Mat Oxley

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

Current page

196

Current page

197

Current page

198

Current page

199

Current page

200

Current page

201

Current page

202

Current page

203

Current page

204

On March 16 the 78th Daytona 200 takes place. Sadly this classic event is a shadow of its former self, but it does at least still boast the briskest motorcycling lap of all time.

Barry Sheene holds the record for the fastest lap in motorcycle grand prix racing, at 137.1mph around the old Spa-Francorchamps circuit, in July 1977. Peter Hickman holds the Isle of Man TT lap record, with his 135.4mph lap during last June’s Senior TT. Both great feats, but nowhere near as quick as the lap recorded by Californian Gene Romero during qualifying for the 1970 Daytona 200.

Romero rode his 750cc Triumph Trident around the Floridian oval at 157.3mph, bettering Mike Hailwood’s similar BSA triple by 4mph, thanks to a crafty and very risky trick.

“That was the last time we qualified on the full oval, then for the race they’d line us up around the road-racing track,” recalls Romero, who achieved his only Daytona 200 win in 1975. “So when you went out for qualifying it was brand-new territory – we were hitting a part of the track we’d never hit before.

“The first time I went to Daytona in 1967, on the old Triumph twins, we were doing about 135mph down the back straightaway and I’d shut off for the banking. It took me two or three attempts before I held it wide open. The 750 triples were faster, so you were doing 160mph-plus going into the banking. It was very intimidating – at that speed it was like you were riding straight at a wall. Man, you were really going in there, so it was a mind-over-matter thing and, once you had done it, it was OK. On the triple I never rolled off. Once I left the pit lane for qualifying, it was wide open all the way.

“Others would have backed off. I thought ‘I’m riding this sucker out’”

“The funny thing is that I was good friends with a guy called Bill Robertson, who supplied Goodyear tyres at the races. He was neat. He liked us because we were kinda frisky characters, not like normal people, so we ended up hitting it off. We’d go into his shop and bullshit with him. He was always in there gambling, playing gin [rummy] or whatever.

“One day he goes, ‘Hey, Gene, you wanna set pole?’ I go, ‘Yeah!’ He says, ‘Tell you what, this is what you do: you bring me a rear wheel, then after I’ve put this tyre on the rim we’ll put it in the trunk of your rentacar so nobody sees it.’ So I go, ‘OK, where’s the tyre?’ He says, ‘It’s right here, it’s a front tyre and we’re going to put it on the back rim.’ I went, ‘What?’ He says, ‘Yeah, then we’re going to put 75 pounds of air in there’. And I go, ‘Ooh kaay, what’s the guarantee on it?’ He says, ‘About three laps.’ I say, ‘That’s how far I’m going to go!’ No one else had tried it, but Bill had been around racing a long time and he wouldn’t send you down the wrong street.

“So we’re in pit road. My mechanic says, ‘Let’s go!’ I say, ‘Nah, we’ll wait a while, we’ll let the wind die down…’ I gave him all kind of excuses. I wanted the rest of the Triumph and BSA guys to go out ahead of me, because I didn’t want them to see what I was doing, because they’d do it, too. Finally we pull the rear wheel out of the trunk of the car. My mechanic says, ‘You’re shitting me?’ I say, ‘Nope, bolt it on.’ Then he taped up the bike really good, between the windshield and the fairing, which [famed Triumph engineer] Doug Hele had tested in an RAF wind tunnel in England. He even taped up my leathers, to reduce the drag.

“So I took off onto the oval, got her in top gear and everything was noticeably different because the rear tyre was so skinny and we had so much pressure in there, so we had hardly any contact with the asphalt, which was the whole idea, to reduce rolling resistance. They timed us through the speed trap at 166.5mph, pulling somewhere around eighty-five-hundred revs.

“The thing that got your attention was going down the straightaways, especially the back one. The bike was weaving this way and that way at top speed before the banking; it would walk to the left and walk to the right; it had a mind of its own.

“What you did was you didn’t correct it, you just aimed the bike where you wanted it to go and if it veered a little this way or that way, you let it have its head, because if you tried to restrain it, you’d slow yourself down. Anyhow, I got a feel for it, so I said to myself, ‘Hey, here we go.’ I was wide open all the way.

“Using that ribbed front tyre on the rear was a bit crazy. No one else had thought of doing that, but you always wanted to have an edge. Maybe Bill gave me the idea because he thought the other guys would have backed off when the bike started weaving. I just said to myself, ‘I’m going to ride this sucker out.’ I was committed, so it was like, ‘Come on, let’s go!’”

Three laps were indeed the limit – when Romero returned to pit lane the tyre was already disintegrating. He reverted to a regular rear tyre for the race, but was forced off the track on the first lap. He made a stirring comeback, crossing the line just behind winner Dick Mann on Honda’s seminal CB750 four.


Mat Oxley has covered motorcycle racing for many years – and also has the distinction of being an Isle of Man TT winner
Follow Mat on Twitter @matoxley

 

You may also like

Related products