26 Jun KILLARNEY CHARACTERS: BRIAN HosKINS
Brian Hoskins is arguably the most knowledgeable and experienced Clerk of the Course in South African motorsport.
As a former motorcycle racer and the father of a former motorcycle racer, Brian’s focus at Killarney has always been to run the safest possible race meetings with the fewest delays and send everybody home in one piece – hence his insistence on the letter of the regulations.
Brian left school at the age of 15 and in 1965 began working at the Cape Town headquarters of Bonuskor, then the 1ocal distributors of Volkswagen and Chevrolet cars. They were also agents for a new motorcycle brand from Japan – Honda – and that’s where the bike-mad teenager wound up working.
Soon he was helping local racing star Jackie Watts prepare a 250cc Honda CB72 for racing at Killarney, by boring the engine to 350cc and fitting Wiseco pistons. And when Honda in South Africa began to grow under the aegis of new distributor Midmacor Brian came into his own, both as a builder of racing motorcycles and as a rider.
In 1966 Midmacor’s PRO, a fast-talking Irishman named Roger McCleery, came up with the idea of entering a four-man ‘works’ Honda team in the national Production Motorcycle series, first on CB175 twins and later on CB350 twins. The four riders were Jackie Watts, Brian, Mike Grant and a teenager from Pietermaritzburg named Kork Ballington.
Late in 1968 Midmacor brought three new Fury four-stroke singles to Killarney in an attempt to set a new 12 Hour Endurance Record for 50cc motorcycles. The three machines completed an AA-certified 1651.38 miles (2642.21km, 809 laps of Killarney) between them in 12 hours, at an average speed of 45.87 miles per hour (73.39km/h) – and yes, Brian was involved there too!
By the early 1970s Brian was held in sufficient esteem by Honda that they gave him a full factory racing kit for a CB350. Fitting the kit was a lot of work, including some cutting and welding on the frame of the motorcycle, but the finished bike could rev to a screaming 14,000rpm and steam past the Yamaha TR2 factory production racers of the time.
However, it was as fragile as it was fast and Brian simply couldn’t afford to run it. Unwilling to give up motorsport, he instead began officiating, first as a scrutineer and later as assistant Clerk of the Course for motocross at Killarney, because he felt that the officials of the time were treating motorcycle racing as the poor relation of the sport, and somebody had to speak up – something Brian has never been shy to do.
In June 1973 Brian was helping out at Gordons Institute’s Sunday night movies when he met a young lady named Joy Moore. On their second date, the following Saturday, he took her to Killarney and dropped her in the deep end as motocross race secretary, working in the old bus that used to function as a race office at the motocross circuit.
She not only survived this baptism of fire, she thrived – they were married a year later, and welcomed Shane in 1975 and Justin in 1978. Joy still works as race secretary for Main Circuit events.
Brian soon became a Clerk of the Course for Main Circuit events and remained a staunch safety advocate for the motorcycle classes. When the Kyalami circuit presented the South African Motorcycle Grands Prix in 1983, ’84 and ’85 he was seconded as assistant Clerk of the Course for these world championship events.
The story is still told that during practice at the 1985 event 15 times world champion Giacomo Agostini, then team principal at Marlboro Yamaha, asked Brian to stop practice briefly so that the team could take some publicity shots under the iconic Marlboro bridge over the main straight. Brian, insistent as usual on running to schedule, refused.
“Do you know who I am?” asked Ago.
“Yes,” came the reply. “Do you know who I am?”
“You’re the Clerk of the Course.”
“That’s right,” said Brian. “Go away.”
Agostini, under pressure from his sponsors, was annoyed at the time but gained a healthy respect for the professionalism of South African motorsport officials and was later of help to Brian on a business trip to Italy.
At about this time Brian got back into motorsport, but in a completely different category – as a rally navigator. Since this was not his jurisdiction, he was able to leave the admin and the responsibility to others and just enjoy competing, something he had not been able to do for many years.
It is typical of the man that when his younger son Justin began racing in the mid-1990s, proudly carrying his father’s race number 67, Brian was as strict if not stricter on him than on the rest of the riders.
After 47 years as a Clerk of the Course at Killarney, Brian is today universally respected for his unflinching stance on the regulations, and his refusal to let himself be manipulated by the big teams.
Brian was also once a shoestring privateer, and he has never forgotten what it’s like.