By Trevor Hedge
Shawn Giles, one of Australia’s most successful domestic Superbike racers, announced his retirement from top-level national championship motorcycle racing ten years ago this week.
Giles’ distinguished career spanned three decades and brought the popular New South Welshman three Australian Superbike Championships (2000, 2001, 2002), one Australian Supersport Championship (1997) and a ‘2-plus-4’ Australian Superbike Series title (1995).
Giles is the only rider in the history of the Australian Superbike Championship to win three consecutive championships, and in the six years from 2000 to 2005 the Team Suzuki rider finished in the top three in the championship on all six occasions.
In addition to his five national titles, Giles finished runner-up in the 2003 Australian Superbike Championship to Team Suzuki team-mate Craig Coxhell; finished equal first on points in the 2005 championship but lost the title on countback to Joshua Brookes; finished third in 2004; fourth in 1999 and 2009; and fifth in 2007.
The now 50-year-old commenced his national racing career in 1986, competing in a 6-hour dirt-track event at the Nepean circuit in New South Wales and finished his professional career with the Australian Endurance Championship 6-hour event at Victoria’s Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, December 5, 2010.
“The time is right, and it’s a satisfying way to finish,” said Giles, who finished third outright in the Phillip Island 6-hour race with team-mate Josh Waters on their Team Suzuki GSX-R1000.
“I started my career in a 6-hour race with a podium finish, so I guess it’s fitting that I should end it the same way.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought, and it’s a hard decision to make as I still love riding and racing motorcycles, but my body just isn’t up to the demands of racing a Superbike at the highest level anymore,” added Giles.
“I know how much Phil (Tainton) and the guys in the team put in week in, week out, and I feel I’d be letting them down if I wasn’t able to perform at the level I feel I need to.
“It’s been difficult to maintain full race fitness following the big accident at Queensland Raceway in July 2008, and the body just doesn’t want to do the things I demand of it. The time is right.”
The accident at Queensland Raceway’s round of the 2008 Australian Superbike Championship was the most serious in Giles’ career and left him with severe concussion and a badly fractured lower leg. He spent two weeks in hospital following the high-speed impact, which occurred when another rider crashed in front of Giles’ Team Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Giles has raced for four factory-supported teams – Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki – in his long career and tasted success internationally in Europe, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa, but it was his last 12 years with Team Suzuki that brought him his most success and his three Australian Superbike Championships.
“I feel very privileged to have raced for Suzuki Australia for so long,” said Giles. “I have the utmost respect for Perry Morison (General Manager Suzuki Australia Motorcycles), who has always gone above and beyond to make both (my wife) Sharon and myself feel part of the Suzuki family. It’s an added bonus that Suzuki builds such awesome motorcycles.
“I’ve been with Suzuki since 1999, and it’s hard to imagine what it would have been like without Team Suzuki as part of my life,” said Giles.
Giles lists his back-to-back Superbike championships in 2000 and 2001 as his career highlight, and in particular his 2001 win on the then-new Suzuki GSX-R1000.
“Winning my first Superbike championship in 2000 will always be memorable, but the second title is the one that’s special,” recalls Giles. “There were some people that were saying the only reason I won in 2000 was that I was on a FIM-specification Superbike (Suzuki GSX-R750), so to win in 2001 in the first year of the Production Superbike rules on the GSX-R1000 was pretty special.”
Giles also lists his 1995 ‘2-plus-4’ Australian Superbike Series title aboard a Ducati Dealer Team 955 Superbike as a highlight, especially as it was in front of the large crowds at the V8 Supercar rounds as well as a large television audience.
“I should have won the Australian Superbike Championship that year as well, but got caught up in Mat Mladin’s big crash at Phillip Island when Mat’s rear tyre disintegrated,” said Giles.
Mladin would go on to win seven AMA Superbike Championships in the USA for Team Yoshimura Suzuki and become the most successful rider in the history of the series. Mladin is the rider Giles rates as his toughest competitor.
“I had some great races with Mat in 1994 and 1995 – some real memorable ones,” recalls Giles. “He was a real hard racer, and a demon under brakes.”
When it comes to memorable motorcycles, Giles doesn’t hesitate in naming the race-kitted Suzuki Hayabusa he co-rode in the Suzuka 8-hour race in 2000, Japan’s most prestigious race and a round of the World Endurance Championship.
“That thing was a weapon – we actually had to detune it for the race so we could ride it for the whole eight hours,” said Giles, who raced the Hayabusa to victory in the Formula X class with teammate Osama Deguchi, and an impressive sixth outright. “I could pass any of the factory Superbikes in a straight line.
“I remember (Hitoyasu) Izutsu on the factory Kawasaki Superbike having his head buried under the screen and his arse on the ducktail and I went past him on the ’Busa sitting up and looking sideways at him,” said Giles. “Izutsu couldn’t believe it.
“I remember having real bad blisters on my hands after the race from trying to hold on. Real bad…”
Another highlight Giles lists, albeit on four wheels rather than two, was his win in the BMW Celebrity Challenge at the Australian F1 Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne in 2006.
“I’d like to thank Suzuki Australia for allowing me to participate – it sure was a week of living the high life.”
Giles grew up in a motorcycle family with his father Paul owning a motorcycle dealership.
“My dad got me started riding bikes around a paddock when I was four, so I’ve been around motorcycles pretty much all my life,” said Giles. “Motorcycling has brought me and my family a lot of enjoyment. I’m looking forward to spending more weekends with Sharon (wife) and my kids Kayla (9) and Cooper (7) – they’ve been so supportive of me and my racing.”
Giles acknowledges that there have been many people and companies throughout his long career that he owes thanks to, but is reluctant to single out individuals for fear he’ll inadvertently leave some out.
“I have to give special thanks to Phil and Lynne (Tainton) and the guys in the team – Graeme, Warren, Hayden and Chris,” said Giles.
“Phil and I jelled right from the outset and made a great team – we got straight down to the business of winning championships. Whenever I asked Phil for more horsepower he’d always find it.
“I’d also like to thank Tony Hatton, who got me my first big break with an overseas ride with Moriwaki in Japan,” added Giles. “And also John Chiodo of Monza Imports, whose help and support has been very much appreciated throughout my racing career, as well as Suzuki Racesafe who I’ll always be indebted to in more ways than one. But there are so many others…”
Giles final hurrah with Team Suzuki was at the Phillip Island 6-hour on December 5, 2011, where he and team-mate Waters led the race on five separate occasions before finishing an eventual third.
“It was a great experience to ride with Shawn in my first ever endurance race and to finish on the podium,” said Waters, the 2009 Australian Superbike Champion. “Shawn is my hero – I’ve learned so much from him over the past few years that I’ve been with Team Suzuki.”
Phil Tainton, manager of Team Suzuki, paid tribute to Giles: “He’s an ambassador for the sport of motorcycle racing and has been an integral part of Team Suzuki for 12 years. You can’t put a price on the amount of knowledge he’s passed on to his young teammates Josh (Waters) and Troy (Herfoss), and the support he gave Craig (Coxhell) back in 2003 when Craig won the title, and again in 2009 when Josh won the title.
“Shawn’s a true professional in every sense of the word and will be sadly missed from Australia’s race tracks, although I can understand the difficult decision he’s arrived at,” added Tainton. “It’s a tough sport, and only the very best achieve the sort of results that Shawn has.”
Suzuki Australia’s General Manager Motorcycles at the time, Perry Morison echoed Tainton’s comments: “Shawn has not only been an ambassador for Suzuki, but an ambassador for motorcycle racing in this country. I’m confident he’ll continue to have an involvement with motorcycling and motorcycle sport in some way. From all at Suzuki Australia we wish him the very best in his retirement and congratulate him on an amazing career.”
Morison confirmed that Giles will continue to have an ongoing ambassador and promotional role with Suzuki Australia and Team Suzuki.
“I’m excited about continuing my association with Suzuki both on and off the race track, and trying to help the riders where ever I can,” said Giles.
Shawn Giles was eventually lured back into racetrack duty in historic motorcycle racing where in recent years he has raced the TBR/D&D Suzuki Katana at the Island Classic.
Shawn Giles Career Highlights
- 2010: 3rd – Australian Endurance Championship (Phillip Island 6-hour)
- 2009: 4th – Australian Superbike Championship
- 2007: 5th – Australian Superbike Championship
- 2006: 1st – BMW Celebrity Car Challenge, Australian F1 Grand Prix
- 2006: 2nd – New Zealand Superbike Championship
- 2005: 2nd – Australian Superbike Championship
- 2004: 3rd – Australian Superbike Championship
- 2003: 2nd – Australian Superbike Championship
- 2002: 1st – Australian Superbike Championship
- 2001: 1st – Australian Superbike Championship
- 2000: 1st – Australian Superbike Championship
- 2000: 6th ¬¬– Suzuka 8-hour, Japan (outright); 1st Formula X Class
- 1999: 4th – Australian Superbike Championship
- 1999: 7th – Australian Supersport Championship
- 1997: 1st – Australian Supersport Championship
- 1997: 2nd – Formula Extreme Series
- 1995: 1st – 2+4 Australian Superbike Series
- 1994: 1st – Australian TT
- 1994: 11th – Suzuka 8-hour, Japan
- 1992: 1st – Australian Lightweight Superstreet Series
- 1992: 1st – Australian TT
- 1992: 2nd – Suzuka 200km, Japan