Thirty-nine years is a long time to work at any company. Thirty-nine years of working for a motorcycle racing team probably seems like an eternity. Not so for Bob Oliver. The Yamaha factory race team tuner has been through nearly four decades of ups and downs and breakthroughs at the Blu Cru. In fact, he’s been there so long that blue is the third color he’s seen the brand go through. It’s also the last, as Oliver has decided the time has come to hang up his wrenches and retire from life as a professional race mechanic.
“Bob’s one of those guys that was there damn near when I showed up on a minibike,” Damon Bradshaw recalls. “I started with Yamaha when I was, like, eight years old. He was one of those guys that was there and you walk by the pits to this day and he’s still there.
“Yamaha is the only team I feel that’s that way,” the Beast from the East adds. “There are so many guys that are still there from when I raced 80s.”
A long time ago in motocross there was the rider and the mechanic, and that was about it. Mechanics drove with the bike in a box van and were solely responsible for its maintenance and modifications. He was also a part-time psychiatrist, nutritionist, trainer, and life coach for his rider. That all changed in 1992 when Kawasaki brought the first semi truck into the pits. The intimate rider-mechanic relationship evolved from there, incorporating a suspension guy and a motor guy as well. Then four-strokes came in with EFI, and now there’s a data guy. The mechanic became more and more of a parts-changer and less and less connected with the riders. Bob Oliver has worked through all of it.
“When I first started, every rider and mechanic were really close,” explains Oliver, whose retirement was a mutual decision between him and the company. “You and the rider definitely spent a lot more time together than you do now, and it was more one-on-one. Now you’ve got this big list of people that, when a rider comes off the track, he’s got to communicate with each one of them, as well as his mechanic. Sometimes I think it’s maybe a little overpowering to the guy in the middle. I don’t think that mechanic-rider, one-on-one closeness is what it used to be.