Gosh, do I have some exciting stories to share with you this month! Regular BRM readers will know that we are now into the thick of the NZ road racing season which sees race events nearly every weekend throughout summer. I have been enjoying getting some track time in on my MTF Finance ZX6R and also some air time on television presenting a feature on the Ride Forever New Zealand Motorcycle show for #SkySpeed. It was a real privilege to interview the owners of some beautiful craftsmanship on display in the classic section. In fact, my talking point this month is actually around classic motorcycles and the Mike Pero Southern Classic event which was held in Timaru at the beginning of December.
There, I was lucky enough to achieve a milestone event as I had the privilege of riding parade laps aboard a Suzuki RGB500. Yes, a REAL 500cc two stroke Grand Prix motorcycle! To ride one of these spectacular machines alongside legends such as Aaron Slight, John Woodley, Kevin Magee and Graeme Crosby is the stuff dreams are made of. I couldn’t have been more grateful to be given the opportunity, although admittedly I was very nervous due to how much these bikes are worth nowadays. Especially in front of over 200 fellow competitors (many of whom were very jealous) and a great crowd of spectators – I would have hated for something to go wrong. Fortunately, the experience was nothing short of magical.
The ride came about as the motorcycle is owned by Paul Edwards of Australia who also ran a development race series I competed in across the Tasman back when I was 14 years old. ‘Woody’ has followed my progress since then and as he wasn’t able to make it over for this event at Levels Raceway, he thought I would be a great candidate to ride the bike. I was over the moon to be given the opportunity not only to ride, but also to work with ex grand prix superstars like Stu Avant and Mike Sinclair.
Thankfully, I have a fair bit of experience with two stroke race bikes so I had a rough idea of what it would be like. Gnarly powerbands, great brakes and sharp turning are the general characteristics you would expect. Well, the 500 was all that… and more! Boy, was it quick in a straight line. Compared to the 600cc I ride nowadays, this felt much quicker and obviously tipped into corners better being considerably lighter and with no engine braking like a four stroke. The 500 was much less forgiving, however! It would only take for you to be a little off line or open the gas a fraction too hard and I can see how it would turn pear-shaped very quickly.
Most of us can only imagine the thrill of racing one of these handlebar-to-handlebar in the world championship at fast circuits like Phillip Island or Mugello. We did get to hear what it was like via some epic stories from the legends told at the dinner on Saturday night, however. What a crack up. I believe they will have another of these dinner events at Hampton Downs Motofest in February 2019 – do yourself a favor and come along! I promise you will not regret it.
Throughout the weekend I also raced a 250cc in the two stroke race class. Our friend Brent Garvin prepared seven 250 production bikes for some lucky riders to compete on. They really looked the part done up in the old Pepsi, Lucky Strike and Red Bull liveries from back in the day. I loved every second racing that bike and even lead a few laps before finishing second in one race. My favourite was on Sunday morning when we went out on wets but the track dried up so quick that we were sliding our way around a dry track as the tires melted. It felt a bit like flat tracking and boy was it fun! Expensive fun….
As much as I love getting out on the two-strokes, I’m relieved to have made it through that weekend in one piece and get back to main my focus this year – 600 supersport racing. Tune in next month to hear about racing at the Suzuki series!