Peter Senior and Brian Cartwright WA stars
The tyranny of distance meant few West Australian riders regularly ventured to the ‘seventies big time in the Eastern States, but that didn’t mean there was a lack of talent there. Far from it.
Little did Peter Senior know after puncturing his bicycle tyre back in ‘65 that by chance he’d strike up a friendship that would endure his lifetime and introduce the young English lad to Aussie mateship and motorcycle racing. His family hadn’t long arrived in Western Australia as “10 pound poms” and the 15 year old was still finding his way. He was in Scarborough and on his way home when he struck tyre trouble. By chance, Brian Cartwright happened to be passing and stopped to help. They went back to Brian’s place to repair the tyre. To Peter’s amazement, the Cartwright shed had several old motorcycles in various states of repair, which Brian was working on.
The two clicked to become best mates and developed a shared interest in motorcycles. This would morph into racing, where their mateship and on-track rivalry spurred the two on to becoming a couple of WA’s most successful riders throughout the ‘70s.
Brian, a year older than Peter, was already entrenched in motorcycles and mechanics, having formed an interest at the age of 12 when he “gave life” to an old CZ 125 abandoned in his grandmother’s shed. By the time he was 17, he’d rebuilt 43 machines, most of which he’d sell for a bit of cash. “In those days, you’d walk down the street and see a bike leaning against a shed or fence, weeds growing around it,” recalled Brian. “Nobody wanted them. Often, I’d just knock on the door and be told if I could get it going, I could have it. So that’s how it all started for me.” A while later the pair headed to Caversham, which was the main circuit before Wanneroo Park raceway opened. Brian, being a little older and a bit cocky, reckoned he could probably go as fast as the riders they watched and, as soon as they were old enough, both headed to the Motor Cycle Racing Club of WA and applied for their racing licenses. Brian’s racing career started with a high performance Shelsley Walsh Matchless that he’d managed to get his hands on, fitted with a genuine Shelsley Walsh motor and a Matchless close ratio factory gearbox. In his second outing, the 1968 Flying 50 Handicap event, he had a win, which drove the teenager on. Shortly after, his racing had an abrupt setback. “We had a catastrophic fire in the shed, which destroyed about half a dozen bikes. The worst of it was I was away racing in Collie and had the original engine from my Shelsley Walsh Matchless sitting on the floor of the garage, with the spare engine in the bike I was riding. All that was left was some molten metal, the flywheel, a cam and a few other bits and pieces. It was really sad because it was a pretty special engine,” Brian recalled.
While Brian had taught himself mechanics from an early age, Peter also had a natural ability with a spanner, which served both well as they started their racing careers. They would spend hours tinkering away on their bikes and learning. Coincidentally, Peter also lived next door to Graeme Sigley, who was already involved in racing. This further fuelled his interest. Graeme, along with the late Eric Nicholl, had formidable achievements throughout the ‘70s, winning thirteen state titles across various classes as well as being crowned King of Wanneroo four times in the decade, while Eric cleaned up in sidecars. Peter and Brian would often find themselves duelling with Graeme as their racing careers progressed, which provided healthy and very spirited competition.
Peter started racing a little later than Brian. His first race bike was a Norton 500 Dominator and while he didn’t meet with early success, the bike was very reliable and a good start as he learnt the tricks of the trade and developed his mechanical skills. Around 1970 he purchased a Kawasaki A1 Samurai 250cc road bike, which he set up for racing and started winning a few events. His potential was evident when he had a surprise win and a second at the Gnowangerup Round the Houses event that year, which signalled his arrival. Unfortunately, he wrote the bike off shortly afterwards in an accident at Wanneroo, although quickly secured another and continued to mark his presence. Later that year, Brian moved to Bunbury, but the two remained the closest of mates. On moving to Bunbury, Brian was invited to ride a Kawasaki A7 Avenger 350cc being built by Ray Trebly. This bike was a major step up in performance from his ageing Matchless and very competitive with the bikes of the day. He and Peter were seeing more success and Brian soon got a ride with Honda Australia as part of the state’s Honda Racing Team. His relationship with Honda lasted for more than 12 years. Peter also joined the team for a period. While he rode for Honda for some years, he also moved across to ride for Yamaha and later, Suzuki. Both recalled their anticipation when Honda Japan sent across a factory prepared Honda CR750 racer built as part of its Daytona campaign. The CR750 arrived following Honda’s success in the 1970 Daytona Beach 200, its first and only outing there. The CR had been specifically developed by Honda to win the prestigious race as it sought to make inroads with its larger bikes into the American market and had reached almost legendary status with this one achievement, largely thanks to Honda’s marketing. But what wasn’t well known was the winning bike was close to expiring and only just made it across the line. The bike to arrive in WA was the first (and possibly only) Japanese factory built CR750 to hit Australia. Also to arrive from Honda Japan was a CR kit to be used on a CB750 donor bike. Peter explained the bike was in a sorry state and had obviously been raced. He believes it was part of Honda’s Daytona campaign. It was almost seized and when started, spewed copious amounts of oil smoke and was making very unhealthy sounds. It had to be rebuilt. In the mean-time, Brian and the mechanics from Honda assembled the second bike with the kit. Back in the day, licensing requirements in regional towns weren’t as strict as today and they managed to get the kitted bike licensed in Bunbury, where Brian ran it in on the road. “The CR came to WA and there were huge expectations,” said Brian. “But the bike really wasn’t suited to the WA competition. It was fine at Wanneroo where its long legs could be used to advantage. But on tight street circuits, which made up half the championship events, and weighing half as much again as a TR2 Yamaha, it was a real handful. It was also plagued with top end oil starvation problems and unreliable. But to put it into perspective, it was really just a production bike, heavily kitted up and not designed from the ground up as a race bike, so the expectations were pretty unrealistic. It had, after all, achieved what it was created to do, which was to win at Daytona,” he said.
Shortly after getting the original CR running, Peter recalls there was “a bit of fuss” from the East that WA had two “CRs” and the eastern states none. The original bike was then sent over east, where it was thought to have been raced for a while and ended up on display within Honda Australia. Word is that a few years later, some visiting executives from Honda Japan saw the bike on display and had it returned to Japan, where it now sits in the Honda museum. This would appear to confirm Peter’s belief that it may have been one of the original bikes from the Daytona campaign, although Honda Australia could not shed any light on this chapter of its racing history.
In addition to their rides with Honda, Peter and Brian each purchased a new Yamaha TR2 to contest the 350cc and 500cc classes for the 1972 season. Brian met with success and took out both the 350cc and 500cc State Championships, while Peter won the 500cc class the following year. They both recall how temperamental the TR2 was, especially with starting. Brian fixed the problem by installing Moto Parilla go kart points with a total loss battery system. Embedded in Peter’s memory with his TR2 is the first of the “Flying 50’s” at Wanneroo, where his handicap to other bikes was 7 ½ minutes. “The bike was stone cold and wouldn’t start,” he recalled. “Luckily, I was a bit fitter back then and ended up pushing the bloody thing from the start, down into the basin and around when it eventually fired. I managed to make up ground and finished third. I learnt the next year and kept the bike to the side and running before the start, to turn it off a short while before the flag dropped and then got it going and won the race. I was told I couldn’t do that as it was breaking the rules, but no one could show me anything about that, so I stood my ground and the result stood,” he said. A highlight for the two when both were riding with Honda was the inaugural 3-hour Production Bike race at Wanneroo Park. The Motor Cycle Racing Club of WA organised this event in response to growing interest and a worldwide trend to endurance races with production bikes. Following their success and experience at Daytona, Honda Australia saw success on the track as integral to their marketing strategy and Graham McKenna from Honda WA obtained a CB750 for each of them to contest the Production series. Two Honda 750s were entered in the 3-Hour, with Brian and Peter pairing up for the event. It was clear the race would be keenly contested with a wide range of machines entered, reflecting the popularity of this type of event and importance to manufacturers. The field included Graeme Sigley and Stan Cheesman riding the Mortlock-sponsored 650 Triumph, Ross Chapman and Dennis Ryan on the Lloyd Chapman 750 Ducati, Fred Bloomfield and Peter O’Meara on a 750 Suzuki and John Rova and Jack Rowe on a 750 Kawasaki. The smaller capacity machines included the likes of Brian Cull and Barry Storemont on an RD350 Yamaha, Ian West and Ron Nicoll on a GT380 Suzuki, and many others in the mix. Brian and Peter had a good win, completing 144 laps, while second place getters, Ross Chapman and Dennis Ryan completed 143 laps, with Graeme Sigley and Stan Cheeseman coming in third on 142 laps. In those days, both riders would compete in most classes available in the State Championships.
Brian commented that sometimes he’d take four bikes to a meeting; sponsored Hondas for some events and his own Yamahas for others. It wasn’t uncommon for him to be seen riding a Yamaha while wearing Honda leathers! “There was also a lot of experimentation and modification of bikes, that wasn’t always led by the factory,” Brian said of the period. “Around 1972 (the late) Bryan Hindle came across from the Eastern States to ride for Honda in the Australian Road Racing Championship round at Wanneroo Park,” Brian said. “He spotted the new CR 125 Motocross in Honda Cannington and reckoned that with some modifications, it’d make a good road racer. Honda WA installed forks from a CB175, changed the brakes and made a few other modifications. Hindle rode it at the Australian Road Racing Round at Wanneroo and placed third. “After this success, we made some more modifications, including running it on alcohol, and took it to Bathurst where I clocked 123mph down the back straight. Honda Australia got wind of it and, before much longer, produced a 125 in full race trim based on that bike,” he said. “After that, Honda Japan further developed it into the Honda CR125R, a bike I raced for many years.” On retiring from racing, Honda Australia presented Brian with his CR125R, fully restored. It is now proudly displayed in a secure cabinet under his bar.
After riding with Honda in the early ‘70s, Peter continued having success on a number of different bikes, including the first TZ350 Yamaha to be assembled in WA. In 1975 he bought a Suzuki RG500, a bike that has become one of his favourites. He still has the RG, which is now raced by his son Adam in Historic racing events. And it was on this bike he had one of his most memorable rides, which was against the late Mike Hailwood. “Mike had always been one of my heroes, from the time I was a real young bloke” said Peter. “In 1978, Mike came across as part of his comeback to compete in Bathurst at Easter. I couldn’t believe it when I found myself lined up alongside him for three races. He was on a new OW31 TZ750 Yamaha and me on the Suzi’. “Over each race, we were side by side. He was quicker up over the top, but I could pick him up on other parts of the circuit. I had an absolute ball, something I’ll never forget,” he said. Tragically, Mike died in 1981 in a vehicle accident in the UK.
Neither Brian or Peter made a really serious tilt at racing over East. They both travelled across for some events but found the tyranny of distance restrictive when it came to racing at the national level. They both laugh that one of their strongest incentives was that in each race they’d always wager a jug of beer to the first around the first corner, and a jug for
whoever won the race. This certainly led to many fierce starts and they both attribute much success to this. The mateship and the camaraderie they experienced within the local racing community throughout the ‘70s is something both recall as being quite unique, with Peter commenting that he often felt he raced for the social life. In particular, the Round the Houses events that formed part of the state championships added a unique element to the racing scene in WA. The period was the heyday of motorcycle racing in the state, where the sport was very popular, competition was intense, but friendships and bonds within the racing community were particularly strong. By 1989, insurance issues had effectively put paid to Round the Houses events and with it, a colourful part of WA motor racing history. Brian competed in his last race in 1989 and has stayed involved in motorcycling with his main interests in vintage and veteran bikes, participating in club events and support of his son Mathew, who races at a state level in Motocross. Peter’s passion for racing has continued and he has passed the baton to his son Adam, who competes both at a state and national level. He and his wife Julie support Adam and regularly travel over east, providing back up for his racing. They both regularly catch up and have also kept in touch with Graeme Sigley and others from this special era in WA motor cycle racing.
FAR LEFT Brian Cartwright today with his restored Matchless. CENTRE Peter with his treasured Suzuki RG500. BELOW Albany circa 1971. Brian leads Peter Senior, both on 350 Yamahas.
Brian on the race kitted CB/CR750. Rival and mentor to Brian and Peter, Graeme Sigley finished 2nd on his Suzuki RG500 in the Bathurst 500cc GP in 1979. Peter Senior at Caversham in 1968 on his Norton Dominator.
Honda leathers but Yamaha mounted – Brian on a Yamaha FZ750.
Early days. Brian in 1968 in a Round the Houses event. Brian Cartwright on the CB750FZ Honda he shared with Rick Gill in the 1980 Castrol Six Hour Race at Amaroo Park. They finished 12th outright in the very wet race.
Brian on the smoky kitted CB/CR750 shortly before it expired at Wanneroo.
ABOVE Is this the ex-Cartwright CR750? On display in the Honda Museum, Motegi, Japan. RIGHT The kitted CB/CR750 after it was licensed for the road in Bunbury.
LEFT Brian airborne on a Yamaha FZR1000 in the Round the Houses event at Bunbury in 1989. ABOVE Father and son. Adam (77) and Peter Senior at Wanneroo on TR3 Yamahas. BELOW In good company. Peter (77) at Wanneroo with Ross Barelli (13), Bryan Hindle (50), and Gregg Hansford (02).