WHEN GREGG Hansford and Murray Sayle are racing, first and second places are almost a foregone conclusion: Team Kawasaki has dominated Australian road racing while the rest of the world has reeled from the onslaught of Yamaha's TZ750 racers.
Why have Australia's Kawasaki racers (and they were outdated H2R models) swept the "invincible" Yamahas from the winners* circle, to the tune of 29 wins from 31 starts in the Australian Grand Prix season? Part of the answer is the superb riding skills of Hansford and Sayle, but at least an equal proportion of the credit belongs to Neville Doyle, the team's manager, and the man solely responsible for the preparation, tuning and development of the screaming "Green Meanies".
Neville Doyle's work on the racers is very closely tied in with Kawasaki's research and development program - the team is actually employed by the factory - and with the demise of the US Kawasaki racing team, Team Kawasaki Australia's ties with the factory became even stronger: During 1976 the team will contest more overseas races and fewer local ones, to fill in gaps in Kawasaki's racing calendar caused by the withdrawal of support for the US team. An indication of the regard with which the team is held is that they have been supplied with special factory parts well before anyone else in the world.
Neville Doyle's association with road racing began in 1955. He rode his own machines until late in 1962, mainly in Victoria, and then prepared machines for Ken Rumble, the man who won Australian titles in everything from road racing, to motocross, to short circuit, to sidecars. From 1966 Neville prepared Australian motocross champion Ray Fisher's bikes. His first experience with Kawasakis was in 1969: He prepared A1R and A7R racers for Dick Read and Ken Blake in Melbourne until early 1972. He then had a spell from racing until November 1972, when discussions on the H2R project began.
Neville prefers to keep out of the limelight, but he doesn't discourage people or publicity and he's always ready to talk about bikes - provided he's not busy. He is devoted - totally committed - to the team's success and because there's always so much to do, prefers to get on with it rather than be a glorified publicity man.
Q. Neville, exactly how did Team Kawasaki come about?
A. It came about originally from my association with Kawasaki earlier in the piece when they were using A1Rs and A7Rs. I used to do quite a bit of work for them but I used to keep fairly much in the background, as I try to do now. When Kawasaki decided it wanted to get into a major racing project in Australia, I was asked if I was interested in doing the job for them and it went on from there. In the Kawasaki racing in Australia in the A1R days, there was some factory sponsorship involved, but Geoff Cook, the managing director of Kawasaki Motorcycles in Melbourne organized or paid for all of the racing in Australia. He did have some assistance from the factory, so there was an association with the factory prior to the time when the H2Rs came to Australia. When the H2Rs came to Australia there were two things involved. Firstly, who was going to manage the racing side of the thing, and secondly, where it was going to be based. The factory made the ultimate choice and it would have been fairly simple, because it had had an association with me previously and also with Kawasaki Motorcycles in Melbourne, a fairly successful association. While I understand there were applications from other States it was obvious the decision would go where Kawasaki had the experience. The negotiations for the H2R project started in about November 1972 and the first H2R arrived in Australia in February 1973. That's where it all started as far as the H2R project is concerned.
Q What about the H2Rs? Have they been extensively altered from the factory specs?
A. Yes, I think the whole operation in Australia, apart from aiming to win races, is also a research and development program. We send a lot of data back to the factory and some is used, some is simply filed for the records of what's been done. Certainly there was a vast difference between our last H2R and the one we started with, but this is part of any normal racing project; we try to continue to improve.
Q. How would the H2Rs compare in performance with the new watercooled KR 750s?
A. In the opinion of both of our riders - and we used watercooled machines at Ontario - they could have gone faster on H2Rs, but what has to be remembered is that the H2Rs we were using had a concentrated development program for three years. There's no doubt at all that with the same development program the KR750 will be a much better machine than the H2R. But just at this point in time, the H2R, because it has been subject to a lot more development is a better machine, in that the KR750 would probably have about the same top speed, but it hasn't got a usable power band and it has some other problems, all of which the H2R also had, but which have been ironed out. So looking at the fundamentals of it the KR750 certainly will be an improved and a better machine. It will require some development work, but then even when you get it to a stage where you think it's fully developed, you suddenly find that you still have to do more - it's a continuing process. It's difficult for us to get into horsepower figures, and strangely enough horsepower figures are not really a very important feature, so much so that if you were to ask me what sort of horsepower we've got, I'd have to tell you I don't know.
Q. Reliability is the main aim?
A. Ridability I think is the word. It's necessary to have a machine which suits the person who's riding it so he can get maximum performance from it, or the fastest lap times from it. After all this is the name of the game, to get from A back to A as quickly as you possibly can.
Q. How much difference is there between Murray Sayle's and Gregg Hansford's bikes.
A. None at all.
Q. They're not tailored to suit each rider?
A. Oh yes, each bike is tailored to suit the individual rider, but if you were talking about engine performance, the answer is no. I think this has been proven: When Gregg Hansford first joined the team, he rode Murray's machine, because Murray was overseas at that stage. Gregg won the first round of the Formula 750 at Oran Park and he won the first round of the Australian GP in New Zealand riding that particular machine.
Then at a later date we built a specific machine for Gregg to ride, but performance-wise and in basics, the machines are the same. They sometimes differ in some respects, mainly because we have a continuous development program. We may, particularly with Gregg's machine, try a lot of new components, that's why they often look different. But the next meeting we go to we may also have fitted those components to Murray's: We take our proven products with us and we also try some new things.
Q. Hansfords is the development bike then?
A. It's the development bike. If we're trying something new, initially that's the bike we try it on. But fortunately we haven't really had any major problems as far as trying new things go, mainly because we're fairly careful in what we're going to try. We know in theory it's going to work before we try it - - its just a case of trying it in practice.
Q. When will you be running the KR750s?
A. Well, at this stage our plan is to run KR750s in the Australian GP series in 1976 so probably the first race will be the first of the Australian GPs.
Q. Will you have the H2Rs as a backup?
A. Yes, the intention for 1976 will be to maintain two H2Rs as back-up machines.
Q. Will there be any more riders?
A. Not as I can envisage at this time. It's hard to say what's going to happen in the future, but budgetary considerations are the things that change what we plan to do. I would like in the future to be able to run an additional machine, but the budget at present won't allow that and secondly, it doesn't look as though the prospects are too good for increasing it. Especially when you consider that every other country in the world which has a Kawasaki racing team has had a reduction in budget for 1976 - we are one of the few that hasn't.
Q. In the 1975 season you had 29 wins from 31 starts - you're proud of this record?
A. Oh yes. Since then weve had a couple of other race wins, but we took that as being the GP season. In addition to that we had a lot of second places because we were running two machines. Probably 70 or 80 percent of those were actually first and seconds with also the odd third. For the year there were only three races where one machine didn't finish a race. So in fact in three years we have had only eight DNFs in three years of racing, running two machines.
It's strange really, because in all those DNFs we didn't have a mechanical breakdown in the engine. Three of them were broken rear chains, so that accounts for a big percentage of them. We had two other occasions where the bike didn't stop, but went on to two cylinders and it's only in recent times that we've discovered what happened. Initially we thought they were caused by stones - we knew it was something getting into the engine, but we didn't know what it was, because by the time you found it there was such a mess you could just tell that something had been through.
In each case we found it wasn't a big end failure, it wasn't a piston failure, it wasn't a needle roller bearing failure . . . So we just came to the conclusion that something had to go down the carburetor and the obvious thing was a stone or something like that. Since then it has happened a third time, in practice, only that time we finally found out what was actually causing the trouble: The rollers broke up on the rear chain and coincidentally it was always the left hand cylinder that gave us this trouble. Last time it happened, half the roller off the chain was sitting on top of the piston when we dismantled the engine, so we finally found what had caused that trouble, but that's only happened three times all together, and only twice in races.
We had one occasion where the engine seized and that's the only time in three years that that's happened. That was caused by a fuel problem. As it turned out a lot of other people had the same problem the same day - it was caused by a batch of fuel, which supposedly was what we normally use, but we found out later it wasn't. We didn't have any problems in practice -everything went perfectly - but when we opened the new drum of fuel for the race the bike only did two laps and stopped. Also, at that stage our riders were racing other machines and all four seized on the same day for the same reasons. Of course it was too late to do anything about it -- it all happened within an hour or so. But that's all part of racing. The only other problem ever had has been the magneto problem. We've had two magneto failures in races. So we've only actually had eight failures in three years and none of them have been mechanical failures.
Q. You've solved the rear chain problems?
A. I don't think you can ever really solve the rear chain problem. We're transmitting, so the chain manufacturers tell us, about twice what they ever intended the chains to transmit and under pretty grueling conditions as well. Certainly they think we're better off now than we've ever been, but whether we'll have another chain breakage remains to be seen.
Q. What type of chains do you run?
A. Well, two at the moment, we're basically using Denselube, which is strange, because we've had some tests carried out on the chains ourselves, and according to all the chain manufacturers, who would have also conducted tests, the Denselube chain isn't as strong as the others - but it doesn't break. So obviously lubrication, or marginal lubrication, is one of the big problems, so that Denselube has been doing a fairly good job for us. And Reynolds has now brought out a new racing chain, which has only become available in the last couple of months. We used it at Ontario for the first time, and I would say that it could be the answer to any problems.
Q. How many meetings does a chain last?
A. Generally we do about 800 km on a chain. We're not game to do more than that. In some cases where we do long races, for instance a 320 km race, we would only use the chain for the one race. But normally in Australia if the chain survives 800 km that's as long as we use it.
Q. Are the engines or the bikes themselves completely stripped after every meeting?
A. Not completely stripped, but we certainly have an inspection of anything that's likely to require replacement. There's a lot of work to do between meetings. If they are comparatively short meetings such as Oran Park or Amaroo, we may not take the cylinders off prior to the next meeting, but if it happens to have been a meeting where we would do say 480 km of racing, normally we would take the cylinders off and have a look at them. Unless there has been any problems we wouldn't dismantle the crankcases. We dismantle the crankcases every 800 km as a matter of course anyway. So that basically what we do is on a distance basis and that seems to work very well.
Q. What about cranks. Have you ever broken any?
A. Cranks are a thing we've never had any problems with at all - we've never broken a crankshaft. The only thing we've ever had happen that relates to the crankshaft is that one of the magneto failures I mentioned was caused by the short shaft the rotor fits on to shearing off where the rotor is attached. We did have that happen once, but only once, so it hasn't been a problem. Apart from that, crankshafts are virtually no trouble - we've run crankshafts as far as 2400 km without a failure.
Q. Are they specially prepared factory items?
A. The crankshaft is a standard H2 crankshaft. It has standard main bearings, but with a groove machined around the outside of it and a nylon insert in it to stop it from creeping out in the housing. The connecting rods have slots in them, as does the latest standard H2 crankshaft. The early ones didn't have any slots in the conrods. The H2B which is the last one, has slots in the conrods. But on the H2Rs the conrods, crankpins, flywheels and main shafts are standard H2 components.
Q. You mentioned earlier that the KR750s don't have much of a power band. What sort of power band do the H2Rs have?
A. Again, originally comparatively narrow. The original power band was from about 6500 to 9000 rpm. The KR750 is from 7000 to 9000. Our H2Rs now will work from virtually anywhere. If it's wet, for argument's sake, they'll drive from 2000 or 3000 quite comfortably, but the actual power band itself is from six to 10. But if you need a mild pulling power when it's wet, it will pull firmly from 3000 right through the range, and it'll go to whatever you want it to go to.
Q. Is that solely the result of your port work?
A. Yes, it's a result of the work we've done here, sure; that's part of the game I think, to make the bikes ridable and we've been able to achieve that. I think at places like Amaroo for, example, it's essential to have that type of an engine, otherwise you just can't get around as fast as they are now. It wouldn't be possible to run an H2R engine as fast as we run them sometimes in, say, a 200 mile race, where you're running on a 1 1/2 mile straight and it's flat-out for a long period of time. Our engines have run to 11,000 rpm many, many times and we've never suffered an engine explosion. But they don't run at that continuously.
Q. Do you think the watercooleds will be able to stand longer periods of high revs?
A. Yes, the watercooled's will be able to - we'll certainly be able to do the same thing to them as we've done to the H2Rs. But the watercooleds won't be able to run in the same speed range because of the loadings involved: The watercooled has a smaller bore and a longer stroke, which means all the crankshaft and piston loadings are going to be higher, so we'll run proportionately lower revs. But internally the KR750 is fairly similar to the H2R: It uses the same big end bearings and main bearings and so on, but the crankshaft is slightly narrower and obviously the heads and cylinders are vastly different, but it's the same sort of configuration as the H2R. I'd envisage a power range for the KR750 probably from six to 9500 rpm rather than the sort of range we use with the H2R. Gregg made the comment recently that the H2R engine was pulling from 5000 rpm coming around Amaroo's hairpin and it would go to 11,000 in top gear up the hill, so that's probably the major factor in the H2R's success - its ridability. Power to weight ratio, of course is another fairly important consideration.
Kawasaki's KR250, which Team Kawasaki hope to be campaigning during 1976. The bike has not fared well overseas, but with some development could come good. It is a water-cooled, rotary disc valve, in-line twin.
Q. How much do the H2Rs weigh?
A. Gregg's bike weighed 131 kg (289 lb). Murray's was about 45 kg (10 lb) heavier because his hadn't been changed to magnesium wheels, which save about 4.5 kg..
Q. Are you running tubes with the mag wheels?
A. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't, it depends on the circumstances. I prefer to run tubes where it's possible because I think it's safer. In fact I don't think, I'm sure it's safer. We've done enough testing and had enough experience with that problem - we had a problem with that at Ontario - we had a tyre failure we wouldn't have had if we'd been using the tube. But with a tube, the tyre will run at a higher temperature under very hot conditions, so obviously there are some cases where it's necessary to run without a tube, but where we can, we run with the tube.
Q. You're the manager of the team, but how many other people are involved, apart from yourself, Gregg and Murray?
A. Nobody - that's it.
Q. And you're allocated a set budget for the year and it's up to you how you use it?
A. Yes, but at the moment there are two considerations. Firstly, the management and operation of the team is completely my responsibility. I have no direct connection with any distributors in Australia as it stands at the present time, and consequently we can race overseas or wherever we want to, and this has no connection with the Australian distributors. But our Australian racing program - the races we do in Australia involves a committee, which consists of various State distributors. The committee consists of myself as the team manager, the chairman of directors of Shatani Pty Ltd, which is the trading company of Kawasaki in Australia, a representative from Kawasaki Heavy Industries, a representative from Kawasaki NSW and a representative from Brisk Sales in Queensland. The basic function of the committee is to collect funds from the various State distributors and allocate those to us for use for racing in Australia.
Q. How much does the factory put in?
A. The factory's commitment to Australian racing is the supply of machines, the supply of spare parts, myself and the riders. In other words I work directly with the factory - my remuneration doesn't have to come from the Australian distributors, so when we race overseas, that is controlled between myself and the factory. But our Australian racing program operates through the committee, which meets every three months or so. We discuss what we're going to do in the next three months and where it's desirable to race, how much money is in the fund to do those race meetings and so on. In addition to that we co-operate with all of the distributors as we did at Kawasaki NSW's October new models release at Amaroo. In any sort of promotion a Kawasaki distributor wants to put on. we do whatever we can to help. That's part of our job. In fact one of my specific instructions from the factory is that we must support any distributor who wants to put on any sort of a promotion that will help Kawasaki sales. So if it's possible we do whatever they ask, provided it doesn't contravene our contracts or interfere with our racing program in any way.