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Too Tall Tel's tall tales

Published: 03 March 2016

Updated: 05 February 2016

Abusing Lawson, riling Foggy, chasing Doohan. Terry Rymer has lived a full and fruity racing life…

he 90s were a heady time for British race fans. They not only got to marvel at the sights of Rainey, Lawson, Schwantz, Doohan and co, there was also an array of fast Brits in the mix including Foggy, Whitham, Mackenzie, McElnea and Terry Rymer. Born in Folkestone, raised in a council house in South East London and with no racing pedigree in the family, Rymer didn’t fit the mould of his Northern counterparts. He was also 6’ 2” – way too big to be a motorcycle racer and soon nicknamed ‘Too Tall Tel’.
But nobody told him he shouldn’t be fast and in an international career that spanned over a decade he was a big hitter. By the time he was 23 he was the British Superbike Champion onboard the Loctite Yamaha OW01 (see page 64) and had also become the first Brit to win a WSB race – three years before Foggy even got a sniff.
Rymer went on to race a factory Kawasaki in WSB and the Lucky Strike Suzuki in 500GPs, but he will be remembered by many for his love affair with – and extraordinary performances in – World Endurance. Rymer was a king of endurance when the series rocked, winning the world championship twice. Huge teams, huge crowds and huge kudos in a time of ’90s hedonism that had to be seen to be believed. Over the next eight pages, Terry recounts his finest tall tales…
1992 Bol D’or World Endurance – insighting Foggy to damage Anglo-French relations
It was race day morning so we were pretty nervous and Carl was driving up to the circuit. I was passenger, Steve Hislop was in the back with my Dad who’s bigger than me and my mate Barry who’s a big guy either side of him.
Even though we were racers we didn’t have a car parking pass to get us into the paddock. It meant a five minute walk into the pits, but every day we’d managed to blag our way through all the checkpoints and parked right in the main paddock.
We got through the first check, but the second had a double barrier. I started telling Carl to just go, winding him up because I wasn’t driving and I’m not going to get into trouble! We got through the first barrier ok and we were only 150 yards from the paddock when the second barrier came down. A big French security guy jumped out in front of us saying ‘non, non’. I used my best French saying “Bonjour Monsiuer, Pilots, Kawasaki France” but he was having none of it.
Carl started getting a bit pissed off and I was still winding him up saying “yes mate, he’s laughing at you, he’s going to make you turn around with your tail between your legs.” To which Carl said: “I f**cking won’t” and I suggested he should just go forward a bit. He did but he really revved the car and the guy shuffled back and moved around to the side. That was when I said “just go”, never thinking Carl would actually do it. But he pulled off fast in first gear, dragging the guy up on to the bonnet so he was holding onto the windscreen wiper. Carl hooked second gear and there was a little kink in the road the guy slides across the bonnet and onto the ground.
We had a race to go and win, but I knew we were all in big trouble. My Dad was trying to calm things down and Steve was in the back saying “ oooo, noooooo” (Terry gave us his best Scottish accent at this point – Ed). The guys at the last security gate into the paddock had seen all this so the barrier came down ahead of us. Carl skidded to a stop and as the security guys started coming towards us I opened the door and ran away as fast as I could. Carl did the same in the opposite direction. My Dad bailed too, then Steve and Barry. The car sat there with all the doors open with the engine running.
We did warm-up and didn’t hear anything and then an FIM official came to speak to the Kawasaki France team boss Christian Bourgeois. Christian came to me and Carl and told us that we were in big trouble because we’ve run a marshal over. They said that we could not start the race. I was seriously worried and I was thinking, “what and idiot, why did I wind Carl up so much?”.
Before we went to the FIM meeting I spoke to my mate Barry and said “sorry mate, but you’re going to have to take a hit for the team.” He didn’t want to, and thought he’d go to prison, but my Dad convinced him. He was cacking his pants but Carl and I told him that we’d make sure he was ok. We didn’t have a clue how we were going to do that, but he agreed to say he was driving the car. He stood up in the delegation and said his foot slipped off the clutch. He managed to avoid anything about second gear! We ended up getting fined 500 Swiss francs which myself and Carl paid and then we gave the organisers and marshalls a load of signed team t-shirts and stuff.
We were on pole position for that race. How about that for pre-race preparation? We won the race though with Steve. It was my first ever Bol’Dor win.
1992 Le Man World Endurance –   insighting a riot to take Kawasaki France to victory
We were riding for Kawasaki France and the team had decided to put Hislop, Alex Vieira and Jean-Louis Battistini together as the number one team with me, Carl and Michel Simul as the young wild cards. Even though Carl and I had had a bit of needle we were both there for the same reason – we needed the money. At the end of the day I had to put up with him and he had to put up with me. We had a good understanding and with that came a mutual respect, especially as the year went on and by the end we were actually knocking about a bit together.
In the race we had nothing to lose and threw caution to the wind. I’d done one endurance race and this was Carl’s first. We didn’t know the first thing about Endurance racing and we just pushed from the start, got into the lead and kept leading. Half way through the race the number one Kawasaki team were in second, Viera was riding and the cam chain broke. He got the bike back to the pits but they were finished. Our mechanic Phillipe, who was a brilliant engine guy, stripped the bike and found that there was a problem with the cam chain – a manufacturing fault with the links. The team manager came to us and said the cam chain could break at any time, so be ready for it.
We just carried on – if it was going to break, it was going to break. It got to the penultimate stint, 22 hours in and we had a three lap lead. I went out and was taking it easy, short shifting everywhere. We were in a comfortable position but during my stint something happened with the cam chain – maybe it jumped a tooth – and the bike started feeling really flat and making strange noises.
I finished my stint, got off the bike and because our lead was so big they give the bike a quick check over, bit of oil on the chain, and a wipe over for the sponsors. I said to Carl – “It’s really sick – do not try and go to fast – bring her home” He went out and got into a good rhythm and was being sensible. We got to around 2.15pm, with 45 minutes of the 24 hours to go and as he came down the start finish straight he was looking down at the bike. I was thinking this can’t be happening. My engine guy came up saying he didn’t think the bike would last so we decided we had to stop the race.
It was at the time where they didn’t have the big fences between the fans and the track (they got them after this – Ed). I was watching at the end of pit wall and waiting for Carl to come past every lap was pure torture. I couldn’t stand it any more. There was a big contingent of Brits in the grandstand and I started raising my hands and they all start cheering back. The grandstand was packed and with all the Brits getting excited, it was like a magnet to the French fans and they started swarming to where all the Brits were and it began to whip up into a frenzy. I got up on the pit wall and started really trying to get them all going and my team got up on the wall with me. Then a couple of the really pissed guys climbed over the first fence before the Armco, the security were there trying to stop them, but in the end a few more jumped over and then everyone did and they poured on to the track. As more and more people climbed onto the track they had to stop it – there was about 25 minutes left to run.
We’d won the race and had a big celebration and then team manager Christian Bourgeois came over and said to me: “if you ever do anything like this again it will be very serious and you will be banned. But… well done!”

1992 British GP - Meeting your heroes:
Eddie Lawson gets irate
I just loved Eddie’s style, he had a way of just doing enough. The first time I met him was in 1992 on track when I was riding a Padgetts Yamaha at the British GP at Donington Park.
It was my first ever GP and we had a problem with the bike – it wouldn’t start. We eventually got it going and I went out with no tyre warmers and it was smoking like a good ’un. It was the days of Lawson, Schwantz, Gardner and they were all up to speed and flying round. I went out and stayed off the racing line down Craner with the bike pouring out smoke.
Lawson was on the Cagiva that year and he came alongside really close and started shouting at me and waving his hands, really pissed off – rightly so I suppose because the bike was smoking so much. I took it for a while, nodding my head and trying to say sorry, but he didn’t let it go. So all the way down Craner and towards the Old Hairpin he was still having a go and I started thinking this is a bit much now. He carried on and I got to a point where I thought ‘I don’t give a fuck who you are’, so I leaned right over put my hand right up to his visor and gave him the bird and just held my hand there. A second later he accelerated off.
A few years later when I was team-mates with Scott Russell who knew Eddie well, he introduced me at the Suzuka 8 hour. We got on well, but I never mentioned Donington Park!

1988 World Superbikes – Being well and truly Doohan’d in Australia
I did my first ever WSB race at Le Mans and then got a deal to ride in Portugal where I finished third and as a result I got the chance to go to Australia for the next round. I thought I was good, but I got my arse kicked so bad by the Australians – I finished tenth. I was distraught. I thought I was the man.
I went out in the first session and Doohan came past me on a hybrid Yamaha FZ/OW01 and I’d never seen anyone ride a bike like that. He was completely sideways and there was a wall at the edge of the track which he just used it as a berm, stones flying everywhere. It completely did my head in, because I knew I needed to ride like that and I didn’t know if I could. It opened up a whole new world to me because I thought the guys I was racing in the UK were fast. I’d met Barry Sheene out in Oz, he put in a good word for me with his mate Steve Parrish and then the next year I was on the Loctite Yamaha with Steve as my team-manager.

1996 British Superbike – Crescent Suzuki team-mate trouble
In 1998 Crescent got serious about BSB and signed me and James Haydon. James was a young buck and he crashed a bit, but he was fearless and always seemed to bounce. What he lacked in finesse he made up for by having a big pair of balls. I was the senior guy in the team and I knew he was going to be a bit of a handful. He was desperate to beat me every time we went out and why wouldn’t he be? My philosophy was that he could win the battle, but I wanted to win the war.
We got to Thruxton and we’d had a few tough battles on track by then which I was starting to think were a getting a bit much. I felt there was a lack of respect from him. We were in the race running in fourth and fifth and he came bowling up the inside of me at the chicane, too quick and clanged into the side of me. I ran wide and lost my drive. If it had been anyone else I would have probably let it go, but I knew I had to nip it in the bud. He didn’t put his hand up to say sorry and I decided then that I wasn’t going to take that. It took me a few laps to catch up with him again and it was like he had a homing beacon on the back of his leathers. We came down the back straight and I got in his slip stream. Just before we braked I got along side him and at that point it didn’t matter where he braked because I’d already decided I was going to hit him. He got on the brakes late and I did the same. There was no way we were both going to make it through so I just sat up and clanged into the side of him. He didn’t crash, but he went straight on and lost a lot of time. I didn’t see him again.
Fair do’s to him he came straight up to me at the end of the race to have a go. I heard him out then just told him ‘anything you do to me, you’ll get back twice as hard. Ride like that with anyone else on the grid, but don’t do it to me’. We never had any other issues all year and I get on really well with James. He was a top level rider and is a thoroughly decent bloke.   

1996 NW200 – 200mph brake failure on the Old Spice Ducati
It was my second year at the NW200 and my team-mate was Rob Holden who was a good road racer. I was pretty nervous and a bit jumpy about racing on the roads so I spent a lot of my time checking with the mechanics making sure everything was done up tight! I got on well with Rob but he did a fair bit of piss-taking about my preparation. I used to have ‘Mr Rymer’ on my fairing and for a laugh he changed it to ‘Mrs Rymer’.
I was running my BSB settings but before the race I wanted more stability so we made the bike a bit longer and dropped the forks through the yokes. What we didn’t realise, and it was a stupid mistake, was that the change meant the brake lines were a little bit too short.
In the race I was in fifth with DJ [David Jefferies], Moodie, Rutter and Holden in front of me. I was enjoying it – every lap I was losing a bit, but I was able to pick up a big slipstream and get onto their back wheels on the straights.
It was the third lap and as I came out of Metropole I was tucked right in, flat out. I’d picked up the tow of the lead group and was on the back of them. I hit the brakes and almost immediately there was a boom and a big puff of smoke as all the brake fluid went on to the hot disks. The lever came right into the bar and I went flying past the guys in front who were braking for the corner. I must have over taken them at 180mph heading into a 30mph corner. I got on the back brake and sat right back and the thing was sliding and snaking big time. I knew I had to go down the slip road and although I’d scrubbed some speed off I must have gone past the apex of the corner still doing 100mph. There was a roundabout in front of me and I knew I was going to hit it so I sat back onto the seat unit getting ready to jump off. I can remember having loads of time to think about it and how it was going to ruin my season or worse. Just as I was getting ready to bail, out the corner of my eye I saw a little cycle path to my right, so I just went for it, lent the bike over across all the shit and gravel in the road and somehow just missed the people that were stood there. I came to a stop without crashing and just sat there with my head in my hands. At the end of the meet Mervyn Whyte [NW200 organiser] sat me down to talk about coming back next year. I said “I won’t be racing here again Merv. I’ve had a message from God!”

1992 World Endurance –  being Foggy’s team-mate
Carl and I were big competitors back in the day before he went to Ducati. I was riding the Loctite Yamaha and he was riding an RC30. We’d had a couple of comings together and it was like a bit of a cock fight really. He was good mates with James (Whitham) and I was kind of the odd one out especially being a southerner. I got on well with James and still do but it was a bit them and me. I had the edge on Carl that year – I was riding for Steve Parrish on the Loctite Yamaha and think I had a better team and a better bike. I was confident and riding well. I guess I was the face at that time and he didn’t like that. I wanted to do world endurance because it was good money and I got an offer to ride a factory Kawasaki and to do the Suzuka Eight Hour. When I arrived at the first test I didn’t know who my team-mate would be and when I got there it was Carl. It was a big deal, a real factory effort. We had JVC sponsorship and the team where spending a fortune. Me and Carl won every race that year apart from Suzuka, where I crashed.

1996 World Endurance -  Meeting your heroes:
Freddie Spencer gets blown away
I met Freddie Spencer in 1996 when I was riding for SERT Suzuki in World Endurance. He’s about five years older than me and he was the best. When I was 15 I desperately wanted to go road racing and I had his book and the Fast Freddie video of him at Daytona on a CB750. I studied everything about him – the way he slid through the turns and how he moved his body weight around. I told him all this and he was pretty blown away. He wasn’t actually my hero when I was growing up, that was Eddie Lawson, but I moulded myself on Freddie because I wanted to ride like him. For me Kenny (Roberts) was amazing, but he was at the end of his era. Freddie changed everything.

Words Michael Guy  Pictures Bauer Archive

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