CAPTION: Hamilton’s Hugh Anderson, New Zealand’s first official MotoGP legend. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com
It has been while since he last raced his beloved Suzuki, but now New Zealand motorcycling legend Hugh Anderson has been lauded among the historic greats of the sport.
Already a legend to us here in New Zealand, and in many other parts of the world too, Hamilton’s Anderson earlier this month became the world’s first Kiwi “MotoGP Legend”.
A four-time world road-racing champion and a New Zealand road-racing and motocross champion too, the now 86-year-old, originally from Huntly, said he was thrilled to receive the honour.
The world-famous New Zealander was inducted at Hampton Downs, near Meremere, with a video of the occasion to be transmitted to screen at the 2022 Australian GP at Philip Island, the 18th round of 20 in this year’s MotoGP season, just over a week later, on October 15-16.
“My sole pleasure and reward (in racing) was just from the enjoyment of riding a motorcycle,” said Anderson.
“The money and trophies turned up and I thought that was good, but it was the extreme pleasure of winning these races and being able to ride at the level required to beat the best in the world, that I got the most satisfaction from. That’s where I got my kicks, because you were on the edge the whole time.
“I thought and schemed on how I could improve this or that and ride better and it all worked out pretty well,” he said modestly.
In addition to his four world titles – winning two in 1963 and one each in 1964 and 1965 – Anderson was also a 19-time New Zealand champion. He is also a two-time Isle of Man TT winner.
Growing up in Huntly, Anderson played rugby league for Huntly United, alongside fellow future motorcycle champion Ginger Molloy, and he first rode a motorcycle on his mother’s farm when he was aged nine.
At the age of 17 he rode in his first dirt bike event on a self-made machine.
He was soon winning races with the same determination that was later to take him to many international victories and, by 20 years of age, he was doing the same with road bikes on the tarmac.
He joined the Suzuki factory team in 1961, racing the factory’s 50cc and 125cc bikes and occasionally he competed in 250cc races for them too.
During his stint with the factory team, Anderson was double world champion (50cc and 125cc) in 1963 and retained his 50cc world title the following year. In 1965, he was crowned 125cc world champion.
Anderson was believed also to be instrumental in helping Polish-born German rider Ernst Degner win the 50cc world title for Suzuki in 1962.
Anderson’s last race for the Suzuki factory was at the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix at Fisco in October 1966, at the age of 30.
Anderson switched back to racing off-road bikes and decided to take on the international motocross circuit in Europe riding CZ machines, finishing in the top four positions in more than 40 races.
He continued at home in New Zealand and was a multi-time New Zealand motocross champion before retiring again in 1973, then aged 37.
A hard man to tie down, Anderson was soon again active on race tracks in the 1970s and 80s and, in 2008, Anderson set his fastest ever lap around the Pukekohe road race circuit, then aged 72.
In the 1994 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Anderson was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services to motorsport. In 1995 he was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and in 2005 he was inducted into the Motorcycling New Zealand Hall of Fame.
This latest honour sees Hugh Anderson listed alongside such iconic household names of the sport as Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, John Surtees, Jim Redman, Barry Sheene, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kenny Roberts, Randy Mamola, Wayne Gardner, Casey Stoner, Nicky Hayden, Mick Doohan, Jorge Lorenzo and Max Biaggi, to name a few.
That’s highly-esteemed company in anyone’s reckoning and a famous group to which this Kiwi most certainly belongs.
Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com