Dave Potter

Making of a Champion
By Norrie Whyte, Motor Cycle News, August 30 1972
At 22, Dave Potter is British 750cc road race champion - in only his third full season of racing. It is a far cry from his initiation into motor cycle sport, with four meetings in 1969.

Said Potter: "I had a BSA Gold Star but I was always well and truly blown off. In my fourth meeting, at Croft, the oil pump drive sheared and the Goldie seized. I went up the road at Sunny Bend and broke a shoulder and hand."

A Yorkshireman from Hovingham, near York, he moved south after only his first road meeting. A friend went to work for Paul Dunstall and told him there was another job available.

Dave quit his job as a car mechanic, broke his Goldie into bits, packed it into the back of his car and headed for London.

Motorcycle Sport's comments on the 1972 Easter weekend: It was Vince Davey's star man Dave Potter who caught our eye over the Easter weekend, not only for his good performances but for the fact that he raced on all four days of the weekend. He had two wins at Brands, a second at Croft, fourth at Mallory and to round off his energetic weekend two wins and a second place at the Crystal Palace. At times last year he gave the impression of the proverbial ‘mobile accident looking for somewhere to happen' but it is a different story in 1972, when he is looking both safe and stylish under the Davey grooming.

"Paul helped me a lot when I think back. He made me realise I had to work for everything I wanted. I bought the Dunstall bike - I was never sponsored on it. I worked from seven in the morning to seven at night to make money, then after that I started working on my own bike. The overtime was to pay for all the Dunstall goodies I had fitted. In the end I was working too much, but I started to win races. I had firsts at Brands Hatch and Snetterton club meetings."

Then came the big break. On the Dunstall, he won the Lord of Lydden crown, beating several well-known riders. Reminiscing, Potter said: "My next meeting was the Hutchinson 100, for which I took out a one-day international licence from the ACU. Charlie Sanby crashed at the Hutch. That left Gus Kuhn without a rider for Silverstone the following weekend.

"After the Hutch, someone gave me the word that I should ring Kuhn boss Vincent Davey. I wasn't sure whether to or not. However, I built up courage, and here I am."

Potter is now the lone Kuhn racer. He and mechanic Dave Sleat work almost full time on the bikes at the Kuhn headquarters in south-west London.

Potter continued: "I first rode the Kuhn Norton at Silverstone - and it scared the pants off me. But gradually I got used to it. The handling characteristics were different from what I had been used to. My Dunstall was a spongy job - and the Kuhn bike was rock hard: it didn't bend."

Nowadays, Dave is riding hard and well. He's lapping faster at most tracks and beating riders he's never beaten before. He added; "And I'm enjoying every minute of it - and that's very important at this stage."

Page updated 11-Feb-2011

Dave Potter died in a racing crash at Oulton Park in 1981. He had raced for sponsor Ted Broad for six years and the death of one of racing's most-loved riders was such a blow that Ted withdrew from the sport.
Jim Greening
recalls the career of the quiet Yorkshireman.
[From Classic Racer]

In 1970, 19 year-old Dave Potter loaded his 500cc production Norton and BSA Gold Star into his van and headed south.

He was off to take up employment with Paul Dunstall and, with luck, make a racing name for himself - despite his previous track experience amounting to only the heady heights of one meeting at Croft.

Dave Potter on the Gus Kuhn Norton at Brands Hatch on Good Friday 1972

Anything but the typical brash Yorkshireman, he became one of the nation's favourite racing sons, admired for his modesty, skill, dedication and welcoming nature.

His southern racing career hardly started with a bang. Well, it did when he crashed the Norton at Lydden after heading for a non-existent gap, left by the winner. He did, however, make ample amends by becoming Lord of Lydden in 1971 and '72.

With his Norton taking 750 Dunstall parts on board, he started his winning ways at Snetterton before a change of employment put him on Gus Kuhn Nortons. The contract with Vincent Davey amounted to 'works' bikes and half the prize money, which boosted his mechanic's wages in the Kuhn establishment.

Lord of Lydden, British 750 Champion and Hutchinson 100 Mellano Trophy winner, he stuck faithfully to the Commando based machines until their competitive puff ran out.

The blow left him at a loose end, but not bitter or naïve about the 'profession' that needed supplementing with part-time work. It wasn't until 1978 that he felt free to sign-off for the winter.

Of the Gus Kuhn Nortons he said, "When I raced the twins they were competitive, and you could transfer from club to national level on the same machine."

Years later, he could point to clubmen making the transition on RG500 Suzukis. "Sure, it looks a whole different game with the sophisticated machines," he told me at the time. "Basically it's the same because riders going places must always have competitive machinery."

Dave's ID for the 1972 Barcelona 24 hour race

The Kuhn years teamed Potter with Gary Green on endurance BMWs in the Bol d'Or, Barcelona 24-hour and other Continental 'marathons'. They took second place in a 1000km Le Mans race, riding a pre-production BMW 900.

A complete change of direction put Potter on former European hydroplane champion Willie Ryan's Crescent - a three cylinder two stroke that should really have stayed in a boat. Dave 'raced' the triple in the TT, but spent most time trying to make it survive a short-circuit meeting.

Totally frustrated, he seriously considered packing up, but changed his mind on hearing that Barry Ditchburn was leaving Ted Broad to join Kawasaki. Blunt Southerner and quiet Northerner gelled to perfection.

Although 500s figured in their plans, the major shots were fired by TZ700 and TZ750 Yamahas in pursuit of the MCN Superbike championship.

Dave almost hit the bull in 1978, carrying 100 points to the Brands finale and chasing Barry Sheene's 116. Unfortunately, the chance went begging with a spill on Clearways, handing third-place Sheene his fifth title.

Remarkably, the outcome of the 1979 Superbike battle was decided at Clearways, where Potter squeezed past Ron Haslam (Honda) to take victory by inches to pick up five bonus points and finish three ahead of Ron.

A hard won victory, all things considered, as Dave raced with a hefty dose of jet lag and a sore arm after returning from the Yamaha demonstration races at Sugo, where the Japanese Dunlops had let go.

Overseas ventures were curtailed by choice; Potter's choice as Ted never put undue pressure on his rider. Three visits to the 1979 F750 venues brought the meagre reward of 20th in the table, and his best GP result was sixth in the 1981 Dutch 500 TT.

What he judged as a war of attrition, GP organisers and riders kept his world championship aspiration on a tight rein. Anyway, a privateer 500 Yamaha hardly rated as the be-all-and-end-all of GP equipment.

Shooting for his Superbike hat-trick, Potter crashed at Oulton's Cascades and died in hospital without regaining consciousness. He left a wife, two children and a host of stunned fans - but no bitterness.

In a letter to the motorcycle press, Sue Potter wrote: "I regret my husband's death but I do not feel bitter. David was a lucky person in that he was able to pursue the thing he most liked doing - motorcycle racing. We had a good life together which included having two children and making many wonderful friends. What better memories could anyone ask for?"

If you have further details of Dave's career or would like to add your memories and/or pictures, please contact us.