people power


On the way to the hospital. Kevin leads an over determined Ted Lawson at Assen in 1992 on that fateful run down to the first corner.

Eddie Lawson

"He was one of the first Grand Prix riders ever to speak to me at a race. That was at Assen in '86, when I rode in the TTFi and the Grand Prix. He didn't have a lot to say, he pointed out that he thought I had picked a really bad Grand Prix to come and learn at, the track being so narrow and unforgiving. Which I found out to be true after crashing three times over the weekend. He fell off as well.

Besides that there's not very much you can say about the guy, he's a four times World Champion, a real competitor."


"The only thing I really have against him is that even if he has done wrong, he won't admit it. if something happens in a race, you make a mistake and somebody else is effected by it I think that I am the first to admit when I am wrong. I took Ronnie out in England in 1988. It was just the fact that I had new carbon brakes on, hadn't raced with them before, went out, didn't get them warm and off the end of the track straight away, grabbed them and they weren't there. It was a mistake, very simple and no other way to argue it."

"I just feel like the accident in Holland, he didn't deal with correctly. At that stage in the race, the guy who's in front is the guy who's got the right of way. I don't feel that Eddie was even close to being able to pass me clearly. You can see that he comes up the inside, over commits himself and then he can't stop."

"I couldn't see him from where I was. If I'd have known he was there I would have sure as hell given him some room. I have never raced against anybody and when they've needed an inch not given them an inch. Wayne and I raced elbow to elbow for six years. He and I managed to never knock each other off. I can't say I have a bad reputation for that."

"I feel that 'til the day he dies he will argue that it was my fault and not his but on the seventh lap of a nineteen lap race its not a place that you try something like that. Beyond all of that I resent the fact that he goes back to the pits and says that I am lucky I was hurt, implying that if I wasn't he would have seen to it that I was. That is 100% wrong."

"I can't say that Eddie ever did anything to promote the sport, he never made anything of the fact that he was World Champion and that was his responsibility."

 

Simon Tonge "The first full season I did in 1988 was with Simon Tonge as my crew chief He was with us for four years. Simon was always good when things were working well. Whenever we had to try and figure out how to try and solve a problem, if the bike wasn't spot on from the word go or the adjustments we made didn't solve our problems pretty quick it seemed like lots of times he would sort of toss his hands up in the air and give up."

 


Simon Tonge gets the information from Kevin as the Suzuki technicians and mechanics stand ready to respond.

"That all said and done he was a great help and I won a lot of Grand Prix with Simon. I owe him a lot because I could have had someone who never got it right when I was starting out in Grand Prix. He had a lot to do with the early success that I had because there were a lot of times when the set up that I had meant that the race was a joke, I could go out there and do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and win the race. So a lot of credit to Simon, it was just the consistency we lacked."

"I'm not saying that he didn't get a lot of the stuff right a lot of the time but there were just a few times in there that hurt us as far as consistency goes, when I think we could have made things a little better. He's an extremely hard worker, I really don't have any problems with him except that I feel that there were a few times when we could have done things differently and maybe gotten a better result."

"But then just because the rider blames the team doesn't mean that the team can't blame the rider and it is not to say that I haven't made mistakes that have cost us dearly as well. It always seemed that Simon took his job a little half hearted. He was never 100% interested in what was going on, he'd give it a good effort one weekend and everything would go well and then kind of give it a half hearted effort the next weekend and we could see that reflected in our results."

Stuart discusses the next move with Kevin and the rest of the 1993 championship winning team. With Kevin on the left, clockwise are Hiroshi Murayama, Wilf Needham, Hamish Jamieson, Colin Davies, Talw Suzuki and Stuart Shenton. In the center is Patrick Hook who was in charge of data recording for most of the season.

 

Stuart Shenton "He joined us for '92 but you can't really consider it a season that he had much control over. We pretty much had to go with the bike as it was. I didn't start testing until February so we were handed a bike that was pretty much developed by Suzuki, Simon and Doug more in Doug's direction than mine."

"We did manage to win a race in '92 but we hadn't been able to do too much work. The '92 season finished the middle of September, the week after that we were in Jerez for three days testing tyres and bikes to try and figure out what we needed. Stuart had a bunch of ideas that he had been building up over the season, things to try, things to alter and improve on. It seemed like that everywhere we went from that point on the bike did a complete turn around, it really started working well, we started getting real close to pole position lap times, we were really seeing some improvement."

 

"A lot of it is due to him and the three guys working on my bike, Hamish, Wilf and Cohn. It seemed like they really took their job seriously. They were bound and determined to improve the Suzuki and Stuart knew that it could be made into a World Championship winning bike."

"By the time the 1995 season started we had done between seven and eight thousand kilometers even before we got to Eastern Creek for the IRTA test. We had a bike where we basically knew what to do just about everywhere we went. If we came across a problem we knew what to do to change it. We didn't have one DNF, not just because it was mechanically reliable but because it was so friendly to ride. It was a package that was so easy to ride and forgiving. That had to have come from the hard work and hours put in."

Kevin's praise of his team is frequent and genuine, he is not one to think he could win on any machine with any group of people working on it. He is as loyal to his friends as he is his team and considering the competitive nature of the sport it is remarkable how well he is liked by his fellow riders. The competitiveness and extremely focussed nature of the personalities involved can make that friendship an intense and at times strained relationship. The pleasure at seeing a friend succeed ranged against the need to come out ahead, the generosity of friendship stacked against the essential self centered nature of the individual sportsman striving to be the best in the world. Competition on all levels between such friends will be tough though, bodies and egos get bruised along the way. Rob MeElnea has been one of Kevin's closest friends since they were team mates but theirs is a revealingly tempestuous match.

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