Inside Jeremy McGrath’s ’96 Factory Honda CR250

FACTORY HONDA’S SKIP NORFOLK
HOMETOWN: Owings, Maryland
YEARS WRENCHING (until retirement): 15
PAST RIDERS: Jeremy McGrath

This time, we’ve decided to take a slightly different approach for this particular bike feature. Rather than featuring a current professional’s machine and mechanic, we’re taking it back a few years to when Jeremy “The King” McGrath ruled. Just about every legend in the sport has a favorite bike and for MC his 1996 Factory Honda CR250 was that bike.
With his long-time mechanic Skip Norfolk at his side, MC dominated the Supercross championship in ’96 and nearly defended his outdoor title as well. As Skip put it,  “That motorcycle was like putting on a pair of shoes—an extension of his body. It was a very cool time.”

After a few years on Team Honda, McGrath and his mechanic Skip Norfolk had his '96 CR250 perfectly dialed in.

What made that bike so good for MC, though, was the fact that the previous years development all culminated in the ’96 machine. “By ’96, everything that was good about ’93, ’94, and ’95 all ended up in that motorcycle,” Norfolk reflected. “He was in the right place at the right time, the motorcycle was exactly what he needed, and it was perfect for him, or pretty damn close. It was just years and years of tweaking and massaging to make that bike.” And as is still the case with the red team, there are plenty of resources at a rider’s disposal. “At Honda it was a great environment for guys like Jeremy who knew what they wanted and were completely open-minded for advancement. We were really able to piece together what we wanted. What we learned in ’94 we could apply to ’95 and ’96. And the engineering department there at Honda—both at home and in Japan—was amazing.”

Arguably the trickest part on the bike is this hand-made exhaust pipe. In the day and age before four-strokes and Electronic Fuel Injection, changing exhaust pipes and jetting were the easiest ways to change power characteristics.

Developing the bike relied heavily on MC’s feel and testing expertise. But according to Norfolk, he wasn’t difficult to work for, he just knew what he wanted. ” He was very particular, but we were both on the same page,” Norfolk said. “We both were demanding and wanted the same thing, and I think that’s why we worked together so well. He could come in and speak his mind to me at any time, but if that motorcycle had square wheels on it, he would get on the podium and say it was the greatest thing in the world. He’d then come back in private, and if it was bad, there was no question that he would let you know how he felt about it. But he did it the right way—he was just the consummate professional the whole time.”

Team Honda had a wide range of triple clamps available to Norfolk for MC to tune his bike perfectly to his needs.

"That silencer was pretty cool," Norfolk said. "It was made out of Kevlar and aluminum with a little titanium piece on the front where it went into the exhaust pipe. We would probably get three races out of them, because there really weren’t sound checks back then. The aluminum pieces would actually wear out quicker than the packing would."

Today, Skip Norfolk holds down a position at the new gear company Alias.

Be sure to check out the September issue of TransWorld Motocross for more on McGrath’s bike.