1980 was a blast I managed to win Daytona the Bell helmets AMA Superbike event, the Suzuka 8 Hour and the Senior TT. A host of TTF1 races and ended up with a win in the 1980 TTF1 world Championship.
If 1980 was a great year 1981 was just as good in many respects with a more confident attitude to GP racing and with a full year under my belt I was set to do some damage. With a new contract with Suzuki GB and what could be described as the best RG500 XR35 model produced by Suzuki complete with full floater suspension we set off with victory in our nostrils. I didn't figure on young Randy Mamola being supported technically more than me within the team but understandably my role was TTF1 and GP whereas Randy was “full on” GP only. At the time it was a piss-off but time heals many things (well almost!) However I ended up 4th in the 500cc World Championship and had an amazing run on my GS1000R to secure a TTF1 World championship win for the second year. Taking the British 500cc Championship as well made it all the sweeter.
The end of 1981 produced a big hiccup! Suzuki snookered themselves by signing Randy initially for the 500GP season expecting to have me join the team as well with a 500 and the now unbeatable GS1000R TF1 XR69 (nice model designation) but as Randy held the call on who was his GP team through a clause in his contract, all Suzuki could do was offer me a factory engine and minimalist support via a Dutch sponsor to get me to ride a TTF1 bike.
I had tasted the GP scene and the tracks were safer, the team support was better the girls all looked like modern day Liz Hurley's and for me it was too good to miss out after all I had won the F1 Championship twice and was now fully focused on the G.Ps.
The F.I.M medal presentation in Tokyo for world championship winners ended up in a deal bargaining scene with Pop's Yoshimura, Suzuki and Honda all wanting my services - great but very stressful. I wanted a Suzuki GP ride and would do the TTF1 races to get it. But all I could get was a promise of an "under the table" level of GP support through a 3rd Party.
Honda wanted me for their American Superbike challenge and they must have thought I was a right "Wally" as I tentatively agreed, but the price was a new aircraft. I had visions flying to the races in my private plane. Honda agreed, I agreed, deal done contract in the mail and off home to Auckland.
Sorry Honda but the phone rang a few days after my return and the great Giacomo Agostini called and asked me to ride for his new Marlboro sponsored Yamaha team with factory bikes!!! Change of plans, a 500cc Factory GP bike? "you bet your sweet arse" I said and off I went with Radar Cullen as mechanic. Great season, I finished second to Franco Uncini, on his Factory Gallina Suzuki in the final points score and managed to win the Daytona 200 and the Imola 200 along the way.