Skip to content

Where are they now? Richard Reid | Columns | Gassit Garage

Richard Reid – the bloke to win Kawasaki’s first road race

Who was Kawasaki’s first road-race winner in Australia? Ken Blake, Ron Toombs, Gregg Hansford? It was Richard Reid, in the Victorian 250 TT at Calder on 12 February, 1967.

In the next six weeks Reid won the Tasmanian 350 TT at Symmons Plains and the Bathurst 350 TT, riding a 250 Kawasaki A1R supplied by pioneering Victorian Kawasaki importer Jeff Cook and prepared by Ron Angel. Reid would go on to claim Australian TT doubles at Mallala in 1967 and Albany in ’68, and Australian Grand Prix (AGP) titles at Surfers Paradise and Bathurst the same years.

That’s in addition to the AGPs he won on Nortons at Mallala (350 in 1964) and Longford (500 in 1966), and titles in four States.

The son of an industrial chemist, Richard was born in 1938 in Melbourne’s Richmond.

“We lived in Tottenham,” he said. “I attended West Footscray State School and then Footscray Tech College. I was apprenticed at Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Fishermans Bend and did an engineering certificate, with lots of engineering draughting. In 1971 I switched from draughting to car sales.”

Reid was mad keen on speed and aeroplanes. He joined Preston Motorcycle Club, which promoted road racing at Darley and rode his first road race there on his BSA scrambler.

“I really enjoyed the greater speed of tarmac racing, so I bought one of Jimmy Guilfoyle’s Manx-framed BSAs and then Ron Robinson’s 350 Manx Norton.

“There were good Manxes and slow Manxes in the 1960s, and this was a slow one as we found out. I rode it in a few meetings and then had the opportunity to buy the last Manx 500 to come to Australia.”

Reid’s early interstate races were in South Australia, travelling with brothers Patrick and John Bruce. In 1964 he won the Australian 350 GP at Mt Gambier, beating future international John Dodds.

“We’d go across in John’s hotted-up Holden on a long weekend. Those were good times; great camping weekends. The Mt Gambier surface was unique; they’d spread gravel over fresh bitumen. If you won a few dollars there it covered the petrol to go to Mallala. We didn’t do Bathurst until we became better riders.”

In 1966 Reid won the Victorian 500 GP at Benalla and the Australian 500 GP at Longford (Tasmania), and was second in the Australian 500 TT Bathurst. Early in 1967 he was offered a new mount – the first Kawasaki ‘production’ 250 disc-valve A1R racer in the land.

“Jeff Cook offered to sponsor me on the Kawasaki and I asked Ron Angel to look after the bike. It was very quick; the only thing that was better was the works Yamaha 250 Alan Osborne rode.

“Kawasaki became involved in a bigger way when they sent out a bike John ‘Mooneyes’ Cooper had ridden in the 1967 Japanese GP. It was a hybrid A1R converted to a 350. However, in boring it out to create a 350 it was very fragile and was difficult to tune. It kept blowing up and we could never reproduce the intake system. In 1968 at Bathurst it was clocked at 163mph (262km/h); it was quicker than Ron Toombs’ 500 Matchless. We had to design a disc-brake front end to stop it!

“In 1969-70 I rode another A1R for Neville Doyle, who was an irrigation engineer from Gippsland. Once again that was a very quick bike. If it kept going it would win.”

In 1970 Reid married and began selling cars – which mean he had to work on Saturdays. He stopped motorcycle racing save for one meeting a year and then dropped out altogether.

“Kawasaki sent me a congratulations letter, thanking me for putting the bikes on the map. With Jeff Cook, I received reasonable expenses to travel interstate, but you couldn’t live from it. Maybe I was two or three years too early. My good friend Ken Blake got a Kawasaki 500 ride with Ron Angel and then Ron Toombs rode the 750 for Neville Doyle.”

As for overseas ambitions, Reid said he wished he could have gone away, is mindful of the riders who did not come back.

“I had one bad accident; hitting the wooden fence at Bathurst and having the bike follow me in. The crash dislodged some of the planks and split my helmet.”

Today, Richard Reid lives in Mt Waverley with partner Anne, whom he met in 2000. “She is a lovely person, the best thing that ever happened to me, and life is pretty good. He has two children from his previous relationship and some grand children, “who are a great thrill. I am semi-retired, but I still do car sales.”

by Don Cox