Eric Thompson looks back at a humble star's great career
One of New Zealand's most successful motorcycle racers, Andrew Stroud, has decided to pin his competitive racing licence to the study wall.
After more than 25 years of thundering around just about every racetrack in the world, the unassuming Hamiltonian has called it quits.
There's not enough room here to go into every detail of Stroud's successes. Nor is there space to cover the immense impression he made on racing fans worldwide since he debuted and showcased the New Zealand-designed and built Britten V1000 twin - a bike that still draws the crowds whenever it's wheeled out.
Suffice to say, Stroud is an old-school sporting hero who was more concerned about strutting his stuff on the racetrack than talking about it. In this day and age when there's a lot of talking and very little walking, Stroud spent more time outrunning the opposition and winning than chatting about how he was going to do it.
"Andrew has always been the Peter Pan of New Zealand motorcycle racing," said Kiwi Rider Ross MacKay, who's been reporting on motorsport longer than Stroud has been racing.
"Even when he was a young bloke, we all sort of thought he had this kind of agelessness to him. You could match his skill with the Crosbys and the Kenny Roberts' of the world but he never had an ego.
"He had great humility, which meant he was climbed over by probably less talented and more ambitious riders.
"Having said that, he's always been happy to just go racing and keep racing at a pace, especially in New Zealand, that's competitive even to this day.
"Young riders think they can beat him, but then suddenly find themselves second, third or fourth to him, and always with that great, big happy grin on his face. Any decision he makes by himself and without being injured is a good one.
"He's done more with the sport, and for the sport, than any other rider of his generation."
Driven asked Stroud about the thoughts processes surrounding his decision to hang up the leathers.
"I just want to devote the same energy I had for racing to the family now," he said."It's going to be a whole new life, as before the racing took a big chunk. It wasn't an easy decision to make and it took quite awhile to come to.
"There were times when I'd wake up in the middle of the night with a couple of little babies beside me and really enjoying the moment.
"Some of the risk factors [of racing] would then pop into my mind. I always felt in control of the bike, but sometimes things would happen outside my control.
"More than that, though, last season was going to be my last season, but I didn't get a chance to do it [big crash early on] so I thought I'd make the one coming up my last one instead. But really, I think I've done enough and I don't have anything more to prove.
"I didn't want it to become just a job, because if it did I'd rather pick a safer one. Karyn [his wife] has always stayed right out of any decision about my stopping and whenever I've asked her opinion she's not taken either side.
"It's all been my decision to stop racing competitively, but if I want to go out for a ride for fun I will and racing competitively is not on the radar at all. There are still options to ride the Britten all around the world, but I don't have my whole future planned out by any means.
"I'm just happy now to be able to step back a bit and be the best father and husband that I can be, and Karyn, as well as my mum and dad, are pretty happy - as I am, and I'm excited about the future."
Needless to say, Karyn breathed a small sigh of relief when her husband, father to their nine children, decided to concentrate on family life rather than flinging himself around circuits at speeds approaching 300km/h.
"I was a little taken by surprise because he had an offer to race again next season from Suzuki and his other sponsors," she said. "Quite definitely he said 'that's me done'. Also, he said a long time ago that 'I own racing, it doesn't own me' and it's his decision to go racing or not.
"He also said he's had a part of him he only gave to racing and now it's time to give that extra part to the family.
"It's another chapter for us now. For him to come to that place by himself is great and, for me, it opens opportunities for us to do other things."
Stroud has had great support from a long list of sponsors over the years, especially Suzuki and Brother.
"Suzuki has sponsored me for the last 13 years in New Zealand and Brother have been with me for 15 years," he said.
"There are also a whole lot of others who have helped along the way and have been a great support over the years.
"I want to thank each and every one of them."
The general manager of Suzuki motorcycles New Zealand, Simon Meade, has nothing but praise for the relationship the company has had with Stroud.
"We've been very privileged and honoured to have had Andrew ride for us over the last 10 years and more," he said.
"He's been a great ambassador for the sport and Suzuki on and off the track and we're disappointed to see him leave the sport but can see it's a pathway all riders have to take at some stage.
"We'll miss him as a personal friend and as a contract rider. That's the sort of relationship we have with all our riders and especially Andrew."
1986: Began motorcycle racing
1988: NZ 250 Production champion
1988: 2nd Arai 500 at Bathurst
1988-98: Raced internationally for Superbike and Grand Prix teams
1992: First rode Britten V1000 at Daytona
1994: 1st Daytona
1994, 1996-98: 1st Battle of the Twins Daytona
1995: World BEARS champion
1995: 1st European Pro-Twins at Assen
41: World Superbike races
20: FIM 500 GP races
9: New Zealand Superbike National championships
4: Suzuka 8 Hour races
3: 24 Hour World Endurance races
1: Isle of Man
Andrew Stroud will be missed by racing fans and sponsors, but still has options to ride the Britten V1000 all around the world. Picture/Terry Stevenson