Te Puke pensioner nudges 200km/h

By Pauline Carney of the Te Puke Times -
Te Puke's John Feaver togged up ready for a speed trial on the South Australian Lake Gairdner salt flats last month. Photo / Supplied
Te Puke's John Feaver togged up ready for a speed trial on the South Australian Lake Gairdner salt flats last month. Photo / Supplied

Te Puke has its own "fastest Indian" and at age 72 John Feaver reckons he's just getting started.

Last month, on the salt flats at Lake Gairdner in South Australia, Mr Feaver opened up on a rebuilt 500cc motorbike he'd bought as a wreck for $300. The 1995 CX Kawasaki was clocked at 123.174mph (198.22km/h) on a six-mile track.

Dry Lake Races of Australia hosted Speed Week from February 18 in 45C heat, about 240km from the nearest main centre, Port Augusta.

"People were collapsing from heat stroke during the 14 days of racing," Mr Feaver said. "We were waiting up to six hours in incredible heat, in racing leathers for a turn on the track.

"At one stage, a car rolled and it took about 90 minutes for men and machinery to fix the track.

"There are fire crews every mile along the six-mile track and the extra three miles where we slow down. It is well monitored."

The lake is in a national park, so all vehicles had to be parked on tarpaulins and most competitors drove hours on dusty roads each day.

Mr Feaver has always been a Burt Munro fan - the Southland man about whom The World's Fastest Indian film was made. Munro raced an Indian motorbike on Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

"What people don't realise is Burt Munro went to Bonneville 11 times. The movie made it look like he went once.

"I've been to Lake Gairdner four times but the first three it rained so there was no racing. So fourth time lucky works for me."

Mr Feaver said achieving a record for that class of bike on the surface turned out to be emotional because a good friend died recently. He regularly visited his friend in Taranaki and the dying man shared a love of riding motorcycles.

"I had his name painted on the bike and I did this thinking of him because he'd have loved to share the occasion."

He says the record isn't a world mark and there are no prizes but he expects a certificate in the mail sometime soon acknowledging the effort.

But that's not the end of riding fast bikes for Mr Feaver. "There are still a couple of things on the bucket list - one is racing a vintage 500cc bike to set a speed record."

Mr Feaver has been working on a pre-1955 special construction frame and an engine that runs on alcohol.

He hopes to return to Speed Week next year and see how fast he can go.

But don't expect to notice John Feaver by the speed he travels around his hometown.

"I've never had a ticket and I've been riding and driving since I was a kid. I've been told I drive like a nana."

- Te Puke Times

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