By Colin Fraser
The Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame held their annual Induction Banquet and Reunion at the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel on November 4, with a crowd of over 250 riders, racers, Hall members, fans and industry types on hand to enjoy the festivities. The 12th annual event was sponsored by Husqvarna, with additional support from Joe Rocket, BMW Motorrad Canada, Honda Canada, Flat Track Canada, Yamaha Canada and event founder Bar Hodgson Productions.
Top racer honored at the event was Steve Beattie, the 2016 Flat Track Canada National Champ who suffered a major injury at the end of last season at Ohsweken, and then worked in the pits last summer for the KTM Canada National Motocross program with friend and neighbor Cole Thompson. Beattie has also had success in the U.S. as a chassis tuner and rider coach for top American Flat Trackers Jared Mess and Brad Baker, as well as winning an AMA National himself.
“I think I’m kind of young to be up here,” cracked Beattie when he took the stage after his Audio-Visual introduction. From there, Beattie suggested he’d had a tough career since he didn’t start racing until he was ten, shortly after heading out to buy a bicycle with his dad and returning with a Suzuki 80 dirt bike.
“I have lots of people to thank, especially all my family, and specific people like Jon Cornwell and (fellow inductee) Kurt Beiger,” said the always-jovial Beattie. “I really have to thank my wife Michelle, because if she had stuck to her guns the first time I broke my neck, I would never have done enough to get into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame.”
Beattie admits to five major neck injuries during his career, forcing at least a couple of retirements, and explains his tolerance for, and ability to forget, pain are major factors in his many successes in a wide variety of two wheeled sport and competition. His first major retirement in 2006 lead to the creation of his chassis set-up business, 26suspension.
Legendary motorcycle builder and tuner Mike Crompton started off by saying that when people have asked how he gets away with being busy with bikes and racing, his wife Kim has always encouraged him to participate and take advantage of the opportunities available.
“In the end, we always have a great time and come back with lots of stories to tell,” confirmed Crompton, who has built title winning machinery for George Morin, Art Robbins, Michel Mercier, Miguel Duhamel, Jordan Szoke in the glory days of the works CSBK Kawasaki program, as well as a host of others.
Crompton explained that is was a great honor to be inducted at the same time as fellow super tuner/builder Nick Kemp, since “he was always a go-to guy when we needed something fixed in a hurry, or if something was wrecked, and we could weld it, or rebuild it, or make another one or a redesign, whatever it took.”
“I have other great friends here tonight who were always there for me like Harald Surian, always part of a top notch fantastic team, and Jon Cornwell (already in the Hall of Fame) who was always a big help and always there when I needed him.
Crompton spoke of his time with Suzuki Canada, Team Manager George Morin, ace racer Michel Mercier (now all in the Hall of Fame) and the mid-1980s, first generation Suzuki GSX-R750 Superbike.
“Michel rode with his heart, an incredible racer and an incredible athlete. But it could be frustrating, and at times we were racing three different motorcycles over a weekend, and there were some incidents.
“Suzuki were great to deal with, but they always insisted the bikes to be blue, and I one time when I was at Suzuki, I asked if we could switch to the red ones, and they wanted to know why. So I told them – I can see them coming out of the sky easier!”
Once the laughs died down, Crompton also wanted to recognize the famous Ontario Honda race Shop in downtown Toronto on Queen Street, and owners Murray Brown and the late Ricky Andrews, a real beehive of activity that supported a wide range of endeavors from the 1970s through the 1990s.
“The best thing with the motorcycles is always the friendship and the camaraderie that goes along with racing. My father-in-law once said that I have the most fascinating array of friends and associates, and I think he meant that in a good way.”
Kurt Bieger, former racer and top Flat Track builder and Tuner, explained that when he started in competition, he crashed a lot. “One of my best friends, and old Brit, asked me why I crashed so much, and I told him the tires just were not good enough!”
“It took me some time to figure out that I had to slow down a little bit. I gradually figured that out, and then, when I got hurt, I started letting other people race my machines so they wouldn’t just sit.”
“In closing, I want to say that It’s hard to explain why anyone spends hours and hours alone working on their race bikes. We’re trying to figure out how to put the combination of bike, rider and track together, day by day. I’m happy to be up here, I’m proud to be part of this group, and thanks everyone.”
Famed Announcer Pat Gonsalves opened his remakes by explaining that he briefly considered having his alter-ego, Guyanese announcer Huntley Williams, speak on his behalf. This took some in the crowd way back, since Gonsalves hadn’t worked that character into his race coverage since the late 1970s at Shannonville Motorsport Park.
With a career spanning many types of motorsports in a variety of countries, both on the P.A. and television, Gonsalves admitted that he has never “met a microphone I didn’t like. This evening is truly special, and I want to thank the group of racers that nominated me for the Hall including Kathleen Coburn, Alan Labrosse and Bernie Ryan.”
“I am filled with gratitude for my career announcing, now at 40 years and counting. Harry McCluney hired me to work with the Canadian Road Racing Club at their events at Mosport when I was at Ryerson in 1972, and I eventually worked at Shannonville for John Nelson when it opened in 1976, and started announcing at Daytona International Speedway in 1977.”
The next event for the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame will be the 2018 Banquet and Reunion scheduled for November 17 at the Delta Burnaby Conference Centre in British Columbia.