Author Topic: Bridgestone Works Racing story! History from the man himself! Steve Murray  (Read 61047 times)

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Offline Richard Clark BS parts

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                                          Editors note:  Steve Murray was the first European to race a works Bridgestone in a Grand Prix in 1966.

                                                               Photo at bottom of this story shows Mr Steve Murray on a BS 50 racer in 1966


Sunday, two or three weeks (three I think) before the 1966  Dutch T.T., I was racing at Cadwell Park, which is in Lincolnshire. There I was racing a 250cc Bultaco and a CR93 125cc Honda. Unfortunately in the 250 practice, the Bultaco seized and threw me over its headstock. I landed on the flat of my back in the grass. Fortunately with little damage to either rider or bike. The outcome was; that I was in no condition to race. When I walked (limped) back to the van, Brian Richards and his friend and long time mechanic Miles, had collected the Bultaco (who’s engine was by then free; which was normal for the little b******s.) I was now feeling the effects of my bump and was in no condition to load the bikes. So, as racing was out of the question, Brian and Miles loaded the bikes for me and I set off for home. Cadwell was a long miserable journey in the sixties even with two taking turns to drive; there were no motorways and only one eight-mile stretch of dual carriageway between Cadwell Park and Chester. Driving on my own and feeling as second hand as I did; it was a nightmare. Before reaching Sheffield, I needed to re-fuel the van. In normal circumstances, it would’ve been no trouble, as I had two Jerry cans full of fuel which was more than enough to take me home, but I could not lift the cans up nor would I have been able to tip the fuel into the van’s filler cap. I had no option but to stop for fuel at a garage. Fortunately I was able to use their wash room and have a wash. The wash didn’t free the stiff muscles or the aching joints, but it did revive me.

You can imagine the consternation of the Bridgestone team manager when I walked (limped) into Bill’s flat, looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. After a couple of days, I was flexible enough (just in time) for testing at Oulton Park. I was lucky as before we arrived at Oulton Park and while we were there, Mr Hara (the engine designer) went to great lengths to explain the technique that was required to not only start the motorcycle which in its self was simple but how to coax the rev counter over its main stumbling block of 12000 r.p.m. To achieve this, one had to roll the throttle (which in reality is the anathema of two strokes (especially a Bultaco) back slowly and then, when it was weak enough, it chimed in. If you did not have the natural knack and let it stop at 12000 then, you weren’t racing. Then to keep it in its power band, the trick was not to let it drop much below 16500. While all this was going on, you had to keep an eye on the rev counter and the road. To increase the rate of climb, you then had to roll the throttle back (again) to weaken the mixture. Then, as the rpm started to rise at what rate you considered to be too rapid, then fuel mixture was controlled by the left thumb operated fuel lever (a 175 Bridgestone choke lever), forward to make the mixture weaker or to pull it back for a richer mixture. And while you were concentrating on the rev counter, there was the gear changing that was on going all the time as was the manipulation of the throttle and fuel lever. The slightest bend on the circuit or rev drop, meant a gear change. And for some reason, all this I mastered on my first lap at Oulton Park but as by then, I had been racing a 125cc CR 93 Honda.

The Bridgestone racing  motor cycles were a 50cc disc-vale twin cylinder two stroke racing motorcycle with an auto-lube oil pump that was fed from an oil tank in the rear of the seat; and it also needed a 50/1 oil mixture  in the fuel. They had a 10 speed gear box, which for the power characteristics of the engine, I thought were at least 4 gears to few. The maximum R.P.M. was 17,000; but Morishita’s engine (in Holland) would rev to 17,500, as there must have been some difference in the  cylinders, and possibly, probably,  disc valve timing and exhaust pipes. A problem that they had was that they could not run the engine weak enough on carburetion, as at that time they could not control the heat over the crown of the piston. I know as I seized mine twice in practice at the Dutch TT but that was my fault as it only happened when I tried to rev it above 17,000. rpm.

After my first practice session at Oulton Park, a 2.75 mile road race circuit 10 miles from Chester. Mr Hara asked my opinion of the 10 speed gear box. My answer was, that it was a marvellous gear box, but, with the power that they had, it was 4 speeds too few! “Ah, at this stage, it is not possible to change” said Mr Hara with a smile. But, when they raced it in Japan after the Dutch T.T. the bikes had a 14 speed box!

After every practice session I completed at Oulton Park, Brands Hatch and the Dutch T.T. at Assen Mr Hara would question me on the performance of the motorcycle etc, and he would write down my every answer. Kataro, Mr Hara recorded everything I said and, I have no doubt that he also did the same with Jack Findlay and Morishita. Would Bridgestone have filed all of Mr Hara’s data? Or would he have kept all his own records? And if he did, where are they now? Now then, if you could find Mr Hara’s records, it would be like striking gold!
I found that I could paddle the bike to start; In fact I never had a starting problem with the bike nor did I have any trouble getting the engine to rev over the 12,000 rpm barrier; but, a running push start was by far the fastest way to start in the race.

Later in the afternoon at Oulton park, as I approached Old Hall corner (the first corner after the start line) and at that time, Mr Hara was stood about 3 feet in from the left of the trackside at my peel off point. When I arrived there, I pressed the ignition cut-out button at the same time as I depressed the clutch and kicked the gearlever back six times and at the same time I kept the throttle and fuel lever in the running open position. Then, releasing both clutch lever and cut-out button simultaneously, the engine chimed in at full 17,000rpm. When I had pressed the cut-out button, and the engine cut out; Mr Hara, thinking (I so thought) that the bike had seized and, as self preservation chimed in he jumped to one side! This I could see out of the corner of my eye.  He must have had quite a fright! He never stood there again. When they flagged me in at the end of the session, Mr Hara asked me what I had done, and when I told him I didn’t think that he was too happy! I could not understand his reason why, as it was obvious that it was by far the quickest way to tackle that particular corner. He wanted me to change gear in the conventional way, which for a 50cc with so many gears was far too slow. Later in the day, after I had passed Mr Morishita and Jack at the same corner and changed gear as previous, Mr Hara, asked me if I would be so kind as to explain my gear changing technique to Mr Morishita, which I did. Well, we were team mates.
Unfortunately for me the team manager thought that I was a no-mark and that I had been wished on him, which I suppose I had, as Bill Smith Motors (for whom I worked) were the then to be the Bridgestone Motorcycle importers for the U.K And Bill had insisted that I was to be one of the riders.

Bill and I, when we had raced in the 1965 Japanese G.P. had a meeting with a Mr Watanabe of Bridgestone at the Palace hotel, no less!  This had been arranged for us by the American journalist, Bill Swim. And that is how we (Bill Smith Motors) became involved with Bridgestone.  The team manager had never heard of me, which was no surprise. But, he had only to ask Jack Findlay his opinion of racing capability especially on 125s, as Jack and I had been friends since Jack had arrived in the U.K. from Australia in the late fifties, I have no doubt that Jack would have given an honest opinion.  And when I was informed that I would have to stay a second day at Brands Hatch (which I couldn’t as it was not my decision to make,) while they taught! me how to start the motor cycle even though he, the team manager and Mr Hara (the designer) and the three works mechanics  could see the ease that I mastered the art of starting and racing a mid-sixties 50cc racing motor cycle and never once did I stall it nor did I have any trouble effecting a racing start. And that I could hold my own with my team mates when we were practising at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch and at the Dutch T.T. I would’ve have been disappointed if that had of not been so, as I was racing 125’s on a regular basis and having my fair share of success.  And, as for me not being able to start the motorcycle, well, I never heard any comments after the race on me being the first of the trio to get their Bridgestone started in the race! And that came about when on the night before the race, Tommy Fearns (my mechanic) and I took a walk down a lane. It was then that Tommy then told me that the team had given me up as they had not taught me how to start the bike and that being so, that was their mode of thinking I probably didn’t help, as every time that I went out to practice, Tommy had the bike running and warm, and consequently they had never seen me start the bike for any of my practice sessions at the Dutch but they had watched me start the bike, without a hitch at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch. Unfortunately, they had put 2 and 2 together, and got 3!

The day of the race, I took Tommy to the start line for the start of the 125cc race and said, “Tom, when the red light goes out, (in those days, the Dutch worked a three light start) and the amber light comes on, count under your breath” which he and I did.  “What did you get Tom?” I asked. “Twenty-five” said Tommy. The next race was the 250cc class. Tommy and I stood at the line again, this time, I said “Tom when you count, count thus, one-thousand and two-thousand and so on.” Which we both did.” What did you get this time Tom?” I asked. “Twenty” he said. “Good man” said I, “I also got to twenty”. For the start of the fifty race, Tommy had the bike on the line warmed and ready to race, when I walked down the line to Tommy; he said “Steve, it’s in first gear and the fuel is turned off” When the amber light came on, I started to count and at the same time I turned the fuel on and pulled my goggles down. When I got to nineteen thousand and, I pushed away and was the first Bridgestone going! And it was as simple as that.  

I think that the manager’s arguments were strengthened when I crashed the Bridgestone whilst in 5th or 6th position behind Morshita on the last lap of the race and one mile from the finish line. The Dutch was not one of my successful circuits; in 1962 I had a crank pin brake on a G50. In 1964 I crashed Jack Findlay’s Mondial but that was no fault of mine, as the rear brake anchor arm lug in the brake plate had broken thus allowing the rear brake plate to turn with the wheel. The turning of the brake plate locked the rear wheel, and down I went.  And in 1966 I wrecked any chance I might have had of going to Japan as a works rider. When I crashed the Bridgestone, Mr. Maniwa (the chief mechanic) thought that it had seized. I think that he was as disappointed as I. As when he saw me in the distance pushing the bike back, he ran all the way out to me, and was most concerned as to my well being. When he saw that I was uninjured, he looked at me and smiled and said “good prug chop, eh?” And pushed the bike back to the paddock. I can still see him when during practice when I came in for a plug chop. He would take out the two plugs and show them to me. “Squashy (my only Japanese) main jet Mr Maniwa,” “No no squashy main jet Murray San, top of piston too hot!”
I shudder to think what the condition the engine was in when they dismantled it in Japan; although I had crashed on a right hand corner; when I picked the bike up, it was lay on its left side. There was no chance of restarting the engine as not only was the clutch lever broken off; the left hand carburettor and fairing were full of sand! And to have turned the engine over as I was hoping that when I went down on the sandy! Grass, that the throttle was shut, which it should have been if the engine had seized and the bike was on its side when we reached the grass.

It was Mick Walker (I think) in one of his book some years later said that it was the wind that had blown me off! Well, I can’t remember there being any wind! I thought that I was just a plain idiot! Anyway they didn’t take me to Japan, so I lost out there! But at their next meeting (at Sugo, I think it was) in Japan, they had (I heard later) a     fourteen speeds in the gearbox! I still think that I was the rider for Bridgestone. And I still wonder if my comments on the number of gears in the g/box had influenced their decision to increase them?
Another disappointment was that I did 60/70 laps practice at Oulton on the little fifty and we had our own photographer with us, and not one shot of me did he get! But, as I had known the photographer for many years, I know that he just missed me, it happen, anyway he made up  for it a little over three years later when he took an exceptional photo of me at Old Hall corner while running in the October 1969 Bol D’or winning 750 Honda.In the late nineties, I had given to me a 1980’s (I think) Classic? Racer magazine, in it was an article by Hugh Anderson on his fifty cc racing experiences. In it, he explained his gear changing technique which was the same method of gear change that I used. I have no idea if Morishita used the same method of gear change as it was never mentioned again.      

Steve Murray

Editors Note:   See GALLERY  Factory Racing Photos sections,  for more photos of Mr Murray and the BS works team. Many thanks to Steve Murray and Steve Reed for this article

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« Last Edit: February 27, 2010, 08:36:26 PM by Richard Clark BS parts »
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Re: Bridgestone Works Racing story! History from the man himself! Steve Murray
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2010, 10:25:22 PM »
Thank you, Steve Murray and Steve Reed for this on the track perspective. I have a question. I have seen a photo of Steve Murray and Isa Morishita standing next to each other. It appears that Steve Murray is obviously taller than I. Morishita. Did Mr. Murray's height hinder his riding of the 50 ? Many thanks for your info. Paul


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It did not hinder Steve Murray riding he went on to race Honda just to different styles of riders
Steve reed.

mike ridley

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Hi Steve,
Maybe you should have got the late Jack Findlay's response on riding the BS ejr-2, he was much taller than both I.Morishita or Steve Murray!
There was also another european who rode the little 50 twin, that of tommy robb. He took steve's place at the japanese 50 GP in '66.
The only win's which the 50 twin had was at the 1966 and '67 Singapore GP's.

Mike Ridley (UK)


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Hey Mike
I got Tommy Robb email and sometime soon hopefully we will get some racing history from Tommy and Bill Smith.
Thanks mate.
Steve Reed.

Offline Jeff Bar

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Looking forward to reading and seeing more print and photos of racing stones. Many thanks to Steve, Richard and Mike

Jeff Bar


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Pretty interesting sharing mate, keep loading your personal experience on this subject. It will help to learn something useful for others.

Offline CL-100

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Great first-hand account.  I really enjoyed learning some more BS history.  Thanks for the post.


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Re: Bridgestone Works Racing story! History from the man himself! Steve Murray
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2016, 04:52:57 PM »
I lived in Singapore in the late 60s and my bungalow was only 100 yards away from the old Singapore Grand Prix race circuit. The circuit was basically the normal roadway along the Old Thompson Rd which for 3 days was closed off to the public . The circuit was dangerous but exciting. if a bike left the track it was straight into the jungle but hopefully not into the many large palm trees that lined the edge. As i mentioned my home was only 100 yards from the pit area which in those days was open to anyone for the practice and tuning periods. What a joy to be amongst some of the best machines and riders. The British entries were more often Military personnell who had a love of the sport and who had the older Nortons, 7Rs and Matchless machines and who were usually covered in grease and oil whereas the Jap. teams were in white overalls which usually remained white!The crux of this little note was that it was here that i saw for the first time the Bridgestone race machines. Looking great and sounding so.   Riders like Motohashi and Ito who were well known on the International circuits were using the quieter little Singapore G P to hone their skills and to test out new jap. machinery. The Bridgestones did reasonably well to stand up against the brilliant Hondas and Yamahas and i did expect to see them in other years than 1968/69 but not so! They were never to return and show the world what they might be capable of!



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