Photos & Musings: Grands Prix

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Technical Control, Hawkstone, 1988

Technical control at a GP would take place on Saturday morning. We would take both bikes up for inspection, and they would weigh and noise test them.

Why weigh them? At the GPs there was a minimum weight limit in the rules, the idea of which was to prevent exotic titanium factory bikes from gaining an unfair advantage. However this still didn't stop the factory bikes from being considerably better than production bikes, and coincidentally actually you'll see Thorpe's factory RC500s behind us in line.

Making the weight limit was no problem for most bikes, although I'm sure that the factory bikes were closer to the limit.

They would also noise test the bikes to ensure that they complied with the FIM's sound rules. The problem with this was that the readings were so inconsistent. We'd have the same bike, pipe and silencer combination but the readings would vary from one week to the next. I don't think that the testers really knew what they were doing and sometimes they would test the bikes while other machines were running in the background. Sometimes they'd also test the bikes near a wall or a metal fence and that would cause the sound to echo and give overly high readings.

At one Italian GP pretty much everybody going through tech was failed on noise and after a while they had to start turning a blind eye otherwise nobody was going to be racing.

After passing noise testing they would put a blob of coloured paint on the silencer and write the rider's number into it. Then when we went out for practice or racing they would check that the silencer bore the pass markings.

Some riders nonetheless used shorter and louder silencers and there were a couple of tricks they allegedly used to get the bike through testing. One of these was to take a handlebar rubber mounting cone and insert this into the end of the silencer where it fitted onto the exhaust. This would choke the exhaust and quieten it down but was easily removed afterwards.

What was sometimes funny was when we arrived at the British GP. They would recruit some local AMCA volunteers to help with Technical Control and so these guys would also check the brakes worked and run their fingers around the spokes of the megabucks factory bikes....

In this photo holding my other bike is a young Rob Walters. Rob was a local Worcester guy who really wanted to be a GP mechanic. He worked for me for a little while in 1988 but subsequently progressed to dizzy heights in the MX world. He went on to be a full-on factory Suzuki mechanic in the US, and won a world supercross championship with Robbie Reynard. He then became a journalist and editor of Moto magazine, the Smith goggle rep and generally an industry legend. Way to go Rob!

Behind us is even greater legend Keith Thorpe. The guy holding DT's other bike is one of Keith's two helpers. These two guys, (it's a long time ago but I think perhaps they were called Eddie and Ivan?) were just Belgian superfans of David who followed him round GPs from his Kawasaki days. They went to that many races and got to know Keith so well that they ended up being his voluntary helpers and got the official HRC team jackets and so on. Once again, way to go guys!

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