MotoFest 2021 is coming up and legendary former Kiwi international Aaron Slight is one man who simply can’t wait for it to begin.
It will no doubt be another classic weekend at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, when the popular north Waikato race track hosts the fourth annual Mike Pero MotoFest on the weekend of March 6-7, world-renowned Masterton personality Slight looking forward to having another opportunity to ride the rare Proton KR3 bike during the “Legends Parade” segment of the jam-packed weekend.
The programme for MotoFest 2021 will feature the second annual Motul NZ Classic Grand Prix, the Shoei Helmets-sponsored Classic Two Stroke races and will also stage the third round of four in the New Zealand Superbike Championships (NZSBK) and, with so much going on, it’s likely spectators won’t know which way to look.
It’s really time to “Smoke ’em Out” this year as MotoFest embarks on “A Celebration of Two-Strokes in New Zealand” and the bike that Slight will ride is a classic example of the best in two-stroke motorcycle racing technology.
Owned by British collector Chris Wilson, a friend and regular supporter of MotoFest, the Proton KR3 is the bike that really signalled the end of the two-stroke era of GP racing.
This is the rare 500cc V3 configuration bike that Northern Ireland’s Jeremy McWilliams set pole on at the 2002 Australian GP – the last time a two-stroke bike achieved this feat.
The 2002 GP season marked the phasing out of 500cc two-strokes and the introduction of the 990cc four-stroke machinery.
American GP world champion Kenny Roberts and his main team engineers, including Kiwi Mike Sinclair, came up with the V3 design. The bike weighed only 135kg, but made 160 horsepower and was only about the size of a 250cc class bike.
“The bike itself came here from England for MotoFest last year and that was quite neat to see. One of the last two-strokes that Kenny Roberts had made. We were a bit disappointed that it didn’t actually run at that time,” said Slight, a Motorcycling New Zealand Hall of Fame inductee.
“But with the COVID-19 pandemic it wasn’t sent back to England and now it is running. I’ve had a bit of a go with it around Manfeild. We made a few alterations to it. To ride this bike, with such an amazing power-to-weight ratio, was pretty cool.
“The two stroke doesn’t have any engine braking, the engine is nice and skinny, so the weight is nice and low down and it’s easy to change direction. It’s very small too and I’m small in stature, so it suits me quite well,” said the 55-year-old father-of-one teenage girl.
“I’m pretty privileged to get to ride this bike. (Legendary New Zealand bike tuner and engineer) Paul Treacy has fiddled with it all year to get it to go so well. It’s very rare.
“I’m a huge fan of MotoFest. It’s quite nice to be at the national superbike champs too, so young and old can come together at the race track and see the bikes.”
Slight certainly knows his stuff.
He is a former three-time former Suzuka Eight-Hour Endurance Race winner (in 1993, 1994 and 1995), with national titles in New Zealand and an Australian superbike crown (in 1991), as well as being a regular podium finisher in the World Superbike Championships between 1988 and 2000. Her was twice runner-up in the WSBK series and finished third on four occasions.
In the 2000 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Slight was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to motor sport and these days he’s often heard commentating motorsport on New Zealand television.
In addition to Slight, MotoFest will particularly acknowledge three other Kiwis who made their name on big, raw two-strokes – Kawasaki and Bultaco hero Ginger Molloy, multi-time New Zealand champion Trevor Discombe and long-time racer, sponsor and mentor Bob Haldane.
And let’s not forget some of our other heroes, four-time World Champion Hugh Anderson, the extraordinary Graeme Crosby and three stars of the sport who are sadly no longer with us, Geoff Perry, Kim Newcombe and Rodger Freeth.
And then there are the machines. We have assembled the biggest line-up of the famous four-cylinder Yamaha TZ750 since the 1970s.
Add to that, some rare Suzuki RG500s, and a sea of Yamaha TZ250 and 350s. Plus there are some other smokin’ specials from the past.
In addition, if people ride their two-stroke to the event or bring it by van or trailer, there’s a special “Show and Shine” area set aside in the infield at Hampton Downs.
They’ll also get to take to the track for special parade laps with the legends and they’ll get free entry to the Saturday night BBQ.
Bring your display bike, your project bike in any state to enter and display. There will be prizes for: Best presented multi cylinder two stroke Street and Racing; Best presented Twin; Best presented Single; Best presented Team; Rare Bike Category; Best Barn Find; Most Optimistic Project (let’s see that rusting hulk).
This fourth annual MotoFest extravaganza promises excellence on all fronts, with well-respected identities from all segments of the motorcycle sporting community coming together for a spectacular two days of action.
MotoFest again has the support of Kawasaki, as it has since day one, Bridgestone, Motul, Shoei and MTF Finance.
Star Insurance will again sponsor and bring to life the Legends Garage, while manufacturer and trade displays will also have fans spoiled for choice.
MotoFest will certainly tick all the boxes with bike enthusiasts if the 2021 edition can match last season’s MotoFest.
Class leaders as the NZSBK series heads to Hampton Downs are Whakatane’s Damon Rees (Superbikes); Christchurch’s Aaron Scott (Superbike B, support class); Christchurch’s Dale Finch (Supersport 600); Whangamata’s Jarad Horn (650 Pro Twins); Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan (Supersport 300 and Supersport 150); Hamilton’s Billee Fuller (GIXXER Cup 150); Tauranga duo Barry Smith and Stu Dawe (Sidecars).
For more information on the upcoming Mike Pero MotoFest weekend, go HERE
2021 NZ Superbike Championships calendar:
Round 1 – January 9-10, Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna, Christchurch;
Round 2 – January 16-17, Levels International Raceway, Timaru;
Round 3 – March 6-7, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato, Mike Pero MotoFest;
Round 4 – March 13-14, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan