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ASBK heroes: Aaron Slight

By MA Media 0

New Zealander Aaron Slight holds a unique place in the 35-year history of the Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) as the only international rider to win the premier class.

And like everything the man from Masterton, near Wellington, did in his career, he claimed the championship on the back of methodical preparation, an unwavering work ethic and fierce determination. He gave as good as he got, and the Kiwi thrived on the thrill of the hunt.

They were the traits that saw him become a WorldSBK powerhouse in the 1990s, as well as winning three consecutive Suzuka 8-Hour world endurance races in the challenging heat and humidity of mid-summer Japan from 1993-1995.

Slight’s ascension to ASBK Superbike champion began in 1989 when, after a few racing cameos in Australia over the preceding years, he signed for Team Kawasaki Australia (TKA) alongside the inimitable and fun-loving Rob Phillis.

At 23, it was Slight’s first professional racing contract, and he settled in Albury with his then girlfriend and now wife, Megan, close to the Phillis family.

The bond between Phillis and Slight was immediate, fast-tracked by the former’s fun-loving and ‘enterprising’ – if not occasionally hair-raising – way of life.

Slight finished third in his rookie ASBK campaign in 1989, before the second half of his 1990 racing season was scuppered after a crash at Suzuka saw his right hand get caught under his sliding Kawasaki. He required extensive reconstructive surgery, and his career was hanging in the balance.

But with typical resilience, the crash and recovery only served to galvanise Slight for bigger and better things, and he duly won the 1991 ASBK title in his final year with TKA before joining Kawasaki’s WorldSBK factory effort alongside Phillis the following year. He was also involved in Kawasaki’s secret 250GP project around that time, which was eventually abandoned.

Slight’s body of WorldSBK work was brilliant, winning his first race at Albacete in 1992 before going on to finish top three in the championship between 1993 (his final year with Kawasaki before joining Honda) and 1998.

He twice finished runner-up – in 1996 to Troy Corser and 1998 to Carl Fogarty – in a 229-race career which saw him win 13 times and finish on the podium 87 times.

Over the journey, he enjoyed some box office battles, and the video below with Pierfrancesco Chili at Hockenheim in 1996 is just one example:

WorldSBK aficionados will also fondly remember the 1996 Philip Island WorldSBK round, where Slight went hammer and tongs with the late Anthony Gobert in a gripping race two, eventually won in the Aussie’s favour by just 0.109 seconds.

In 2000, a stroke saw the then 34-year-old miss the first part of the season, eventually returning on his way to eighth in the championship. That season was Slight’s last in the WorldSBK paddock, where his teammates along the nine-year journey included Phillis, Scott Russell, Doug Polen, Carl Fogarty, John Kocinski and Colin Edwards.

After a couple of seasons in the British Touring Car Championship, Slight eventually moved back to New Zealand full-time in 2004 from his Monaco base. He has since forged a successful career in business including co-ownership of Mitre 10 Mega Masterton.

Motorcycles are still a huge part of the 58-year-old’s life, albeit at a much more relaxed pace, and he recently embarked on a massive outback trip through Australia with Daryl Beattie Adventures.