Great Britten will appear once more

By Iain Hyndman


They are as beautiful as they are fast and the only Britten motorcycle still mobile in the world will make a reappearance at the 60th Cemetery Circuit meeting in Wanganui on Boxing Day.

Inspired by aviation pioneer Richard Pearse, motor racing legend Bruce McLaren, Bill Hamilton of Hamilton Jet Boat fame and world record-holding motorcyclist Burt Munro, it's no wonder John Britten made his mark in designing super-fast, super-light motorcycles ahead of their time and building them in his Christchurch workshop.

A qualified mechanical engineer, Britten's early career involved mould and pattern design and metal spinning and mechanical engineering designs, all of which served him well in the Britten Motorcycle Company.

Sadly, Britten died on September 5, 1995, aged 45 years, as a result of skin cancer. He left behind 10 Britten motorcycles and great memories for race fans. The machine on display at the Wanganui i-Site, was ridden to victory on several occasions at the Cemetery Circuit by both Andrew Stroud and Jason McEwen. It is also a past winner of the World Twins Championship Daytona in the United States with Stroud aboard and at other famous international venues.

In fact, the Britten was so far ahead of its time they were banned from racing in New Zealand until the late 1980s.

This machine is the only one left in the world still running and will make a reappearance on Boxing Day when Stroud will do several laps of honour between races.

During the first major earthquake in Christchurch another Britten was saved, but after the second more devastating quake all the hand-crafted moulds were destroyed for ever.

Wanganui Cemetery Circuit and New Zealand Tri Series promoter Allan "Flea" Willacy said the earthquake had also destroyed any chance of rebuilding damaged Brittens. "Motorcycle fans will love this machine - it's not only fast, but it's a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and could probably still foot it with the best of them. Unfortunately, all the original moulds were destroyed in the earthquake, so there's no chance of any more parts," Willacy said.

Apart from the Britten and the famous Cemetery Circuit names arriving to celebrate the 60th anniversary, current German superbike champion Thomas Kreutz has been confirmed as a starter in the main events.

"Thomas is a top European rider and is the current German superbike champ. We also have Adam Child coming. He is a top journalist for Motorcycle News, the largest motorcycle magazine in Europe. He says he's here to do a story on Wanganui, the Cemetery Circuit and the Britten. And anyone keen to see the Britten at the i-Site can buy their early bird tickets for just $20 and save $10," Willacy said.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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