Randy Mamola, the original 'great entertainer' of motorcycle Grand Prix racing will headline the Mike Pero MotoFest spectacular at Hampton Downs from March 3-4 next year.
The American made his début in international motorcycle racing in New Zealand in the early 1970s and went on to world championship Grand Prix racing success. Along the way he gained a legion of fans, drawn to his post-race antics that included wheelies, stoppies and throwing his gloves into the grandstands. The fans loved him for it and several riders, not least the great Valentino Rossi, have used the 'Mamola template' in subsequent years.
"I'm super excited to be able to come to New Zealand again and to the MotoFest at Hampton Downs," says Mamola from his home in Barcelona, Spain. Mamola, Kiwi Superbike legend Aaron Slight and his former team-mate Rob Phillis head up a long list of legends attending the Hampton Downs event which will showcase all things motorbike, according to the motorsport park's Commercial Manager, Mike Marsden.
"The event will have a festival feel, with high profile racing on two circuits, track time for amateur riders, a moto trials exhibition, freestyle motocross display, a public trail ride on adjacent farmland, ATVs, Harleys, bike clubs, camping, exhibitors, a Saturday night gala dinner and more," says Marsden. "We figure this will give the fans a one stop event, where they can see all genres of the sport and participate if they want."
The all-comers trail ride and track sessions for enthusiasts are unique offerings.
"I'm pretty sure nothing like this has ever been done in New Zealand before," says Marsden. "Our plan is to grow the event over the next three years into the biggest on the motorcycle event calendar."
MotoFest will feature a new international race - the South Pacific Classic - featuring legends from the past. With the assistance of Kiwi racing identities, Graeme Crosby and Paul Treacy, Hampton Downs has attracted a host of great names including Mamola, Slight, four times world champion Hugh Anderson, Kiwi internationals Stuart Avant, Richard Scott and Andrew Stroud, along with GP racer and TV commentator Steve Parish, Australian GP star Kevin Magee, and Jeremy Burgess.
The event will double as a round of the New Zealand Superbike Championship, featuring Superbikes, sidecars and other championship categories. Track time will be available for amateur riders and bike clubs to enjoy a slow cruise or a high adrenalin lap around the Hampton Downs circuit.
Steve Parish will host a gala dinner event on the Saturday night, with all the legends in attendance and punters can expect to hear some great yarns from Mamola.
Mamola's professional career began in 1977 and stretched to 1992 in the era of the fast but often vicious 500cc four-cylinder two-strokes, the machines now described as "The Unrideables." In his glittering career, Mamola beat all the star riders of the era at some point. Starting with Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts, Mamola would go on to also beat world champions Franco Uncini, Lucchinelli, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Gardner.
Mamola first arrived in New Zealand as a tiny, unknown freckle-faced teenager with a shock of strawberry blond hair. Mamola raced two Marlboro International Series in New Zealand (1974-'75 and 1976-'77) and still holds fond memories of the country – not least because he met and raced star riders he had only previously read about.
As a 15-year-old 'newbie' on his first international trip, he met riders like Gregg Hansford, Warren Willing and multi-World Champion Mike Hailwood. He also encountered a young, brash Kiwi, who would turn out to be his team-mate at Suzuki Great Britain, Graeme Crosby. More importantly, he met people who were to play key roles in his future career, prominent among them Christchurch technician Mike Sinclair, as well as Belgian Thierry Gerin, American George Vukmanovich, and Australian Jeremy Burgess.
The now retired Mamola, who manages two MotoGP riders while maintaining a high -profile media position in the sport, is looking forward to catching up with old rivals and team mates at the Mike Pero MotoFest.
Mike Pero is a fitting sponsor for the event given his own motorcycle racing pedigree. Pero won six National Motorcycle Racing Championships in the 1980s and still holds the New Zealand land-speed record for a 350cc motorcycle, a speed of 238 kph set in 1979. Pero will compete in the classic events at the MotoFest on a Yamaha Grand Prix machine from the 1990s.
"We're delighted to come on as the inaugural naming rights sponsor for MotoFest," says Pero. "This event is destined to become one of New Zealand's premier motorsport events and with the line-up of celebrity riders and special events we will be expecting to attract spectators from all over New Zealand."
Motorcycling New Zealand General Manager, Virginia Henderson sees the event as a great opportunity to reinvigorate public interest and revitalise the sport of motorcycling.
"We see huge growth potential in this event to attract more international riders and build the profile of our sport. We're excited to be working with the team Hampton Downs who have the same vision to grow the popularity of motorcycle racing in New Zealand."