New Zealand motorcycle racer Bruce Anstey was awarded the MNZM for Services to Motorsport in the New Years Honours.
The reward recognises a New Zealander who remains at the forefront of international motorcycling, and widely acknowledged today as one of the world’s leading road circuit competitors.
Bruce, now 45, has achieved success and fame on the high speed public road circuits of Northern Ireland and at the Isle of Man where the prestigious Tourist Trophy races have been held since 1907. The Isle of Man TT has been hailed by one-time Formula One TV commentator Murray Walker as the greatest motorsport event in the world.
In June 2014, Bruce powered his 1000cc Honda Superbike around the 37¾ mile Isle of Man circuit faster than anyone had gone before, becoming the first rider ever to top the 132mph lap average.
In August, at the Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling he easily won the Formula 1 Classic TT on a 1982 Yamaha YZR500cc Grand Prix racer setting a new outright lap record for two-stroke machines. At the same meeting he rode Aucklander Ken McIntosh’s 1962 500cc Manx Norton to a podium finish in the Classic TT 500 to claim the Mike Hailwood Trophy, the team’s ultimate goal.
Bruce is also the current outright lap record holder on the Dundrod circuit in Northern Ireland, the home of the Ulster Grand Prix and rated the fastest race circuit of any in the world.
Bruce joined the Victoria Motorcycle Club in Wellington in 1990 as a novice road race competitor. From the outset he displayed skills well beyond the average and it was obvious from those early days that he had a genuine raw talent for the sport.
In the 1991/92 New Zealand he won the NZ Shell Rider of the Series award. It was his first year of national championship competition and he finished second in the 250cc Production class, an outstanding result for a newcomer.
Only riders in this class were eligible for the coveted Shell award recognising the personal attributes of track discipline, fair play, excellence of personal and machine presentation, and sponsorship brand loyalty.
It was a richly deserved award. Within a year or two he was winning titles and was very much the talk of the motorcycling world. In the mid-90’s while undergoing cancer treatment he continued to compete when his strength allowed, and remarkably he remained stoic and uncomplaining during a hugely stressful time for him.
These personal attributes have remained very much a hallmark of his outstanding racing career.
Big-name Irish and British sponsors have always been keen to sign “the very talented and popular New Zealander”.
In recent years he has remained based in the United Kingdom but has never relinquished his New Zealand connections and persona and is readily identifiable on the race track as the rider with the golden kiwi on the front of his helmet.
Bruce’s mother was born on the Isle of Man and not surprisingly he always harboured ambitions to race there and he did so for the first time in 1996 when he won “The Best Newcomer” award. He returned home in the 1998/99 season to win two more New Zealand titles and on his return to the Isle of Man he won his first Tourist Trophy title in 2002.
In June 2012 he won his ninth TT, six more than any other New Zealander, only nine of whom have ever won at the Isle of Man, a controversial circuit because of the high fatality rate. Seven New Zealanders have died there. As with the road circuits of Northern Ireland, TT success demands exceptional skill levels, long periods of intense concentration, inch-perfect racing lines and super-cool nerves where top riders reach speeds of upwards of 320kph.
The annual Isle of Man Tourist Trophy meeting is a time of intense scrutiny by the world’s sporting media and the tens of thousands of spectators who flock to the Island.
Bruce, as a New Zealander and a multi-TT winner, has been one of a select group of high profile riders in the past decade subject to day-to-day media meetings, press conferences, sponsor’s functions, team meetings and all manner of demands that come from being a champion rider and an admired personality.
Bruce has proudly represented New Zealand in these major Northern Hemisphere events for over a decade and he continues to embrace all the personal attributes that earned him the Shell Award way back in 1992. Bruce Anstey is an exceptional New Zealand sportsman of whom we can all be very proud.
Words by Ray Whitham
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