It’s the homecoming of a Kiwi hero that is sure to excite the motorbike community when the Mike Pero MotoFest repeats its spectacular celebration of motorcycling at Hampton Downs in March.
Taihape-born Kiwi international Simon Crafar will make a rare return to New Zealand on March 2-3, arriving as a special guest for the second annual Mike Pero MotoFest extravaganza at the North Waikato racing circuit, near Meremere.
MotoFest promises excellence on all fronts, with former champions (and perhaps future ones too), from across the entire motorcycling spectrum, all coming together for a spectacular two days of action at Hampton Downs.
MotoFest will also feature the third round of five in the 2019 New Zealand Superbike Championships. The jam-packed weekend will be a unique Kiwi festival of motorcycling, with speed, power, poise, balance, daring and high-octane expression by the bucket-load.
Crafar will certainly be one of the main draw-cards for the event, a small-town Kiwi boy who spread his wings, tasted motorcycle road-racing glory at the ultimate level and went on to craft a career as coach to the stars.
Respected internationally, he is now sought-after as advisor and commentator on the MotoGP scene, mixing and mingling with the likes of Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso.
“I’ll be aged 50 by the time I get to New Zealand for the Hampton Downs MotoFest event,” said Crafar. “I last came home for a week in May 2017, just to see my parents and sister. I’m embarrassed to say my previous visit had been eight years before that. Commitments, to both family and to business, have kept me from looking up for that period. It worked though. Anyone who invests in starting a new company will tell you it’s a full-on commitment to make it work and you can’t take your eye off the goal for some years. My Motovudu business is about ‘how to’ books and videos, basically passing on all the skills I learned the hard way. My main work is on-circuit instruction. Suzuki UK supports me with GSX-R1000 bikes… an instructor bike for me and rental bikes … and I transport them to events at many of the great circuits in Europe.”
“Now I also have the commentary work for MotoGP. I chase the weather and, because I can only really fit Motovudu events in from December 1 to April sometime, I end up mainly in Spain and Portugal. No complaints from me, though, because the weather, circuits, and food are great there. The MotoGP commentary job was a nightmare for me at first,” he confessed. “Like any job, you learn the hard way. It was stressful. But, after six GPs, I had a routine, understood what was needed from me, got to know the people I was interviewing and started to relax, so my brain was free to work and all that meant I started to enjoy it for the first time. By the end of the year I loved my new job. My goal from the start of the year was simply to be good enough by the end of the year to be signed up again the following season, on better terms. I achieved that goal and I’m proud of it because learning a new career (journalism) at age 49 was hard. Sometimes I doubted myself. But, just like racing and starting a company, in the end it paid off to be stubborn and determined.”
It was exactly that sort of attitude that saw a young Crafar race his Red Bull Yamaha to 500cc Grand Prix victory at Donington Park in 1998. That naturally still holds a special place in his memory.
“Of course it was a dream come true to win at that level, but if Mick Doohan had not been standing beside me, on a lower step, it would not have meant as much,” said Crafar. “My other podiums that year actually mean just as much because my third place at Assen was my first in GP, so it was very special, and my second podium at Philip Island was the most enjoyable ride of my life and I got to stand on the podium and see my parents and grandparents in the sea of people. That’s a special memory.”
Crafar finished with a world GP ranking of No.7 in that 1998 season, behind motorcycling legends Mick Doohan, Max Biaggi, Alex Criville, Carlos Checa, Alex Barros and Norick Abe. No bad for a small-town Kiwi boy who can trace his humble beginnings to a low-key track day at Manfeild, the then 15-year-old borrowing a friend’s bike and “giving it a go”.
“I have raced all the circuits and some street circuits in New Zealand over the years, but this will be my first visit to Hampton Downs. I’m looking forward to it.”
In addition to meeting and greeting fans and catching up with friends and family at the Mike Pero MotoFest, Crafar will be running the Legends Rider Clinic on Thursday, February 28, and he will be riding several bikes of note in the Legends Track Sessions. He will attend signing sessions and the Celebration Dinner on the Saturday night of MotoFest.
Mike Pero MotoFest will run with the same format that was introduced last time around and will again include the popular Kawasaki Trail Ride, Motul Trials Challenge, Star Insurance Bike Show, Alpine Stars Dinner event, Shoei Classic, as well as the national championship superbike racing. For the first time, ACC’s Shiny Side Up Bike Fest will also be running in conjunction with MotoFest.
What more could you ask for? If the Mike Pero MotoFest doesn’t get your heart racing, then you probably need to check your pulse.
For more information on the Mike Pero MotoFest weekend, go to http://www.hamptondowns.com
Words by Andy McGechan, Photos by Darin Fitzgerald and Jan Starek