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Graeme Ritchie


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#1 ChiliFan

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 22:37

As a long-time World Superbike fan, I've been researching obscure facts fairly often. I thought I ought to post here to find out about a sadly forgotten rider, Graeme Ritchie.

Graeme had raced in British Superbikes since 1993 when, 4 years later, he entered the World Superbike round at Brands Hatch as a privateer. Riding a Frontiers Motorcycles Ducati 916, Graeme qualified 28th, alongside Nigel Nottingham and Richard Defago. He only managed to complete one lap before being struck by misfortune.

On the second lap of race 1, Graeme's front mudguard exploded on the way down to Hawthorn's bend, probably the fastest corner on the track. The shattered bodywork severed the Ducati's brake lines, leaving Graeme unable to slow down. Protection at that corner was terrible; just a plain row of tyres after a small gravel trap. From accounts I've read, Graeme bailed out in the gravel trap at over 100mph. His bike flew into the trees, and Graeme hit the tyres, suffering severe head and chest injuries, which he succumbed to the following Friday.

My main reason for posting here is that I've been trying to find out more about his career and the accident. The only clear photo I've ever seen of him is at Brands in 1993, the photo taken by Graham Etheridge (I believe he's registered here as picblank?). The review video of 1997 only shows his for a split second at the back of the field, and then recieving CPR at trackside.

I'd like to ask if anyone knows anything about this rider, or even has photos. In addition to this, I've been scouring eBay for the race programme from that day so that I can find his race number. If anyone here has the programme, or a recording of the live broadcast, could they either post here or PM me? Thanks in advance, and I hope I can contribute more to this community.

Dave

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#2 Paul Rochdale

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 23:15

I'm sorry but there's not much more here than you've already stated.

http://www.motorspor...b=ms&s_into=all

#3 picblanc

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 07:33

Originally posted by ChiliFan
As a long-time World Superbike fan, I've been researching obscure facts fairly often. I thought I ought to post here to find out about a sadly forgotten rider, Graeme Ritchie.

Graeme had raced in British Superbikes since 1993 when, 4 years later, he entered the World Superbike round at Brands Hatch as a privateer. Riding a Frontiers Motorcycles Ducati 916, Graeme qualified 28th, alongside Nigel Nottingham and Richard Defago. He only managed to complete one lap before being struck by misfortune.

On the second lap of race 1, Graeme's front mudguard exploded on the way down to Hawthorn's bend, probably the fastest corner on the track. The shattered bodywork severed the Ducati's brake lines, leaving Graeme unable to slow down. Protection at that corner was terrible; just a plain row of tyres after a small gravel trap. From accounts I've read, Graeme bailed out in the gravel trap at over 100mph. His bike flew into the trees, and Graeme hit the tyres, suffering severe head and chest injuries, which he succumbed to the following Friday.

My main reason for posting here is that I've been trying to find out more about his career and the accident. The only clear photo I've ever seen of him is at Brands in 1993, the photo taken by Graham Etheridge (I believe he's registered here as picblank?). The review video of 1997 only shows his for a split second at the back of the field, and then recieving CPR at trackside.

I'd like to ask if anyone knows anything about this rider, or even has photos. In addition to this, I've been scouring eBay for the race programme from that day so that I can find his race number. If anyone here has the programme, or a recording of the live broadcast, could they either post here or PM me? Thanks in advance, and I hope I can contribute more to this community.

Dave


Hi Dave,
Just found your thread on Graeme, here is that picture you mentioned, from 1993, I may have the full WSB race on video? if I have I will get in touch.
Posted Image
Picture copyright Graham Etheridge, racebikepics.

#4 Paul Rochdale

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:31

What a strange cause for an accident. I wonder what would cause a mudguard to explode? Terrific vibration perhaps? Presumably the brake lines were braided stainless steel ones so..........?

#5 ChiliFan

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 14:33

Originally posted by Paul Rochdale
What a strange cause for an accident. I wonder what would cause a mudguard to explode? Terrific vibration perhaps? Presumably the brake lines were braided stainless steel ones so..........?


I'm not sure why it happened, but I do know that in 1997, it also happened again. At Sentul, Simon Crafar's Kawasaki's mudguard shattered, thankfully with no serious consequences. Unfortunately, he was leading at the time, and believed his engine had blown up. Simon was famously unlucky that year.

Graham, if you do have the race on tape, could you PM me? I'd like to perhaps organise a trade or something. Also, I see you've taken photos from British Superbikes in 1997. Any of Graeme? He rode #39, a Ducati 916.

#6 ChiliFan

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 15:51

I thought I'd revive this thread. Going through my tape of the qualifying from Brands Hatch in 1997, I found the first clear shot I'd ever seen of Graeme in 1997. In fact he rode a Ducati 888, very outdated, rather than a 916 as I had thought. This is the only picture I have of him that isn't his accident.

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#7 llmaurice

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 16:52

I don't know if this is relevent but many modern bikes have a single brake hose down to the mudguard ,then a mudguard mounted splitter to supply fluid to the other caliper.
The ACU regulation for racing because of this is that for racing it is mandatory that any hose divider must mount no lower than the bottom yoke .
Twin hoses direct from the master cylinder are the simpler idea .
To the best of my knowlege ,Ducati still insist on producing the mudguard mount to this day on their "production" machines despite the possibility of brake failure due to front mudguard problems.
Strange this ,seeing as Yamaha back in the LC350 days had a proper hose take off that bolted directly to the tope yoke with the front hoses exiting either side . Who knows ,maybe if this method of hose mount was on the Ducati in this tragic event , maybe a life would not have been lost ?

#8 subh

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 17:07

I hope to find a little bit more on Graeme when I have a chance to look through some British programmes from the 1990s. I have found that he was active in the Superbike European Championship, 1995-96. But I have also found this page which mentions him in 1992, as well as in this passage:

“Graeme had been an active and enthusiastic DOC [Ducati Owners Club] member for many years, was instrumental in resurrecting the London Branch, been one of the Club’s Technical Help panel, written many articles for Desmo [magazine], and was an accomplished racer at National and International level. His widow, Claire, should know that we were honoured to have Graeme as a member, and he is still missed.”

Maybe you could use the Contact Us page to see if they can tell you more?

http://www.docgb.co....story/index.htm

#9 ChiliFan

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 03:08

There's an idea. Thanks Dan, I'm sure they'll be able to help. :)

#10 SpannerMan

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 17:30

I worked part-time for Graeme during 1993 and 1994. I was studying for a City & Guilds in Motorcycle Mechanics at Merton College and Graeme very kindly gave me a job to gain some experience. I can't remember exactly when I started but it would have been around September / October 1993. I can't see it mentioned here but Graeme ran a business called GR Ducati. He serviced and repaired road and race bikes, as well as selling secondhand parts. The green 888 was in the workshop when I started.

I think it was early in 1994 when a brand new 926 arrived in a crate. It was basically a bored out 888, the same spec. that Foggy had ridden during 1993. This was the bike he raced during 1994 and as far as I know, it is the same one he was riding in 1997. Graeme opted for number 13 during the '94 season. His logic being that it no-one else wanted it and it would put him towards the top of the list in the programmes!

I have many happy memories of this time, and some not so happy ones.. I remember his throttle sticking during the first race of the '94 season at Cadwell Park. We couldn't find anything wrong and eventually put it down to his glove. The funny thing about the first race was that I'd slept in! My big moment and I slept in. I phoned Graeme as soon as I woke up, only to find that he'd slept in too. We only just made it to scrutineering. He also binned it during a qualifying session for a WSB race at Donnington. Then there was the trip to Assen. I can't remember what series it was? Maybe Battle of the Twins or European Superbikes? I spotted some small cracks coming from the holes in his front discs but he decided to take a chance and replace them when we got back to London. The discs exploded on the start / finish straight but luckily, there was a long run-off before the corner. He also lost the front end at Brands later in the season and broke his leg. The bike came off pretty badly as well. I went full-time after the accident as Graeme couldn't get around very well and my course had ended.

Anyway, enough of the not-so-happy memories! Maybe I should have started with the good times!! I remember the first time we took the bike to Brands Hatch for a pre-season warm up. It was some kind of showcase event for the '94 season. He only did a couple of slow laps, as did everyone. Some of my mates from college turned up and they were well jealous. There was also a win at a Battle of the Twins race, though I can't remember where it was. The trip to Knockhill was probably the high point of the season. It was so hot in the workshop that we decided to leave on the Wednesday. Myself, Graeme and Claire drove from London in the old Merc van. I seem to remember being sat on a Mattress in the back with the bikes as usual. I also slept in the awning with the bikes (it's not all glamour and glitz). Knockhill was the nearest BSB circuit to Graeme's home town and his parents turned up for the race. Graeme had trouble keeping the front end down on the start / finish straight which was inclined. We eventually solved the problem by moving the seat forward by 1cm. Because we'd arrived early, he got maximum practice time in and managed to finish 14th and in the points. Everyone was on a big high, especially Graeme. We had an arrangement where I would get paid a share of any prize money. I think Knockhill was the only time I got paid - £27. There were two Scottish pound notes and I kept one of them for years afterwards as a momento. I might still have it somewhere. Not that I was ever in it for the money. The thrill of standing on the grid as the bikes fired up for the race was enough for me. Knowing that I couldn't do any more and the rest was down to him. On the long journey back to London, a diesel line fractured on the engine of the Merc. It was covered in diesel by the time we got back.

I can't really tell you much about what happened after '94. I went to work for Nigel Nottingham in '95 (YZF 750). 'Notty' got me a job at his sponsor, Wylie & Holland Motorcycles. It wasn't quite the same as the '94 season but still good fun. I saw Graeme and Claire a few times during '95 but we lost touch after that. He took someone else from Merton College for that season.

Like anyone who knew Graeme, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the '97 WSB race. He meant so much to so many people. He often crosses my mind as the person who gave me the chance to have one of the best, if not the best time of my life.

Please forgive me if any of these details aren't entirely accurate. It was a long time ago..

#11 picblanc

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 12:05

Great first post, thanks for your memories, hope you can join in on the other racing threads too!? :wave:

#12 SpannerMan

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 12:13

ChiliFan asked in his original post if anyone has any photos. I doubt these are what you're looking for but I thought I'd post them anyway. I've moved house several times since 1994 and I had to turn my current house upside down this morning to find these. I also found my old workshop & track notes which has helped to identify when some of them were taken.


Inside Graeme's workshop in Tooting. That's me posing on the old 888. It must have been in 1993 before the 926 arrived. You can see the trophies on the shelf..
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Sunday 20th March 1994. Brands Hatch. The first outing of the 926. This was the pre-season event I mentioned earlier. That's me posing on the bike again (makes me cringe now!). Claire is sitting on the left with a friend. The bike behind (No. 47) was Claire's. I think it was a 900SS. She might have been racing that day..
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Sunday 3rd July 1994. Thruxton. Team GR Ducati - Claire, Graeme and me. I think the bodywork was being painted or about to be painted as the next shot was taken a couple of weeks later..
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I'm fairly sure this was taken at Knockhill, sometime between 14th and 17th July. We used to drain the fuel after every session to help work out what we needed to carry for the next one. The look on Graeme's face says it all. He must have only just made it back! I'm standing behind the bike, out of the picture for a change..
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#13 picblanc

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 12:22

Great photos, I think these sort of photos make a nice change to "action" shots, keep them coming if you can?
Thanks for sharing them with us. :up:

#14 SpannerMan

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 12:41

Thanks picblanc. I'll have a look around the other threads and see if I can contribute elsewhere. Strangely, I have exactly 13 photos of my time with Graeme. I also have some from the '95 season with Notty. Most of the '94 shots I have are from Thruxton. My girlfriend must have turned up with her camera. I will post just one more here. It's actually my personal favourite. Graeme and his 'spanner' in conference..

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#15 ChiliFan

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 16:28

Wow, I never thought I'd see something like this. Thanks so much for posting your memories and photos, it's great to hear from someone who knew him. :)

I'm working on getting a website set up to archive WSB info from the 1990s, and I'm looking to include photos and short biographies on any rider I can. Would you mind if I used your photos for a page about Graeme? I'm hoping to have it set up in the next few weeks, perhaps you'd like to help out? Any photos or stories about Nigel Nottingham would be appreciated too.

#16 picblanc

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 17:19

Originally posted by ChiliFan
Wow, I never thought I'd see something like this. Thanks so much for posting your memories and photos, it's great to hear from someone who knew him. :)

I'm working on getting a website set up to archive WSB info from the 1990s, and I'm looking to include photos and short biographies on any rider I can. Would you mind if I used your photos for a page about Graeme? I'm hoping to have it set up in the next few weeks, perhaps you'd like to help out? Any photos or stories about Nigel Nottingham would be appreciated too.


I look forward to that young Sir! :up: :wave: (keep us posted on how its going)

#17 SpannerMan

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 21:15

Thanks ChiliFan.

Of course you can use the photos. It's good to be able to share them. I'd be glad to help with the web site if you think I can. As I mentioned earlier, I have my workshop and track notes from '94 and a folder full of qualifying time sheets and race results, so I should be able to tell you about most of that season. I'm pretty sure there was only one WSB event though, at Donnington Park on 30th April. It might have been the first time he tried qualifying for a WSB race. My notes tell me that he highsided on the 4th lap of the first practice session. I remember it being a long way to go for a few laps! Despite the damage to both Graeme and the bike, I think we all took a lot away from that meeting. It was also the first time I laid eyes on a 916, or rather several of them in the scrutineering bay. It was the year they entered WSB, bored out to 955 I think? The previous season had been the last of the 888 series i.e. the 926 that Graeme had just bought. I was in awe of the 916 and I wanted one from then on. I finally managed to buy a 996 last year.. a dream come true!

I can't help much with what happened before or after '94. I know he'd been racing in the Battle of the Twins series and then British Superbikes in '93. I also know that he continued in British Superbikes after '94 and that he carried on dabbling in WSB, not being one to let the Donnington incident put him off!

1994 wasn't just about the places we travelled to, or the races but the people I met. Graeme & Claire had so many good friends. Pete Graves, Richard Defago, Tom Knight, Ian Cobby, to name but a few.. All great characters. They were also friendly with Matt Llewellyn & Mike Rutter who were both riding Ducati's that year. They occasionally swapped parts and technical know-how..

If you can send me a private message I will send you the photos from '95 and anything else you need..

#18 subh

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 10:28

Many thanks to SpannerMan for the memories and photos.

Originally posted by ChiliFan
I'm working on getting a website set up to archive WSB info from the 1990s, and I'm looking to include photos and short biographies on any rider I can.


How is this going, CF, and is there any more I can do to help? As you know, I have collected quite a bit of data and rider info, etc. Do let me know.

Dan

#19 ChiliFan

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 17:29

At the moment I have a basic site template that someone's kindly made for me, and I'm compiling entry lists for the site. I've pretty much got 1997 to 1999 complete, and most of 1990 and 1993 minus entry numbers. Any help with that would be much appreciated. I've also been searching the internet for contact info for various riders. Since I'd like to have photos and biographies for as many as possible, I thought the best people to contact would be the riders themselves.

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#20 subh

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 23:59

OK, will send some info through soon.

I have created biographies for quite a few riders, many of whom have been in WSB. I’m afraid they aren’t all up-to-date, due to time constraints, but you might have a look through them:
http://www.f1network...180/st12937.htm

#21 desmophile

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Posted 04 May 2008 - 14:00

I had the great fortune to know Graeme and Claire from the mid 80's through to the early 90's when I packed up racing myself.

He was a true gent who always seemed to have a smile on his face.

We both raced in the Battle of the Twins race series from 87 to 91, this was sponsored by Superbike magazine for a number of years and I would think that their photo archive would probably have some photos from his early career.

I lost touch with everyone when I stopped racing, didn't follow the racing scene either so I didn't hear about his accident until long after it happened.

I always thought it ironic that his accident was on a 'safe' short circuit when I know he thought me mad for racing on the Isle of Man.

#22 subh

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 18:47

I’ve been looking through some magazines from 1993 which include partial results for the Bridgestone Battle of the Twins championship of that year. Graeme was on the GB Spares Ducati 888 shown in some of these pictures.

It looks like he finished third in the series, and he won the final round at Cadwell Park (26 Sep). He finished second then third in the first two rounds, with fastest lap each time. He must have scored well in the rounds where I don’t have results. It looks like third overall was also second in the Super Twin class. Martin Smith and Stuart Jones were one and two in the series, and Mike Edwards was fourth with a few race wins - if my information is reliable. Does anyone remember anything more?

This seems to have been the schedule, and Graeme’s results:

28 Mar Thruxton, 2nd & FL
25 Apr Brands Hatch, 3rd & FL
03 May Bishopscourt, ?
22 May Oulton Park, ?
13 Jun Mallory Park, ?
27 Jun Cadwell Park, 5th
22 Aug Snetterton, -
12 Sep Knockhill, -
26 Sep Cadwell Park, 1st

There are these dates too, but they may have been on the provisional calendar only:

5 Jul Scarborough
3 Oct Donington Park

#23 Laguna115

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 19:06

Hello, I've only just come across this thread and would like to give some information as regards the accident.
I was working for Graeme at the time in his workshop and at the circuits.
Firstly let me say what a terrific couple Graeme and Claire were and I value their friendship still.

During the build up to the event all went pretty well apart from some err..discrepancy over the weight of the bike, which was just a tad on the light side but was sorted in Graeme's inimitable way...;)
After final qualifying the only problem was the front cylinder head gasket which needed replacing which was done that evening, all went well for warm-up on race day.
As the race drew closer Graeme was getting a bit nervous about getting in the way of Foggy, and planned to come in early if the leaders started getting close to lapping him.
I went through our usual drill on the start line and off he went on the warm-up lap, and then the start.
After the race was stopped the first we knew he was involved was when Richard grabbed me and said that Graeme had passed him like he was standing still on the entry to Hawthorn's.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur to be honest and I met Claire at the hospital that night after we had packed Graeme's things away and then driven up there. The prognosis wasn't good and Claire was extremely brave, we tried to help as much as we could in the following days but it was one fight Graeme wasn't going to win.
After the funeral Claire was unsure in what direction she wanted to go and needed time to come to terms with what had happened, we did stay in touch though and we had the inquest to attend that seemed a long way off.
The comments in the press were distressing to all of those that were involved as they intimated that it was a mechanical fault and that the bike had been impounded because of this, we tried desperately to find out more information but were not allowed any access to the bike and there was no information from the circuit. I think for me it was a period of absolute misery as I was the last person to work on the bike and from what little we had found out the problem was either a stuck open throttle or a brake failure, both areas that I had been working in.
After a couple of weeks Brands Hatch asked me to go there to meet with them, they even helicoptered a lawyer into this meeting. At the meeting there were people from Brands Hatch, the police and chief scrutineer for the meeting, and me.
From looking at the bike it became apparent that it was a catastrophic front brake failure, the front fender had been ripped off taking the brake lines which joined across the top of it.
The failure was caused by the front wheel flicking up a slider that had come loose from one of the riders ahead, which then ripped off the mudguard taking the lines with it. A terrible chain of events which they had photo's of.
This was all confirmed at the inquest.

Some time later Claire decided to carry on with the running of GR Ducati and I went back to work for her.
It wasn't long before we were involved with racing again, within three seasons we had won the British Superstock title with a team fronted by Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor, but thats another story, I think Graeme would have been proud of her, I know I was.
Regards, Al

#24 picblanc

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 20:27

Thank you very much for that very succinct and very moving post.

#25 BlindLemonAde

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 11:30

Thanks, Laguna115, that's laid a few ghosts to rest...

I raced with Claire Ritchie in the New Era Club 'Twins' championship for many years, and she and Graeme were among the friendliest people in the paddock. I was generally the "slow old bugger at the back", me and John Tollit on his BMW, but I like to think we gave the crowd (?) something to look at until the leaders (probably Graeme...) came round again. I also raced in the Superbike-sponsored "BEARS" championship, and eventually qualified for the 1994 National "Battle of the Twins" championship, but I was hopelessly outclassed, often by 'Loopy' Lewis mono-wheeling a Moto Guzzi...

Some may remember my Hejira-framed Pantah 600 (Graeme prepared the engine for that one), and later a Spondon-framed 900SS? My racing buddy Keith had a Spondon as well.

I had the bad fortune to be standing at Hawthorns bend at Brands that fateful day, and I can remember the events as if they were yesterday... I believe Geoff and John Baines were there as well, but I didn't see them at the time. I went to Graeme's funeral and wake, which were very moving and difficult times for all.

I bumped into Claire at a bike show once since then, when she was importing Ducati specials, but lost touch when I gave up racing shortly afterwards - the loss of Graeme took the shine off it for me.

I have a fond memory of a practice day at Lydden Hill in Kent, July 1997, when I turned up in preparation for the "Forza Italia" event which took place there, to find Graeme, Claire and their young son set up in the paddock, preparing the bike for the event, and larking about with their youngster...

Thanks for all your help, advice and friendship over the years, Graeme, and all the best to Claire and family.

Ade.

#26 Laguna115

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 14:55

Yes, I remember when she imported the Squalo, built by Brook Henry, what a nightmare that was!
Claire and Max now live in Aberdeen, I've got a small Ducati workshop in Wimbledon, not involved with bike racing anymore but I'm now on the other side of the fence and I'm an official at the European Drift Championships and Time Attack series, and thoroughly enjoying it.

#27 Graham Clayton

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 05:05

A moving thread which deserves to be relocated in the "Motorcycling Nostalgia Forum".

#28 desmo6951

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 15:50

As a long-time World Superbike fan, I've been researching obscure facts fairly often. I thought I ought to post here to find out about a sadly forgotten rider, Graeme Ritchie.

Graeme had raced in British Superbikes since 1993 when, 4 years later, he entered the World Superbike round at Brands Hatch as a privateer. Riding a Frontiers Motorcycles Ducati 916, Graeme qualified 28th, alongside Nigel Nottingham and Richard Defago. He only managed to complete one lap before being struck by misfortune.

On the second lap of race 1, Graeme's front mudguard exploded on the way down to Hawthorn's bend, probably the fastest corner on the track. The shattered bodywork severed the Ducati's brake lines, leaving Graeme unable to slow down. Protection at that corner was terrible; just a plain row of tyres after a small gravel trap. From accounts I've read, Graeme bailed out in the gravel trap at over 100mph. His bike flew into the trees, and Graeme hit the tyres, suffering severe head and chest injuries, which he succumbed to the following Friday.

My main reason for posting here is that I've been trying to find out more about his career and the accident. The only clear photo I've ever seen of him is at Brands in 1993, the photo taken by Graham Etheridge (I believe he's registered here as picblank?). The review video of 1997 only shows his for a split second at the back of the field, and then recieving CPR at trackside.

I'd like to ask if anyone knows anything about this rider, or even has photos. In addition to this, I've been scouring eBay for the race programme from that day so that I can find his race number. If anyone here has the programme, or a recording of the live broadcast, could they either post here or PM me? Thanks in advance, and I hope I can contribute more to this community.

Dave


Dave, I was a good friend of graeme and worked with him for a number of years. It is nice to see that someone has cared enough to want to find out some info on him. I heard that it was a knee slider from a rider in front that jammed in the wheel. Graeme was a very good mechanic and would not have made a mistake in securing the front mudguard. If you would like any futher info please contact me.
Regards,
Desmo.