celebrating 40+ years of motorcycling

I can outbrake him – Oran Park 1977

If you go back to the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s, it seems that nearly all of the humorous stories from the time have one thing in common, or perhaps that should read one PERSON in common. The person? The irrepressable Kiwi, Graeme Crosby.

Crosby was not only a peerless rider and bravery epitomised (witness his 2nd place finish in the 1982 World 500cc Championship) but he was also one of the most versatile riders of his day.

This cameo of “The Croz’s”  wicked sense of humour comes from a private practice session at Sydney’s Oran Park Raceway back in late 1977.

Crosby was there to get a feel for the Ross Hannan-built Kawasaki superbike, a bike that he was to ride with great distinction in Australia before he headed off to fame and fortune in Europe. Also present at the practice day was Team Kawasaki Australia, under the supervision of their boss, Neville Doyle. Both the TKA riders were there, the story goes, the late and hugely lamented Gregg Hansford and the present boss of Kawasaki’s racing effort in Australia, Murray Sayle.

Both were testing the ferocious Kawasaki KR750, a 750cc engined three cylinder Formula 750 Grand Prix bike. It was on this model that both Hansford and Sayle had swept all before them in the season just concluded and it was this bike that TKA were planning on taking to Daytona for Gregg to ride in the 200 mile classic.

So, testing was very intense. The Kawasaki would be at a disadvantage on the high-speed banking of Daytona with all of his competiton being mounted on Yamaha’s OW31 4 cylinder F750 racer. So it was important to get it as right as it could be.

So, Croz was witnessing some important testing, as well as doing some important stuff of his own. But he couldn’t help being competitive, even on a test day, that was just his nature. And he had already heard of Hansford’s well-deserved reputation as the last of the demon late-brakers and he thought that he’s show this Aussie bloke the way they did it back in Un Zud. So, the next time Hansford came by on a flying lap, Crosby tucked in behind and shadowed him down the main straight.

Now, I must explain, or else this yarn will have no meaning, the riders were just using the South Circuit, turning left about 2/3 the way down the main straight and not continuing on onto the Grand Prix circuit. So, the two bikes, the pure racer and the superbike, were flying down the straight. Who would brake first and who would brake the latest?

As the left-hander loomed closer and closer, Crosby started to realise why Hansford had the reputation he had. While he was preparing to sit up and take the corner, Hansford was still pinned, his chin down on the tank! “&%$#, I thought” Crosby recalled later, “He’s GOTTA brake soon.”

Eventually Croz decided that ONE of them would HAVE to brake and he sat up and pulled on the anchors, Barely negotiating the corner on the very limit of adhesion, Crosby looked back to see Hansford’s bike whistling down towards the Grand Prix circuit, having made no attempt to take CC Corner at all. And there, standing right at the end of the straight was Neville Doyle, a plug spanner in hand.

Hansford had never intended to turn at CC Corner. Croz had caught him on flat-out run down the straight in preparation for a plug chop as soon as he pulled up at the bottom.

I think Croz’s words were something like, “My face was red and my pants were brown!”