Could young Auckland motorcycle road-racer Haydn Fordyce be New Zealand’s next Graeme Crosby, Hugh Anderson, Ginger Molloy, Robert Holden, Shaun Harris, Aaron Slight, Simon Crafar or Andrew Stroud, a rider to truly shake up the bike scene internationally?
It may be too early to talk of teenager Fordyce in such glowing terms, but his dominance at the opening round of the 2023 Oceania Junior Cup (OJC) in Australia at the weekend certainly set tongues wagging.
The 14-year-old Fordyce, a pupil at King’s College in Auckland, won the first two of three OJC races at the Sydney Motorsports Park circuit and a cautious seventh placing in the final wet race was enough to clinch the round win overall.
Fordyce (pictured above, bike No.31, racing in the Supersport 300 class in this season’s New Zealand Superbike Championships) finished the weekend top of the OJC podium ahead of New South Wales rider Valentino Knezovic and Queenslander Riley Nauta.
Two other Kiwis were also racing the OJC class at the weekend – Christchurch’s just-crowned New Zealand Supersport 150 class champion Hunter Charlett, who finished the weekend 11th overall (with a score-card of 13-18-10 in the three races), and Wellington’s Nixon Frost, who finished 19th overall (with a score-card of DNF-19-9).
There are still five rounds to go in this series, so anything could still happen, but Fordyce is truly off to a roaring start.
What is more remarkable is that Fordyce, from Patumahoe, near Pukekohe, first climbed on board a race bike only one year ago and that was after a horrifying (non-bike related) accident that had brought him close to death.
The accident, less than 18 months ago, left Fordyce with his back broken in 14 places, so he has come a long way in a remarkably short time and was only cleared by medics to race bikes in March last year.
“And that was his first time actually racing road bikes,” said Fordyce’s father, James.
“I was a water ski racer and have never really raced motorbikes at a top level, so I can’t take too much credit for his development,” he laughed.
“We didn’t really expect him to be within the top 10 (in the OJC). We were obviously hoping for something like that. It’s pretty unbelievable because only 18 months ago we were rung and told ‘we think he’s dead’, then we didn’t expect him to walk again and perhaps that he’d have brain damage … but there was none of that.
“We didn’t want to wrap him in cotton wool because of an unfortunate accident. It was a tough choice but we decided to let him live his life to the fullest.”
So, it was an emotional experience watching his son race in Australia.
Haydn Fordyce himself takes up the story:
“I was hoping to qualify in the top 10 (in the OJC) and just scraped in at 10th on the grid. In race one, I got a bad start and dropped to almost last by turn two. I managed to make my way to the front pack by lap three and set a new lap record and claimed first place.
“In race two it took me a bit longer to catch the lead group and I crossed the line just behind Ella McCausland but due to her getting a 10-second penalty (for jumping the start), I claimed another win.
“The third race at night was declared wet a few minutes before the start. A quick tyre change and an extra sighting lap to familiarise ourselves with the wet conditions at night. I never managed to catch the lead group, but didn’t push too hard as a finish in the top 10 would give me an overall win for the event.”
The OJC program has officially been named a Road to MotoGP and this Junior Road Race Academy is aimed at developing Oceania’s next road racing stars, just as it already has in 2021 and 2022.
It provides young riders with everything they need to take to the track, opening the pathway to the next generation of racers and is open to competitors aged between 11 to under 16 years of age (as of January 1st, 2024).
New Zealand has long had a reputation for producing world class motorcycle racers and that status continues to blossom thanks to the initiative of the sport’s governing body here, Motorcycling New Zealand.
And this is also a credit to a handful of dedicated senior racers within the sport, men such as Peter Jones, Steve Bagshaw, Brian Bernard and Dennis Charlett, to name a few, who have put so much into the sport for young riders at the formative level.
Maybe it won’t be long before we see a few more Kiwi teenagers step up to the plate, just as we witnessed Fordyce, Charlett and Frost do at the weekend.
Perhaps one of these young Kiwi stars will be able to follow in the wheel tracks of Masterton’s Slight, the only New Zealander so far to win the premier Superbike crown in Australia, and he did that way back in 1991.
The next round of the 2023 OJC is set for Queensland Raceway on the weekend of April 28-30.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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