Some mechanics have wrenched on one world-championship winning team. A few have tuned for a few world title winners. Perhaps only one has played a fundamental role in capturing 17 world roadracing titles across multiple displacements over three decades.
That man is Derek “Nobby” Clark.
The list of greats who Clark has worked with reads like a Who’s Who of champions. It includes Hall of Famers Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Kel Carruthers and Kenny Roberts. In addition to 17 FIM Grand Prix world titles, earned in classes ranging from 50cc to 500cc, Clark contributed to winning three Daytona 200s, one Daytona 100, four Imola 200s and eight Italian championships.
“This was a great surprise,” Clark says of his coming induction. “It’s a great honor to be inducted. With many of the guys I worked for already in the Hall of Fame, all I can say is I know I’m in good company.”
Clark not only excelled at the highest level, tuning for some of history’s greatest racers, but also worked with racing’s most memorable personalities.
“Of course they all loved to race,” he says. “Mike, especially, loved to race and more than Kenny and more than Ago, the money didn’t come into it with Mike. He just loved to race. If he could have raced seven days a week, he would have done that.
“Kenny: I respect him for coming in from America and winning,” Clark continues. “It was different in every way, a different league, a different culture. But Kenny adapted and progressed and he represented the vanguard of American riders coming to Europe.”
Clark was born in September 1936, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). He studied engineering at Bulawayo Technical High School and did his apprenticeship for Rhodesia Railways. As a vibrant motorcycling counterculture developed in Zimbabwe, Clark’s high-school friend, Gary Hocking, built a reputation first on the streets of Bulawayo then on local racetracks. Hocking’s exploits ultimately took him to Europe, and he encouraged Clark to follow.
In 1960, Hocking got a ride with MV Agusta and hired Clark as his tuner. That year, Hocking was runner-up in 125, 250 and 350cc FIM World Championships. In 1961, he won the 350 and 500cc titles.
Clark went to work for the factory Honda team and Jim Redman following Hocking’s death in a Formula One car crash in 1962. He stayed with Honda, where he worked with Hailwood, and then joined a Yamaha satellite team in 1971. In 1972, he joined the Yamaha factory team.
Derek "Nobby" Clark was inductedinto the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2012.