Advancing the sport of motorcycling

Rodger Freeth

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Roger Freeth

Born: 1950 - 1993

Inducted into MNZ Hall of Fame: 2019

Rodger Freeth first showed his academic brilliance when he was Dux of Papakura High School and first started motorcycling as a cheap way of getting to University. The motorcycle racing "bug" bit him soon after!

Rodger started motorcycle racing via the then popular "Production Racing" while studying Physics at Auckland University. First with a Triumph Daytona 500, and then a Kawasaki Mach III.

Rodger eventually gained a Doctorate in Astrophysics while still racing motorcycles. His thesis was on "Binary Star Systems (2 x suns) and Black Holes" at a time when most people had heard of neither!

While studying at Auckland University he was awarded New Zealand's only ever "University Blue" in recognition of his winning the NZ Road Race Championship on a Suzuki TR500.

He replaced the Suzuki with a second hand TZ750 Yamaha to race in the "Marlboro Series" and tried many modifications, including fitting aerofoils to the front and back suspension. Rodger was very disappointed when these were quickly banned on safely grounds.

He was then sponsored by Rod Coleman, the New Zealand Suzuki importer, who provided him with successive brand new Suzuki RG500 GP bikes, which Rodger rode with distinction.

In 1979, the projected late arrival of the second Suzuki Grand Prix RG500 resulted in the building of the first "McIntosh Suzuki" in Ken McIntosh's Auckland workshop and a string of 10 wins which were the first for a 4-stroke machine in NZ Open Class Racing for many years.

This is where Rodger's people skills were at their best as within a week he had persuaded 25-year-old Ken McIntosh to agree to modify the McIntosh chassis, (originally designed to take a Kawasaki motor), to use a Suzuki motor. He then talked Alan Skousgaard from Tirau, (whom he had never met), into lending him his newly ordered McIntosh chassis, and persuaded Keith Turner, (whom he had also never met), into lending him his almost new Pops Yoshimura GS1000R race motor.

Over the next 5 years Ken McIntosh built 4 new McIntosh Suzuki's for Rodger, with Alan Skousgaard's original "investment" being transferred as each bike was replaced.

That Rodger was a very good rider is easily proved by the results, with multiple New Zealand Championships and Titles, but where he really shone was at Bathurst in NSW, Australia. The long, super high-speed track suited his high level of fitness and concentration and he was always the fastest "over the top of the mountain" of all the top Aussie and NZ riders in the "Arai 500" feature race. Two wins (in 1982 and 1985) and a second (in 1984) were his reward for 500km and over 3 hours of faultless solo riding. In 1982, with 80 starters in the race, the virtually unknown New Zealand team won by more than a lap and set a new race record.

To quote Ken McIntosh "I would make the parts and Rodger would try to (mostly unsuccessfully) destruction test them". It was a great period for NZ designed and built bikes.

Rodger was not a trained mechanic, but with the workshop manual propped up on a book stand he assembled plenty of GSX1100 and TZ750 motors that finished races and won championships. Another skill he mastered!

The fact that Rodger was sponsored by CRC for so many years, with both bikes and cars, was also a tribute to the loyalty he received from those around him.

Rodger was also famous in car rallying (as co-driver for NZ Champions Neil Allport and "Possum" Bourne), car racing (NZ Sports Sedan Champion, 1988 in his Toyota Starlet V8), and as a Doctor of Astrophysics.

Rodger retired from motorcycle racing after cutting the tendons in his right hand lifting Neil Allport's rally car back on the road in the USA, and spent a year recovering the full use of his hand.

He later became a full time professional co-driver with his great friend Peter "Possum" Borne and was tragically killed in a crash in a World Rally Championship round in Western Australia in 1993

Rodgers funeral was held in the Auckland Town Hall with over 2000 people attending. That surely says it all.