Roger Harvey…Profile of a motocross racer & now one of the worlds top MXGP team managers.
Just like you i sometimes find myself wondering why a particular person has been given a position of authority, more often than not the question arises when a government minister has been newly appointed as the head of a department, you often witness strange sideways moves or promotions from say head of Agriculture to head of Education or from the position of doing your level best to look after & help heal people as the minister in charge of the NHS to the person who is now in charge of the Military, a department that specialises in doing it`s very best to find cheap & efficient ways of killing folk, but all done under the official banner of trying to keep world peace of course. The question that always pops into my mind is do these ministers possess any knowledge that is relevant or have any hands on experience of the industry or organisation they are appointed to look after ? It may be considered a bit naïve or an old fashioned way of doing things but I like the boss who is put in charge of something to have served an apprenticeship within said industry, worked their ticket, earned their stripes, gone it at ground level or what ever other metaphor you wish to use. None of this applies to a certain Mr Roger Harvey though, when you look back at his career there is no question at all that he possesses the experience & the knowledge to enable him to look after & guide Hondas finest contemporary motocross riders.
TIME LORDS…… Pete Mathia on the left & Roger Harvey on the right, pictured at the Telford show in 2015. Who would have thought all those years ago when these two guys first started out that they would still be playing such an important part in the sport of motocross. Pete is the newly crowned 2016 over 50s National Twinshock champion & still has the speed & fitness to embarrass a lot of far younger riders & Roger has guided team Hondas top gun Tim Gajser through another tough season & taken the 2016 World MX GP Championship.
Like so many other motocross fans I remember seeing Roger in full attack mode at various national & international race meetings held at Hawkstone Park during the golden motocross years of the 1980s & I remember witnessing at close quarters one of his now legendary racing tricks. During that time the famous Hawkstone Sand Hole always seemed to be marshalled by the same guy year after year, so during the race as Roger blasted towards the edge of the steep drop the marshal would give him a secret little signal to let him know that there were no slower riders ahead or something else that didn’t necessarily require a yellow flag but might upset Rogers rhythm through this very tricky section of track, it meant that it was safe for Roger to maintain his speed & jump straight in over the blind crest. Thirty odd years later I was lucky enough to meet Roger in person when he dropped by the Acorns Mcc club stand at the Telford show, he was quite surprised that I knew about the secret signal when I mentioned it to him. So little old Mr J might just have a genuine scoop on that little story folks !
And Now For Something a bit Special….. At just after 6.00pm on Monday 20th June 1983 a young Mr J sat in front of the TV, finger poised on the record button of the huge Ferguson Videostar VHS top loader that sat beneath, waiting for a news report to start about the previous days world 250GP held at a very hot & sunny Hawkstone Park. Even though I had been there in person I still wanted to record the short news report as a bit of a keepsake. The two big names on everybody’s lips that day were current 250 world champ Danny LaPorte & none other than Suzuki mounted Georges Jobe who took the overall win on the day & eventually went on to claim the world title that year. So after 33 years of carefully keeping the tape safe I have finally found a use for it, I have had to edited it down a bit but it fits in perfectly with this particular article. I hope you enjoy…
By the time I saw Roger ride for Yamaha in the early 80s he had already been racing for around 15 years, sneaking into the adult class a bit earlier than he should at 14 by fibbing about his age was just the start of the adventure. He progressed quickly through the ranks & attained the title of being the youngest factory backed rider for the “Sprite” company racing both their 250 & 500 machines. Over the years Roger raced for Maico & Husqvarna before signing on with Yamaha, by 1976 our hero was competing in 125cc GP`s & along with his young family the 1970s were spent traveling & racing all over Europe. Living & working out of the back of a van was a hard way to earn a living, you received a little bit of start money but the closer you could finish to the front the bigger the share of the prize money you got. All those stories about tricks to help save a second per lap or to psych out the opposition seem funny to us today but in reality it was a serious business & don`t forget quite often there was no two week rest gap between events for guys like our Mr Harvey, they travelled around Europe & competed at both weekend & midweek race meetings, soldiering on while still carrying an injury was the norm. Just like the generation of scramble men that went before, the tag of “Motocross Hard Man” was still a hard tag to earn.
The 1980s saw our man hit top form, he clinched the 1983 British 125cc Championship was still competing in GP events & was picked to ride in the British MX Trophy des Nation team of 83, at some point he even found time to slide along to the Weston Beach Race & win it at his first attempt ! Readers of 80s magazines such as Dirt Bike Rider will also remember him as a regular test pilot brought in to review the latest machines, the above photo shows Roger on the front cover of said magazine with the new 1984 YZ125 & wearing his distinctive Red, White & Blue crash helmet. After a racing career that spanned 20 years, 12 of which were as a professional, a crash in 1985 while racing in France forced Roger to retire earlier than he should, some might say it was a sad end but like so many situations in life it turned out to be just the beginning of a different adventure.
Scribbling down a quick profile of Rogers racing career is quite easy compared to plotting his working life after he stopped racing because this fella did get about a bit. There was a short spell at Kawasaki working on the mx training & coaching side of things then a 8 or 9 year spell with Yamaha running the Off Road Racing Trials, MX & Enduro Teams plus involvement in sales. There was a two year free lance spell when he persuaded Honda to sponsor the struggling ACU British MX Championship, Roger really helped to turn things round & save the day for that race series by all accounts. All change again as our man took on the small task at Honda UK of looking after the MX & Enduro teams plus going along to all the rounds of British Road Race series as well as having a look-see at the Isle of Man TT so that he could get a feeling of how things worked on that side of the fence. He then became the manager of the Honda British Superbike team & generally concentrated on road racing for 5 years or so before moving to the Honda UK motocross division around 2003, at some point he slipped over the boarder into the Honda Europe motocross camp. 2014 saw another sideways move to HRC & in 2015 became HRC General Manager MXGP & as most readers will know 2016 saw Team Honda, Roger Harvey & rider Tim Gajser take the world MX GP Championship. If there is a higher position to attain in the world of GP motocross management then I don`t know what that might be, for now Mr Harvey the man from the midlands is the best in the business & deserves it, for he surly has served his apprenticeship, worked his ticket, earned his stripes, gone in & started at ground level or what ever other metaphor you wish to use….. Mr J January 1st 2017