early GP years

"I was going up the back straight on that last lap saying to myself, 'when's he going to pass me.' I got to the left hander at the end, 'phew he's not there yet, will he pass me coming out'. Then I got to chicane and I thought, 'he can't beat me between here and the line, I'm going to win this,' at the same time I couldn't believe it, I don't think anyone could."

Chief mechanic Simon Tonge recalls the background to their first Suzuka win.

"We'd had a decent test at Suzuka before Daytona. As I remember it Niall was very fast in his first ride on the HB Honda and had done 14s in the testing but a good time was really still 17s and when we went testing Kevin did 15.1. We thought that was pretty good, we went back to the factory and we were carving weight off everywhere. It was obviously really heavy, the weight limit was 115 and we were 130 something."


At the Grand Prix we had some wet practice and I think that put the really quick boys out of step as they were getting set up. We'd already had a good test, went with what we knew and it paid off. It was incredible really Wayne's Honda definitely had a problem. I think they'd assembled his reeds the wrong way round so the thing wouldn't quite rev out. Because of that it was only just as powerful as ours and then he had the big moment on the last lap and that was it."

"Looking back at it now you can see why they want you to ride the Suzuka Eight hour so bad, there are two reasons as far as the factory is concerned, one the 8 hour is real important, and two you get to put in four hours at Suzuka which has to be a big help when it comes to the Grand Prix there."

"You learn so much about the track, so much about the surface, where the little holes are, the bumps, the changes in tar. All the knowledge I had gained riding the 8 hour must have been a big part of that first GP win. I rode the 8 hour in '85, '86, '87, '88, '89 and '90"

"The next race was Laguna and we got a big dose of reality, we were a mile back out of contention. I knew the track well enough even though they had added some corners but the bike just didn't work there at all. The track required a lot more corner to corner acceleration, the bike wasn't near as fast as the others and at Suzuka I guess it had just kept up the rolling speed OK."

"That taught me just how much there was to setting up a 500 and making it competitive. One weekend I had just jumped on it and it did everything it was supposed to. It stopped, it turned, it handled. Then at the next track we couldn't make it do anything. It was as though it was a whole different bike."

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