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2019 Motorcycling Hall of Fame

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2 MAY 2019: Motorcycling New Zealand is thrilled to announce that there is to be four new inductees to the Motorcycling Hall of Fame in 2019.

All legends in their own right, Ben Townley, Katherine Oberlin-Brown and Aaron Slight will be recognised for their achievements in motorcycle racing this month. There will also be posthumous recognition of cross-code motorsport hero Rodger Freeth and MNZ is looking forward to having sons Hayden and Stefan accept the award on behalf of their late father.

Both Townley and Freeth were to be inducted in 2018 however this was deferred to 2019 as they couldn’t be present at last year’s ceremony.

Rodger Freeth made his name racing McIntosh Suzukis at Bathurst in the 1980s. With 13 New Zealand road race titles to his name, Freeth‘s motorcycle racing career came to an end after damaging ligaments in his hand in 1986. He had been co-driving rally cars since 1979, navigating for a raft of Kiwi and international drivers over a period of 14 years. In 1988 he moved into the driver’s seat as a circuit racer, winning the NZ Sports Sedan Championship, also setting NZ land speed record in 1993 in a Lola Indycar at 315km/h. Rodger Freeth passed away on 18 September 1993 following a crash in Rally Australia while co-driving for long-time rally partner ‘Possum’ Bourne.

Ben Townley started racing motocross from an early age. His first championship win in New Zealand was the North Island 85cc class in the 8-11 year age group in the 1993/94 championship year, and before the decade was out several other titles came his way. Townley headed to Europe at age 16 and after three seasons won the MX2 World Championship in 2004 before heading to the USA in 2006. He then rode for Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki winning the 2007 Supercross Lites East Championship. Injuries plagued Townley for the next few years and he announced retirement in 2013 before making a comeback in 2015 to compete at the Motocross of Nations in France. Suzuki picked him up in 2016 before a final injury ruled him out of competition for the last time. These days family keeps him busy as well as being the new Brand Ambassador for Yamaha NZ.

Katherine Oberlin-Brown (nee Prumm) was born in South Africa and moved to NZ in 1995 at age 7. Motocross was a huge part of Prumm family life and Katherine competed against the men on an equal footing. Many remember the day at the New Zealand Motocross Grand Prix at Woodville where she took two holeshots out of three starts in the MX2 class. She moved to Europe where she won two Women’s World Cup titles in 2006 and 2007. At age 18, Katherine was at the top of the world in women’s motocross. Her 2008 championship campaign ended with a collarbone injury but she was looking good to come back in 2009 before a training crash saw her break her back in 3 places, ending her motocross career. Katherine is married to Graham and still involved in elite sport, working as a physiologist for High Performance Sport New Zealand.

Aaron Slight would have to be New Zealand’s most successful international motorcycle road racer with 229 World Championship starts, 13 World Superbike wins and 87 WSBK podium finishes spanning the 90’s decade. Recovering from a major brain surgery in his final year in WSBK in 2000 and returning to the track after just three months defied all doctor’s expectations. Aaron only competed from round seven and however he still finished his final year in the World Championship in 8th Place. Aaron went on to race British touring cars with some success before returning home to Masterton where he manages various property and business interests.

The induction ceremony for Freeth, Townley, Oberlin-Brown and Slight will take place at the 2019 MNZ Annual General Meeting dinner on 18th May.

 

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