Randy Mamola, one of the most talented Grand Prix riders to have never won a world championship reveals the bikes that shaped his riding career.
Hodaka Steens (First bike)
It was 1972 and I was 11 years old when my dad bought my my first bike. It was 100cc with small 16in wheels and it was my first racebike. I was really small back then and my dad had to modify the frame so I could touch the ground. Dude, when I was on the grid I looked ridiculous. But I started winning all the time and went from novice to expert in 13 months.
My first road racer – I was a kid of fourteen and I had a factory Yamaha to ride. Before that I was all about dirt track. I was the hot shoe in northern California, Eddie and Wayne were the hot shoes in the south. The TA was fantastic, really trick and with no silencers. And I won my first nine races on it. It’s still in California, because someone keeps writing asking for photos to dress it up.
I got the chance to go to New Zealand soon after I signed for Yamaha. While I was there I got a chance to ride Warren Willing’s TZ700. Open pipes, four of ’em, and nothing but power, dude it was awesome. I was a second and half off his time. That was the first time I got noticed and people started saying I should get to Europe, and it was also the first time I met Jeremy Burgess and Mike Sinclair who eventually became my mechanics. But back then you had to be 18 to race in Europe.
Suzuki RG500 [1983 model]
I rode some really great things but the Suzuki was the one I remember most fondly. I just liked the fact it was square and had the carbs on the outside, it was the trick thing to have. The beginning of my career with Suzuki was very special. Partly because I rode an RG Gamma as a private rider in 79 and had got my first ever couple of podiums with it. I’m still the youngest podium finisher ever on a 500.
Heron Suzuki RG500
I rode this at the 1980 Race of the Year at Mallory Park. Everything about the British fans and racing was so awesome. We did 40 laps and I was leading when we went into the hairpin on about lap four. I was hanging off a lot and as I was setting up for the corner Kenny frickin tagged me. He came under me and his number board hit me right in the butt and sent me near enough off the track. I turned round and all I could see with this Chinaman in his helmet wearing this big-ass grin. He was still crying with laughter when I got back to the motorhome we were sharing.
It was 1984 and I was on the Honda triple while everyone else was on fours. I’d qualified midfield and I was given the first onboard camera because they thought I was going to be in the thick of the action. But then it rained and from turn one I got away and never got anyone everyone else on camera.
Harley Davidson 1946 Sidecar
I had a dog called Suki when I raced in the 80s. She went everywhere with me. Everybody in the paddock knew her because I had this golf cart she’d sit in and everyone would come up and stroke her. I rode with her on a scooter, but I couldn’t take her with me when I went on the road, so I bought this 1946 Harley with the original sidecar on it and I stuck her in it. I put a hat and welding goggles on her and she looked great. She sat backwards in it with her little Harley vest on. People would be looking at her on the motorway laughing.
1952 Panhead Harley Davidson (current ride)
I enjoy riding something I don’t feel I have to perform on. I actually bought this in 1981. I was racing for Suzuki then, so I had two GSX1100s and I was getting tickets for doing wheelies, tickets for doing burnouts. So I thought that’s it, I’ve gotta slow this thing down. Riding a Harley it’s hard to get in trouble. I swapped the motor for an S&S 1600cc with a kickstart and straight-through pipes. It has a suicide foot clutch and hand shift, and I got some titanium sheet to line the footboards. Those things sparked like a welding torch when you went round corners and it freaked everyone out. It’s a rebel bike, but I never got a ticket on it and never have since.
1300cc turbo nitrous Suzuki drag bike
I went to Santa Pod in 1990 and I rode a pro-stock drag bike. Dude, up until I got a rode in a jet car that was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life. They said ‘what do you want – 300, 330 or 350bhp?’ I told them to gimme it all. When I hit second it was like in Star Wars when they hit light speed, and I’m going ‘Jeeeeeesuuuuus’ over and over in my helmet.
It’s my favourite modern bike. Oh my god, it feels like a trials bike it’s got so much torque and it just puts a smile on your face. I know it’s really expensive and everything but it’s unique and it’s got great character.
Honda DN01 (bike he'd like to buy, no really)
If I had unlimited money to spend, I’m not certain what I’d buy but it would definitely be something odd. What’s that Honda that’s a scooter but looks like a bullet? The DN01? I love that bike – it’s retro and it’s future. I saw one today and that thing’s bitchin’. Don’t forget I’m going to be 50 this year.