Thursday, October 23

HAYDEN BRINGS BACK MEMORIES OF A BY-GONE ERA

 by Michael Esdaile

When American Honda rider Nicky Hayden wheeled out his 1000cc Honda V4 onto the streets of Putra Jaya yesterday (see separate story), it brought back memories of an earlier time when motorcycle racing in Malaysia was always held on street courses.

Nicky Hayden leads the street parade at Putra Jaya on October 22.
It has been a long time since Grand Prix motorcycles have appeared on the streets of Malaysia.  However, there was a time when the only place you would see motorcycle races in the country was on street courses.

Initially the Malaysian Grand Prix was held on the streets of Singapore which was then part of the Malaysian Federation.  The course was known as the Thomson Road Circuit.  The Grand Prix was an all-in affair, as four times World Champion High Anderson explains.

“I raced there on my 125 Suzuki.  The race was held over 30 laps and we lined up alongside one or two Manx Nortons as well as a collection of British twins, Triumph, Norton and BSA 650s ridden by the top locals.

“It was tough.  The heat was incredible.  I worked out a way to lock-wire the zip of my leathers part-open so I could get some cooling air in.  I remember having a good race with Fumio Ito.  He was on a works Yamaha 125.  We cleared off from the locals and had a terrific scrap but a small component in the Suzuki’s ignition came loose and fell off, so that was it for me.”

After Singapore seceded from the Malaysian Federation, the Thomson Road event became the Singapore Grand Prix and continued on for several years with New Zealand riders Geoff Perry, Ginger Molloy, Dale Wylie and Trevor Discombe at the forefront.

Molloy won the 1973 event on a Kawasaki H2-R, setting an absolute lap record on the last lap.  That is impressive considering there was a car GP run alongside the bikes, with top-line open wheel race cars and drivers in action.

Meantime the Malaysian Grand Prix was contested on a street course in Johur Baru at the southern end of the Malaysian Peninsula before the construction of a purpose-built race track at Shah Alam to the west of the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The Shah Alam event obtained World Championship status for the 1991 event, which saw American Yamaha star John Kocinski convincingly beat Australian Honda stars Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan to record his first World 500 Championship GP win.


The Malaysian GP continued at Shah Alam until 1997, then in 1998 it was run on a purpose-built track at Johor Baru then in 1999 it went to the new Sepang circuit, where it remains to this day.