Having just read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Kerry Swanson’s excellent biography on legendary Kiwi ‘spanner man’ Mike Sinclair (see review this issue), I succumbed to an invitation from former GP rider Stu Avant to join him and a contingent of Aussie visitors at the Mike Pero Southern Classic at Levels Raceway, Timaru on New Zealand’s wobbly south island. Here, Sinclair, along with fellow ex-GP wrenches Paul Treacy, Dave ‘Radar’ Cullen and Dick Smart, were back in uniform to fettle a very desirable collection of race bikes in what turned out to be a memorable weekend. You will read a full report of this meeting in issue 64 of OBA, but suffice to say it was a reminder of just what an incredible bank of talent has come out of such a small country that punches well above its weight in so many spheres – not just motor sport. Not long ago, there was a positive Kiwi army beavering away behind the GP scene, and if the spanner men of the bike scene presented a major force of the fern leaf, the Formula One world would probably have collapsed without the seemingly endless stream of engineers from NZ.
It was also a reminder that this stream of genius has in recent years largely dried up – the country’s last GP winner was Simon Crafar at the 1998 British 500cc GP – and although Bruce Anstey continues to mock his advancing years with his fearless assaults at the TT and the Irish road circuits, there is no clear chain of succession.
As anyone who is remotely interested in the world stage of motorcycling competition knows, today it’s all about the all-powerful dollar, or perhaps Euro, and the traditional route to the Continental Circus, fuelled by enthusiasm and determination, is long gone. So it was timely that to coincide with the Levels meeting, a forum was convened in Timaru to discuss ways of rebuilding the Anzac forces. Motorcycling Australia CEO Peter Doyle outlined a plan to simplify and standardise the rules under which we race, which would not only bring costs down but allow a much greater cross-over of talent between the neighbouring nations. And this, if things come off, would expand to include nearby Asian countries to provide a common set of rules for everyone to work with. The audience at the meeting contained a stack of former big names like Aaron Slight, Richard Scott, Hugh Anderson, Stu Avant and Graeme Crosby on the Kiwi side, all of whom were able to make their points on how to reinvigorate the process that produced so many champions in the past. And it’s not just us who wish to see a return to the traditional path to Europe – the governing bodies of the sport globally would welcome riders from countries other than Spain or Italy because they rightly see that the future of racing as an international television product is totally reliant on its ability to capture new audiences. Let’s hope the enthusiasm generated at this meeting translates into action. JIM SCAYSBROOK Editor