The week in motorcycling 20 years ago
Late August 2003
This week 20 years ago, late August 2003, was a tale of highs and lows for everyone involved in the Australian Superbike Championship.
The high came when 20 year old Shepparton rider Craig Coxhell lifted his first Australian Superbike Championship.
Coxhell had to get the better of his three-time, and reigning, Australian Superbike Champion Shawn Giles to take both race wins at the season finale and in doing so won the 2003 Australian Superbike Championship
Giles was gracious in defeat. “I think that a youngster like Craig winning the title is good for the sport. And of course the main thing is that a Suzuki still won the title, and with myself coming home behind Craig, we gave Team Suzuki a fantastic 1-2 result for the year, which is exactly what we set out to do.”
The perfect performances from the Team Suzuki riders, along with some important contributions from Suzuki privateers Robert Bugden, David Butler and Luke Wicks, also helped Suzuki to surpass Honda in the race for the Manufacturers Cup. With that win, and their unprecedented fourth consecutive Australian Superbike Championship, the weekend could not have gone any better for Suzuki Australia.
Nikon Yamaha’s Kevin Curtain and Daniel Stauffer also put in great rides and took the Suzuki pairing to the wire in each race. But the Newcastle based riders had to settle for hard earned third and fourth places respectively in the championship. However, Stauffer did leave Eastern Creek with the new Production Superbike lap record after setting a new benchmark of 1-minute 32.982-second around the 3.93 kilometre Eastern Creek layout.
But Curtain didn’t have to settle for third best in the Australian Supersport Championship. The long time Yamaha stalwart did earn the #1 plate in the Supersport Championship. Curtain’s fifth Australian Road Race Championship across three different classes. The Newcastle based rider won his first Supersport Championship in 1996 before winning the title again in 2000. Curtain also won the 250 Production Championship in 1995, and the Australian Production Superbike Title in 1998.
But Queensland teenager Brendan Clarke did not make things easy for his vastly more experienced team-mate, the youngster pushed hard throughout the whole year and the race for the title went down to the wire. The pairing gave the Nikon Yamaha squad a 1-2 finish in the Championship and also helped to earn Yamaha the honour of being named the leading constructor in the Supersport class.
Honda’s Joshua Brookes was also a major factor in the Supersport class over that weekend, as was Kawasaki’s Russell Holland. Brookes took the win in the opening Supersport race for the weekend and was fighting hard with Holland for the win in the second race before the duo fell on the entry to the main straight. Their demise left Brendan Clarke to take both the race win and the outright round win. Glenn Allerton also put in a great performance with an excellent fifth outright and with it a healthy swag of points certainly helped Yamaha to the constructors win.
Western Australia’s Peter Taplin had wrapped up the Australian 250 Grand Prix Championship at the previous round. But he did not back off as he took another clean sweep to extend his perfect winning tally to a record breaking 14 consecutive wins.
The 125 Grand Prix Title had also been decided prior to this round with 16-year-old Mildura rider Joshua Waters lifting the title in Queensland. Waters managed to take all the wins at Eastern Creek but did come under heavy attack from a rider even younger than himself. Fifteen year old Jason O’Halloran put in a great performance at his home track to come within two-hundredths of a second of breaking the lap record to earn second overall in the 125 Grand Prix Title.
Multiple Australian Champion Shane Soutar had dusted off his 500cc World Championship sidecar for this event. Under 2003 rules two-strokes were no longer allowed in Australian Sidecar events but Motorcycling Australia afforded Soutar special dispensation for this race meeting for Soutar to make a guest appearance on his two-stroke screamer. The Victorian rider showed that he has not lost the competitive spirit by winning the opening race at Eastern Creek. He didn’t have it all his own way though as he came under heavy attack from the Victorian pairing of Vince Messina and Alison Scoullar, themselves multiple time Australian Champions. Messina and Scoullar took the win in the final race for the round but the South Australian duo of Neville Lush and Martin Scott earned enough points to take out the Australian F1 Sidecar Championship. South Australia also took home the F2 Sidecar Title, David Jones and John Cutting earning the F2 crown on their Honda powered machine.
After all the excitement from the thrilling racing action, the tight-knit Australian Superbike fraternity was left in shock after a horrific fall during the final Supersport leg for the day. A number of riders went down in a sickening collision at Eastern Creek’s turn one. The incident was immediately treated as extremely serious and the organisers chose to abandon the remainder of the meeting as ambulances carried the injured riders away for treatment.
The following week it was confirmed that 19-year-old Hornsby (NSW) resident Reece Bancell had lost his life as a result of the injuries he had sustained in the crash.Reece was one of Australia’s brightest young road racers and was passionately committed to the sport he loved, as well as being a warm and friendly young man.
Reece had strung together some great consistency for many podium finishes and that run of great form had earned him third outright in the 2002 Australian Supersport Championship, and ‘Top Privateer’. R.I.P.
2003 Australian Safari
South Australia’s Andrew Caldecott took an unprecedented fourth straight victory in the 2003 Australian Safari, 20 years ago this week.
However the road to victory was certainly not easy for Caldecott. On day one he lost 20 minutes when a river crossing flooded his machine. He used every ounce of his skill and experience to reel in the leaders and work his way up from 25th place to the outright lead.
But the penultimate day nearly stole all that away from Caldecott. When trying to overtake one of the numerous cars that have got in his way during the Australian Safari this year, he was blinded by dust and ran in to a large log on the track. He was ejected over the bars in that incident which nearly busted both his machine, and his body. After a night of physio, and some repairs to his machine, Caldecott started the final day of competition still holding down the outright lead, but again trouble was to come his way.
“It was really tight going this morning around Bathurst, and around the back of the hill the wind was really strong. It blew me and the bike off line at one stage which sent us off the track, and down a sheer drop over the side of a ridge. I lost a little time getting myself and KTM out of that predicament but eventually got going again and was able to hold it together for the run to the line. It just goes to show how strong these KTM machines are, my 660 has really taken a heavy battering this week.”
Caldecott was understandably over the moon with his fourth successive victory on a KTM. “2003 definitely presented us with some different problems compared to previous events. While the cars leaving first in the morning made things really quite bad when trying to pass them later in the day, it did mean that we had tracks to follow. This made the navigation skills required for the event somewhat less than previous years.”
With the points earned from this international class victory Caldecott moved into the lead of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for motorcycles.
But unfortunately a lack of sponsor funds made it impossible for the 39-year-old to contest the final two rounds of the World Championship in Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
Mat Mladin’s victory in the fifteenth round of the AMA Superbike Championship at V.I.R. gave the Australian a total of ten race wins for the year, equalling a long standing record of race wins in a single season of the American championship held by former World and American Superbike champion Fred Merkel.
The Oschersleben 24 Hour round of the FIM World Endurance Championship was won by Yamaha GMT94 with Sebastien Scarnato, Italian Serafino Foti and and Spaniard David Checa.
GMT94 were involved in the second lap incident that claimed several of the top teams, but quick pit-work got them back out on the track and racing again in record time. The three riders then put in one of the best performances of the season to climb back through the field to challenge for second place during the night, eventually passing and pulling clear of second place finishers Suzuki GB Phase One after the British team had a minor crash.
Third place went to another Yamaha, in the hands of the previous years’ Oschersleben winners, Endurance Moto 38. They were another team who were involved in the second lap crash and then managed to claw back a great result.
Oschersleben 24 Hour 2023
Yamaha GMT94 (FRA) – Scarnato, Foti, Checa 896 laps
Suzuki GB Phase One (GBR) – Pridmore, Ellison, Hayes 891 laps
Zongshen No.2 (CHN) – Bontempi, Bonhuil, Lerat Vanstaen 888 laps
Suzuki Kawasaki Bolliger Team (SUI) – Kellenberger, Stamm, Tobias 882 laps
Suzuki Police Nationale (FRA) – Giabbani, Blora, Kishida 876 laps
Yamaha Austria (AUT) – Truchsess, Wilding, Saiger 873 laps
Suzuki Jet Team (SUI) – Jaggi, Monot, Waldmeier 870 laps
PS Schlesinger (GER) – Meyer, Meyer, Wehran 864 laps
Yamaha OBI Shell Bike (GER) – Knofler, Ludwig, Penskofer 862 laps
Kevin Windham and Ricky Carmichael shared the 250 wins at Binghamton on August 24, 2003.James Stewart did the double in 125.
Stefan Everts (Yamaha L&M Motocross Team) rewrote the record books by clinching his seventh world title – and the manufacturer’s world title for Yamaha – with a win in the Czech Motocross Grand Prix in Loket. It was a great weekend for Belgium, Everts won both the 250 and 125 Grand Prixs at Loket, while Joel Smets won the 650 category.
Australian Mark Avard returned to America and put together an outstanding performance in the Copper Mountain Supermoto Doubleheader held at the annual Colorado CycleFest event.
Avard finished fourth in the first day’s event and a close second in the final main event both against world-class competition.
In Saturdays program, Avard took second in his heat race, transferring directly to the main event. In the main, starting from the second row, his start was messed up by an incident on the first lap that left him back in tenth place. After that though, Mark was on a mission and chased down the riders ahead eventually passing for fourth spot behind winner Jeff Ward, second Jeremy McGrath and third place Scott Russell. Another lap or two and Mark would have been on the podium such was his pace.
On Sunday, Mark again qualified second in his heat race with a transfer directly to the main event. Starting on the front row he got a good start and put together solid laps as rivals Ward and McGrath went down under the pressure. He was closing on First place Kevin Schwantz but ran out of time.
After the race a jubilant Avard said; “This was the first time we were able to test the bike before a race so got the set-up pretty close. Everything on the Suzuki DR-Z worked real well and I was closing up on Kevin but just ran out of laps. It’s great to be 1-2 for Suzuki. I am really looking forward to South Boston (AMA National Round 2) now that we have the bike pretty close!”
Harley-Davidson introduced its Model Year 2004 motorcycle line-up to the public 20 years ago this week, as it kicked off its four-day 100th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee.
Key new models included a completely redesigned XL Sportster family and a new VRSCB V-Rod power cruiser, to complement the VRSCA V-Rod.
New Road King Custom and restyled Road Glide brought new style to the Harley-Davidson Touring line.
Dyna Glide models would now be available with Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI). New-look fuel tanks and consoles updated the styling of the Dyna Glide line.
Springer Softail got a fresh new look with several feature enhancements.
Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) adds a new motorcycle to its roster: the Screamin’ Eagle Electra Glide, and announced the Screamin’ Eagle Deuce in two brand new custom colors in its second year.
Harley-Davidson also announced that all 2004 motorcycles would be covered by a two-year warranty. In addition, most service intervals were doubled.
Average suggested retail prices for 2004 Harley-Davidson motorcycles were reduced compared with similar 2003 motorcycles.
20 years ago this week, August 2003, Triumph unveiled their new power-cruiser, the Rocket III, announced in Texas during the company’s annual American dealer conference.
“The Rocket III’s the ultimate power cruiser and gives Triumph an undeniable presence in the cruiser market,” explained Triumph’s Product Manager Ross Clifford. “It breaks the mould and will appeal to those riders seeking a unique but real riding experience. It’s the sort of bike that enthrals the rider completely, engaging all their senses.”
As alluded to by its name and alone among the cruiser fold the Rocket III was powered by a three-cylinder engine, an engine format that Triumph had already very much made its own.
Its fuel-injected, longitudinally-mounted, in-line three-cylinder engine boasting a cubic capacity of 2294cc – 140 cubic inches.
A whopping 147 ft.lbf torque at 2500 rpm was claimed, with 90 percent delivered at a mere 1800 rpm.
It was announced that the first shipment of Triumph’s Rocket III was due to arrive in Australia around June 2004, with a recommended retail price is expected to be around $25,000.
Kawasaki introduced their long awaited entry into the litre-class with the new Ninja ZX-10R, claiming the highest power-to-weight ratio in the class with 175 horsepower (184 with ram-air) at 11,700rpm and a dry weight of 170 kilograms.
Kawasaki also announced their new 2,053cc Vulcan 2000, the largest displacement V-Twin in the world.
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