16 December 2014

Robert Holden a personal tribute

Photo: 1982 Wanganui Pic Supplied by Graeme Staples
Whether it was doing donuts on Peka Peka beach north of Wellington in his Jaguar XJ6 , playing space invaders , racing as many as five different bikes in one day of racing Robert Holden was special.  

Robert was born Yorkshire UK in 1959 , the family came to New Zealand in 1972.

Robert X7 250 Production Bike
I first met Robert in the late 1970's , my first recollection was him racing a RM125 Suzuki converted to race on the street. The amazing thing was to strike me over the years was not just his ability but his shear will to win. Lap times didn't matter it was all about having fun and winning. 

He didn't seem to have any fear , may be this was because he had come to terms with the fact the motorcycles could be dangerous and no longer feared the danger. Before I even met Robert I had heard a story of an accident he had on the road where he nearly died , I stand to be corrected but I think it was on a friend's bike around Wellington's basin reserve. He crashed and went under a truck , and was very badly injured.

Anyway as the years progressed I was lucky to see him race and win many times , while I raced against him , or should I say I was in the same race as him , his competitive streak was always there. I never became best buddies with him , in fact I was closer to his brother Glen (but that's another story).

Kevin and Robert
The Wellington racing crowd in the early 1980's were a tight bunch , we all had various flats which were infamous for social interaction, one of the most famous being in Palm Avenue in Lyall Bay . We  were mainly all members of the Victoria University Motorcycle Club and Robert was always part of that scene both socially and sporting. He had a nickname "Ernie" , Why? 

"He was cutting out number 3 for his number boards and typical Ernie they were square and looked like back to front E's. So we stuck one on so it was an E and gave him the name Ernie, and it just stuck." Kevin Maxwell told me.

Kevin was his best mate , and these guys were always together and getting up to all sorts of things , like racing a speedway sidecar under false names so Suzuki NZ(Robert's Sponsor) wouldn't find out , needless to say they did and the boys had to sell the outfit . 

Kevin still owns the only Alloy Steve Roberts built Suzuki F1 bike that Dave Hiscock and later Robert rode.Kevin lives in Australia.

There are so many examples of Roberts racing sucess , it is endless . One race meeting I remember was Lyall Bay street circuit 1984. He raced in every solo race on the day (Except the 125 class) and won all the races riding a mixture of machinery. 

He enjoyed some of fruits of racing successfully (not necessary money wise) in New Zealand , Australia , Canada and Europe/ UK, but he could not be called a trophy hunter , this fact was obvious to me when one day I went around to his Mum and Dad's place in Strathmore Wellington to pick something up. Robert wasn't there but whatever it was we had come to pick up was in his van , We opened the door and rolling about in the back were two trophies from a couple of races six months before. No it wasn't the trophies , it was the drive to win (at anything he did) and the enjoyment of the sport  that stood him apart from most of us . 

People like Robert are a rare breed and only come along once in a while.

So remember when you head out on the track , not everyone will be a winner, but you can still get a blast from the experience just like Robert did.

Robert Holden died at the Isle of Man 31st May 1996.

Robert's legacy lives on this Boxing Day 26th of December , when riders line up at Wanganui to race for the "Robert Holden Memorial Trophy " around the cemetery circuit.

Words: Ian Dawson


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