A SUPER SHOW
New Zealand got in early to host the first celebration of 30 years of the World Superbike Championship, when the Pukekohe circuit brought the bikes and some local legends together.
The country that hosted the final round of the first two years of the championship did it in style, with one of the original protagonists, Gary Goodfellow, not only parading but returning to the track for the first time since the early 1990s. Goodfellow was joined at the New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Register’s annual festival by Aussie Ducati SBK world champion Troy Bayliss and Kiwi SBK Kawasaki and Honda rider Aaron Slight. Also present were Andrew Stroud and Stephen Briggs, who both featured in international racing at that time, including on the Britten V1000. New Zealand’s most famous GP racer Hugh Anderson was on hand to congratulate this band of brothers. New Zealand’s Manfield circuit hosted two exciting final showdowns to the first two years of the championship before the series was reorganised and bypassed the country. Goodfellow holds an often forgotten place in Superbike history. As well as being the first Kiwi to win an SBK race he also gave Suzuki its first win in the series, at Sugo in Japan in 1988. At Pukekohe, Goodfellow quickly showed why he was one of the world’s most underrated riders, despite representing North America in the Trans-atlantic Trophy races of the 1980s. After just a few laps of practice and qualifying on a rain-slick track, he rode a borrowed Ducati 900SS to fifth place against some of New Zealand’s best vintage racers. “I need someone like Andrew Stroud to show me around,” he laughed afterwards. “Those six laps felt like the entire Suzuka Eight Hours,” he added, referring to some great rides he had had at that famous race. Goodfellow’s efforts weren’t lost on Troy Bayliss, who took time out from focusing on his bid to win the Australian Superbike title this year. “Is the brake on that side of the bike?” he asked, pointing to the 1970s Ducati. “You wouldn’t get me riding that.” Meanwhile Aaron Slight, with a beard
replacing the famous mohawk haircut of his Superbike days, was also enjoying his trip down memory lane. Slight has a unique bond with Honda’s famous RC45 Superbike. He played a crucial role in its development, racing it from its introduction in 1994 to its final race in 1999. Slight took it to second place in its first World Superbike race. In its last season he took it to 12 podium finishes. He raced Honda’s RC45 to top-four championship finishes six years in a row. This was the golden Superbike era of spectacular “freight-train” racing and an explosion in spectator viewing worldwide. It was also a time when rules favoured Italy’s V-twin. In the end Honda created its own V-twin to win the world title in 2000. Slight nominated 1998 as his best in the series. “That year I was by far the fastest rider out there,” he says. “I won five races. Carl Fogarty won three and the championship.” As well as racing, Goodfellow also demonstrated the very first version of John Britten’s ground-breaking series of V-twins. This was the Ducati-based Aero-d-zero, originally intended as a roadbike. Goodfellow play a crucial role in the early history of the Britten motorcycles. He was the rider who first gave the project credibility. Gary started out racing Aero-d-one, powered by an air-cooled Denco V-twin speedway engine. Then he moved onto the Precursor, powered by a liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin engine built by John and his friends in Christchurch. Now based in Canada he took it back there with Britten technician Colin Dodge to develop. “I did the development riding and then raced it in Japan, Canada, USA, NZ, Europe, all around the world really,” he says. “It handled amazingly well. I can compare it to a period Superbike, like an RC30 and GSXR750. It was a little bit more nimble, it had lots of power and good grunt, and handled fantastic with White Power suspension.” Over at Daytona, Gary led the pack into the first corner, out-accelerating factory-supported Ducatis. Then the bike’s ignition cut out. Two Precursors went to the 1990 Daytona meeting with Gary and Robert Holden finishing strongly in the top 10. After a year of development Steve Crevier and Paul Lewis rode the bikes at Daytona in 1991 with Lewis coming second to Ducati ace Doug Polen. The true potential of this Britten design was still coming to fruition when its creator moved to the ultimate Britten design, the V1000. “John was a fun-loving guy, he was 100mph, he only had 45 years of his life but he fitted 90 years into those 45,” says Gary. Along with several members of the original team, Gary still believes the precusor would have been relatively easy to put into limited production, such as Bimota was doing at the time. Aero-d-zero, an important part of New Zealand’s racing history, is now owned by Kevin Grant, who has the 1995 Andrew Stroud BEARS World Series winner Britten V1000. To see it running at this annual festival confirms this event remains one of the world’s best celebrations of vintage racing machinery, from the 1920s right up to the 1990s. Next year the New Zealand Classic Motorcycle Racing Register hosts its 40th anniversary.
There was plenty of racing at Pukekohe with one of the most fascinating races being the duel between Chris Swallow and Daniel Mettam. Swallow was on Neville Wooderson’s Gold Star, which he rode into the history books at last year’s Manx Classictt as the first BSA single to achieve a 100mph lap. Mettam was a late inclusion, standing in for the injured owner of a 1962 Norton Domiracer 500cc. Mettam beat Swallow to win the Neville Woodersontrophy and won the Pre-63 500cc Modified class. He will be racing in Ireland and the Isle of Man this summer.
Tony Sklenars races a very unusual sidecar, a 1967 850cc Coventry Climax. Hillman Imp engines are banned from sidecar racing in New Zealand under the ‘no car engine’ rules but stationary engines aren’t included. First designed during the Korean War as a UK Ministry of Defence fire-pump, the lightweight Coventry Climax engine soon found its way into open-wheeler cars. Fans have been very impressed with Sklenars’ project. Recently one spectator even donated him a complete and original fire pump, with all its controls and fittings attached.
Barnes doin’ it down under
Tim Barnes will be a familiar name to long-time observers of UK classic racing. Now living in New Zealand, he was racing two very different Ducatis at Pukekohe. One was a beautiful little 1963 350cc and the other a 1988TT1 750 built by Sports Motorcycles’ Glyn Robinson. Barnes’ best result was third in thetrophy Race and fourth overall in the Pre-1989 F2 class.
From the right: Slight, Bayliss, then it’s over to you – names of the rest to Malc if you can please.