Test day with GR MotoSport
Brent Gladwin, MD of GR MotoSport need for speed saw him hurled in front of Judge James Pickles in his youth when, testing his thrill of racing, he clocked up many speeding offences and a ban. The natural thing for him to do was to harness this passion and so began the start of a 25-year love affair with performance bikes.
An early and horrific injury meant Brent’s own career in motorbike racing was short-lived. Despite overcoming personal challenges and returning to the front row grid to race in Italy, he retired from racing in 1993.
It was shortly after when he teamed up with his racing sponsor Tony Robinson in 1995. Together, they built the winning championship brand GR MotoSport (Gladwin Robinson). In their first year, they won the British 600 championships.
Today there are 28 members of the GR MotoSport team. With varied interests and day jobs ranging from pub landlord to prison warders, they come together for the race weekends with a common love of competition racing.
With 70 championship wins between them, there is a lot of experience within the team. Working with engine designers, swim arm and petrol tank specialists means they have a deep-seated knowledge. They can draw on this and use it to adapt to their own signature design.
Brent explained that there is something in preparing your own race bike. These are the best people to have on the team. They have done it in a manner that is safe and very fast because it is theirs. Once you’ve learnt this discipline, you don’t unlearn it. That is why a lot of the mechanics are ex-racers.
“When the boys get together, we take a great concept and take it somewhere stupid.” - Brent Gladwin
When Brent was starting his own racing career, he found it hard to get help. So, the team ethos has become about supporting younger, up and coming riders. The 2016 championship winner Tarran MacKenzie, who was with the team for three years, was only 21 when he won. He is now a top paid superbike rider. This year, the team introduced Storm Stacey, the British superbike’s youngest rider at just 16 years old.
Brent described that when it comes to the bike itself, the team take a Kawasaki ZXZR 1000cc road bike into the workshop, scrap half of it and build it back up. The electrical technology and handmade components that go into building and running it means it goes from a £20K base road bike to a £120K high-performance machine.
“Someone who is fantastic at building a dumper in a field may be fantastic at building a superbike in the middle of a race track.” - Brent Gladwin
Brent went on to say that it’s all about speed and everyone is going faster. This year’s performance at Silverstone means that their superbike rider Storm Stacey would have won last year’s race by twenty seconds, but sadly in this year’s competition it wasn’t quite enough Every tenth of a second is important. Marginal changes are being made in all areas to maximise performance.
There is no apprenticeship to learn to be a race mechanic. In the past, the team has worked with Loughborough University and Brandon Hire Station apprentices at the University of Preston. Brent explained that they may be working on hire plants, diggers and drills but, you never know where the next mechanic is coming from. Someone who is fantastic at building a dumper in a field may be fantastic at building a superbike in the middle of a race track.