FEATURES

MOTORCYCLE HERO: KORK BALLINGTON

SOUTH AFRICA'S GEM

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No rider has done so much for the Kawasaki name as Kork Ballington, having won the team’s only world championships in the premier class.

Ballington was also South Africa's first motorsport world champion. Though he was born as Hugh Neville Ballington in 1951 in Rhodesia, where his family was staying for work, they moved back to South Africa in 1954. And it was here where Ballington grew up and developed an interest in bikes.

Inspired by the likes of Jim Redman and other pros, Ballington had been racing seriously since the age of 14. He trained on his brother's bike, a Honda 50, progressing onto a Honda C110 as he got older.

Though his parents originally showed no interest in his racing, they realised his potential as he started to win races and began to support him more.

Kork managed to win a small scholarship to ride in England in 1973. His first home there was a tent, which he shared with his future wife Bronwyn and his brother and mechanic, Deryck.

Though he'd started small, it didn't take Kork long to make a name for himself. By 1976, he had taken his first podium win: second place in the 250cc race at the West German Grand Prix. Shortly after, he took his first win, this time in the 350cc class in the Spanish Grand Prix.

His first 250cc victory came in 1977 in Silverstone. He had four wins in total that year, upon a private Yamaha twin. But the best was yet to come. The following year, now with Kawasaki and upon KR 250/350 motorcycles, he won not only one, but two world championships in the 350cc and 350cc classes. A feat which he repeated again in 1979.

Ballington had an offer from Suzuki to join the team for the 1980 season but chose to stay with Kawasaki, who offered him both more money and, he claimed, more loyalty.

His position with the team would be to help them develop a new 500cc racer. But this proved difficult. He spent the 1980 season campaigning the new KR500 but struggled to get to grips with it. The struggle would continue over the next three seasons.

He was in the running to become 250cc champion again once in this time, but an almost-fatal stomach infection curbed his efforts.

Ballington retired after the 1982 season when Kawasaki pulled from the championship. He had let 250cc racing go, putting all his efforts into the 500cc machine for two years in a row, and failing both times.

Whether he would have gone on to win any more championships if Kawasaki hadn't have pulled out, we'll never know.

Ballington now resides in Brisbane. He was inducted into the Moto GP Legend Hall of Fame in 2018.


Comments

23/11/19: what a rider loved watching him

23/11/19: Sid Griffiths Transport sponsored him about 76 77 78 my Dad had a set of his old leathers he must of had a big off they where wrecked don't know what happened to them

23/11/19: Anyone remember him hittin the marshal at mallory exit of gerards broke the lads leg broke corks wrist

22/11/19: One of my heroes as I was a teenager multiple 250/350 championships really put Kawasaki on the map and a smooth riding style

21/11/19: Yes Kork was one of the great old school racers who barely had to put his knee down to ride fast and win. He not only put Kawasaki on the racing map - he also put the Kawasaki road bike on the map as an option to the Jap models.

21/11/19: My favourite rider of all time.

21/11/19: Suberb rider

Posted by Daisy Cordell
for Wemoto News on 20 November 2019 in Features

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