HISTORY OF BEARS MOTORCYCLE RACING
NZ BEAR's Racing (British, European, American Racing)
The International BEAR’s racing scene kicked off in sleepy little New Zealand. Started by a group of enthusiastic Christchurch motorcyclists who did not fit the social groups or race classes available at the time on their Triumphs, Nortons and BSAs.
This started the ball rolling, the word spread, meetings were held at the Ocean View Pub in Governors Bay and the Pioneer Motorcycle Clubrooms in Christchurch. The Pioneer Motorcycle Club Steward, Ray Sherman had become involved, membership fees were paid and the BEAR’s (British, European & American Racing) movement kicked off. The 1st BEAR’s race meeting was held in early 1983 at Ruapuna Raceway on the outskirts of Christchurch. A hat was passed around to the spectators to help raise funds to pay for the hire of the track. There are too many people involved in making this happen to mention. Two Motorcycle shops in Christchurch got in behind the BEAR’s idea. Christchurch Motorcycles (Lyndsay Williamson) and Classic Lines (Stuart Whyte), became pivotal in marketing the BEAR’s movement locally and nationally.
The BEAR’s movement grew rapidly, appealing to riders of British, European and American motorcycles throughout New Zealand. In a short-time there were two additional national clubs formed, with Auckland (Northern BEAR’s) & Palmerston North (Central BEAR’s) created. The New Zealand BEAR’s series developed with a ‘Northern Sound of Thunder’ (Pukekoe, Auckland) and a ‘Central Sound of Thunder’ (Manfield, Fielding) held, creating a 3 Round ‘Thunder Series’ tying in with Christchurch’s ‘Sound of Thunder’ meeting at Ruapuna held annually on the last weekend of February.
This was an amazing time to be involved in the BEAR’s motorcycle racing movement. There was an amazing amount of ‘positive energy’ and friendliness amongst riders from all walks in life. The Christchurch BEAR's club developed a Winter Series, racing Ruapuna (Christchurch), Levels (Timaru) & Teretonga (Invercargill) in a 5-round series, topped off with the 3 national Thunder series meetings. Riders were building specials, with various and wonderful bikes being developed (Ducati TT2, Norrish, Weslake, Denco, interesting BMW’s…), including the Britten. John started out racing an evil handling 1948 cast-iron Triumph T100 in BEAR’s before starting down the path to developing the Britten’s (Aero-d-zero, Aero-d-one & 10 Britten V1000’s).
John was one of our foundation members, motivated by his BEAR’s friends and these surroundings, developing and testing the stunning Brittens at Ruapuna, racing the NZ BEAR's Series, NZ National Points Series and International Battle of the Twins on the IOM, US and Europe.
BEAR’s annual South of Thunder meeting has riders and journalists turning up from around the world (Australia, UK & USA), these overseas supporters starting the International BEAR’s movement with BEAR’s clubs starting up in Australia and the UK. Many overseas supporters joining our New Zealand BEAR’s celebration over the past 30 years, with lifelong friendships being made.
BEARS Sound of Thunder. Ruapuna Raceway
The Christchurch Bear’s Club is reknown for their friendly relaxed attitude to racing, until they get onto the track. Riders willing to help-out other riders to make sure they can race against them in the next race. No ‘Bragging Rights’ unless you beat them on the track.
Held annually, over the last weekend of February since 1983 at Ruapuna Raceway, near Christchurch NZ. The meeting is always a lot of fun, with in-excess of 130 riders and 300 race class entries. Friday’s unofficial practice starts at 10.00am and continues all day, many taking this opportunity to familiarise themselves with Ruapuna’s track again. Sign-in and Race bike Tech-checks (scrutineering) commencing at 3pm, to officially kick off the weekends racing. Free BBQ at the Ruapuna Clubrooms opening for refreshments at 5.30pm.
Saturday 8am start at the track sees the pits fulling up, people and bikes everywhere, bikes being given the once over, motors being revved and warmed up. Riders Briefing at 9.30am, official practice due to start 10am, with the 1st round of racing scheduled for 1pm. Free BBQ at the Ruapuna Clubrooms opening for refreshments at 5.30pm.
Sunday racing starts with a Riders Briefing, a short Tyre Scrub session, then into the race program, with 23 races to get through before the socialising can begin again, followed by a meal put on by the Chch Bears Club, the prize giving and more socialising till late. Although “Camping ist streng verboten”, many racers have set up their camps in the Pit area and reside there for the weekend, dragging themselves out of bed Monday morning to pack-up and drive home. Their week-end security duty completed.
The Bears ‘Sound of Thunder’ meeting runs a mix of Classes: Formula (1 & 2), Superstock (Open & Ltd.), Origin (MotoEuro, Best of British, Milwaukee Iron), Liteweights (>400’s, > 600’s), and Heritage classes. Catering for the new state of the art Aprilia, BMW’s, Buell’s, Ducati, Husquvana, KTM, Triumph… to “old school” AJS, Aramachi, BMW, BSA, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Indian, Matchless, Norton, Royal Endfield, Triumph’s …… with some riders reflecting the age of their machinery. It is surprising how fast many of these pre-1978 classic machines can go, the sound of old singles, twins and triples making it well worth the weekend spent with a bunch of well-timed travelled friends (bikes and people).
The annual Bear’s Winter Series starts with Round 1 kicking-off in May on Ruapuna’s Full track, the series running through to November. This is a 6 round Winter series including Pre-1989 and1982 Post Classics (all makes) and Bucket racing (upto 150cc), running 2 meetings on the Full circuit and 4 meetings on the Western-end short B circuit, finishing off the day with a free BBQ and refreshments at the Ruapuna Raceway Clubrooms.
For the Bear’s Club Organisers, the Track Marshals and Race Officials it is a full-on job operating and keeping these annual meetings and the winter series running smooth and encouraging new riders. It is a huge undertaking from a bunch of volunteers who continue to support BEAR’s racing.