Ryder Notes: MIKE TRIMBY 1949-2023
Frankly, it is no surprise to anyone who knew him that Mike passed away with his boots on. it was impossible to conceive of him, or Irene, retiring.
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The CEO of IRTA, the International Roadracing Teams Association, died on the Friday of the Misano GP at 74 years of age.

Think of any of the advances Grand Prix motorcycle racing has made in the last forty years: circuit safety, riders’ wages, civilized paddock conditions, TV rights, technical regulations, and getting through a global pandemic without losing one team from the paddock. Mike Trimby was crucial to each and every one of them.

"Trimby says ..."
An ex-racer, he started in the early 1980s as an unofficial riders’ representative. Given the fact that professional sportsmen make terrible trades unionists (“Whatever you guys decide, I’ll do the opposite.” - E Lawson), getting a bunch of 500cc riders to pay him three per cent of their winnings was a feat in itself. He was considerably helped by the staunch support of Kenny Roberts, who was doing his bit fighting against grasping promoters and official indifference to matters of safety. This was not a time of subtle negotiations. At the first GP he attended officially, Mike was slung out by the FIM. Italian organizers responded to demands for straw bales by parking a trailer load on the main straight and telling Mike and the riders to put them where they wanted. After a dreadful double fatality at Silverstone, Mike fed the autocratic and useless ACU chairman Vernon Cooper to the BBC’s investigative program Checkpoint, fronted by the Rottweiler reporter Roger Cook. Kenny and a few other good guys contributed.

It took time but gradually conditions on and off track improved. Paddocks became at least partially civilized, track safety edged towards modern standards. In those days, riders’ prize money was paid in cash, Swiss francs to be precise. Mike collected his three per cent promptly and efficiently, nobody escaped.

IRTA was formed in 1986 as the representative body for teams. This was a pivotal change in emphasis. No longer did individual rider scrabble for entries at each race, now teams were contracted for the whole season. No more brown envelopes stuffed with Swiss francs. One of IRTA’s first priorities was to unify TV rights. Up to now, each promoter owned the rights to their GP so the chances of the whole championship getting to your TV were zero. In 1991 IRTA and the promoters’ organization bought the TV rights from the FIM, and Bernie Ecclestone was contracted to produce the world feed. Relations between IRTA and the FIM were seriously strained at this time and by the end of the season Ecclestone and IRTA had a breakaway series ready to go. But then Ecclestone obtained all commercial rights to the GPs from the FIM and leased the TV rights to Dorna, who had been top bidders in a rights auction before ere start of the season. Frustrated by being unable to issue edicts, as he was won’t to do in F1, Ecclestone sold out to Dorna in 1993. That left Dorna entrenched as both TV and commercial rights holders, and IRTA contracted by them to provide the teams, run the events and police the paddock—the situation that pertains to this day.

Now consider the politics involved in that sequence of events. Mike had to deal with the blazers of the FIM, who at this time loathed him, and also cope with the ‘interesting’ tactics of Mr Ecclestone. All the while getting on with the day job of running the paddock. To call that multitasking is to be guilty of the wildest understatement. To get through that period and come out with the result he did was as fine a piece of political work as you could imagine. And Mike emerged from it much stronger than his enemies and went on to forge a formidable relationship with Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta.

All of this was achieved with an air of calm and natural authority. Amid the sometimes hysterical arm waving the paddock can be prone to, Mike Trimby was an oasis of reason and pragmatism. And he really didn’t have to be there. Always an entrepreneur, first with his travel packages to Daytona and Macau and then with a winter bike show in London, Mike was well off enough to move to the tax haven of the Isle of Man after he sold his show to a major player in the field.

In partnership with Dorna, IRTA have helped navigate the sport through the move to four-strokes, the CRT class, and the pandemic. Last week he was attacking the prospect of a new track in India which hasn’t yet been homologated and the minutiae of next year’s technical regulations.

It is, however, safe to say that Mike never got Japan. His office in the Motegi paddock would feature a large numerical chart counting down the hours until his plane left. He enjoyed getting in in the morning and gleefully crossing another ten numbers off.

Every single person in the paddock will miss Mike, but none more than his wife Irene. She was at his side from the early racing days and worked for IRTA from the start. The only time you saw them more than ten feet apart was when Mike was on the grid. They truly were joined at the hip. As much as Mike, her life was dedicated to the sport. Frankly, it is no surprise to anyone who knew him that Mike passed away with his boots on. it was impossible to conceive of him, or Irene, retiring.
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