spirit who, like Joey, had little time for appearances or conventionality. He sums Joey up perfectly: “I stopped at Joey’s house a lot and he stopped at mine when we were going at Assen or the Suzuki 8-Hour race when we were team-mates. I knew him not as just a rider but as a friend. As everybody says, he was so down to earth. What you saw was what you got with Joey and I loved him for that. You didn't have to ask him for anything. I would just go to Ireland and turn up at his doorstep and I didn’t even have to knock – I’d just walk straight in. He was that type of person.”


Words: Alan Cathcart Photos: Kel Edge


A chassis that didn't work. Big money lost in development. His own ideas about the engine. It took a while, but when it came good... oh boy, did it come good. Quarter-litre art.

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ocular and modest, but also focused and determined, Austrian Harald Bartol was one of the top two-stroke tuners in the GP paddock up until the demise of the 125GP class in 2011. But he was also one of the rare breed of rider engineers, equally skilled in carving lines and winning races on a bike, as in developing its engine. And that extended to building his own bike, the short-lived Bartol rotary-valve twin. After retiring from racing in 1980 and sinking all of his savings accrued during a 15-year riding career into the construction of the 250cc Bartol parallel-twin Grand Prix racers, the first such bike appeared late in 1981. “The original idea was to build something for me to race myself in the 250GP class,” recalls Harald, 72, today. “The 125 riders were getting smaller and lighter, and I was just too big physically to be competitive like I used to be. I started out with a TZ Yamaha, but in 1979, I got a good sponsorship contract with an Italian company called Amaretto di Saronno, so I thought okay, now I can build my own engine. But I started this project without having received any money from this company, and in the end it never came – so that was the reason that I had to stop racing. I’d already spent more than DM100,000 on this project (€250,000 today), which was all the money I had. So there was no more to continue riding, even in 125s.” To try to recoup at least some of his R&D costs, Harald decided to develop a small series of complete rotary-valve parallel-twin 250GP Bartol racers for sale to customers. “So we made seven complete bikes altogether,” he says, “as well as a few spare engines, including a stroked 350 for Patrick Fernandez to use in the final season of the 350cc World

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championship in 1982, and a 375cc version he could ride in the 500cc class, too.” Initially, the Bartol GP racers were intended to provide a more potent privateer alternative to the Yamaha TZ250 engine Harald was already familiar with, with identical engine pickups permitting a straight transplant. One early customer to choose this route was the Pernod-sponsored Frenchman Fernandez, who replaced the TZ Yamaha engines in his Massimo Tamburini designed Bimota YB3 frames – the same chassis on which Jon Ekerold had become the 1980 350cc world champion – with rotary-valve Bartol motors. In only his second race on such a bike, Fernandez finished third in the 350cc Austrian GP at the Salzburgring on Harald’s home ground, followed by fourth in Assen and then eighth in Imatra to finish ninth in the 1982 350cc points standings. The 250 was a flier, too, albeit fragile as well as fast – Fernandez twice put a Bartol-engined Bimota 250 on pole position for a GP, with a highest finish of second place in the 1983 German GP at Hockenheim which, added to fourth and sixth in the first two rounds at Kyalami and Paul Ricard, put him 11th in the championship at the season’s end – tying on points with his Pernod sponsor’s own 250GP bike ridden by Jacques Bolle! But too few customers opted to take advantage of the extra performance offered by the Austrian motors, perhaps thanks to early mechanical problems. “Like with any new thing, we had some initial problems with the engine, but finally it came very good,” says Harald. “But the biggest problem came in 1983 when Jeffrey Sayle rode the complete Bartol 250 motorcycle, and never qualified, not even

It races again In 2018, after a couple of shakedown races, Nielsen and the 250 Bartol became consistent front-runners in the 11-race European Historic series run at tracks from Assen to Most/CZ, from Franciacorta in Italy to Sachsenring and Oschersleben. Leif eventually wound up second in the championship – but in 2019 he went one better and won the 250cc title with a series of victories, frequently beating most of the 350cc bikes running in the combined race. “I can’t deny having a sense of mission accomplished,” saysTaylor. “To get the bike performing as well as we have with Harald’s help finally shows what an excellent design the engine was all along. Leif’s ridden it very well, fast, but also safe – I couldn’t have asked for more, and it’s been great having Derek Booth along as well, to help me look after the bike.” Bartol is also undeniably pleased. “What Alistair and Leif have done with my engine is very satisfying,” he says. “Okay, so it’s only Historic racing – but the lap times are good, and there are a lot ofYamahas behind hi d them!” them!

once, for a GP race on the thing. No wonder Kenny Roberts named it “the fastest camel in the world”, because it didn’t handle very well – it simply would not steer.” Bartol had decided he needed to build a complete bike because of the compromise Fernandez was experiencing with tyres on the 1980-spec Bimota. “We have big problems with the frame, because it was designed by Tamburini for the crossply tyre technology of 1979, and the new radial Dunlops are too wide to use in it,” Patrick told me at Assen midway through the season. “We’re using their 16in

front tyre which partially helps matters, but we really need a new chassis. The first thing was to concentrate on getting the engine right, which we’vve now done, while learning to live with the poor handling. For next season [1983] we’ll have a purpose-built Bartol chassis, which will surely resolve these problems.” Except it didn’t. The seven complete bikes Bartol built went to Fernandez, Aussie Jeff fff Sayle, Austrians Siggi Minich, Sepp Hutt tter, t Gustl Auinger and Bertl Neumayr, and British



Not only y does the 247cc Bart rtol t motor,, measuring g 54 x 54mm,, have the same mounting gp points as theTZ250Yamaha,, but it also weighs the same at 31kg without carbs, despite being fitted with Harald’s own 180° crankshaft ftt, and his own design of cylinders with six transfer port rtts and three exhausts. It’s a very compact engine design – the same width carb to carb as a 125 MBA, with the 36mm flat-slide Mikunis sticking out the side and bored to 37mm.The water pump lives at the rear of the engine cases, with the ignition right behind theYamaha clutch for a slim profile. “When I designed the engine I tried for a narrow width,” says Harald. “But it was a bit diffi ffi ficult to get everything behind each other with the rocker arm suspension design we originally used. If I decided to build another I’d cert rttainly stick the ignition on the left ftt, where there’s more space.”


For 2019 Harald designed some new exhausts that were made in Britain by Abcon Exhausts in Nottingham. sponsor George Beale for another Aussie, Graeme McGregor to ride. All these customers universally gave the flawed handling a thumbs down, either with 16 or 18in front tyres fitted. After 37 years, Harald reveals why this came about. “My main target in racing was always the engine side,” he says. “I was not good on the chassis side, so I thought, what can I do? I went to (five-time world champion) Toni Mang and asked him: ‘Can you lend me one of your Kawasakis, only the chassis, to measure dimensions and stuff?’ and he said yes. “I arranged to take the bike to the guys near me who built KTM motocross frames, and I told them: ‘I want the same angles and

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The engine was rebuilt in Strasswalchen last winter, and running on a 4% mixture of 95 octane pump fuel and AGIP oil (Bart rtol t engines always had quite a low compression) it delivers 76bhp@12,000rpm at the rear wheel – a useful step up from the 71bhp it originally developed back in the day (89bhp for the stroked 350cc versiion raced d by Pattriickk Fernand dez)).

everything, exactly the same as the Kawasaki, also the suspension, but with my engine.’ The weight balance was good as it was a paralleltwin and not a tandem-twin like the Kawasaki, so they said: ‘Okay, we can do this.’ “But finally, when I saw the chassis, the link on the top operating the rear shock was completely different, and had been moved forward. I said to the guys: ‘That looks a bit strange to me,’ but they told me, ‘No, no, we’ve made the calculations, this is much better.’ “I’d rather not say their names, because they tried to help me, but they failed completely – the bike was really unrideable.

“I remember at Silverstone a long-haired Australian guy came into the pit – he looked like a college student with overalls on. And he looked at the bike, and he said, pointing to the suspension, ‘This won’t work – it’ll do this and this and this – he described exactly the problems we’d been having. ‘You can cut all this crap out,’ he said, pointing to the link: ‘You’re better off making it just direct operation without a link.’ Jeffrey (Sayle) had already gone back to Australia, but the next race was a European Championship round in Brno, where Gustl Auinger rode the bike after we cut all this out, and he won the race and set a new lap record!


A big g part rtt of the 5bhp boost in peak power is the Slovenian-made Zeeltronic electronic CDI that is now fitted to the bike, a programmable system that allows the advance curve to be varied very readily.

BARTOL 250 Engine:

Watercooled, parallel-twin, rotary-valve, two-stroke with 180° crankshaft and six transfer/three exhaust ports Dimensions: 54 x 54mm Capacity: 247cc Output: 76bhp at 12,000rpm (at rear wheel) Carburation: 2 x 37mm Mikuni flatslide Ignition: Zeeltronic electronic CDI Gearbox: Six-speed Yamaha Clutch: Multiplate dry Yamaha Chassis: Aluminium tubular duplex cradle frame Suspension: Front: 40mm Kayaba telescopic fork; Rear: Braced extruded aluminium swingarm with White Power monoshock and rising rate link Head angle/trail: 27.5°/110mm Wheelbase: 1330mm Weight: 104kg with oil/water, no fuel Brakes: Front: 2 x 260 mm Brembo stainless steel discs with two-piston Brembo calipers; Rear: 1 x 200mm Zanzani aluminium disc with single-piston Brembo caliper Wheels/tyres: Front: 120/70-16 Avon AM22 on 3.00in. Marvic cast magnesium wheel; Rear: 150/70-18 Avon AM23 on 3.00in. Marvic cast magnesium wheel Top speed: N/A Year of construction: 1983 Owner: Alta Engineering Ltd, Barnsley, Yorkshire, Great Britain

But it was all too late – and I never did get the Aussie guy’s name to thank him!”

The Yorkshireman

However, Harald’s main helper in creating the flawed Bartol 250GP bikes was English, not Austrian – or Australian! Yorkshireman Alistair Taylor, now 69, is a 20-year veteran of the Grand Prix paddock, who during his time as variously a race mechanic, team coordinator, motorhome driver and paddock parts supplier, worked with a host of riders ranging from Mick Grant, Richard Schlachter, Cliff Carr and Graeme McGregor, to Eddie Lawson, Gustl Auinger, Carlos Lavado and Martin Wimmer. Fluent in German, Alistair had found himself out of work in the 1976 Finnish GP paddock at Imatra after a bust-up with Alex

George, who he’d been working with for all of six weeks! It was a watershed moment in his wrench-wielding career. “I’d known Harald Bartol for two years, and he was such a nice guy,” recalls Alistair. “He had this super-fast 125 Morbidelli he’d tuned himself – it was engine number 1005, so only the fifth one made. My mate Derek Booth, an ex-sidecar passenger from Doncaster, who had worked for Jack Findlay until Sweden, had also jumped ship from Jack and started working for Harald and Karl Auer, another Austrian guy who raced 500 and 350. They were in Finland with four bikes and two riders, and they’d not been able to find anybody in Austria to come all the way up to Finland to help them. Derek knew I’d left Alex and was doing nothing, so he said: ‘Can

Riding the bike Having written about the Bart rtol t 250/350 project during my early days as a GP report rter, t it was very satissfying to finally ride one, which, thanks to Manfre ed John and his Klassik Motorsport rtt organisattion team, I was able to do in practice for the Francciacort rta t round last year. I found d this tweaked incarnation gives a much greater sp pread of torque than expected from a 37-year--old rotary-valve engine. Before the developm ment of exhaust powervalves, these had a very fierce transition into the power band, and a narrower spread of power and torque, with more power tha an a piston-port rtt or reed-valve design. Instead d, the Bart rtol t 250 off ffers f the best of both worlds, because there’s a strong, smooth transition n into the rotary-valve motor’s strong powerban nd above 8500rpm, as well as the torque delivery I’ve only experienced before on a twostroke 250 from a powervalve-equipped motor. During my three 20-minute sessions on the bike I had seveeral drag races out of the Franciacort rta t hairpin with later 1990sTZYamahas and despite my extra weight compared to a typical 250GP jockey, the Bart rtol t kept up with them. In my first session I ended up having a great battle witth a well-riddenTZ250, whose rider was braver than me on the brakes going into the infield secction of the track, only for me to be able to outdra ag him out of the e slo owe er bend ds.Thiss wa as despite th he gear-lever being a fraction too low for me to shift ftt gear properly on the brakes, so I would occasionally enter a turn one gear higher than I had d intended. For all the wrong reasons this unde erlined the forgiving nature of the Bart rtol’s t motor – not a term you usually relate to a rotaryvalve motor – as well as the great grip from the Avon tyre es as I cranked the bike over furt rther t than intended to cope with the extra turn speeds. For my y second session Alistair positioned the gear lever better for me, so I was better able to start rtt ridin ng the Bart rtol t in something approaching anger.Third time lucky it all came together, and I could really appreciate the qualities of the Bart rtol t motor – as well as the Bakker frame. It was stable round Fra anciacort rta’s t fast sweeping right-handers, and nimb ble handling in the infield turns.The Bart rtol t bra aked well, too, the twin front Brembo discs with h their Serie Oro calipers stopping the 104kg hallf-dry bike and its rider very capably from fift fth t gear down the pit straight. But the e real star of the show is that excellent engine – in my last couple of laps of my third session I inched closer to a 1990sTZ250 with its later V-twin reed-valve motor complete with powervalve. I can confirm that the rotary-valve Bart rtol t was the equal of this 10-year younger motorcycle in a straight line, as well as just as strong on acceleration out of a slow turn and a third-gear sweeper. Mission accomplished, Harald, and kudos to Alistair Taylor and Leif Nielsen for helping to prove the value of your engineering skills 37 years on.

ClassicRacer 47

CLASSIC RACER BARTOL’S 1983 250 you come and give me a hand here, because I’ve got four bikes, and I need help!’ So we did the meeting and Harald was okay with what I’d been doing, so he suggested I came to Austria to work for him. That lasted for six years – I used to come home to Britain in the winter and work for Terry Windle building sidecar chassis, and then go back to Austria in February, do a bit of skiing, and get the bikes ready for Harald, and then after he retired, for Gustl Auinger, who I mechanicked for during the GP season. “But then in the winter of 1982/83, Harald decided in his infinite wisdom that he was going to build several complete race bikes with his own engine, so I fetched some Reynolds 531 tube back from England, and at the end of November we set about building seven complete frames. “By March we had them all built – but unfortunately they didn’t work! The rear suspension design was a progressive-rate link system, and the ratio was all wrong. It would load up, and understeer everywhere – it just wouldn’t turn, plus there’d be massive rear end chatter.

“The problem was that the guy who designed it built successful Motocross frames for KTM, but had no experience of road racing.”

Change that chassis

The solution was obvious – use the fact that the Bartol motor was interchangeable with a TZ Yamaha to install it in an aftermarket TZ250 frame. For 1984 Auinger chose the best one then available which Alistair Taylor helped him build up, a Nico Bakker chassis made from aluminium tubing, with a proven rear suspension system using a White Power shock, whose durable but lightweight construction brought the half-dry weight down close to the 250GP class’s then 100kg minimum weight limit. But after half a season of struggling unsuccessfully to get Graeme McGregor’s original Bartol 250, owned by George Beale, to handle, Alistair began running a paddock spares service for German Martin Ziegler, going on to work for Erv Kanemoto, Kenny Roberts and the Gilera 250GP factory team in various capacities, before returning to Yorkshire in 1994 for life aft fter t racing doing specialist engineering. In 2002 he founded Alta Engineering in his home town of Barnsley, a plant maintenance

firm that’s subsequently flourished, giving him the time and money to go back to the future by taking up Classic racing with – what else – a 250 Bartol. “I knew the Bartol engine had heaps of potential that was never realised, because the bad-handling chassis diverted attention from the real advances Harald had made with the motor,” says Alistair. “So I started looking out for a bike with such an engine – and in 2012 I found one on Facebook, owned by a lad in Vienna named Christopher Eder, who’d been racing it for two or three years in Classic events. He’d bought it from Norbert Moser, who was a friend of Auinger’s, and he’d bought the bike off him – so this was Gustl’s old bike from 1984 with the Bakker frame. I telephoned him straight away and said: “Do not sell that bike to anybody else until we’ve talked terms.” And he’s like, “Well, who are you?” I said: “I used to be a mechanic for

Harald Bartol: Rider engineer Austrian engineer Harald Bartol started young, at the age of 19, building and tuning the 50cc Puch special he began racing with in 1966, finishing second in his first-ever race before carving a reputation for himself by using his inherent skills to tune the bikes he raced with some distinction. For 1972 Harald acquired the ex-works Suzuki RZ64 twin on which Germany’s Dieter Braun had won the 1970 125cc world title, and Barry Sheene had finished a close runner-up in the 1971 world series to Angel Nieto’s Derbi. With Suzuki long retired from 125GP racing, Harald had to make all the spares needed to run the bike himself, and tune it too – to such good effect that he finished seventh in the 1972 125GP World Championship on the Japanese bike, including scoring his first GP rostrum finish with third place on the demanding Opatija circuit. This heralded Harald’s rise to prominence in 125GP racing, tuning the bikes he rode to a succession of 13 rostrum finishes over the years, until he retired from racing in 1980.This included a total of five second places and eight thirds – but never a GP victory, although Harald won 14 Austrian championships as a rider between 1970-80 in the 50/125/250cc classes. His 5ft10in stature and extra weight told against him in a class like 125GP, where a 5ft4in star like Angel Nieto was the norm. Harald’s best season came in 1978, when he finished fourth in the 125GP points table aboard his self-tuned privateer Morbidelli, just two points behind third-placed exchampion Pierpaolo Bianchi on the

Auinger, and I’ve worked for Bartol for six years, I’ve got my own engineering company in England, I built that bike, so it’s just a bit special!” So we did the deal over the phone, and I went down and picked it up. Unfortunately, by then it had suffered, what Germans call a kapital motorschaden – he’d blown it up big-time at his last race meeting at Frohburg. It had seized, and the piston was in two parts and the gudgeon pin had machined the cylinder square. It was a running bike when I bought it, but when I got there it was destroyed! Okay, that’s racing, there’s your moneyy, I’ll take this pile of scrap.” On his way back to Yorkshire from Vienna, Taylor

factory Minarelli. But although Harald finished a solid eighth in the title series the following year, he was now focusing on preparing bikes for other riders, and on using his accumulated experience and technical skills to build his own Bartol GP racers. So he retired from racing in 1980, to sink DM100,000 of his savings accrued during a 15-year riding career into developing the Bartol rotary-valve parallel-twin GP racers for the 250cc and 350cc classes, which first appeared in 1981. Ultimately, too few customers opted to take advantage of the extra performance offered by the Austrian motors and, together with the post-1982 demise of the 350cc class, which removed many potential clients, and the growth to prominence of that other Austrian 250cc motor, the rotary-valve tandem-twin Rotax that powered so many different bikes in the 1980s, the Bartol GP project died a death at the end of 1983. “I just didn’t have the resources, either financial or structural, to continue as a manufacturer,” says Harald: “But we had fun trying and even I ended up with empty pockets!” Before that Harald’s debut gig as a freelance race engineer had seen him play a walk-on role in an event of some significance for the future direction of GP racing, when in March 1980 he was commissioned to source and prepare an RG500 Suzuki for a 19-year-old kid from Louisiana to race for the first time ever outside the US, as part of the US team for the annual Transatlantic Challenge Match races in the UK.That kid’s name was Freddie Spencer, and this was the first time he’d ever raced a

1982 Bart rtol t 350 held by Harald Bart rtol t talking to Rolf Biland.

500GP bike of any kind – yet within 10 laps of the Brands Hatch short circuit on the Bartol-tuned RG500, he’d broken the lap record on a bike he’d only seen for the first time that morning! Defeating world champions Kenny Roberts and local hero Barry Sheene to win both races held that day (one might have been fluky, but not two!) on the Bartol-tuned customer Suzuki underlined the young American’s talents and Harald’s stock as a tuner. The demise of the Bartol 250/350GP twins project left Harald free to focus on helping world champions like RicardoTormo, Stefan Dörflinger, and sidecar ace Rolf Biland gain their titles with engines he’d tuned for them, alongside many other customers from all round Europe. But Harald’s closest relationship was with fellow-Austrian August ‘Gustl’ Auinger, whose Monnet-sponsored machine, which Gustl took to three GP victories and third place in the 1985 125cc World Championship, was a customer MBA twin completely re-engineered by Harald to have the beating of the works Garellis that were then dominating the points table. Indeed, by 1986, the Monnet had been registered with the FIM as a Bartol, so Auinger’s GP victories at

Silverstone and Misano that year remain the first and only official Grand Prix wins for the Bartol marque, en route to Gustl’s fourth place in the championship – the highest finish for a bike bearing the Bartol badge. Harald’s tuning skills had earnt the respect of many key players in the GP paddock, not least Kenny Roberts who, asYamaha’s front man in GP racing, introduced Harald to the Japanese firm.This led Harald to undertake significant R&D onYamaha’s 250GP and 500GP factory motors, which peaked in the 1990 season, when he tuned the worksYZR250 V-twin motor which took John Kocinski to the 250cc World Championship – the design was indeed essentially his own, which explains why it differed so radically from later customerTZ250 V-twins. Harald then spent two seasons in 1990-91 as chief engineer for the Ducados Yamaha satellite team, looking after the V4YZR500 Juan Garriga took to sixth and seventh places in the World Championship those two years, and theTZ250M ridden by today’s Honda MotoGP team manager, Alberto Puig. In 1992-93 Harald served his first stint as race engineer for Gilera, when he was recruited by the Italian marque’s chief engineer

ClassicRacer 49

CLASSIC RACER BARTOL’S 1983 250 called in at Bartol HQ in Strasswalchen, and enlisted its creator’s help in making the motor live again. Once sceptical, Harald became an enthusiastic contributor to the Alta Engineering race effort, though it took long hours and lots of Austrian ingenuity to make the engine a runner again. But on his annual skiing trip to Austria in February 2018, Taylor helped Harald complete the build, by which time he had the Bakker chassis ready to accept it, and a rider to race it. Privateer Leif Nielsen was Denmark’s only GP racer in the 1970-80s, and since 2010 he had already been racing his TZ350 Yamaha in European historic events when Alistair contacted him to see if he’d like to ride the Bartol. “I’d been in touch with Alistair ever since the 1970s, and we’ve been at parties together at Derek’s place, and we always stayed connected,” says Leif. “It was great to finally team up together to ride the Bartol.” Federico Martini to supervise development of its 75º V-twin crankcase reed-valve 250GP contender. Brought in too late to influence the design of the engine, Harald had to make the best of what he was given to work with, and the results were disappointing, forcing the Piaggio management to pull the plug on the Gilera GP effort at the end of 1993. After a period prepping engines for many GP privateers, in 1998 Harald was hired by Derbi to create a 125cc contender to power the Spanish firm’s GP comeback. He just happened to have a single cylinder crankcase reed-valve engine design in his pocket, one that he had made forYamaha to power a newTZ125 that was eventually stillborn.This motor fast-forwarded the development of the Derbi, which took to the track in 1999 in the hands ofYouichi Ui and Pablo Nieto. Aside from the chassis built in Britain by FabricationTechniques to Harald’s specifications, the bikes were created in Austria in Harald’ss workshop in his home village of Strasswalchen, 20km from the KTM factory. Aft fter t a troubled debut

50 ClassicRacer

See it for yourself The news that nine-time Isle of ManTT-winner Charlie Williams – a recent victor of the Goodwood Revival Classic race – will be racing the Alta Engineering 250 Bartol in the 250/350cc two-stroke motorcycle event at the 2020 Goodwood Members Meeting on March 28/29, will be another great test of Harald Bartol’s engineering skills – and Alistair Taylor’s talents in extracting the latent performance of the Austrian-built rotary-valve two-stroke motor. Who’d bet against him winning the 250cc class on the bike? No pressure then Charlie…

season the Bartol-built Derbis came good in 2000, with Ui winning five GPs to stay in contention for the world title until the penultimate race at Motegi, when he crashed out of second place to hand the title to Aprilia’s Roberto Locatelli who, ironically, would later ride for Harald aboard the KTM road racer in 2003. In 2001 it finally came good for the project, and Harald could derive well-earned satisfaction from seeing Manuel Poggiali take the bike he’d created – now rebadged as a Gilera, after Piaggio’s purchase of Derbi – to the 125GP World Championship, ahead ofYouichi Ui on the identical Derbi, in second place.This one-two title sweep demonstrated Harald’s proven skills and tuning talents, so KTM boss Stefan Pierer didn’t have to look too far to sign up a man with proven technical expertise to spearhead the challenge of the Austrian kings of the off-road world when he decided to enter 125GP road racing in 2003, appointing Harald as technical director for the KTM Grand Prix Road RacingTeam. To create the crankcase reed-valve KTM FRR125 with its

highly efficient centra al ram-air intake, Harald d started with a clean sheet of paper, using as a basis his four years of acquired knowledge from developing the title-winning Gerbi/Dilera. A low-key debut in ve its first 2003 saw KTM achiev podium finish courtesy of Finland’s Mika Kallio, but in 2004 it was his Aussie team-mate Casey Stoner who scored KTM’s first victory with Harald’s baby, in Malaysia. Kallio and his new Hungarian team-mate GaborTalmacsi took seven more wins between them in 2005, en route to second and third respectively in the World Championship. Kallio again finished second in the 2006 title chase, with three more race wins – but meanwhile the first Bartol-designed 250GP racer since the bike that bore his name a quarter of a century ago, had taken to the tracks in KTM colours midway through 2005, with another Aussie rider, Anthony West, coming within on ne second of scoring a dream deb but victory for the bike in a soaking g wet British GP at Donington. Second in its first race showed the new bike had potential – a fact underlined by West’s replacement Hiroshi Aoyama’s pair of dry weather victories in 2006, en route to fourth place in the World Cham mpionship, with two more each in 2007 for Aoyama and Kallio.. In 2008 Kallio finished third in the World Championship with thrree more victories – the same ye ear that a cert rtain t Marc Márquez joined KTM to race the FRR125 to a single podium finish in his de ebut season. At the end of that year the 250GP

class was killed off by the FIM in favour of Moto2, a control-engine class using streetbike motors, and though KTM’s 125GP team continued for another year, with Márquez finishing eighth, at the end of that’s season KTM pulled out of MotoGP competition, and with it, Harald’s 40-year stint in GP paddocks came to an end. Charming but straight-talking and never afraid to speak the truth, Harald, now 72, is still developing, still experimenting, still learning and still having fun. Never afraid to call a spade a spade – declaring that “the 250GP two-strokes were the racehorses of the GP paddock, but the Moto2 bikes are the donkeys!” was hardly likely to endear him to Dorna, even if the comment brought massive support on social media – Harald has a surprising candidate if you ask him to nominate the craziest and most fascinating engine he’s worked with over the past half-century of fruitful experimentation. “The US Army contacted me in the 1980s to help resolve some problems with the motors powering their Cruise missiles,” he says. “They were turbocharged two-litre V6 diesel two-strokes each delivering more than 1000bhp – just fascinating pieces of engineering. But I’m not allowed to talk about them, so if I tell you any more, I’ll have to kill you!”