The Foggy-baiting, 87 WSB podium-scoring, RC45-flattering Kiwi legend shares the rides of his life
It’s like a Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine in two hooped steel chassis rails. I saw them for hire on holiday when I was 12 and wanted to ride one. Dad said: “If you’re so keen to ride a motorbike we should ask your uncle. He’s got one.”
Yamaha GT80 MX
It took me a month to pluck up courage to ask my uncle to borrow his bike. But in the end he lent it me for a whole year. The only motorcycle we’d had in the family before was a scooter, which had gone years before. So this was amazing. I was hooked. I even started racing on it.
Eight months on and I realised pretty soon if I wanted to carry on with racing I’d need a more competitive bike. It was the latest model but second-hand. We got it for $599 (£285) and I got an after- school job in a bike shop so I could learn how to look after it.
I had a mate at the bike shop who started road racing. We were both 16 and full-time by then. He was killed in a motocross race we were both riding in. The shop gave me the chance to try his RZ. It made me realise road racing was what I wanted to do.
I had a head-on with a Morris 1100 while I was riding the RZ. The bike was buggered so we bought another wrecked one and cobbled together a race bike. I soon had an RZ250, 350 and 500 cobbled out of wrecks and I was racing in five classes a day.
My best race bike. I’d picked up a copy of AMCN (Australian Motor Cycle News) and saw a bloke called Rob Doran was doing well on an FZ750. I got in touch to suggest he should come to do the New Zealand 6hr with me. He did and we won it. After that I moved to Oz.
In Oz I bought an RZ250 and rode it to the track at Surfers Paradise. I bought a tyre from a bloke at the track and finished second to a guy called Mick Doohan. He was a local hotshot who only went any good at Surfers, or so everybody thought.
Ducati 600 Pantah
I started to get a bit of attention and people asked me to race their bikes. The first guy was Bob Brown who put up Ducatis. I went quick on it straight away and people started to notice. I should have known to stay on Ducatis.
1999 Honda RVF750 RC45
The RC45 was an amazing motorbike by the end. We had 190bhp, variable length inlet tracts and everything to compete with the Ducatis by the end – a ridiculous amount from a 750. But it still wasn’t enough against a red bike with 250cc more to make good riders look great. I rode my arse off every race, not just because of the cc disadvantage but because even once I’d made it I was still a Kiwi on a one-year contract, even in my big-dollar years at the end with Honda.
In 1989 I got my first full-time paid ride, with Kawasaki Australia in WSB. I helped develop their 250GP bike. I saw it as my ticket to GPs. But we never got anywhere with it. I’d have stayed with Kawasaki longer but Rob Muzzy took over and I thought he was a cowboy.
1994 Honda RVF750 RC45
It was clear from the first race of the 1994 WSB season on the RC45 at Phillip Island that Honda had underestimated the competition. I held the lap record there but I was two seconds off the pace. The engine was too production spec. It was going to be hard yards.
I rode a race version of the Firestorm in 1998 at a test in Sugo. They didn’t want to make a twin, but they wanted to win more. It was a lash-up but it showed what you could do with 30% more torque. Then in 2000 Honda wins first time out with a twin.
LOVES: Honda NR750
Honda’s great because if you can think it, its engineers can build it, and they’re prepared to try things. This is the embodiment of that.
LOATHES: Any Buell
I just can’t see any sense in these. I’ve got a Fatboy, so I understand bikes that don’t stop, don’t go and don’t turn. But I don’t get Buells.