Richard Scott From Gracefield to GPs
“I was shot, totally worn out. I’d spent the whole year crashing, getting hurt, getting nowhere.”
Richard Scott’s introduction to the world of 500cc Grand Prix racing as a member of the illustrious Kenny Roberts Lucky Strike Yamaha team had been a painful experience – a harsh reality check on a career that had blossomed continuously since his racing debut in 1975 in his native New Zealand. His talent and enthusiasm had taken him to Australia, and to two national road racing titles, then on to England – the traditional route for aspiring antipodean racers. His introduction to two-wheeled motoring came at the tender age of 14 when he was given a pillion on a friend’s Vespa motor scooter in his home town of Wanganui. “I was hooked, totally and utterly hooked,” Richard recalls. “I got a job after school but soon announced to my parents that I wanted to quit school. They were horrified. All I wanted to do was to get a job, earn some money and get a motor bike – as quickly as possible. Everyone had bikes at the time (around 1974). We’d ride on the streets, on
farms, on the beaches, everywhere”. Scott had such a grand time on his new bike (a TS125 Suzuki) that he had no thoughts of racing. When he did decide to have a crack at the track, at age 16, his parents refused to sign the entry form. Eventually, Richard won them over and tried his hand at local motocross events on a TM250 Suzuki. The much-lamented Marlboro International Series arrived in New Zealand in 1976, and included a round at the fabled Cemetery Circuit at Wanganui. “There were guys like Warren Willing, Gregg Hansford, Jeff and Murray Sayle, and Randy Mamola, who was just a kid, on a 250. I thought I should have a go at this and put some road tyres on the TM250 and even borrowed a mate’s 125 motocrosser which had trials tyres on it. They had races for single cylinder bikes and I went to all the street circuits like Honikawa, Napier and Hamilton and had a ball.” The bug had bitten, and by this stage, New Zealand had gone production racing mad. Shelling out NZ$5,395, Richard bought his first brand new motorcycle – a Suzuki GS1000S. The biggest event in the country was the Castrol Six Hour at Manfield, the Kiwi version of Australia’s famed event, and Richard circulated steadily until the fifth hour when a blown fork seal leaked oil onto the front tyre and he decked the model. “The (Suzuki) 1100s had just come out,” Scott recalls, “and these were the days when Dave and Neville Hiscock and Neil Chivas did most of the winning. I rode the 1000 for a full season in New Zealand but then went to work for Peter Daniels in Wellington and he sponsored me on a GSX1100 for 1980. The following year I joined (NZ Suzuki importers) Colemans, and they provided a Katana 1100 for the major production races. Well, they were called production races but some bikes were more production than others!” Across the puddle A six week trip to Australia in 1981 saw him working for Pirelli importer Frank Matich, who ran one of the most successful production racing teams in the country. Richard found himself preparing the Suzukis raced by Neville Hiscock to victory in the Castrol Six Hour and the Surfers Paradise Three Hour. “I learned a lot, working with Neville, and I couldn’t wait to get a ride organised for myself”.
An invitation to co-ride with Richard Scoular in the 1982 Yamaha 750 Production Race at Oran Park took him onto Australian soil for the second time, where he qualified third but Scoular crashed in the race. He
stayed on in Australia after the NSW Yamaha importers gave him a XJ750 for the year. “It had shaft drive and wasn’t really my bike of choice,” Richard said, “but it gave me an entry into all the Aussie races.” It was too late to get an entry for the big Easter meeting at Bathurst but Scott went anyway, hoping something might eventuate. It did. When Alan Blanco crashed one of the Matich entries in practice, wrecking the bike and putting himself out of the meeting, Scott was able to take over the entry, but his XJ750 was in Sydney – three hours away. “I phoned my mate Stewie (Wylie) in Sydney and told him to put the bike in a van and get out to Bathurst as soon as he could, but he didn’t make it till Friday afternoon, so I only got six laps of practice.” It was all he needed as Richard, riding the unfancied shaftie, won the 750cc class in the 20-lap Production Race on the most daunting and difficult circuit in the country. “It was a great learner year for me. There were stacks of production races all over the country and I went to just about all of them. I got a job at a car wrecker and slept on the couch at (former Sidecar GP rider) Peter Campbell’s place at Greenacre (in Sydney’s western suburbs). I ended up with Graeme Crosby’s old Ford Transit van, which had been lying in a back yard with a blown transmission.” The year finished with second place in the 750 class of the Castrol Six Hour race, coriding with Ron Boulden, but with nothing further lined up, it was back home to Wanganui for Christmas to contemplate the next move. As it turned out, that move had already been made. Former Sydney film producer Peter Addison, who had done some historic racing on a G50 Matchless and 7R AJS, had bought a new TZ250K Yamaha with a view to sticking a promising young rider on it. “I’d been watching Richard ride through the year and I got talking to Warren Willing about the idea of sponsoring someone. Warren said that he thought ‘Scotty’ had promise, so I called him up,” recalls Addison. “It didn’t take him long to say yes!”
“I’d never ridden on slicks before, so it was another learning year for me”. Fortunately, Richard is a quick learner. At the Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst he came home a distant second to Chris Oldfield’s rapid Armstrong, but the contest for the Australian 250cc Road Racing Championship, held over seven rounds, was a much closer affair. Throughout the season Addison and Willing constantly updated the Yamaha, swapping the frame for a Spondon and 16-inch Astralite wheels, with Hans Hummel cylinders. Going into the final round at Melbourne’s Calder Park, Scott held a narrow advantage, but crashed heavily in practice, breaking a shoulder. Addison and Willing quickly recruited Newcastle rider Geoff McNaughton, who duly won the race, crucially pushing back titleaspirants Mike Dowson and Peter Hinton and handing the sidelined Scott the title.
Teamed with Michael Dowson on a new Yamaha RZ500 two-stroke, the pair battled mightily with the Honda CB1100R of Wayne Gardner and John Pace.
Amid the celebrations Scott planted the idea of going to Daytona in 1984, and within weeks Addison had ordered a new Yamaha which arrived in Australia only weeks before the event. After a quick check over, the bike was crated and sent to USA, arriving not at Daytona, Florida, but at Dayton, Ohio, complete with a gash through the side of the crate from a forklift. Once it was located the Yamaha was trucked to Florida, where it was stripped in the motel room and various go-faster bits bolted on. For a Kiwi kid like Richard, Daytona was an overwhelming experience. “It was awesome. There were 130 entries for the 100-mile 250 race, with the fastest 80 getting a start. In the first round of practice I was 30 seconds off the pace, but the times gradually dropped. Wayne Rainey won the race and I ended up ninth, which wasn’t too bad because the bike was way slower than the top guys. Warren (Willing) was there working with Graeme Crosby and we had dinner with Kenny Roberts and a few others, so it was a fantastic experience for me.”
“In the first round of practice I was 30 seconds off the pace!”
After the euphoria of his international debut, it was back to the usual diet in Australia, where Richard was recruited for the new Toshiba Yamaha Dealer Team. At the Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst, Scott again faced his adversary from 2003, Chris Oldfield, who had a new 250cc Rotax engine in a frame built by Melbourne engineer Bob Martin. Oldfield controlled the race until his engine tightened, allowing Scott to take the lead with a new record lap in the process. After a season-long grind, he won the Australian 350cc Championship and finished runner-up to Jeff Sayle in the 250. In addition, there was the usual stack of Production Races, culminating in the Castrol Six Hour, which moved from its traditional home at Amaroo Park to Oran Park. Teamed with Michael Dowson on a new Yamaha RZ500 two-stroke, the pair battled mightily with the Honda CB1100R of Wayne Gardner and John Pace. For some still-unexplained reason, the chequered flag came out nearly three minutes early but it was a lifeline for Scott, as the Yamaha ran out of fuel as it entered the pits after the slowing down lap! The Honda squad were understandably livid, but the result stood.
By now, Scott’s eyes were turning to Europe, but he couldn’t afford to walk away from a good deal in Australia, so for 1985 he joined Matich Racing, riding Pirelli-shod Kawasaki GPz900s in all the major Production Races. A win and a new lap record at Bathurst began the year well, but it was September before he saw the winner’s circle again. Teamed with Paul Feeney, Scott won the Surfers Paradise Three Hour, a race marred by the deaths of Kiwi John Wood and local rider Greg Davies. At the season-ending Castrol Six Hour Race at Oran Park, Scott again teamed with Feeney in the miserably wet conditions. However second place looked to be their lot behind Len Willing/Iain Pero, who had led throughout, until Willing fell with just ten minutes to go. Scott pounced to take the win, his second on the trot, by four seconds. There was another contract on the table with Matich Racing for 1986, but Scott was determined to at least test the waters in England and asked team owner Frank Matich for some time off to allow him to contest two races in the UK. When Matich refused, Scott went anyway. “I phoned up Barry Symmonds from Honda UK, who I had met the year before, and asked him if he could give me any help. They (Honda UK) already had their team in place, but they gave me a corner of the workshop and a VFR750. Ron Grant was back in England at the time and he stayed for the year and helped me. We got some of the team’s bits from ’85 and finished second in the MCN Superstock Series behind Kenny Irons on a Loctite Yamaha run by Steve Parish.” At the British round of the European Championships at Donington, Symmonds put Scott on an RS500 triple that was lying around in the workshop, and Richard repaid the favour by winning the 500 race. That led to a further start on the triple, at the final race of the year at Brands Hatch. Scott knew a good performance was vital if he were to secure a berth for 1987. “It was pretty simple really. I reckoned what I had to do was beat the Honda Britain guys (Roger Marshall and Roger Burnett, but I crashed twice in practice – identical high-sides at Druids Bend and totally wrecked the bike – so I kinda blew that!” Despite this setback, Symmonds loaned Richard the RS500 for the New Zealand Championships, where he won all three races.
Ups and downs in Europe
For 1987, Honda UK came up with another RS500 and a supply of parts, which Scott ran as a privateer team in the 500 World Championship, entirely selffunded on a shoestring budget. At his first Grand Prix, round two of the 500cc title at Jerez, Richard finished a brilliant tenth, the first privateer home. He followed this up with 13th in Germany at the super-fast Hockenheim circuit and achieved the same result at Monza. It was in Italy that he was approached by Kenny Roberts, who’s Lucky Strike Yamaha team had lost Mike Baldwin for at least six races due to injury. Richard’s first concern was loyalty to Symmonds, who had stood by him through thick and thin, but Barry gave his blessing and Scott jumped camps. It proved to be a very bad career move. “We went testing at Riejka and I felt pretty good on the Yamaha, until after about 30 laps, for no real reason, I lost it – a hundred miles an hour high-side. It was a huge crash and I really beat myself up. I spent a few days in hospital and the bike was trashed. Mike Sinclair, who had been in GPs for a long time, said he had never seen a bike so wrecked. So that wasn’t a particularly great start. The hospital in Yugoslavia was a dump, so the team got me out of there and we went to Austria. It was only two weeks before the Austrian GP and I had broken ribs and skin off everywhere, but I was more worried about what Kenny would think of me. When I saw him in Austria I said I was sorry for wrecking his bike and he just sort of shrugged and said, ‘No problem, just see how you’re feeling when it’s time for the race.” “Doctor Costa had to give me about fifty injections before I could race.”
In Austria, Scott returned to the saddle sore but determined to put things right, and was fourth in the first (wet) qualifying session. Then in the final session, he encountered a slower rider as he exited the final corner onto the straight. “This guy was riding so slowly, and I went to go under him when he just fell off right in my path. I ploughed into him at full speed and there I was on the deck again, and with another bike written off. Everyone in the team, including Kenny, saw the crash from the pits and knew it wasn’t my fault, I was just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I did more damage to myself, cracked my hip and tore a groin muscle, and Doctor Costa had to give me about fifty injections before I could race. I finished eleventh but I was pretty knocked around, I should have just gone home and got myself back together. By the time we got to Yugoslavia for the GP I realised I had head problems, I couldn’t pick braking markers, I had no coordination. I kept riding but I spent the whole year just crashing. It was such a struggle. I couldn’t give the feedback the team needed. Kenny was really great, but I just never got to grips with it. These were long races and I was always fighting the Yamaha. You needed to slide the bike to be quick but I was lacking confidence and when the tyres went off I really struggled. Also, those Yamahas were difficult to set up with carburation – they would load up in corners and make it difficult to get back on the gas cleanly. Guys like Eddie Lawson would step the rear wheel out just enough to spin the tyre so they just rode through that rough patch and were so much quicker out of the corners and then down the straight.” Somehow Scott hauled his battered body through to the end of the season, then fulfilled a commitment to contest the New Zealand series again on the RS500. “I had no interest in doing this at all, I was so depressed. I was slower than the year before, my heart just wasn’t in it, so I decided that was it. I couldn’t face going back to Europe as a privateer.” Scott made a complete break from bikes, working as a barman on a yacht and generally taking time to allow himself to heal. Eventually he opened a motorcycle dealership in Taupo which he had for three years, then moved to Tauranga and into a business importing used cars from Japan. This led to some four-wheeled rallying in a Subaru XRX. Scott’s leathers had long been hung up when Peter Daniels, his first-ever sponsor back in 1980, came into the picture again. Daniels had a Forgotten Era Kawasaki 1000 and brought it to Phillip Island for the NZ versus UK versus Australia challenge at the 2004 Island Classic. Richard, who by now had extended his car importing business with a finance company to flog them to his customers, came along to help out at the meeting. Whoosh! The old flame was reignited. “I went home and said to my wife Cindy, I’ve just had the best time, I want to get another bike!” Fairly quickly he acquired a Suzuki GSX1100, the ultimate weapon in the Forgotten Era class, and with help from Bob Toomey, former GP mechanic for Suzuki, an immaculate racer took shape. In both 2005 and 2006 he was the class of the field at the Island Classic – fast and, unlike the Scott of old, safe. In 2007 he was the top scorer for the New Zealand team but decided to call it a day after that, not wanting to push his luck in the increasingly competitive Forgotten Era formula. Since 2008 Richard has been the Hyosung importer for New Zealand, so he’s right back where he started, and happy doing it. In 2010 Richard and business partner Ken Dobson instigated the Hyosung Cup for identical 250cc bikes; a series designed as a training ground for young road racers. His injuries have healed, and he’s long over the disappointment of his disastrous GP foray. “My best memories of racing were in Oz (Australia). They were really great days.”
Suzuka 8 Hour 1987 on a works Honda.
Chasing Ron Haslam in the 1987 Dutch TT at Assen.
BELOW On the Honda RS500 at Wanganui, New Zealand, Boxing Day 1986. TOP RIGHT Aboard the Team Roberts YZR500 Yamaha in the Dutch TT, Assen 1987.
CENTRE RIGHT Another bent YZR500. Austria 1987.
With Kenny Roberts, Austria 87.
On the Lucky Strike YZR500 1987.
Leading Len Willing in the wet – 1985 Castrol Six Hour Race at Oran Park.
Enjoying the spoils of victory with Paul Feeney after the 1985 Castrol Six Hour Race.
With Michael Dowson after winning the Castrol Six Hour Race at Oran Park in 1984.
On the RZ500 Yamaha in the 1984 Castrol Six Hour Race at Oran Park.
LEFT Pit stop in the 1984 Castrol Six Hour with Michael Dowson preparing to take over. RIGHT A painting by the late Alan Puckett to commemorate Scott’s 250cc Australian Championship win.
MAIN Dicing with Chris Oldfield in the Australian 250cc Grand Prix at Bathurst 1984. TOP RIGHT Austrian GP at Salzburgring 1987 on Lucky Strike Yamaha. BELOW Negotiating the Esses at Bathurst in 1984.
In leathers once again, demonstrating Gary Middleton’s KR750 Kawasaki at Levels Raceway, NZ, in 2016.
In action on the Suzuki GSXR1100 at Phillip Island, 2007.
Showing a clean pair of heels to the Forgotten Era Challenge field at Phillip Island, 2006.
Richard Scott (centre) with the late Warren Willing (left) and former sponsor Peter Addison during the International Challenge at Phillip Island 2006.