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Where are they now? Dave Horton | Columns | Gassit Garage

Dave Horton was a major player in the Aussie 250 GP class of the 1980s and 90s

What got you into bikes?

As a Bathurst local, I’d been going to the Easter races since I could walk. I started riding trailbikes and rode enduros, then I got a [Yamaha] YZ125C and did a bit of motocross, but mainly short circuit. Seeing Ikujiro Takai win at Bathurst on his factory Yamaha in 1976 really turned my attention to road racing. I worked with Campbell Ferris and bought his TZ250 in early ’79, but as an apprentice mechanic earning $59 a week, I actually didn’t start road racing until 1982-83 at Oran Park and Amaroo Park.

Tell us about the strength of the 250GP class back in the day.

It was racing pure Grand Prix bikes, which you don’t see in any national series anymore – now all the bikes are production-based. A 250GP bike weighed around 90kg and had plenty of adjustment but was easy to maintain. That’s why the class was so popular.

Warren Taylor started giving me a hand with sponsorship and by the late 80s I was in the thick of the action with Daryl Beattie, Jeff Sayle, Roy Leslie, Hamish McNicol, Martin Renfrey, Darren Milner, Matt Cooley and Steve Whitehouse. There was an amazing amount of talent, but Jeff Sayle was the one who showed us how to put a race together. He had raced in the world championship, he had led GPs, and his experience really rubbed off on all of us. He often wouldn’t get involved in the cut and thrust dicing, only to appear out of nowhere to challenge on the last lap.

In the early 90s, you had Dave Moore, Ricky Rice, Dave Evelyn, Marty Craggill, Andrew Thompson, Troy Corser and John Hazeldene in the mix. It was fantastic racing; it was hard but fair and on any given day anyone in the top 10 could’ve won.

You finished runner-up in the Australian 250GP championships three times in that era. Why?

Well, there were a couple of crashes in each of those years, and that was enough. I wasn’t across suspension set-up until the end of my career, thanks to Tony Hatton and Frank Pons, and I wish I had’ve been more attuned to it earlier. The other the thing that rankles is the very last Australian 250 Grand Prix at Bathurst in 1988. It was my big chance to win it, and I was leading by a mile on the first lap when I shot it down the road at Murray’s Corner, and Matt Cooley won it.

There was some redemption after you quit in 1991, though.

I gave it away, then in 1997 I was giving Jay Taylor a hand in the 125GP class. One time I went out on his bike at Oran Park and went quick enough to qualify second. My wife told me that if I wanted to go racing again then this was the time to do it.

So in 1998 I bought a Honda RS250 and went racing again at 37 with the help of Neil White and Dave Moore looking after the bike and assistance from Warren and Robert Taylor. Shaun Geronomi, William Strugnell and Chris Vermeulen were the main opposition, but I managed five wins and six second placings, which was enough to win the championship. It was a dream year. It was interesting racing against Chris. He was only 17 at the time, but you could see his potential – he beat me once in Queensland.

Aside from the 250s, what other bikes did you race?

In the mid-80s, I rode a Suzuki RG500 in the 1986 Swann Series, which I also raced at Bathurst in ’87, finishing second behind Michael Dowson in the Motoline 1000 race after a great scrap with David Snape on his TZ750. At Bathurst in 1992 I finished second behind Shawn Giles’ Moriwaki Honda in the King of the Mountain race on a Honda RC30 from Len Willing and his Yamaha 1000.

What are you doing these days?

I’ve been in Corrections for
15 years; I’m currently working at Lithgow jail.

In 2015, your son Tyler suffered a serious head injury in a rugby league match at Bathurst. How he is going?

He’s made a full recovery but he reckons he hasn’t when we ask him to do some chores around the house! No, he’s all good, he’s working as an apprentice carpenter. He’s a very talented sportsman, although he’s given rugby league away, and he’s not into bikes. He’s played first grade cricket for Bathurst since he was 15, and he’s made a lot of runs in the last few seasons.

By Darryl Flack