Valentino Rossi’s heroic ride at Motorland Aragon - only believable because it happened - has rather overshadowed the argument as to whether teams should allow their stars to take part in off road activities to keep fit. Perhaps a more intriguing question is: How fit do they need to be?
The sceptic (old fart) in me questions whether doing a 60 mile dash every couple of weeks, not exactly up to Tour de France proportions in terms of physical effort, requires such dedication. Isn’t it because they rather enjoy mucking about in the dirt? And as John McGuinness seems to have proved rather conclusively, you don’t need to be skeletal to win TTs where one six lap race equals four MotoGPs!
A recent story in Classic Racer makes interesting reading not only for those of advanced years but what riders, on some of the most sophisticated and powerful, in BHP per litre terms, machinery ever invented, had to do in the sixties. It describes Jim Redman’s performance in winning not one, not two but three Dutch TTs in 1964 as one of the greatest ever. And who can argue?
These were the days when the FIM imposed a limit of 500 kilometres - 310.685 miles - as the maximum race distance for the day. Redman had come to Assen after winning the Lightweight (250cc) and Junior TTs (350cc) in the Isle of Man. His instruction from Honda was to win those two classes at the Van Drenthe circuit which he did, beating Mike Hailwood on the slower MV four and Phil Read on the faster RD56 Yamaha, swapping places 12 times on the final lap.
An hour and a half later came the 125cc race where his job was to protect Honda team-mate Luigi Taveri from Read’s Yamaha and Hugh Anderson’s Suzuki. But he desperately wanted to win and indeed he did, by six seconds, from arch-rival Read.
Three race wins and, six race and lap records in 300 miles of racing, including three push starts. The Saturday night prize giving party was, according to Redman, ‘a bloody good one’ before he and his wife Marlene returned to their caravan in the paddock.
These were the days when men were men etc. The race day programme would be five solo and one sidecar race. Fitness was maintained by doing a lot of racing, maybe 70 to 80 a year or ‘anywhere where there was money to be earned’.
Born in London but raised in Rhodesia, Redman was one of the tough breed of colonials who came to Europe in the hope of a fortune to be gained by getting a works ride.
Tough he was and still is. Born on November 8, 1931, he was one of the star attractions at the Classic TT and is still to be seen at most of the classic meetings in Europe. Probably never been on a dirt bike in his life.