| TT Website Interviews - Dave Molyneux
||Dave Molyneux is a Sidecar racing legend. The fastest ever
Sidecar driver ever around the TT course, Manxman Molyneux is back at the TT
bidding to reclaim the reins from the pretenders to his crown after a years
We spoke to the popular 'Moly' from his home in
Reaby, about last season and his prospects for the coming
First of all Dave, can you confirm your
plans for the forthcoming season?
At the moment, the plan is to do the TT, maybe the Southern
100 and some rounds of the Centre Championship at Jurby, along with the Jurby
Road Races. Despite what's been reported, we're not having a crack at the
Centre Championship; it's more to get the bike set up for TT week, and to get
the mileage in really. We're not going to be leaving the Island to race at all
this year; I'm going to concentrate on building the business back up, because
with the World Cup I have been really busy for the last year, and I'd like to
take the opportunity to get things up and running again.
What's the latest news on the team?
I'll be revealing who will be riding with me very soon: we've
had an agreement for some time now, it's just a case of putting the finishing
touches to it (I'll give you a clue - he's from the British Isles!) As far as
the bike goes, we'll be running a green and white outfit in the colours of
Quadrant Flooring, which belongs to a South African friend who has a house in
the Isle of Man. He's bike-mad and really loves the Island, so it's great to be
involved with him.
We're also receiving backing from Honda Britain as
in previous years. We've got 2 brand new Honda CBR "SP" fuel-injected engines
on the way. These are the first two of the type to be delivered to Britain, and
are proper works engines, straight from the factory in Japan. The bike itself
is an improved version of the TT bike we ran in '99: better streamlining,
improved chassis, that sort of thing.
at last season, what is your assessment of your campaign in the Sidecar World
A bloody disaster. Things just didn't go right from the
start. The engine was the main problem - I just don't think the Blackbird
engine takes too kindly to being tuned. The crankshaft was too powerful and
kept flexing within the chassis. We had to reinforce it with steel plates, but
even that wasn't enough. In the end, we resorted to going down to a breaker's
yard and buying a bog standard Blackbird motor from a written-off road bike.
When we got it, it was covered in oil and shite - allsorts. Once we
slotted that in things improved, but we were so far down on horsepower compared
to the leading machines, it was very frustrating. It was so late on in the
season when we finally pinpointed what was wrong with the engine, that it was
too late to do much about it, and in any case the budget would never have
stretched that far.
You must take some
satisfaction from the fact that you achieved some good results on a much lower
budget than most of the established riders?
Not really, no. We were more frustrated than anything: being
40 HP down on most of the leading machines is really disconcerting. OK, we had
a good result at Hockenheim, which is the fastest circuit in the series, but
apart from that things were a disaster.
Cup machine is very different from the FII outfits generally used in British
sidecar racing; was it difficult to adapt to the new bike?
It wasn't, no. Sidecars are very primitive things - there's
nothing really technical about them, and at the end of the day, a sidecar is a
sidecar. OK, the World Cup machine is much quicker than the FII outfits we use
at home, but it only takes a couple of laps to "shakedown" and then it's just a
case of riding as usual.
Do you think you will
ever compete in the Sidecar World Cup in the future?
No, that's me now. I've just had enough of all the travelling
and all the hassle that's involved with the world series. Steve Webster
actually approached me to join his team for the forthcoming season, but to be
honest I've seen a side of the Sidecar World Cup with the way it's run that I
don't like, and I'm calling it a day on that front.
The sidecar crews
are given quite a rough deal compared to the WSB guys. For example, moments
after the South African round at Kyalami, we all had to pack our bikes up into
a crate, along with all our spares, tool, kit, everything. And then we didn't
see them again until a few days before the next round in Australia, so we were
working like mad to strip the bike down and sort out any problems from the last
outing. You always had to think about spares - in some of the poorer countries
we raced in, there's nowhere to buy spares or even sidecar tyres. Some of the
facilities we were accommodated in at certain circuits left a lot to be desired
- Jurby Airfield had better amenities! To be honest, I just can't be assed
going through all that again. I just want to enjoy my racing now. In the past,
I've often been under a lot of pressure and enjoying my racing hasn't been the
number one priority, so that's the aim now.
father was a sidecar racer of some note; did he actively encourage or
discourage you from following him into sidecar racing?
He didn't really encourage or discourage me. He was killed
racing at the Ulster Grand Prix in 1976, when I was only 14, so I was a bit
young for racing. I suppose he influenced me in a way, because I doubt if I
would ever have got involved with sidecar racing if my old man wasn't a racer.
Aside from your father, who have
been the biggest influences on your career and why?
I remember sitting up at the Grandstand in TT week when I was
a kid, watching my old man going out on a Thursday afternoon practice session.
George O'Dell's machine was up there, really well prepared and looking great. I
thought to myself "I wouldn't mind a bit of that!" George later went on to do
the first 100mph lap in a sidecar, and I suppose because of that and because
his machines always looked smart, he was a bit of a hero to me.
Do you have any views on improvements that could be made to the
TT Races, with respect to sidecar racing or otherwise?
Nothing springs immediately to mind, no. I think a lot of
people don't realise how good the TT is, especially for sidecar racing. The
facilities are good (especially compared to those at some of the World Cup
meetings), sidecar crews are treated well and the meetings are well organised.
If I had to say something, I would say maybe the state of the road surface in
certain places. It seems as if they resurface sections of the road that don't
need doing, and then leave the places that are a bloody mess. Some years ago
the state of the road on the exit to Quarry Bends was terrible: there were big
cracks in the surface and everything. Eventually it was resurfaced, but it took
a long time, and a lot of hassling the Clerk of the Course to get things
Also, I think the second sidecar race would be better run on
the Wednesday of race week. With the first race run late on the Saturday
afternoon, it means you have to work like buggery on the bike if anything is
wrong with it, which puts a lot of strain on the crew. I don't think it would
be that much a hassle to move it to the Wednesday and run, say, the Junior race
on Monday afternoon.
You are just 2 wins away from
equalling the TT wins record of the great racers Schazu, Boddice and Saville.
Will you be making a conscious effort to better that record?
It's not something that's in the front of my mind. I mean, it
would be nice to better it, but if it happens great, if not, then I won't be
too disappointed. More important to me is doing the first sub-20 minute lap on
a sidecar. Myself and Craig (Hallam) came very close on the Thursday afternoon
practice session in 1999. We pulled into the pits and my brother was like
"Bloody Hell! You've just done 20m 1.8s. I was a bit annoyed because if I had
realised how quick we were going, I could easily have broken the 20 minute
barrier, but at the time we didn't realise what a flyer we were on!
What were your views on the
switch from 1000cc machines to purely FII specifications at the TT in
At the time, everybody (including me) thought it was a big
mistake, that it would kill the sidecar class off. Of course at the time, we
couldn't have foreseen how big 600cc racing was going to become, and that the
general direction in which motorcycling was going to go would be away from
two-strokes and towards four-strokes. Looking back now though, it was probably
the best move for the sport, because the 1000cc machines were a bit of a
handful around the TT course, and a well-prepared 600cc motor is just about the
best tool for the job nowadays.
Some people have
voiced the opinion in recent years that sidecars are becoming too fast around
the TT circuit. What is your view?
Well, what can you do ? In 1994, rules were introduced
reducing the carburettor choke size down to 32mm, which was a bloody stupid
thing to do because it actually made the bikes go faster. The people who
thought up the rule obviously didn't know what they were doing: a lot of tuners
actually do this to make the bikes faster! That's one of the rules that's a bit
crap in sidecar racing now, having to go through the engineering process to fit
these 32mm restrictors, when they have the opposite effect to what was
Short of reducing the cc again, which would be a complete
disaster, there's nothing else they can do: a 400cc motor would never pull 2
people around the Mountain Circuit. They can't police stock engines, you know,
straight out of a road bike - that's almost out of the question. It would be a
good idea, but the machines wouldn't be a lot slower than what they are now -
I'd still get around the TT Course at 110mph with a stock engine, so it would
be a wasted exercise really.
Looking at it though, I've gone around at
113mph, Rob Fisher has gone around at 110mph and there's a few at around the
109mph mark, and the rest are a lot slower, so I think sidecars aren't
outstandingly fast around here. When you compare my 113mph lap to the solos,
which are lapping at 125mph now, I don't think there's much to complain about.
Jock Taylor went round at 108mph in 1981, so we're only lapping 5mph quicker
than he was 20 years ago!
Do you think sidecar
racing receives enough exposure?
Well no, not really, especially when you see what MCN give
the solo classes compared to the sidecars, for instance. Whenever I've won a TT
race, they seem to give us a decent spread, but last year, when Rob Fisher done
the double, all he had was measly little column in there. If it weren't for the
local press, we'd get very little coverage at all: John Watty has followed what
we've done with great interest over the years. So in that respect, it's a bit
here and there really, but then you've got to ask "Does it deserve a lot?" At
the end of the day, at least the sidecar class is a proper racing class, and
there's very few proper racing classes left - they're built purely for racing
and that's all there is to it.
Would you ever swap
places with your passenger?
No! The only reason is because I'm just not interested in it
at all, just like I'm not interested in racing solos. I've sat on the side
before, but it didn't give me a thrill or anything, and it didn't scare me, I
just thought, "Bloody hell, it's not my cup of tea", you know.
What makes a good sidecar
Trust. And when you lose that trust, you've got a crap team.
It's very difficult to get that trust back once you've lost it, be it through a
mistake on the driver or passenger's part or whatever. I've gone through a lot
of passengers, and I make no bones about that. I won't take any shit, because
at the end of the day, my neck's on the line as well as theirs.
sidecar passenger can only ever be as good as the driver; the driver can
usually struggle through with a crap passenger and still get the result. Having
a good passenger obviously helps, but having that trust element between
passenger and driver is the most important thing. When the passenger thinks
he's better then the driver, then things can start to go wrong.
there's a lot of drivers around whose passengers maybe aren't so good, but they
get the results because they trust their passengers. Although I have had a lot
of passengers, the ones I've had have all been good - none of them have been
bad, but once that trust has been lost, for whatever reason, it's very
difficult to get back and be as good a team as you were before, so it's usually
better to part company.
Who is the best passenger
you have had during your career?
Karl Ellison. Karl and me were mates anyway before we raced
together, so we knew and trusted each other. We could read each other very well
and we made a good team. Unfortunately for us, Karl's circumstances changed -
he got married and had kids, and he decided to quit the sport, but we're still
Do you have any ambitions left that you
would like to achieve?
One of my first ambitions was to make an ex-sponsor eat his
words when he withdrew his support, citing "a lack of talent and the wrong
attitude" on my part as the reason for the move.
I suppose doing the
first sub-20 minute lap on a sidecar is a bit of an ambition, yeah. At the
time, it wasn't a big ambition of mine to do the first 110mph lap. When we did
it, I thought "Brilliant! I want to average 110mph now", which we did in the
next race. When I missed the TT in 1997, then came back in 1998, a lot of
competitors said I wouldn't win the TT on a Honda, because the engine wasn't up
to it. That then became an ambition, and we managed to win the race. I've won
races on lots of different machines, and each time you get a new machine, it
becomes a bit of a thing that you want to win the TT on it, I mean it's easy to
win on the same machinery all the time, but not so easy to keep winning on
The main thing I want to do now is just enjoy my
racing this time around. Like I've said, enjoyment has taken a bit of a back
seat lately, with all the pressure and hassles of the World Cup, so I just want
to enjoy myself.
Don't you fancy doing the British
No, it's absolute shite. Unless you like racing a sidecar
around a track every weekend for the hell of it. The interest in that has gone
now, and I really couldn't be assed with all the travelling every weekend. The
last time I rode the British Championships was 1994, when we finished second by
a point and had a really good season, but that was at Supercup level, whereas
now they are club meetings. There's no excitement in it any more for me and I
just want to enjoy myself, like I said.
Dave, at what age can you see yourself retiring?
Pretty soon! Yeah, I'm starting to get knackered!