Returning Kiwi Icon is definite MotoFest draw-card
It's the homecoming of a Kiwi hero that is sure to excite the motorbike community when the Star Insure MotoFest again stages its remarkable celebration of motorcycling at Hampton Downs in March.
Kiwi international Simon Crafar makes a return to New Zealand as a special guest for the MotoFest extravaganza at North Waikato racing circuit, near Meremere, on the weekend of March 4-5.
The event - not run last year due to COVID-19restrictions - will be the fourth edition of the very popular motorcycling festival.
Crafar will 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 a coach and now commentator in the MotoGP world championship, specialising in the technical side and interviewing the likes Francesco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez, Fabio Quartararo and Joan Mir.
"I didn't enjoy the start of my commentary career. It's not easy learning a new trade in front of such a huge audience ,but, after five years, I've learned skills and built relationships, trust and respect with most of the key people in the MotoGP paddock, which gives me important information and interviews. It's what I know. I love this work."
It was exactly that sort of determined attitude that saw a young Crafar race his Red Bull Yamaha to 500cc Grand Prix victory at Donington Park in 1998, a third at Assen, Holland, and second at Phillip Island, in Australia.
Crafar finished seventh in the 1998 world championships, behind motorcycling legends Mick Doohan, Max Biaggi, Alex Criville, Carlos Checa, Alex Barros and Norick Abe.
Not bad for a small-town Kiwi boy, a former motocross rider who can trace his humble road-race beginnings to a low-key track day event 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, and looking forward to a return visit to Hampton Downs," said Crafar.
"Of course, I'm looking forward to see family and friends, but I also want to spend time with the current New Zealand riders. There isn't a magic recipe for making it to the top. It's always a battle, but if I can help a little, I'd like to."
In addition to meeting and greeting fans at the Star Insure MotoFest, Crafar plans to enjoy riding in the Legends Track Sessions on several of the beautiful racing motorcycles from his and earlier eras.
Meanwhile, it will also be a time to "Smoke 'em Out" as the Star Insure MotoFest embarks on "A Celebration of Two-Strokes in New Zealand" and the fabulous Proton KR3 bike, owned by British collector Chris Wilson, is a classic example of the best in two-stroke motorcycle racing technology.
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.
Legendary New Zealand bike tuner and engineer Paul Treacy has worked with the bike for the past year and the extremely rare bike will be real eye candy for the thousands of fans expected at MotoFest.
MotoFest will acknowledge some of the 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, Waikato's four-time World Champion and recent MotoGP Legends Hall of Fame inductee 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. MotoFest has assembled the biggest line-up of the famous four-cylinder Yamaha TZ750 bikes 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 Star Insure 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.
Star Insure MotoFest again has the support of Kawasaki, as it has since day one, Bridgestone, Motul, Shoei and MTF Finance.
Star Insurance will also sponsor and bring to life the Legends Garage, while manufacturer and trade displays will also have fans spoiled for choice.
Star Insure MotoFest will certainly tick all the boxes with bike enthusiasts if the 2023 edition can match previous MotoFest spectacles.
If the Star Insure MotoFest doesn't get your heart racing, then you probably need to check your pulse
Caption: Former Taihape man Simon Crafar (right), pictured here with Kiwi female racer Avalon Biddle the last time he was able to appear at MotoFest in 2019.
Photo Credit: Andy McGechan