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Where are they now? Jon Hafey | Columns | Gassit Garage

Jon Hafey made the transition from teenager racer and co. clerk to industry executive

“It was very satisfying helping Dean achieve his dreams”

I was born in Toowoomba in 1970. I used to go to my relatives during the holidays out near Charleville starting when I was five or six. My cousins had a Deltek Rockhopper, and that’s what I learned on. I actually inherited that Deltek and it’s currently undergoing a restoration. When I was about seven or eight, my parents bought me a YZ80C. It was way too big and fast, but that’s all you could get. I was hooked, and bikes were in my blood. I also devoured all the bike magazines – I remember reading about Barry Sheene and Mick Grant. I eventually got an RM50, and started club racing, moving up to a KX80. The track at Toowoomba was more of TT course, a flat-track with five small jumps, and I ended winning a lot. Then Bradley Hardy arrived on the scene. He was aggressive and he ended up being my rival for five years – I learned a lot racing him. I ended up doing dirt track all the way through to 2005.

I’d been to three high schools, and couldn’t wait to leave and join the real world. I’d been hanging around the local bike dealer Noel Royal for years, and he said there was a job going as a clerk at SKF Bearings. I got it and many of things I learned there have held me in good stead. I did the petty cash, the banking, all the ordering and stock control, kept the books, and learned general business principles. I was making a wage and bought a [Ford Escort] RS2000.

I had 18 months off racing, then in 1989 Steve from Royal Kawasaki in Toowoomba said I should go racing again. He even went guarantor for me on a KX125 and KX250. I sold the Escort and bought a 351 Ford ute to haul the bikes around, and started doing state motocross rounds. I did pretty well in C-grade, and even a couple of open races. Towards the end of ’89, Steve reckoned I should have a go at road racing on a KR-1. I was a bit reluctant but ended up giving it a go at Lakeside. I didn’t get along it with at the beginning, I was lapped several times by Barry and John Allen. But by the end of the day I was starting to get the hang of it and got down to some half-decent times.

The 1990 ARRC was coming up and we decided to get a KR-1S and went down to Baskerville for Round 1. Troy Corser won and I was third in the first race; no one was more surprised than me. We then drove overnight down the Newell Highway to Phillip Island for Round 2. It was so bloody cold that we were sitting in the front seats – even driving – in our sleeping bags. I finished around 15th overall which was a wake-up call.

I switched to a RGV250 in ’91. I put a sponsorship proposal to SKF for $25,000. I ended up with $10,000 and I ended up running out of money mid-season. The 250 proddy championship was very hard fought, and Mathew [Mladin], as we know, dominated in ’91. He was an aggressive and intimidating presence on the racetrack. I was staying with Mathew back then, and I learned what it took to be a winning motorcycle racer.

He was a bit of a swivel-head, he kept turning around when he was leading. He always wore orange tinted visors – which we still rib him about – and whenever he turned around, he had this angry look on his face. The only time I ever passed Mathew was at Mallala that year. Davan Carr had a go at him, and ran into him. Later on I passed Mathew at the hairpin before the esses. It was pretty short-lived, he got me back two turns later – he couldn’t stand anyone being in front of him. Mathew, Christopher [Hill], Davan and I are very good mates and in 2015 we did a trip in the US on Harleys.

After I quit 250 proddies Roy Denison gave me a run on a Super Street FZR600 alongside Ken Watson and we had big scrap at Lakeside. Ken had a few words to me after that, and he still reminds me about it! Dale Schmidtchen gave me a couple of runs on his TZ250, and I went pretty well on Don Bramich’s Ducati 748. A decade after quitting road racing, I went Supermotard racing in 2004 with Paul Feeney and Husqvarna. Phil Beaumont was also a big supporter.

I’ve worked in the motorcycle industry for many years, at Cassons, Addfast, McLeods, Honda and Yamaha, where part of my job was running the Yamaha junior development team. I have a knack for coaching and getting the best out of people, and I ended up working with Dean Ferris. It was very satisfying helping Dean achieve his dreams. When he qualified fastest for the MX des Nations in Germany in 2013, I went straight back to our camp and had a drink.

I’m now national brand manager for Husqvarna, and I’ve just relocated to Sydney. Jeff Leisk is the best boss I’ve ever worked with. On top of his years at the very top of world motocross, he has a winning attitude and an incredible amount of knowledge and experience.

By Darryl Flack

Jon leading Terry Paviell (59), Buster Saunders (98) and Fred Bayens (37) at Wanneroo in 1991

 (L-R) Mat Mladin, Jon Hafey and Chris Hill at Venice Beach in 2015