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Legends: Hugh Anderson

Submitted by on September 30, 2010

Hugh Anderson is close to the blueprint for a 1960s champion – resourceful, modest and brave.

Signed by Suzuki just as the company hit its straps as a builder of fast engines, he helped turn that potential into gold, winning the world 50 and 125 titles in 1963, another 50 title in 1964 and a second 125 title in 1965.

Anderson won 25 GPs, including 17 in the 125 class against the likes of Luigi Taveri, Jim Redman and Ernst Degner. He’s equal top of the all-time Suzuki GP winners list with Kevin Schwantz and the most successful New Zealand motorcycle road racer of all time.

Raised on a farm, Anderson worked in a foundry and then a coal mine to fund his way to the Continental Circus.

“It got you fit and tough, and made you determined that you wouldn’t come back to that life,” he told the author in 1997.

Inaugural world 500 champion and wartime bomber pilot Les Graham was Anderson’s inspiration. He sailed to England aged 24 in 1960 with his brother Gordon, having saved enough for two bikes and a small cash “float”. He bought a van and slept in it for the next three years.

Anderson said he was reluctant to read newspaper stories of his successes, in case he became a big head and crashed. Then Shell competitions manager Lew Ellis introduced him to Suzuki, creating a successful blend of Kiwi practicality and guts with fast but temperamental bikes.

In addition to his riding, Anderson was a pioneer in having a proper fitness regime and healthy diet plan. He married a Dutch nurse he met in hospital.

In a reversal of the usual pattern, Hugh Anderson had a successful motocross career after retiring from road racing. He has since become a key member of the New Zealand classic racing scene.

Don Cox

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