Pukekohe 4th – 7th February 2011 Blog 139

We arrive at Pukekohe (pooky as it’s affectionately known) in the drizzle. We texted ahead and Jared (Mr Moto Guzzi club NZ) and John Blaymires (Mr superquick Guzzi sidecar racer) come to meet us at the gate. John said on the phone he had one spare free ticket and stars that they are they managed to rustle up another one, brilliant !
Pukekohe circuit is like stepping back in time for us, sharing with a horse racing track which runs around the infield, it is delightfully old school circuit racing. The main car park is a big grassy tree shaded area which you can camp in for free so that will save us 3 days campsite fees as well. We get the tent up and settle in as an ever largening crowd gathers. The bike attracts attention where ever it goes but never more so than when it’s gone half way round the world and it’s at a petrolhead festival. We answer many questions and get talking to lots of different people. It becomes obvious it’s going to be a very social weekend. After dinner we bump into a guy called Chris, I hoped this might happen at some stage. We have never properly met but I have been aware of Chris for a long time, he hails from Brighton in the UK originally but now lives in NZ. He built the sideways Guzzi chop that won best engineering at the Kent custom show (UK) many years ago amongst many other things. One of the other things he built which I love is a Vincent powered cafe racer, he is riding it this weekend so I get chance to have another good look along with many other people. A lot of people think it’s got a Spondon frame but in fact Chris built it himself, it is all alloy tube in gracefull swooping curves designed to show off the engine. It really is a work of art in itself, I saw it in England just before he left it had a red tank then. It now has an alloy tank with HRD embossed into the alloy which looks the business.
It’s good to meet him at last, we have a mutual friend Casper who Chris lost touch with when he left England. When I go into the emails to give him Caspers address I notice that the top email is from Cas saying you might bump into Chris at Puke (Pooky) because he doesn’t live too far away and normally goes. Spooky !
We head off that evening with Chris for a few beers and meet some of his friends Marty and Chris (female) who are really nice people. They have travelled a lot in the US and give us some good pointers for when we are there and an invite to stay at their place in NZ when we are passing. We have a nice evening and via a few more people wobble back to the tent in the small hours. Next morning there is a crowd of people looking at the bike before we are even up and we hear them outside the tent discussing with one another what everything does as we are coming round. Once we are up and breakfasted we answer a few more questions and decide to take up the Italian Motorcycle Owners Club’s offer and put it down on their stand in the bike park. I write a little about our trip with a marker pen on some plastic and we leave some cards and stickers also. When we go to check a few hours later they are all gone so we leave some more finally resorting to photocopies of the stickers showing the website address when we run out.
We go down to say hello to the Guzzi guys in the pits and we unexpectedly meet Pete from MotoKiwi as he supports all the Guzzi riders. We have talked on the phone and he has been super helpful whenever we have needed parts here, he is also a really knowledgeable guy and it’s good to meet him at last.
We also meet Charlie, John’s passenger* on the Guzzi sidecar *(also known as a swinger due to their acrobatics on the outfit rather than their penchant for dodgy parties where you all put your car keys in a bowl) he is good fun and a real joker which belies his experience which is considerable. The two of them make a good team and that combined with a well set up fast outfit which John built makes them a force to be reckoned with. They race in the post classic series and there is only one other outfit in the field that really gives them a fight which is not here this weekend. John recently modified the outfit to run on methanol (more to make it run cooler than anything) this combined with a valve grind and new rings has pepped up it’s performance even more. We watched their qualifier which they won easily and in the later heats they deliberately start at the back of the grid to spice things up a bit, they are that quick !
Pukekohe has a great laid back atmosphere and it’s like going back to proper clubman racing before it all got too serious and expensive in the UK. Some of the competitors are riding tuned road bikes with a number stuck on the side and as we wander around the pits people are happy to talk to us if they aren’t too busy. There is an impressive selection of machinery and we can’t believe how many British bikes are out here. We get our first chance to look at a Britten in the flesh, Andrew Strouds V1000 is here, what an amazing machine.
The other striking machine was in the Henderson display, they are interesting beast anyway but they had a Militaire on display. These have the strangest steering system I have ever seen on a motorcycle and outriggers on the back. Our timing was good as the owner fired it up and took it for a demo run while we watched. Having had a really good look around the pits we cross back to the outfield and watch the racing for a few hours. The grandstands are all free so you can take your pick of vantage points.
Later back at the tent we get talking to an older  local guy who is very enthusiastic about what we are doing. He is glad of the company too we think as he was expecting to meet some mates here who haven’t shown up. That evening we wander back down to the pits and spend the evening with Charlie, Mutley, Bridget and the rest of the Guzzi pit crew. We have a great evening with them but retire at 11ish as everyone needs some sleep it’s a big day tomorrow as it’s the finals. We take the bike back to the IMOC stand on Sunday morning and then wander down to the pits to wish the  guys luck before having a wander around the circuit. Sunday is the big day and there are a lot more people here,
it’s been good to be here for the whole weekend as we have already had chance to have a good look around the paddock/pits and got some great pictures when it wasn’t so busy. We have also sussed out the good places to watch so we mostly circulate around them today and enjoy the racing. There is a good spot inside of the start finish straight which gets us really close to the action with no catch fences in the way so it’s good for pictures. John and Charlie win their race convicingly and everyone has a good day helped by the sunshine which has returned. We retrieve the Guzz from the Imoc stand and the guy running it tells Karen it was the most photographed bike there by a long shot.
When the racing is done we wander down to the pits to see the guys and say goodbye to Jared who has to get home. We are invited to the awards presentation and are there to cheer John and Charlie as they receive their trophy for winning the post classic sidecar race amongst a heap of other silverware which was a nice way to round off a great weekend. When the guys are gone we wander back to the campsite and are pleasantly surprised to discover that the caravan that was parked close to us is now empty and unlocked. We thought someone had bought it in for the weekend but it obviously lives here so we snaffle it allowing us to pack up our gear to give us an early start tomorrow. Just as we are finishing we bump into Dick Huurdeman, he and his mate Des Malloy did a trip they called the Last Hurrah from Beijing to Arnhem in 2005 on old British bikes. They were both in their 70′s at the time. My good friend Nigel bought me the book for Christmas one year and I read it before we left. Amazingly Dick is still riding the same Norton now, the only difference is it now has a sidecar style box on it as he had a stroke last year and his balance isn’t so good. We take some pictures with us and his bike and have a good talk with him, what an amazing guy.
Retiring to our caravan we sleep well and next day after stocking up with food we head off to the Coromandel.

  1. #1 by Al on March 26, 2011 - 8:09 am

    We met in Takaka/NZ…that other extreme bike…thought I tell you…’The Vintagent’ (http://thevintagent.blogspot.com/) is featuring some nice Guzzis on his site right now…
    Hope you’re well…have fun

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