Life can be a challenge sometimes. A motorcycle racer faces them in their sport often. But to face life or death challenges away from the track is another thing.
Bruce Anstey is such a man, quiet and humble, but has become an example of guts and determination both on and off the track.
His mother Maureen was born on the Isle of Man. Therefore, it was natural that the Isle of Man was always in his life. After watching the return of Mike ‘The Bike ‘ Hailwood on the Isle of Man in 1978 that set Bruce’s course.
Bruce’s first competitive outing was the Cemetery Circuit races at Whanganui on his RGV250 Suzuki in 1990.
His first major success was winning the New Zealand Formula 2 Championship in 1992/93 season. As well as the New Zealand Formula 2 Grand Prix and TT.
His debut at the Isle of Man was in 1996 where he finished 26th in the Lightweight TT before retiring in the Senior TT.
However, it was a different kind of race that would unfold in the next two years. Bruce would have another battle to be, that of testicular cancer. So for the time being at least any thought of returning to the racetrack was unthinkable. All that mattered was winning this battle. Eventually he would win the fight.
He returned two years later in 1998 appearing at the Isle of Man TT. Finishing 26th in the wet lightweight race and 20th in the Senior. But it was his fifth fastest time in practice that started turning heads.
Returning to New Zealand, he would win the New Zealand Formula 2 and Junior (600cc) Production Championships in the 1998/99 season.
Bruce headed for England in 2000. In the lightweight TT, he took his first of many podiums placing second behind the legendary Joey Dunlop.
There was no Isle of Man TT in 2001 due to the foot and mouth epidemic.
He scored his first TT win in 2002 with victory in the Lightweight Class. It was a good year for Bruce finishing second in the Production 600 race, third in the Production 1000 and 10th in the ultra-lightweight. It would be the first of many results to come.
However, it wasn’t just the Isle of Man, where Bruce was successful. The other major real road races such as The Northwest 200 and The Ulster Grand Prix were also happy hunting grounds.
He won the Northwest 200 a total of ten times with his first win coming in 2002, when he shocked the paddock with victory in the Production 1000cc race. Ten race wins would follow over the years, placing Bruce sixth on the all-time NW200 winners list. At the Ulster Grand Prix (the fastest road race in the World). His first victory was in 2002 and followed that through the years with twelve more (Thirteen in Total). He was the lap record holder for six years. His last victory being in 2017.
Bruce then had to face another Cancer battle. Just like the first round nearly twenty years earlier. Cancelling all his racing in 2018 due to ongoing chemotherapy and treatment, he made an appearance at the Classic TT in August of that year made a demonstration lap on an YZR500 Yamaha, but had to be lifted off the bike at the end of the lap totally exhausted…
Heading in to 2019 things were not looking good for Bruce. Then all of a sudden something, changed and he was in the clear.
Having his last scan and treatment just one week before Classic TT he jumped at the chance to race again and headed back to the Isle of Man to race in the Classic 250 TT aboard long time sponsor Clive Padgett’s Honda. He surprised himself how quickly he felt at home on the Honda.and on the Island.
But there was more to come, he not only did he race, he won the 2019 250 Classic TT.
Now 51 years old, and with the Worldwide Covid pandemic cancelling the 2020 and 2021 Isle of Man races. He has spent the last year locked down at his home in Windsor trying to stay healthy. The future is uncertain, but the past can never be changed.
Determination and sheer grit are not strong enough words to describe Bruce Anstey. There is no doubt; Anstey is one of the greatest real road racers ever and the epitome of a true fighter who has overcome everything through sheer grit and determination. His race results on the track are admired, but also his battle against the life threating illness makes him a very worthy inductee in to the MNZ Hall of Fame.
In 2016 was Bruce awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit by the Queen.
1992/93 NZ Formula 2 Champion
1998/99 NZ Formula 2 Champion
1998/99 NZ Junior Production (600) Champion
12 x Isle of Man TT Victories,
25 x Podiums Isle of Man TT
3 x Classic Isle of Man TT Victories,
3 x Classic Isle of Man TT Podiums
10 x Northwest 200 Winner
13 x Ulster Grand Prix Winner
Written for the MNZ Hall of Fame by Ian Dawson 2021