WCM – From the Very Beginning
World Championship Motorsports (WCM) was formed with a partnership between American racing enthusiast Bob MacLean and the British born engineer and journalist, Peter Clifford.
The partnership began in 1992 when Yamaha made it possible for independent teams like WCM to purchase a V- four engine. With little money and big ambition Bob and Peters team lined up on the 500cc grid alongside some of the most powerful two-wheeled machinery ever made.
Peter Goddard was the first rider that WCM engaged and he rode the ROC –Yamaha, the machine that became synonmous with WCM over the next 5 years. The results were restricted by the fact that the factory efforts were backed by huge budgets and the manufacturer’s full development efforts and some years WCM were not in the limelight. Niall Mackenzie, Andrew Stroud, Neil Hodgson, James Haydon and Chris Taylor all rode the ROC-Yamaha but it was in 1997 that fortunes were to change and WCM were given an opportunity to compete and beat the big factory teams.
The year began like many others for WCM’s ROC–Yamaha squad with Kirk McCarthy riding the bike. After 2 races one of the factory Yamaha teams withdrew from the Championship leaving 2 bikes and 2 riders without any direction. Yamaha invited WCM to take control of the team and following the next race in Spain, WCM re-branded the team ‘Red Bull Yamaha WCM’ and riders Cadalora and Corser campaigned in the new livery.
At the very first race as Red Bull Yamaha, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, Cadalora bought home immediate results for the team, finsishing second behind World Champion Mick Doohan and on the Podium. Meanwhile McCarthy continued to compete on the ROC Yamaha until the British GP when he joined Cadalora following the earlier departure of Corser. Cadalora finished the year in 6th place and WCM were recognised as potential Grand Prix winners.
With newfound fortune in ‘98 the Red Bull Yamaha Team moved into a brand new facility in Strasswalchen, Austria. The facility was built at the instigation of the teams Naming Rights Sponsor, Red Bull, who were demonstrating their long term commitment to the team in constructing this workshop facility.
The popularity of Red Bull was well established in Austria and Germany markets and the energy drink was gaining popularity worldwide. The association with WCM’s race team gave Red Bull and international exposure to a growing global audience.
Through the year, the efforts of WCM began bearing fruit with New Zealander Simon Crafar getting on the podium at the Dutch TT at Assen then winning the British Grand Prix. The team had secured it’s first Grand Prix victory.
Alongside Crafar in ’98 was the much less experienced Frenchman Regis Laconi. While the Frenchman enjoyed the swap from Dunlop to Michelin tyres for the ’99 season Crafar’s early enthusiasm for the move ended in dispair as he could not get used to the feel of the French front tyre. He was replaced mid Season by the fiesty Australian Garry McCoy. McCoy was impressive from the beginning and secured a third place result in Valencia and his teammate Laconi on top of the Podium with his first GP victory.
In 2000 McCoy and Laconi remained with WCM and McCoy’s impressive results continued. His "speedway" racing style attracted enormous media attention and fans worldwide admired his sideways slides. Garry won 3 Grand Prix that year and was on the podium to collect a further three trophies for third. Overall McCoy finished fifth in the World Championship, the best results that WCM had achieved to date whilst TeamMate Laconi finished 12th.
By 2001, Garry McCoy was synonyms with the Red Bull Yamaha Team and was joined by superbike sensation Nori Haga. After a great start to the year McCoy suffered a fractured scafoid at the French round and that wrecked the middle segment of the year. He finished 12th in the battle for the 2001 World Championship with a second in Suzuka, Japan and two 3rd place finishes (Portugal and Malaysia). Haga finished the season in 14th position, having never enjoyed riding the YZR 500.
The following year McCoy was partnered by American unknown John Hopkins. The 18-year-old American came to the team with an impressive record in US racing, having won the AMA 750 Supersports Series and Formula Extreme championship after first been noticed when he won the Aprilia Challenge Championship but with no GP experience at all.
Hopkins was a solid racer, with a focus and dedication rarely seen. Hopkins finished the year in 15th place overall and built up a tremendous fan base with his smooth but ‘on the limit’ style. McCoy was injured in pre season testing and as he struggled to ride at anything like his full potential and was forced into a series of repare operations he was replace by Alex Hoffman and Jean-Michele Bayle at some races.
Having seen the team’s results suffer through two year’s of less spectacular results while McCoy was injured Red Bull decided to withdraw at the end of the 2002 season.
That coincided with the switch from two strokes to four for the premier Grand Prix class and WCM had to dig deap in order to respond. Without a sponsor or factory equipment it was going to be very tough. The choice was simple build a race bike from scratch and run it on minimal funding…. or stay home.
There was added drama when the FIM did not agree with WCM’s interpretation of the four stroke ‘prototype’ regulations. After a good de of legal wrangling and a period running the pentioned off ROC Yamahas WCM could only field their own four stroke Harris WCM machines once they had satisfied the FIM. It was a testing year for both the team and the new riders Englishman racer Chris Burns, and Spanish Champion David DeGea putting up brave performances.
In 2004, WCM – lined up with a new rider, MotoGP rookie, 19 year old Italian Michel Fabrizio and a better idea how to make use of the four stroke Harris-WCM machine. Chrs Burns started his second year with the squad but no one had any illusion that things would be any easier. The opposition had been spending money by the truck load and WCM still had no sponsor.
Harris WCM – Team History
When it became essential to build a four stroke machine for the new MotoGP regulations World Championship Motorsports were faced with creating an all new 990cc engine from scratch. While WCM concentrated on the power plant they enlisted the help of Harris Performance Products of Hertford England to build the rolling chassis.
MotoGP features the most impressive line up of machinery and riders ever assembled on the starting grid. Honda, Ducati, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Aprilia are all represented for the first time by full factory backed teams.
The demands of competing in such illustrious company are not to be underestimated. WCM well knows what it takes having been part of Yamaha’s factory effort for six years. The only way to take a shot at the major manufacturers is to play on their size as a disadvantage. At times they can be slow to respond.
Harris bring 25 years of experience to the project including the manufacture of the Harris Yamaha 500 GP machines that they first created in 1992 when Yamaha made their YZR500 engine available. In 1996‚ ’97 and ’98 Harris ran the official factory World Superbike Team. Harris were chosen by Sauber Petronas Engineering as chassis partner for their MotoGP project.
WCM shared a similar history having run a GP team since 1992, from 1997 as the multi Grand Prix winning Red Bull Yamaha Team. Having campaigned the factory YZR500 Yamahas from 1997 to 2002 WCM has a huge body of knowledge that they added to the Harris experience. The Yamaha factory clearly used the same YZR 500 as a starting point for the M1 MotoGP machine.
The WCM partnership with Harris developed through the 2003 and 2004 seasons as the machine became a reliable performer enabling its riders to take a shot at the established stars when conditions were favourable. A great example was the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez in 2004 when Michel Fabrizio finished tenth in the rain despite sliding off mid way through the race.
The rain took the edge of the horsepower advantage of the factory machines and the extreemely usable performance of the Harris WCM machine paid off.
The tractability and reliability of the WCM engine is due to both the efforts of the WCM engineers and mechanics and Jan Roeloffs of Roeloffs racing services who is responsible for much of the engine building and development. A strict budget has limitted development of the four valve engine but the 209 horsepower available at the start of 2004 may be increased during the season as carefull work is done.