Mike would have hated all the fuss. The true Godfather of the MotoGP™ family who shied away from any personal praise or acknowledgement. The former racer who changed the very future of Grand Prix motorcycle racing because he cared so much. Mike and his wife Irene adopted the MotoGP™ family to save lives and provide riders and teams with well-being and respect from Circuits, Promotors, and those in authority. I hope Mike looked down on the amazing show at Misano over the weekend with a smile on his face. All those principles he set out to achieve when he first stepped foot into the Grand Prix paddock 41 years ago had been achieved.
When Mike arrived in 1982 Grand Prix racing was in a mess. The racing was fantastic and the riders brilliant, but the remainder was in chaos. Some people peering through rose-tinted spectacles will tell you different but just wipe the surface to clear those lenses. The riders asked Mike to represent them in their fight for safety, proper and liveable facilities, deserved prize and travel money and perhaps most important at the time, respect which was blatantly lacking in so many areas
In 1986 he founded the International Road Racing Teams Association. With Mike at the helm, they fought tooth and nail for the rider’s welfare and rights. The tide started to turn. Teams and riders had a voice at the table and in 1992 the foundations fought for, and achieved by Mike, played such a massive part in the transformation of the sport. Mike and IRTA were the cement that bound together the FIM, MSMA and Dorna Sports to form the alliance that changed the face of Grand Prix racing, to where it is today. Mike was a man of passion, principles, and belief. Once his mind was made up you needed one hell of an argument to change it. Of course, not everybody agreed to the changes, but he always had the rider’s and teams’ well-being at heart. He never let them down.
It’s difficult to imagine a MotoGP™ paddock without Mike. Up those metal steps to the IRTA office. Turn left and there was Irene and the likes of Tony and Rick from his loyal staff. Cup of tea if you want one but you must make it yourself because we are so busy, the usual greeting from the boys. Irene would always find you a couple of passes if you were desperate. Turn right into Mike’s office. English news and sports always on the screen behind his desk. There was always plenty to discuss and recollect before MotoGP™ ever got mentioned. Mike loved The Who, the great sixties rock band, and so concert venues were checked. The exploits of his football team Bristol City were mulled over. So many times, in the boardroom next door, we’d sat amidst the debris of empty pizza boxes and beer bottles after watching another England football defeat in World Cup and European Championship games.
We would laugh remembering the exploits of Steve Parrish and others in those unforgettable trips to the Macau Grand Prix, which Mike organised followed by a week in Thailand with Mike and Irene. We first met at Daytona Beach in Florida in the seventies. Mike organised the trips for the 200 miler for hundreds of British fans. It was a fabulous week of fun, sun, and plenty more plus, of course, motorcycle racing. Later, Mike was a journalist’s dream. He never gave away a secret, but he would give just that hint you may be on the right track when encouragement was needed.
When Mike passed away on Friday, we all lost a true friend. For me, and I think many others, the MotoGP™ paddock without him will be a very sad place.