Mori­waki MH80

Train­ing wheels

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos Garry Thomas

20 years ago, an am­bi­tious plan was hatched by the Mori­waki com­pany in Ja­pan to launch a class to pro­mote fu­ture road rac­ing stars. The class was im­me­di­ately pop­u­lar in Ja­pan and quickly spread to Europe and America.

Of course Mori­waki was al­ready fa­mous for their in­volve­ment in the ca­reers of sev­eral rid­ers who went on to world fame, in­clud­ing Wayne Gard­ner, Peter God­dard and Graeme Crosby. Un­der the stew­ard­ship of Tony Hat­ton, an­other for­mer rider with a Mori­waki back­ground, Mo­tor­cy­cling NSW launched the con­cept in Aus­tralia un­der the name of GP80, cater­ing for 14 to 16 year old rid­ers. The bikes were able to make use of tracks not nor­mally used for road rac­ing, such as go kart cir­cuits and train­ing tracks. The MH 80 used a mod­i­fied Honda CR80 en­gine, pro­duc­ing 25hp at 12,000 rpm, in a spe­cially mod­i­fied NS-1 chas­sis, adapted by Mori­waki with re­vised en­gine mounts and spe­cial at­ten­tion to re­duc­ing vi­bra­tion to a min­i­mum. Mori­waki also built the alu­minium petro tank, han­dle­bars, ex­pan­sion cham­ber ex­haust and pro­vided a spe­cially tuned car­bu­ret­tor for the reed valve en­gine, and pro­vided the ta­chome­ter and water tem­per­a­ture gauge. Brakes came straight from the CR80 mo­tocrosser and proved to be en­tirely ad­e­quate for road rac­ing. The com­plete ma­chine tipped the scales at just 80kg. Tony Hat­ton im­ported the ma­chines, which sold for $6,800 ready to race. Hat­ton, along with Wayne Hol­land, War­ren Brooks and Peter Forst, launched the Aus­tralian Ju­nior Road Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion in Jan­uary 1998. A Gold Cup event was staged at the Kart Cir­cuit at the Honda-owned Suzuka cir­cuit in Ja­pan in 1997, with the win­ner be­ing 14yo An­thony West, who would go on to be­come a star on the world scene. The GP80 se­ries kicked off in July 1998 at Wake­field Park, Goul­burn and as more bikes were im­ported (a to­tal of 60), the ranks of the rid­ers swelled and the scope of the meet­ings ex­panded. Joshua Brookes, An­thony West, Chris Ver­meulen, Broc Parkes, Josh Waters, Shan­non Ethridge and Blake Leigh-Smith all went on to much big­ger things, in­clud­ing Mo­toGP, World Su­per­bikes and World En­durance rac­ing.

Sydney deal­ers Pro­cy­cles in con­junc­tion with Wil­loughby Mo­tor Cy­cle Club, be­gan to pro­mote the GP80 Mas­ters Se­ries at the Eastern Creek Kart Cir­cuit, which be­came the breed­ing ground for a new crop of road rac­ers. The 2002 se­ries win­ner was Ja­son O’Halloran (cur­rently star­ring in the Bri­tish Su­per­bike Cham­pi­onship), with Michael Leslie the win­ner the fol­low­ing year. The se­ries con­tin­ued for sev­eral more years, but Honda’s de­ci­sion to dis­con­tinue pro­duc­tion of 2 stroke en­gines un­for­tu­nately saw it come to an end. The ba­sis of the GP80 se­ries is still in ex­is­tence how­ever, now run as GP Ju­niors Aus­tralia with 150cc four-stroke en­gines. The MH80 that car­ried An­thony West to so many suc­cesses is still owned by the West and Coombe fam­i­lies, and was sub­se­quently rid­den by Matty Coombes and Bren­dan Clarke. The ac­tual bike was loaned to The North Coast Road Rac­ers club by Shark Leathers, Gold Coast, and is still in reg­u­lar ac­tion, rid­den by Jordy Thomas.

An­thony West, win­ner of the 1998 Gold Cup at Suzuka, Ja­pan, on the MH80.

ABOVE LEFT Mitchell Hat­ton test­ing the new pro­to­type Mori­waki 80 on the kart track at Suzuka. ABOVE At Coffs Har­bour in 1997, 14 Year old An­thony West (right) with Bernie Hat­ton (left) and Ja­panese Mori­waki test rider ‘Kaz’ Suzuki seated.

Jordy Thomas on the MH80 (wear­ing his grand­fa­ther’s rac­ing num­ber 68) at a North Coast Road Rac­ers short course coach­ing day at Raleigh Race­way, Coffs Har­bour.

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