Team Hates: Eight intense team-mate rivalries

It's a rule of thumb in racing that you have to beat your team-mate. And to beat him, you must employ every method at your disposal. Delve into the world of when the team-mate system goes wrong

It's a fact. Motorcycle racers are selfish, vain, greedy, guiltless people, who will swindle and cheat their own grannies to the top step of the podium. You need look no further than having two riders in the same team. Team-mates is the term, yet it can be so far from the truth. And all because of the psyche of the motorcycle racer.

Psychologically, racers tend to have above average intelligence, but they're loners who dislike team sports. But a number of factors dictate it still does make sense to have teams of two riders on the same motorcycles.
Rob McElnea has the unique distinction of having been managed by the world's best (Giacomo Agostini was his team boss) and having ridden alongside the world's best too (Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwantz.) He's also managed some of the world's finest (Niall Mackenzie, Chris Walker, Jamie Whitham, Steve Hislop and Simon Crafar) in the most successful British Superbike squad in history - Yamaha. "It's generally the sponsor who demands two good riders in the same set-up," reveals Rob. "In '96, I wanted a proven runner and a youngster in the Boost team, but they wanted two solid performers, so if one got injured, the other could still run up front."

This can also make sense for machine development - two heads are, after all, better than one. Thing is, when you have two riders on the same - or very similar - bikes, it all becomes painfully obvious who's best. Suddenly the number one person to beat becomes your team-mate. And having a team-mate flies in the face of that ruthless streak of selfishness that runs through the best racers. Look at some riders and you'll see many thrive in a solo team environment. To put it simply, bike racers don't play well with others and putting two matched talents together may seem like a good idea, but can be tantamount to chucking a Mongoose into a box with a Cobra. Something's got to give...

One way to victory is to out-psyche your team-mate. Triple World Champ Wayne Rainey would do his all to beat his team-mate, whether at running, tennis or racing bikes. In his book 'Wayne Rainey - His Own Story', he recalls his approach when teamed up with four-time World Champ Eddie Lawson during Wayne's first Championship-winning season of 1990. " I liked having team-mates. I could work off them. With me as a team-mate you had your hands full because I would try and beat you at everything. I wanted to devastate Eddie. I don't think he was ready for a team-mate like me. Maybe he thought he could control me, but I was past being controlled then. When we went out I was always looking at Eddie's pit board. I always wanted to be faster than him."

Our very own Niall Mackenzie has his own views: "In GPs, I got on with everybody, and back in the UK, me and Jamie Whitham got on so well that when it came to the crunch towards the end of the season we tried really hard to hate each other, to motivate ourselves for the showdown we knew was coming. We couldn't! Same with Chris Walker, we got on. I'd even try and spin it as a positive thing. If you work together you can develop the bike to a point that the opposition are so far behind you only have to worry about your team-mate. But something happened with Steve Hislop. He put moves on me the others never would have. He'd lean on me in corners and I'd think, 'if that's the way you want it, you've got it.'"

The Mackenzie/Hislop scrap was titanic and it gave Macca a focus he'd perhaps never had before. "I sometimes think if I'd had that sort of team-mate back in GPs, it would have fired me up even more. By 2000 I was getting to feel so pleased for Neil Hodgson's success at GSE it was what made me realise I had to quit. You can't like your team-mate too much!"

Former BSB champ Hislop is an enigma. He was one of the greatest talents but suffered confidence problems. In '95, battling with Whitham for the BSB title, he was the underdog on the Devimead Ducati while Whit was aboard the factory machine. Hizzy was on it, all year long, but was still known in the team as 'Private Fraser' after the Scottish harbinger of doom from Dad's Army. As one team member recounts: "He'd stick his head out of the garage, see a cloud, think it was going to rain and say: 'We're dooomed!'"

After years of playing second fiddle in a string of teams and with a few mid-season splits he's now in a team which exists solely for him and he's been the man to beat since. So why's that? Hizzy's put some of it down to Jon Hargill. Jon doesn't like the use of the phrase 'faith healer', but when you hear what he's done for the Scot, that's perhaps the best description. After years of racing, Hizzy was hurting. It's common sense that injuries over the years (including a broken neck) take their toll. After a few sessions with Jon, Hizzy feels better and as Jon says: "A confident person under no stress enjoys themselves and what they are doing so they can be better at what they do. That's what's happened to Steve."

You'd think with this stress on the mental edge, on performance and on out-psyching your team-mate that the pits would bristle with sports psychologists and not just super-trick machinery. But as the old saying goes, a good mechanic spends 80% of his time tuning the rider's mind and the other 20% the bike...

In the meantime, here's a selection of famous team-mates past and present, who fell out to varying degrees or other. Makes you glad to ride alone, some of it...

1968: Yamaha Factory Team

1968: Yamaha Factory Team

Bill Ivy V. Phil Read

Back in 1968 Yamaha wanted to win both the 125 and 250cc World Crowns, which should have been easy, what with Honda withdrawing from racing and Yamaha having two of the best racers in Ivy and Read. Yamaha decided to let Read win the 125 class and Ivy the 250s. Popular opinion has it that Read - thinking that Yamaha wouldn't be racing as a factory for much longer - decided instead to hoodwink Ivy and take the 250 title anyway. According to Read, this wasn't so.

"It was a fact that Bill was telling everyone that he was going to beat Phil Read, even though it had already been agreed. So I told him on the start line with a few races still left to go: 'If you think you can beat me then prove it.' I thought it was unfair to be told what classes we were going to win in. Over the years I'd beaten Bill and developed the bikes, I'd even got him a job with the factory because I thought he was such a bloody good rider. So we went for it." At the final race of the season the 125 crown was already Read's, and he and Ivy battled for the 250 crown. Read won in the last race of the season at Monza, with Ivy second. This meant that the two were tied for points in the 250 series. Eventually, aggregate race times from four of the year's finishes gave the crown to Read.

Ivy was incensed and was protesting that Read's bike was under weight and even that the number plates were the wrong size. He'd underestimated 'Rebel Read' and his feeling that the end justifies the means. Whatever Read's reasons, he never got to explain himself to Ivy - and Ivy never got to give his side of the story, as he died the following year during practice for the East German GP.

1981: GP Team Suzuki

1981: GP Team Suzuki

Randy Mamola V. Graeme Crosby

Randy Mamola, ultra-nice guy and the clown prince of bike racing just didn't gel with his Team Suzuki team-mate Graeme Crosby. Crosby was a Kiwi and very talented on two wheels, but it was thought that while favoured-son Mamola was on mega-wedge, Crosby wasn't, so maybe this annoyed the Kiwi. And something rankled Mamola, too. Where the likes of Randy, Kenny Roberts and the American contingent tended to dislike racing four-strokes, Crosby didn't mind at all. In fact, he loved them and was very good at it, taking the World F1 title and three TT wins.

Something had to give and it was rumoured that Mamola gave Suzuki an ultimatum - it's him or me. Suzuki wanted Mamola and so didn't renew Crosby's contract. But that wasn't the end of it. With Crosby now on a Yamaha in GPs and a four-stroke Yam at the season opener at Daytona, the old troubles flared up again. As they stormed into Daytona's first turn neither gave an inch and down went Mamola.

An alleged event which should be taken with a pinch of salt, must now be repeated for sheer lads' value and hilarity. With the pair at loggerheads, Crosby tells Mamola that they should sort things out either by having a fight or having a drink. Randy wisely goes for the second option and quaffs a glass of beer.

"Gee this beer tastes like piss," says Randy, after drinking his fill. "Yes," answers Crosby, "It's my piss."
A proper story and doubtless not true in any way shape or form (ahem) but an interesting piece of racing folklore, none the less.

So who won? Hmm. Difficult to call. Cros was World Champ in F1 in 1980 and 1981 and was second in 1982 in the 500 series (ahead of Mamola) but Randy was also the best man never to be 500 king. Ultimately, we all lost, as a disenchanted Crosby quit racing and went back to New Zealand to import cars. GP racing would miss his amazing talent.

1989-91: GP Rothmans Honda

1989-91: GP Rothmans Honda

Mick Doohan V. Wayne Gardner

It's gonna be hard to fight for a nation's affections and that's just what happened with these two. For a while. 'Digger' Gardner was the main man for Honda and HRC. He'd won the 1987 500cc title on a Honda and then he came up against a young Aussie upstart who tried to take away his number one status both in HRC's and Australia's eyes.

In Mat Oxley's biography, Mick Doohan - the Thunder from Down Under, Doohan recalls: "I guess Wayne felt threatened. He didn't like the idea of other Australians coming through - he wanted to be the hometown hero."
The Honda NSR of 1989-91 vintage was a bit of a beast. Designed around Gardner's ultra-aggressive style, it was not for the faint-hearted. Doohan crashed a lot and hurt a lot. "My crew chief Jeremy Burgess would talk about Wayne a lot. Wayne this, Wayne that, which was fine. I was the new boy, but eventually I spat the dummy and said to him. 'Do I look like Wayner Gardner? Are my initials WG?' From that day we got on better."

After surviving his first 500 season in 9th place overall and with a best placing of third, Doohan decided to apply himself to the job in hand, which meant 100% dedication. A leaner and meaner Doohan took his first win in 1990, and was soon pissed off with living in Gardner's shadow. "The pecking order thing with Gardner started to get to me," recalls Doohan. "I was ahead on points and he still had all the trick stuff. I started asking HRC for the same gear so I could do the best possible job for Honda. They just told me that I was young and had plenty of time."

With the former party animal Doohan now teetotal, and getting fitter, he was starting to outshine his illustrious team-mate. The turning point came at the end of the 1990 season when Mick was asked to stay on at the end of testing to do more miles on the new bikes - Wayne just went home to Australia. Mick had beaten him and that meant number one status in the team. Now he had to beat those outside the team. Schwantz, Rainey, Lawson...

1988-92: GP Marlboro Yamaha

1988-92: GP Marlboro Yamaha

Wayne Rainey V. John Kocinski

Wayne Rainey was an intense kinda guy back in his Team Roberts days. Even in his first 500cc year, with easy-going laid-back Aussie Kevin Magee, Wayne had to be the number one rider. Team boss Kenny Roberts didn't want a pecking order, but Wayne did. With the team leaning towards Magee (he'd ridden for them the previous year) Wayne decided to out-psyche him, by trying to beat him at everything they did. Running, ping-pong, pool, anything just so long as everybody knew he was best. Rainey had observed that chief engineer Mike Sinclair always de-briefed Magee first. As soon as Rainey pulled ahead on points that season, Rainey popped the rhetorical question: "Hey, Mike, you'd better start coming to me now, because I'm beating this guy."

And he beat everyone - right up to his career-ending crash in Misano in 1993. Other team-mates held up little better. Perhaps the one with most chance was John Kocinski. Rainey was Roberts' protégé, but then so was Kocinski. In 1991, Kocinski joined the 500 squad full-time, after a few one-off rides and securing the 250 title in 1990. He was a brash young kid with a bellyful of fire. "Being faster than John was more important to me than any other team-mate thus far," recalls Rainey in his biography. "I knew by the end of 1991 one of our careers would be finished. Either him or me. He just thought he was going to come in and kick my butt and everybody else's butt. In a press conference, somebody asked John if he would be winning races and he said he'd be winning races while he was learning. I was looking over and thinking 'wow! You're sure talking a lot.'"

Despite this, Rainey was still concerned that Kocinski was faster. He'd have to keep that in the back of his mind to keep that edge on the youngster - to be complacent was as good as suicide. After beating Kocinski in the first two races, the crux of the matter came at Laguna Seca. In a newspaper report, John asked the question "We're gonna find out who is King of Laguna." Rainey secured pole, with Kocinski second. In the race Rainey ran off with it, with Kocinski in second. Eventually it all became too much for little John and he crashed. Leaving the circuit, John was arrested after failing to stop for a police officer and he spent the night in a cell and had to serve a spell of community service. He never was a problem again for Wayne.

1996 WSB Castrol Honda

1996 WSB Castrol Honda

Aaron Slight V. Carl Fogarty

On paper it was the most formidable team pairing in World Superbikes ever. Carl Fogarty - the man who was the dominant force in WSB at the time - was to share the garage alongside Aaron Slight, WSB's perennial nearly man. For both the challenge was different. For Foggy, it was to silence doubters who thought that he could only win on a twin-cylinder machine, but for Slight it was the opposite, he wanted to prove that the only reason Fogarty had been winning was the fact that the rules favoured the twins.

"Fogarty's far from unbeatable on a Honda," said Slight at the time in MCN, adding that he'd beaten previous Ducati double world champ Doug Polen on the same V4. It had to be said that initially things looked bad for Foggy. While Slight made the early season running, Foggy was in the doldrums until radical chassis alterations made the previously reluctant RC45 turn a little more to his liking and that's what started his winning streak. By the time the pair headed to Sentul with only four meetings to go, the wick was beginning to be turned up.

A war of words began in the press, which saw Foggy claim that he was a better rider than Slight, with the Kiwi retorting that it wasn't fair that everybody including the Sky Sports commentators wanted Foggy to win. "It's always Foggy this and Foggy that," he moaned. Things came to a head at Sentul with the pair of them allegedly arguing with each other in a team car as team boss Neil Tuxworth tried to sort it all out. Eventually at the Sentul press conference Foggy remarked that Slight was one of the best riders in the world and that he had Foggy's respect, so HRC got their way. Eventually that year, Foggy was fourth in the series with four wins, with Slight second with one win. So you decide who was the better of the two. A painful pairing, for sure.

1996 WSB Ducati Corse

1996 WSB Ducati Corse

John Kocinski V. Neil Hodgson

Britain's former WSB front runner made his debut in the series in 1996 as a direct replacement for Fogarty, who was switching to Castrol Honda for that year. The first time Neil knew who his team-mate was, was when he bumped into the 1990 250GP world champ at a restaurant in Bologna. Things kind of went downhill from there. Perhaps Hodge, who was unused to team-mates, coming as he had from single rider privateer set-ups, was unused to such illustrious company. Certainly he was unused to such strange company in the pits.
"It all started out nicely enough," said Hodge at the time, "We'd have dinner together, stuff like that. I thought he was okay, just a bit mis-understood, we were almost friends, but by the end of the season I just thought he was a tosser."

Perhaps having learnt his trade from Rainey, soon Kocinski was doing the 'team-mate thing' by blocking Hodgson out and getting preferential treatment from the team. While Kocinski allegedly got better engines and Michelin tyres than Neil, a string of crashes and injuries saw the Brit's results slump, giving Kocinski the perfect opportunity to expect the focus from the team.

Meanwhile, Hodgson suffered in silence. Paddock rumour has it that Kocinski ordered his mechanics not to talk to Hodgson and he even moved the sole Ducati team clock into his side of the garage! Hodgson: "It got to the stage that we had an Öhlins suspension technician who was supposed to help both of us, but he became Kocinski's chief technician. Meanwhile, I was finding it easier to get set-up information from the Yamaha team's Öhlins guy, who'd worked for Ducati the previous year."

Not content with blocking out his team-mate, Kocinski then set to work on the manager, Virginio Ferrari. The 1987 Formula 1 bike champ had become a successful manager, helping Foggy to his 1994 and 1995 triumphs, but now he was on the sharp end of Kocinski's political moves, as John made phone calls to Ducati MD Claudio Castiglioni to ensure his 'team-within a team' could survive outside of Ferrari's influence. After a number of slanging matches, eventually, Ferrari would end up doing the unthinkable, pleading with his former rider Fogarty (now on a Honda) to beat Kocinski to shut him up! The following year, Honda took on the wild child of racing, gave Kocinski what he wanted, wrapped him up in cotton wool and he delivered them the World Superbike championship. So, perhaps the ends did eventually justify the means.

1996-1999 GP Repsol Honda

1996-1999 GP Repsol Honda

Mick Doohan V. Alex Criville

By 1996, Mick Doohan had helped develop the Honda NSR500 into an unstoppable force, and front tyres had followed suit to help the 1996 vintage of European riders, with their high-corner speed, hard on the front style get to grips with the once evil NSR. The most able of these young students was Alex Criville. The quiet Spaniard had won his first race in 1992, albeit at an Assen circuit bereft of the big names through injury. By 1996, Doohan was a double title holder and a man who was trying to win at the slowest possible speed.

But the Europeans and Criville in particular were catching up. With HRC producing gizmos such as traction control, semi-active suspension and fuel and water injection systems, Mick refused them all, saying that fellow works riders Shinichi Itoh and Criville should have them and if they beat him, maybe then he'd try it.
When asked if he'd got traction control on his bike in a press conference, Mick would point to his wrist and say: "this is it, mate." But Criville was closing. At the Spanish GP that year, the local boy was in the lead until Mick took him at the last lap and forced him into an error. Being booed and stoned by the fans just made him happy.

In Austria, Criville took the win. By now he was spending all his time shadowing the master, and it was pissing Doohan off. Same deal in the Czech Republic, with Criville beating Doohan by just 10cm! Doohan called himself the tow-truck that year, towing around Criville and the lesser lights in the series, but things came to a head at the Australian's home GP at Eastern Creek. Criville made a do-or-die attack and it failed, bringing down Doohan and himself. Back in the pits, Criville refused to shake hands with Doohan and there were even rumours of fisticuffs.

Doohan went back to the pre-1992 180-degree firing order 'screamer' motor for the next season, which was harder to ride than the softer, more tractable big-bang, but let him hang out the rear end more.  Criville followed suit, only to be spat off in testing.

1997 turned out to be a record-breaking year for Mick, as he recalls: "I wanted to play a psychological game with them - they'd always be wondering whether it was me or the engine beating them. It would play on their minds." Criville wouldn't be a threat again.

1998 BSB Boost Yamaha

1998 BSB Boost Yamaha

Niall Mackenzie V. Steve Hislop

'96 and '97 had been good to our Niall. Good team-mates, good times and good results. The best, in fact. Then Steve Hislop came along.

He had nothing to lose. He was on no money from the team, save for win bonuses, while Macca was the paid main-man. It must have made him mad, and it brought out the best in both of them and the worst! Spuds recalls: "If I made one mistake in 1998, it was underestimating Hizzy as a threat for the Championship. Deep down I thought I was just going to clear off and win the title again after having such a dominant year in 1997. But Steve was always close to me in testing and when the races came along he was still right up there with me and I really had to dig deep to beat him."

At the second round at Oulton Park, Hizzy barged past Spuds in the last corner and Niall was not impressed. Payback time came at the next round at Thruxton, where Niall barged his way past Hislop to take his second win of the day. "To be fair, Hislop shrugged off that move at Thruxton and said he accepted it but I was starting to feel there was a real needle between us as the battle for the title heated up," says Niall.

Things came to a head at Snetterton. With Hizzy taking the opening leg, Macca knew he had to make amends on the last lap, and went for a gap that wasn't there. He says: "Steve led into the last chicane and I was second, but I turned that into a third and fourth for the team and needless to say, I wasn't the most popular person in the garage. I admit now that it was probably my fault but at the time, I dug in and fought my corner. Hislop wasn't happy and told the press that there was no gap for me to go for and I shouldn't have made the move, which I suppose was fair comment."

Team owner Rob McElnea was not the happiest person in the world after that result, but he still had first and second place in the series, with Mackenzie and then Hislop leading the title. After much to-ing and fro-ing, Spuds was back in the lead of the series and it was Hislop who was to take a knock at Cadwell Park, dislocating some bones in his wrist, breaking bones in his foot and suffering some tendon damage.

The two protagonists ended up sort of kissing and making up, when Hizzy rode shotgun for Spuds in his Brands Hatch title showdown with Chris Walker (although Hizzy still claimed Mackenzie rode slowly in that race). Still, to say thank you, Niall gave him a signed Kevin Schwantz book, which was nice. Who said the Scots are tight?