To develop the team to produce the highest quality package that the budget will allow, and to compete for a fourth world championship title that all team members, sponsors and supporters can be proud of.
Russell Benney, Team Manager
Phase One Endurance was formed in 1985 by Russell Benney and Martin Prout. The first race was the 1985 Bol d’Or, competing on a Harris framed Kawasaki GPZ 750. The Team qualified last in 80th place and finished the race in 42nd place. During the meeting, the mechanics rebuilt the engine three times and constructed a wiring loom from scratch. It was a steep learning curve for the Team. However, the whole experience proved to be a catalyst, and the Team were eager for more.
The following year the Team bought a second hand Yamaha FZ750 which they prepared for endurance racing themselves. Although their knowledge was limited, they were learning quickly. Five 14th places were the Team’s reward in 1986 and 1987, despite reliability problems. The Team struggled on with the same bike and finances until 1988, when they bought a Honda RC30. This bike gave them much needed reliability, only failing them twice in its time of service. In 1990 the Team had a big breakthrough with sponsorship from Phil Jessop, owner of Riders of Bridgwater.
In 1991, Kawasaki supplied two ZXR750s in time to prepare them for season ahead. The ZXR finished 12th at Spa, 22 hours of rain during the race made riding conditions atrocious, but the Team were able to make much progress with the new equipment. At the other extreme, the Team competed in 38 degree C conditions in Malaysia to finish 5th.
Phil Jessop’s continued support allowed the Team to make some changes in 1992. With mechanics and logistics in place, Russell was able to buy in top quality riders to offer a more competitive package. At Phillip Island this became evident with the Team finishing third in freezing conditions.
1993 was the best ever season for Phase One. American Doug Toland joined the Team for two races and helped them to fourth place at Anderstorp. This was followed by the Team’s greatest achievement, winning the Spa Francorchamps race. This was the first win for a privateer team since 1990 in a Endurance World Championship race.
The Team were crowned joint World Champions at the end of the season, a true reflection on their potential.
The following year Kiwi Robert Holden joined the Team and, with Steve Manley, formed one of the best endurance rider partnerships of the 1990s. The Team’s good form continued through 1994 with a third place at Spa, this was topped by second at Bol d’Or.
In 1995 French GP star Bruno Bonhuil joined Holden and Manley to finish 4th at Le Mans and the Team went on to qualify in pole position at the Assen Six Hour race. The Team eventually finished fifth after leading until the throttle cable broke. The second bike suffered a puncture but managed to finish third. At Spa the Team were holding third place until a crash put paid to their chances.
1996 and 1997 saw moderate success for the Team, on a much reduced budget. They struggled with the ageing ZXR750 Kawasakis, but still managed to run in the top ten at each event.
That was to change through 1998. The Team switched to Suzuki power in the form of the GSXR750, the bikes being enthusiastically supplied by GT Motorcycles of Plymouth and the main importer Suzuki GB Plc. The Team rewarded their backers with superb fourth and seventh places at Spa and the Bol d’Or, using a fresh new team of riders; Warwick Nowland, Tony Rees and Brett Sampson.
The Team achieved sixth place overall in the World Championships, just 10 points behind the official Suzuki France works entry and 22 points ahead of the works Yamaha Team. The capability had been clearly demonstrated on what was no more than a holding budget. The full development potential of the bikes has yet to be realised in 1999.