OBITUARY: Warren Willing

Talented Australian shone as a racer and an engineer.


Warren Willing, a brilliant Australian roadracer turned race engineer, has died of cancer, aged 68.

As a rider, Willing went up like a rocket, defeating Gregg Hansford and Murray Sayle for the Australian Unlimited Road Racing Championship in 1976. Then he was off to Europe.

He said, “Ninety percent of the time in Australia, my bike went to the line in better shape than Gregg’s. But in Europe, that advantage only got you to fifth place.”

“I was trying to split my concentration between racing and the machine.”

When a severe leg injury and 18 operations put an end to his riding, Willing again went to the top, but now as a racing engineer. He uniquely understood racing both from the saddle and through technology. With Mike Sinclair and Bud Aksland, he was a member of the Kenny Roberts brain trust that brought Wayne Rainey three 500cc GP championships. That group later designed Roberts’ lightweight 3-cylinder 500 GP bike, including its engine.

Where others saw problems, Willing saw opportunity. He would get his TZ750 Yamaha to California disassembled, in hand baggage, then reassemble it and race it.

Warren Willing was in racing—in whatever capacity it would have him—because it fascinated and held him. He never lost that bond. When I last spoke with him, at Indianapolis two years ago, he was in one of Ducati’s red uniforms, talking with animation about swingarm pivot position.