Padgett’s Racing shook the road racing world as they announced they’d be participating in the 2016 Isle of Man TT with the road-going version of Honda’s MotoGP bike, the RCV213V-S with Bruce Anstey as the rider. We had a chat with Clive Padgett about the bike and TT racing.
The name Padgett is very well known among motorcycle and motor sports fans. The family business – Padgett’s Motorcycle – was established in the late fifties and they have regularly participated in the Isle of Man TT since the sixties, after Clive’s father, Peter, had first raced himself and then helped riders like Phil Read, Ron Haslam and Carl Fogarty.
– We have regularly won races for sixty years and, in the past nine years, we have had twenty-seven podium finishes, meaning three times a year. This is unbelievable. Experience, desire and passion are the things that motivate us, said Clive, the current head of the team with a serious expression on his face.
Beyond the astonishing story, we were even more interested in the fact how it had even occurred to him in 2016 to put what is essentially a prototype motorcycle under the bottom of his racer, Bruce Anstey, in the TT, despite zero testing opportunities. After all, the New Zealander had reached the best result of his life in 2015, having won the Superbike race in the with the well-established CBR1000RR, so maybe holding to the winning formula would have been a safer bet.
– I didn’t fear for Bruce, honestly, it had never even occurred to me that I would, in this way, rob him of any opportunities. Of course, we took a huge risk. The motorcycle arrived on Wednesday and already on Monday we had to prove ourselves on the track. We worked day and night in order to finish everything, Padgett says.
Right before the TT, Anstey was testing with a Fireblade, when he had a spill and got injured. This meant he had to race the TT hurt and with a motorcycle he wasn’t familiar with.
– Naturally, we had our fears, but we still had the feeling that nobody had an advantage. The circumstances were the same for everyone and we decided to do it and to see what will come of it. We were fast already in the first training and even had the leading position several times, but Michael (Dunlop) and Hutchy (Ian Hutchinson) put a huge pressure on everyone when they started with the really fast laps. But Bruce felt good on the bike and had no extra requests, Padgett recalls.
As a motorcycle, Padgett doesn’t see the RCV213V-S as a problem for an experienced racer, such as Anstey.
– The bike weighs approximately the same as the Superbike, somewhere between one hundred and sixty and one hundred and seventy kilograms, but it is easier to ride and more manageable, he describes.
– I know everyone believed that Bruce would leave everyone far behind, totally beat them, saying that he raced with a MotoGP bike, but they didn’t take it into consideration that it was, in reality, a street motorcycle that anyone was able to buy in the shop. We received such criticism too. I don`t really understand why, since we took a motorcycle that comes with a steering lock, a horn, lights and indicators and a fuel filler cap that could only be opened with a key to the TT. Were there really people who mistook it for a MotoGP motorcycle? Padgett wonders.
The RCV213V-S HRC and kit Anstey used cost approximately 175,000 GBP. Consequently, the final cost of the motorcycle is presumably significantly higher than that of a Superbike Fireblade – three years ago, the build cost of McGuinness’ bike amounted to approximately 100,000 GBP, although many people say that Guy Martin’s Tyco BMW cost as much as 200,000 GBP – and Clive Padgett decided to keep it secret how many RCVs they had bought explicitly for racing purposes.
– Actually, the whole thing had no PR intents at all; I just had the feeling that we had to advance with the times. Honda’s iconic motorcycles have always been the RC series V4 motorcycles such as the RC30 and RC45, that is why I wanted to send the latest V4 bike, the RCV, into the battle, Padgett says.
– You can ask questions, for sure, but I can’t promise you that I will answer them all. I must keep some secrets, reminds Padgett as the discussion turned to modifications.
This is understandable, since they are based on the team’s gigantic experience and discreet although very friendly and dedicated attitude. As a proof of their expertise, they sometimes manage to win even over the factory teams in the most outrageous motorcycle race of the world.
– The major changes affected the suspension and the brakes. According to tradition, we used K-Tech front forks and Superbike specification Brembo racing brakes, the carbon brakes used in MotoGP are not suitable for the TT, Padgett says.
Padgett says they were in fact the first ones to use now-popular K-Tech front forks. After they had amazing performance with Ian Hutchinson, more and more racers started to change to the same type.
– The rear suspension is from Öhlins, however, as there is no other supplier for this motorcycle, but we are satisfied anyway. It seems that kit from the two manufacturers can be combined quite successfully, figures Padgett.
Bike’s 17” diameter wheel sizes match the street bike. Also standard are the HRC exhaust and carbon fibre bodywork.
– The windshield was higher, which is important in the TT anyway. The factory windshield is too low in a track of this calibre. We also changed the handlebars because of Bruce’s build. The bike fit him better that way, Padgett says.
– One of the largest modifications was made to the fuel tank, which had to be enlarged from sixteen to twenty-four litres, but, fortunately, it did not affect the motorcycle`s stability, says Padgett.
However, the answers regarding the similarities between Cal Crutchlow’s MotoGP motorcycle and Anstey’s racing bike were a lot clearer.
– Honestly, there are very few real similarities between the two motorcycles, since this one is, in fact, still a street bike. For example, the engine uses traditional spring-operated valves rather than pneumatic ones. Furthermore, the maximum revs of the racing motorcycle are about three to four thousand rpm higher than ours, Padgett says.
According to Padgett, modifying the RCV213V-S engine closer to MotoGP specification, although allowed by the rules, would make little sense because of cost and effort required.
– We used the commercially available engine with an HRC kit and it worked excellently. We were the fastest in some parts of the track after all, so I don’t think changes would have been justified, Padgett says.
I suspect that Clive Padgett is good at figures, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to manage a team so precisely and professionally, but he was still quite cautious in choosing his words when asked about spare parts and costs.
– Naturally, we had a lot of spare parts, but we didn’t bring with us anything more than for any other racing motorcycle. During the TT we could handle technical problems and crashes apart from those requiring a complete rebuild, but anything short of that would not have been a problem. In the truck we had spare forks, suspensions, handlebars, footrests, bodywork, maintenance parts, special tools, gearboxes and clutches. If something should happen to the engine, we would simply repair it and I wouldn’t despair. We also had a spare engine; I can see that you wanted to ask me this, Padgett smirks.
According to Padgett, approximately 15-16 pairs of tyres are used during the TT fortnight. Other costs include fuel, where CBR and RCV are nearly equal.
– We are talking about a four-cylinder block with eight injectors anyway, so there is nothing to cause a higher consumption. We calculated approximately ten-eleven litres of petrol per lap, and I can admit we don’t count the decilitres per lap. Basically we just make a rough calculation before the TT and buy the fuel. Of course, there is always the possibility of red flags, rain and races being cancelled, but the difference it makes is not significant. Everything is expensive here anyway, so nothing is depending on it. Living, wages, travelling – basically, racing – is expensive, but those who are involved in it are aware of the costs and accept them, Padgett says.
What happened in the TT then? The publicity Padgett’s Racing received was truly astonishing. There might never have been so huge media interest in the team before. Of course, they also kept saying that Anstey would be racing a MotoGP motorcycle. The audience went crazy during every single lap. Although finishing only 8th in Superbike TT, Anstey’s RCV213V-S was in fact the bike that stole the show in 2016.