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’m not sure if you aware but the announcement of Jorge Lorenzo moving to HRC represents the end of a sordid series of events, which, I may have unwittingly played a part in facilitating.
The story starts back in late 1997, when I was living in Paris, helping Honda’s endurance race team improve the RC45’s handling with my revolutionary four-sided swing-arm. As a reward for my efforts they invited me to a press event for their new Hornet 600, to be held at a night club in the Pigalle district the night before the Paris Motorcycle Show. As a good catholic boy, I had never seen so many unrestricted lady-glands swinging loose and, apparently, neither had the many members of Honda’s top-brass, also present, who spent the entire evening with their briefcases hovering an inch or two above their laps.
In these days of internet excess, we recognise ‘Excessive-Nipple-Exposure’ or ENO as a serious psychological condition, but back then, no one thought to look away and so, fixated by flesh, we never saw the small child on stage, dressed as a majorette, perched on the handlebars of a bicycle, being ridden by a monkey.
Of course, we now know that the monkey was actually HRC’s super-secret DNA-splicing project DNA Rospedia who later became Dani Pedrosa and was the forerunner of the Marquez experiment but what we didn’t know till recently was that the small boy was an 11 year-old Jorge Lorenzo, who was financing, what would be his most successful year in mini-moto racing by working as a bell-boy in the ‘hotel’ behind the night club.
Jorge was thrilled to be part of the show and even more thrilled when one of the UK journalists present asked if he could take a polaroid of him with the monkey.. Sadly, by the time the polaroid was exposed, said journo had moved on, distracted by the next act, where the monkey was employed to remove the loin cloth of a nubile, tanned, Amazonian tarzanette.
Fast forward 21 years and Jorge, now a multiple world champion, but suffering a difficult time at Ducati is looking for his next move. A friend directs him to the BikeSocial website who have run a story suggesting that he might try his hand at the Isle of Man TT. Jorge is intrigued, but while looking through the rest of the site he comes across the Pedrosa/Marquez/monkey-pigeon story. Lorenzo opens the filing cabinet drawer marked ‘polaroids ; 1987’. Inside he finds the picture of the journo with the monkey, compares it with the secret pap-snaps he keeps of Dani and the penny drops. Jorge immediately realises he has leverage that might get him out of Ducati and maybe into the rumoured-to-be-vacant HRC seat.
Sometimes, you just need a bit of luck and Jorge is about to have a series of co-incidences all fall into place when he needs them. It starts with him writing to HRC’s head office that simply says, ‘I have the pictures from Paris Hornet launch 1997. I would like a Honda contract please or the photos go public. Attached is a draft contract with the basic details, please sign and return asap or I will publish. Signed J-Lo’.
Honda is a company that likes to promote from within. It’s not uncommon for their most senior managers to have started as junior engineers and, on this occasion, the letter was opened by a man we shall call ‘X’ who was present at the Paris Hornet event as the young monkey Pedrosa’s handler and has recently been promoted to a senior role in marketing. X-San read the letter, assumed that the nubile, ample-cheeked tarzanette he persuaded to be stripped by the chimp was actually ‘that’ J-Lo and he was about to get into a lot of trouble.
Assuming that what she wanted was a part in Honda’s next TV campaign and a free diesel Jazz, our man signed the contract and posted it back without really reading it. After all, Honda America has huge budgets, J-Lo is a big star and he’d probably be praised and rewarded for getting her on board. Everybody wins.
If he’d read the contract properly he would have seen the part about how Pedrosa had to be retired to a colony in the East Indies, lifetime supply of bananas and Marquez to only be allowed to ride a 1983 VF1000F for all races from now on and twigged that it was a different J-Lo. But he didn’t. And because Honda are also the most honourable of all the Japanese companies, once the truth came out that Jorge had been offered an HRC contract, it was too late and the contract will be honoured. Besides, after J-Lo’s gargantuan performance at Mugello the other week, signing him now could be seen as a masterstroke.
And thankfully, the story has a happy, if bizarre ending. It appears that Hollywood is actually planning to bring back the Tarzan films, Jenifer Lopez is in the frame to play Jane and the producers are looking for a highly trained stunt-chimp in order to reduce reliance on CGI. Jorge is after all a multiple world champion and it could just be that he gets his mojo back and can develop the bike so that riders without Marquez’s talent can ride it too.
No need to thank me.