Bill Hors­man

Part 2

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Jim Scaysbrook Pho­tos Rudy Vu­urens, Gary Reid, Rob Lewis, Alan Stone, John His­cock. Gra­ham Munro, TT Fot­tofind­ers

It was time for a change, and that came in the form of a call from Cor­nell, the South Aus­tralian dis­trib­u­tor for Suzuki. “Cor­nells got in touch and asked me if I’d be in­ter­ested in rid­ing a TR500 that they were get­ting. They’d bought a TR1 from Western Aus­tralia, one of the very early ones, which was vir­tu­ally a wa­ter cooled Ti­tan, but oth­er­wise it was the full rac­ing chas­sis, forks and wheels. A bloke by the name of Watan­abe from Ja­pan came out and I had to do a demo at AIR, so I rode this thing around and around and he was suit­ably im­pressed and said, ‘OK, a new one’s on its way’. Within a few weeks we had a Mk3 TR2 twin, a beau­ti­ful mo­tor­bike. When you pulled it apart it was ba­si­cally a big Yamaha, the dif­fer­ence was it had an ex­tremely wide in­let port, with a very broad bridge in the mid­dle with an­other boost port in the cen­tre. It just pulled like a truck. It was the nicest mo­tor­bike I’d ever rid­den, and I still say that to­day. It did ev­ery­thing a Manx Nor­ton did, but it did it 50mph quicker. It was com­fort­able – you could have lain down and gone to sleep on it. We had a bit of trou­ble to start with be­cause the crankcases had been bored crooked, and we broke two or three cranks. Then they sent me a set of new crankcases, plus an­other en­gine which was an ex-John New­bold en­gine from Suzuki UK, off one of the works bikes, that was to get us by un­til an­other Mk3 en­gine came, so we fin­ished up with two en­gines which was bril­liant be­cause we had one to experiment with and play around with. I had dif­fer­ent en­gines for dif­fer­ent cir­cuits. Dif­fer­ent pipes, dif­fer­ent car­bu­ret­tors, dif­fer­ent com­pres­sions, we could vir­tu­ally build an en­gine for a cir­cuit.”

1975 turned out to be a stel­lar year for Bill and the Suzuki – so good in fact that he de­cided to turn pro­fes­sional. For the first – and only – time, he con­tested the full six rounds of the Aus­tralian Road Rac­ing Cham­pi­onship, and was vir­tu­ally un­beat­able. By just the fourth round, he had amassed a max­i­mum score to se­cure the 500cc Cham­pi­onship. Round Two of the ARRC was con­ducted at Bathurst, and Bill had trou­ble push start­ing the wa­ter-cooled Suzuki into life, by which time most of the field had dis­ap­peared. Over the next eight laps he carved through the field and man­aged to hold off Mur­ray Sayle to take the win. Late in the year, he re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to ride in the In­done­sian Grand Prix in Jakarta – only his third start out­side Aus­tralia. He took the proven TR500 twin with him but ended up rac­ing one of the brand new and quite rev­o­lu­tion­ary RG500 square fours. “There was a spare RG500 and Stu Avant and my­self were vy­ing for it. The fac­tory in its in­fi­nite wis­dom had de­cided that we would both go out on a TR3 (twin) and who­ever got the quick­est time would get the RG. For­tu­nately I was quick enough to get it (Stu later got an­other one from a lo­cal rider who had de­cided to with­draw from the race). I didn’t re­ally do it jus­tice be­cause on the third lap I went round what they called the Ten­nis Court and I threw it away. I was in the same team as Dave Al­dana and he had a stack of tyres you couldn’t have jumped over. I had Yoko­hamas and I asked Yoshi Itoh (the Ja­panese rider who had won the Isle of Man 50cc TT) the man­ager of the team if I could have a cou­ple of tyres and the an­swer was just a flat no, so I was walk­ing around the pits try­ing to buy tyres but no one would sell me any. So the back broke away in the race and down I went, and in be­hind the fence was Gin­ger Mol­loy who wasn’t rid­ing be­cause he had trou­ble with his bike. When I crashed he scaled up this wire fence and jumped down the other side, grabbed the bike, grabbed me, gave me a push and off we went again. We weren’t in con­tention but we were go­ing, but the front mount on the fair­ing had bro­ken away. Go­ing down the straights was all right be­cause the wind would hold it up, but when it came to slower cor­ners I had to let go and grab the front bar of the stream­lin­ing with my left hand to get it off the front wheel. They were a funny mob, I never re­ally un­der­stood them, but be­cause I fin­ished and the other Suzukis had fin­ished we won the team prize, al­beit I got lapped. But you’d have thought I’d won the race after­wards, they couldn’t do enough for me. For quite a few years I used to get Christ­mas cards from this Yoshi Itoh bloke, but I kept think­ing to my­self, now why wouldn’t they give me a cou­ple of tyres? I could have done so much bet­ter.”

The RG500 was sent to Cor­nell Suzuki for Bill to ride – the first one in Aus­tralia – but its lo­cal de­but at Mount Gam­bier’s McNa­mara Park be­gan in the worst pos­si­ble way. “Go­ing through the Esses it goes up a lit­tle rise and then down the hill. You couldn’t keep the front wheel on the ground so you’d go over the rise and you’d be look­ing out the cor­ner of your eye at the edge of the road and lean a lit­tle bit this way or that way to keep it trav­el­ling par­al­lel with the edge of the road. The pits used to be on the in­side of the cir­cuit and on this par­tic­u­lar lap Bob Jolly was trav­el­ling down the right hand side of the road on a 350 Yamaha and was go­ing to go into the pits. I couldn’t see him be­cause I’d come over the hill with the front wheel in the air, but he changed his mind and thought he’d do an­other lap so he swung left and came out onto the rac­ing line. When the front wheel came down Bob was about 20 feet in front of me and I’m do­ing 100 mph. I slammed ev­ery­thing on and they said smoke was pour­ing off the tyres, it sounded like a shot­gun go­ing off and that was me go­ing through the screen and I re­mem­ber see­ing blue, black, blue black – the road and the sky – as I cartwheeled through the air. All I did was bust four ribs off the back­bone and they can’t do any­thing about that, they just say to take it easy and not cough too much. The bike was a wreck, the front end bro­ken off.” There was only one month be­fore the much­pub­li­cised Aus­tralian TT at Laver­ton Air Base near Mel­bourne – a lav­ishly pro­moted af­fair fea­tur­ing Gi­a­como Agos­tini and a host of other top Ital­ian rid­ers. There were also eleven RG500s on the grid, in­clud­ing Bill’s hastily re­built model. But it tran­spired to be a to­tal dis­ap­point­ment as he strug­gled to com­plete the race. “I should never have done that. It wasn’t a bright thing to do for other rid­ers or my­self be­cause I was suf­fer­ing badly from dou­ble vi­sion. As long as I stayed on the petrol tank and looked out the top of my eyes ev­ery­thing was all right but as soon as I sat up to look at a cor­ner, there was three of them.” A cou­ple of weeks later, af­ter talks with Cor­nell Suzuki, Bill an­nounced his re­tire­ment from rac­ing.

In the late ‘sev­en­ties, Bill took a break from the mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try, where he had been all his work­ing life, to be­come a main­te­nance fit­ter at the Molly Hill Mine. “I re­alised it was go­ing to take 30 years to pay off our house, so I needed to earn some de­cent money. Maybe ten years passed, and I heard about this historic mo­tor­cy­cle club and they used to meet at a ho­tel in Ade­laide and a few peo­ple sug­gested I go, so I went along and there were a cou­ple of lads that were copping a bit of a hard time about Hon­das – be­cause they weren’t Bri­tish. I didn’t know who they were but it turned out to be Jerry Koois­tra and Gra­ham Besson, they went out to the front bar and I felt a bit sorry for them.” Jerry, born in the Dutch East Indies and a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man in Ade­laide had been work­ing with Besson on a se­ries on CB72/77-based rac­ers that were go­ing in­de­cently quick. Besson, Ade­laide born, had spent quite a while in Sydney where he helped Terry Den­nehy on a sim­i­lar CB72 project, re­sult­ing in a bike that, in Den­nehy’s ca­pa­ble hands, was as quick as most 500s. Even­tu­ally, Jerry and Gra­ham stretched the in­ter­nal di­men­sions to 66mm x 64.8mm bore and stroke to pro­duce a 443cc ver­sion – but it needed a ca­pa­ble rider. “I said to Jerry, ‘What are you do­ing with your Hon­das? If you’re look­ing for some­one to have a gal­lop on them I’d be in­ter­ested’. He said ‘You would? And I said, ‘Yeah, too right’, and a few days later they said ‘Let’s go up to AIR and you can have a test ride’. So that’s what we did and we went from there.” Once again, num­ber 29 was out on the tracks – and win­ning. Armed with one of the 350s and the larger bike, which grew into a full 500, the team com­peted in the boom­ing Historic Rac­ing scene far and wide, in­clud­ing at Bathurst in 1987. As part of the 50th an­niver­sary of the races at Mount Panorama, the or­gan­is­ers had slot­ted an In­vi­ta­tion event for Historic ma­chines into the pro­gram as the fi­nal event on Easter Satur­day. Rid­ing as if he’d never been away, Bill beat ev­ery­one ex­cept the TZ750 Yama­has of Lee Roe­buck and Dun­can Read, record­ing a 2.36.09 lap in the process and be­ing elec­tron­i­cally timed at 156 mph (251 km/h) on Con­rod Straight. It was the be­gin­ning of a spree that saw the Hors­man/Honda com­bi­na­tion score an un­beaten string of 22 wins. But there were big­ger things afoot – events that would kick start an in­ter­na­tional ca­reer for Bill as he ap­proached his own half cen­tury. Do­ing the rounds of the Historic meet­ings, Bill met up with Ken Lu­cas, ever­green com­peti­tor and col­lec­tor of rac­ing mo­tor­cy­cles from Wan­garatta, Vic­to­ria. A plan was soon hatched for Bill to com­pete in the Clas­sic Manx Grand Prix on the Isle of Man in 1989. “(English rider and spon­sor) Brian Richards used to come out to Aus­tralia and stay with Ken Lu­cas and they’d come over to Mal­lala for a meet­ing. Ken had ob­vi­ously built me up to some­thing and I was rid­ing the Honda and had a good day and Ken came up to me after­wards and said, ‘How would you like to ride a G50 at the IOM?’ I said, ‘Is the Pope a catholic?’ He said if I could get my­self over there Brian will sup­ply the bike and I can stay with him. That’s how it came about. The first time I went was 1989. They named the old bike Myr­tle, a Mk3 See­ley. He had two of them and he gave me the choice, one was the early small valve motor which was Myr­tle, and the other had a big valve motor. I rode both and I said to Brian the big valve’s quicker so I’ll go for that. He said ‘It’s up to you. But if I were you I’d go for the small valve be­cause it’s ul­tra re­li­able and has never let me down, but I’m not too sure about the big valve motor’. So I said ‘OK, I’ll be guided by your ad­vice’. This Mk3 didn’t have any down bars at the front of the frame and go­ing through Quarry Bends you could see the forks flex­ing side­ways. All the top part of the en­gine was rub­ber mounted with silent block bushes with noth­ing go­ing down to the bot­tom. The forks would flick side­ways.” It had been a sen­sa­tional de­but by Bill on the world’s most in­fa­mous cir­cuit, fin­ish­ing in fifth place in the Se­nior Clas­sic at an av­er­age of

“... smoke was pour­ing off the tyres, it sounded like a shot­gun go­ing off... that was me go­ing through the screen.”

96.26 mph. With his ap­petite more than whet­ted, Bill was back the fol­low­ing year, but failed to fin­ish in the Se­nior and man­aged only 34th in the Ju­nior af­ter many prob­lems, in­clud­ing a bro­ken frame. “I used to do two years then miss one to get my fi­nances to­gether, but it wasn’t just the Isle of Man, I rode in all the Ir­ish races, we were go­ing across there ev­ery week. Ul­ster, Mid Antrim, Castle­town, Sk­er­ries – bril­liant. I’ve of­ten said to peo­ple that have asked me about it; ride the IOM by all means, but for Gods sake go and ride the Ir­ish road races. They won­der why the Ir­ish road rac­ers are so good, the IOM is like a free­way to them. At a place called Bu­gle Lane, I stood on the edge of the road, put my heel in the grass, took two large steps and my foot was in the grass on the other side of the road. The next day there were 750 triples go­ing through there 3 abreast. The Tem­ple 100 is the old­est road race in the Bri­tish Isles and in the 7 mile lap there are nine jumps – a bi­tu­men scram­ble track. I rode in the Ir­ish races ev­ery year, I re­ally looked for­ward to them. We never raced on Sun­day, only Satur­day; prac­tice in the morn­ing and rac­ing un­til about 9 at night. They wel­come you with open arms, the most like­able peo­ple, and the cir­cuits are mind blow­ing.”

Back home, Gra­ham Besson had de­cided to build a replica Match­less G50, and Jerry Koois­tra was the man en­trusted with the en­gi­neer­ing. Besson pur­chased a new G50 en­gine from Rut­ter En­gi­neer­ing in the UK, but Koois­tra to­tally re­designed and reengi­neered it in Ade­laide. The frame was made by the late Brian Payne in Queens­land. It was com­pleted in time for Bill to win the Aus­tralian Historic Cham­pi­onship at Phillip Is­land in 1992, and win the Historic TT at Bathurst the fol­low­ing year, be­fore the bike was shipped to UK and on to the Isle of Man. In its Aus­tralian Pe­riod 3 form, the G50 was al­most 20 kg heav­ier than the Bri­tish bikes, which used disc brakes and many light­weight parts. For the Manx GP, the G50 was fit­ted with a seven gal­lon (31.5 litre) fuel tank which fur­ther added to the weight. In prac­tice for the 1993 Se­nior Manx Grand Prix, the en­gine broke a crankpin, but Koois­tra had brought a com­plete spare crank as­sem­bly and stripped the en­gine be­fore the race. In that race, Bill turned in a typ­i­cally gritty per­for­mance, av­er­ag­ing an in­cred­i­ble 102.34 mph, with a fastest lap of 103.04 mph, to fin­ish sec­ond to Bill Swal­low’s See­ley, then fit­ted a 350cc 7R en­gine and fin­ished sixth in the Ju­nior race.

Prior to Bill’s next IOM trip in 1995, the G50 was sold to pro­lific New York col­lec­tor Robert Ian­nucci, so it was back to bikes sourced from the UK and en­tered by Brian Richards. Aboard a See­ley for the 1995 Se­nior, Bill av­er­aged 102.55 mph to take fourth place. In 1996, Brian or­gan­ised an Aer­ma­c­chi from Dick Lin­ton for the 350cc Ju­nior and Bill took to it im­me­di­ately, av­er­ag­ing a sen­sa­tional 101.07 mph to fin­ish in sec­ond place. Back on the See­ley for the Se­nior, he fin­ished in third place at 102.11 mph. Un­der his race/fi­nances plan, Bill would nor­mally have skipped the 1997 meet­ing, but he had been so close to a win and re­alised time was run­ning out as he neared his six­ti­eth birth­day, which was at that time the cut-off age. So he was back for 1997, again with the Aer­ma­c­chi and for the Se­nior, a Manx Nor­ton sup­plied by Andy Mol­nar. This time, it all came to­gether, and Bill romped home to win the Ju­nior, then rode to fourth place in the Se­nior on the Nor­ton, av­er­ag­ing a per­sonal best 103.32 mph. To win at the Isle of Man nearly forty years af­ter he be­gan rac­ing was quite an achieve­ment, but although this marked the end of his an­nual pil­grim­age, it was not the fin­ish of rac­ing for Bill. Back home, he was soon back in the sad­dle of the Koois­tra Hon­das, and still win­ning. It was 2008 be­fore he fi­nally called it a day, fit­tingly half a cen­tury af­ter he started. Bill and Kathy had two sons, David and Peter, nei­ther of whom was tempted to ven­ture into mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing, although Bill ac­knowl­edges the sup­port he re­ceived from Kathy. “Over the years of rac­ing, I was ex­tremely for­tu­nate to have com­plete help and un­der­stand­ing from Kathy. She un­der­stood my self­ish at­ti­tude that rac­ing usu­ally came first, even over the fam­ily.” To­day, Bill is just as com­pet­i­tive as ever, but in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent field. His new pas­sion is pis­tol shoot­ing (where he com­petes with son David) un­der the aus­pices of the In­ter­na­tional Shoot­ing Sport Fed­er­a­tion, un­der whose rules the Olympic Games shoot­ing classes are con­ducted. Bill com­petes in two di­vi­sions; for Air Pis­tol and Free Pis­tol, and prac­tices con­tin­u­ously. He’s no less a ded­i­cated com­peti­tor now than he was in his rac­ing days, but Bill has never given less than one hun­dred per cent.

Typ­i­cal Phillip Is­land weather in 1974, with Bill on the TR500.

Bill’s favourite bike; the wa­ter-cooled TR500 Suzuki twin. Ready for ac­tion in 1974 at Phillip Is­land.

ABOVE Af­ter­math of Bill’s huge crash at McNa­mara Park. The front end of the new RG500 is ly­ing on the left. LEFT Warm­ing up the re­built RG500 Suzuki at Laver­ton in 1976.

Pow­er­ing the G50 See­ley ‘Myr­tle’ through Union Mills in 1989. With spon­sor Brian Richards af­ter a suc­cess­ful day’s rac­ing in Ire­land. On the new G50 Match­less at the 1993 Aus­tralian Historic Cham­pi­onships. All tucked in on the 350 Aer­ma­c­chi across the moun­tain in the 1996 Manx GP. Fet­tling G50 en­gines in Ire­land in 1992.

Last time at the is­land: Bill on Andy Mol­nar’s Manx Nor­ton in 1997, taken at Bal­lacraine. ABOVE In the win­ner’s en­clo­sure af­ter the 1997 Ju­nior Manx GP with the Lord Mayor of Dou­glas. Spon­sor Dick Lin­ton is on the left in Silko­lene jacket.

Bill (4) on his See­ley G50 chas­ing Bob Jack­son on his way to third place in the 1996 Se­nior Manx GP.

In win­ning form at the 2007 Aus­tralian Historic Cham­pi­onships.

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