Alvin raced a homebuilt ‘Duocoque’ chassis’d Yamaha XS-1 in Ireland in the early 70s. His career ended in 1973, following an incident, involving a ‘wedgie’ and a Norton monocoque.
Banished to America, Alvin replaced the telescopic forks on his race bike with upside-down girder spoons. Sadly, the rabies shots after being bitten by a racoon affected his balance and he could never ride again.
I write to inform you that we may have uncovered one of the greatest secrets in motorcycle racing and would appreciate your advice on what to do next. Sadly, it is a dark and murky world we have discovered.
In MotoGP testing this year, Marc Marquez took his Honda beyond sixty-six degrees of lean angle without crashing. This, as you know is a physically impossible feat for a normal human being, but myself and some of the other patrons of ‘Brian’s Smashing Saveloy’ - Kilarney’s eighth finest fast food outlet according to Trip Advisor – have discovered evidence that Mr Marquez may be an unwilling victim of bio-genetic enhancement.
Our story starts in 1991, when a high-ranking Honda executive spent some time touring Kilarney following the IoM TT races. A couple of flagons too many of the ‘Black-Gold’ at the Camshaft and Crayfish Stout bar and apothecary was enough for them to accidentally leave a folder with some complex blueprints and chemical formulae in the bathroom.
The background to this was that in the early 1980s Honda had built a fully-enclosed GP race bike with huge F1-style wings. In secret tests around Estoril, this new bike knocked almost two seconds off the lap record. But the physical effort required to overcome the downforce in corners meant that the riders were exhausted after five laps and kept crashing well short of race distance.
Honda abandoned the project. But on the way home, the lead engineer visited a small circus in a Portuguese village where his attention was drawn to a strange creature performing unbelievable stunts on the high-wire. Leaping in the air, twirling around, upside down and then landing, without so much as a wobble.
It turned out that the creature was the unlicensed result of splicing a small amount of DNA from a native bird species - Red-footed Finch – into a chimpanzee. This hybrid had the agility and intelligence of a chimp, along with the ability to learn and communicate, plus the phenomenal balance of a bird. It could literally whoop, loop, twirl and then land on the head of a wind-blown branch or a moving wire without falling, just like a bird. When, for a finale, the chimp-finch grabbed a child’s bicycle and rode round and around the arena at ever-increasing lean angles without crashing, our man from Honda had an idea. Instead of developing the world’s most agile motorcycle, what if they could genetically engineer racing’s most agile rider instead?
Obviously, Honda couldn’t have any traceable involvement, so instead, they did a complex deal whereby Mauricio, the circus manager, would ‘run the programme’ in secret and Honda would support the troupe by supplying petrol generators and an old Rover 216Si that they’d found at Swindon for the clowns to use.
Mauricio began training the creature - now given an HRC project name of DNA Rospedia (the literal Andalusian translation of ‘Redfoot DNA’) to ride a motorcycle. The results were staggering, ‘baby D’ as he was known proved exceptionally talented.
When five times world champ Mick Doohan’s career was ended by injury in 1999, Honda found itself in need of a winner and it was to be Project Redfoot that came to the rescue. A winter of cosmetic surgery, communications and media training plus some liberal shaving saw the creature renamed Dani Pedrosa (a crude anagram) and ready to take on the world.
It didn’t take long before Dani was paying back HRC’s faith in him, winning multiple world titles. There were challenges – he didn’t really have enough mass to get heat into the tyres at cooler circuits, wasn’t always great in the press conference, occasionally left the track mid race to sing to a potential mate and, when stressed was known to lay the occasional egg (the worst of which was a proper double-yolker after torpedoing Nicky Hayden at Estoril in 2006).
But the point was proven and Honda got away with it. The only trouble was that Dani could never be allowed to ride for another team should they discover his secret. So Honda had to accept they would perpetually renew his contract.
Following an extra injection of funding (believed to be a top-spec Rover 827i) Mauricio worked on an updated V2.0. This time using a pigeon because the extra bulk helped generate tyre heat and the homing instinct meant it would always get back to the start line, and it didn’t stop to sing. More importantly, a pigeon can recognise all 26 letters in the human alphabet meaning press conferences would no longer be a problem.
This creature, benefitting from the kind of engineering refinement that only a Rover 827i could bring was a much more rounded individual. If anything, he was even more talented than Dani, but there was a worry… he did look a lot like a pigeon. So, to mask his heritage they gave him a normal name, Marc, and had him adopted by a regular family.
Marc was phenomenal; so quick, so talented, and almost always landed on his feet whatever happened. Commentators called him an alien, but the truth was he was more of an avian. The egg laying problem was now solved, as was the press conference issue. Marc’s only niggle was an occasional habit of crapping on others from a great height and bumping into things that got in his way. And, as we saw in Qatar, he can get to 66 degrees of lean and still not crash.
Sadly, with the full coding of the human genome completed by scientists and the increasing availability of DNA testing kits, HRC management realised that it would now be possible for the sport’s medics to test their racers and discover the macabre secret, which made it too risky to continue the programme.
Mauricio’s remaining ‘chicks’ were either fed out into WSB where no one will notice or given jobs building skyscrapers. Only one, an experimental half-chimp, half- chicken with the project name Ray Munting ever rode a top-flight bike again at the TT (where the rules allow genetically modified riders) but he kept finding neutrals.
HRCs genetic programme will never be confirmed because officially it never existed. But our generation has been truly gifted to see what will probably be the greatest motorcycle racer ever, doing things on a bike that (human-alone) nature would never have allowed. Father Donohue did hear a rumour that Suzuki had their own bird-man programme based on a swift, but that turned out to be a small hatchback driven by old ladies in Bognor Regis.
Don’t worry Dorna, yours and Honda’s secrets are safe with us.
Mum’s the word,