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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming:
"WOW, what a ride !!!"

The Saipan Soiree Saga


P.J. Read-circa 1962

Last issue we unveiled the previously unreported tale of the 1969 reunion of motocross legends PJ Read, Nigel Holingsworth and their money man Trent Farlowe in far away Taiwan and the birth of their plan to bring pride back to the Taiwanese motocross industry (and themselves) with the Saipan GTR-X ‘Read Replica’ 250 and Gemini NH360 projects...
The story continues.

After a fortnight of reliving past escapades and getting to know the hoi poloi of Taiwanese society, it was time for us to get down to work. Hollingsworth was unusually on top of his game and had set up a state of the art R&D and race shop in what had previously been the old Mayfair Hotels extravagant ballroom. The highly polished parquet dance floor that had once seen a generation of aristocratic British expats fox trotting away to then popular dance bands such as Jack Brindle and his Trocadero All Stars, was now home to row after row of stainless steel work benches fitted out with the best tools and equipment Taiwan could produce. The former cloak room now housed an engine dyno and the ladies toilet had become the quaintly named “Dremel Room” in which former Equipo Madre Trato tuning wizard Enrique del Vasquez jr wielded his exceptional spanner skills on race engine assembly. I took on the task of hand picking the race shop employees and I left no stone unturned in finding the best people.

PJ Read storms the Saipan GTR-X RR 360 prototype up the grueling test hill at the Shin San Tong R&D facility in the Taipei hinterland.

Nigel Hollingsworth, resplendent in Ralph Lauren Chinos and button down Blake shirt looks on with steely interest.

As well as del Vasquez in the Dremel Room, we had former Ariel team chassis man Bobby Downe manning the oxy torch and our old Ariel team manager “Stumpy” Leonard was hired as shop foreman in charge of forty of Taiwan’s best race engineers. “Stumpy” was a grubby old racist at the best of times and wasn’t overly fond of the Asian chaps but the tense atmosphere between he and the lads gave the R&D department an edge other teams could only dream of having. Keeping the staff healthy the kitchen was managed by the legendary Chef Sammy who dished out a nutritious menu created by TVs own Richard Simmonds. Hollingsworth and I took on the dual roles as development engineers and works GP riders, myself in my beloved 500 class and Hollingsworth treading new water on 250s. Taiwanese motocross icon Gordon Bang Li Foon was signed as my co rider in the 500 class while the second 250 spot went to the existing factory development rider, little Jimmy Ping.

While all of this was happening, Farlowe went about organizing sponsorships and setting up a working race team account utilizing his financial colleagues in the Cayman Islands and Liberia. Taiwanese soda pop giant Qoo and Wynns Friction Proofing were signed as the major sponsors and Hollingsworth’s lovingly restored WW2 DC3 was flown in from its base in Launceston, Tasmania to be utilized as the team transporter. I pulled in some favors and managed to get my old drinking chum from the old Monte Carlo days, Louis Vuitton to do a quick interior makeover on the old warbird, bringing it up to Holli and my standards of race team transport. Gone at last were the days of the three bike trailer hooked behind the Humber Snipe. This team was going to set new standards, by jove!


The fabulous chicken & cherry flavoured Qoo soda became the taste sensation of a generation in 1960s Taiwan. It was removed from the market two short years later after the Taiwan Supreme Court found company founder Billy Qoo guilty of substituting chicken with cat.

Meanwhile Lotus Fong Tip and Holli had found me a house in the Da-An district that reminded me of my beloved Floreat Park estate. The sprawling old Victorian sandstone manor house had been built in the twenties for British tea tycoon Sir Tommy Lipton and came with the accompaniments that one would expect such as six bedrooms with ensuites, a pool, sauna and temperature controlled wine cellar. I had my regency period antique furniture flown in from London and commissioned Danish interior designer Lars Parsnip to create an ambience to suit my swinging sixties lifestyle. My then lover, American starlet Tuesday Weld moved in and I brought over my Irish Wolf Hounds, Derek and Don as well as flying in the Aston Martin. Farlowe and Lily moved into Lily’s dads beach house down at Fulung Beach and it immediately became party central for the myriad of expat beach bunnys that lived at Lulung during those happy hippy days of the late sixties. Trent and Lily’s parties were the hot ticket in Taipei society and the dashing multicultural couple were frequently featured on society pages from Saigon to Singapore. Hollingsworth had long been settled with Lotus in the Ah Fong Tip families Quong Tu road mansion where Nigel had eased into the lord of the manor role like a cock into a sock. Holingsworth seemingly had his addictions to strong analgesics, British gin and small hairy men under check and was putting in the hard hours at the Shin San Tong factory not only running the firms lucrative moped line but working through the wee hours in the race team design office.


Taiwanese MX icon Gordon Bang Li Foon (holding the company mascot Cyril) and his mechanics show off the new race day attire.

The plan was now hatched to enter the 1970 FIM World motocross Championships in both the 250 and 500 classes on the new Saipan 250 GTR-X HR (Hollingsworth Replica) and the now renamed Saipan 360 GTR-X RR (Read Replica). We would fly to every round in the DC3 with two race bikes and two spares for both classes and the custom fitted Ford Transit Van tender vehicle mounted in their special area in the DC3 cargo hold. The front section of the fuselage had been designed by Vuitton to be an aerial version of an Orient Express first class train carriage with luxury seating and sleeping berths for the riders and team entourage. Richard Simmons would control the on board gymnasium while Chef Sammy would produce healthy meals in the fully equipped galley. Nothing would be left to chance for the new Qoo Soda/Wynns Friction Proofing Saipan works team, nosiree Bob!.


Saipan GTR-X works 250 racer Jimmy Ping tells the enthralled audience that he drinks three Qoo sodas prior to every moto.

The bikes had finally made it through a rigorous testing regime which had included 250 class #2 rider Jimmy Ping coming in second to legendary Australian racer Mark Firkin in the 1969 Borneo 250GP on the bikes debut. The Read Multi-Port engine was proving to be fast and as reliable as the Queen Mothers Daimler so all that remained was to host the grand launch of the race team. As well as being stunningly beautiful, Lily and Lotus were extremely astute entrepreneurs who knew how to throw a party. The sisters booked the main ballroom of the Fung Gu Palace hotel and invited a selection of A list celebrities that left Lee Radziwell green with envy and red with rage when she discovered she hadn’t receive an invitation. Our old chum Bobby Goldsboro once again agreed to MC the gala soiree despite his tight Bah Mitsvah circuit schedule. Those wild and wacky Pigs Ear Club chaps, Dan Gurney, my dear friend Jack Brabham, Al Martino, Bobby De Niro and that crazy drinking mate of Hollingsworths, Chuck Manson all shared a table alongside Lesley Gore, Crystal Gayle and Melanie Safka who’d flown in direct from filming a Dick Clark TV special in Cabo San Lucas. Dan Rowan, Dick Martin and Buddy Hackett partied with Hank Kissinger and Hollywood royalty Barbara Billingsly and Hugh Beaumont at a table by the ice sculpture of Holli and myself created especially for the evening by my old squash partner Andy Warhol. Gary Puckett and the Union Gap had the partisan crown up dancing the Boogaloo, and even my old love Cynthia Lennon managed to get the usually shy “Pippi” Ponche-Crema out on the dance floor. By the time the headlining ensemble Blue Cheer hit the stage, the hotel was going off . It was the party to end all parties, a meeting of stars and celebrities never before seen in Taiwan or anywhere else in Asia for that matter. Hunter S. Thompson later wrote in his Pulitzer Prize winning essay ‘Fear and Loathing in Taiwan’ that it was the best fun he’d had at a party since he’d spiked the punch at Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalons engagement party with nineteen tabs of blue lagoon acid.


Hollywood A list screen idols Hugh Beaumont and the gorgeous Barbara Billingsly take a break from boogalooing at the Saipan Soiree.

Sadly, the the cool buzz that can only come from a room full of A list celebrities ‘tripping the light fantastic’ hid a behind the scenes shit fight that would not only destroy the soul of the Saipan motocross dream but also turned Taipei society totally topsy turvey.

In hindsight I should have heard the warning bells chime as clearly as the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral with a hunchback tugging on the end of the rope. In the spirit of revelry I had taken my eye off the ball and failed to notice the key signs that something was not quite right. I thought is was a simple oversight when Billy Qoo mentioned over a glass of Pinot that Farlowe had requested that the $300 000 Qoo soda sponsorship money be paid in cash and in unmarked Australian dollars in the hotel parking lot earlier in the evening. Chuck Cheesman from Wynns Friction Proofing then added that he had passed over his firms $200 000 sponsorship allocation in US currency greenbacks to Trent aboard the ‘Lotus Lily’, the Shin Tan Song company yacht the previous day at Ming Daou Yum Marina. After interrupting Lily from her slow dance with George Hamilton she revealed that Trent had told her that he had a little business to take care of and that he’d be back within the hour. After glancing at my Rolex told and realizing that five hours had since passed , my stomach knotted, my sphincter tightened and my heart raced as I rushed backstage and interrupted Holli from a ‘special moment’ with the hotels sous chef to tell him to get the Pigs Ear Boys together, there was no time to waste.

As much a friend and financial genius Farlowe was, he had the business morals of Dick Cheney on a bad day and it would be a brave man who stood between him and a bucket of spare change. It was the old Team Ariel scam all over again and I should have known better than to trust him. Both Holli and I had turned off the radar and forgot our previous history with the swine. Farlowe bore all of the signals that would set off most anti wanker alarms. One should never, ever trust accountants, lawyers or used car salesmen and it shames me to admit the Farlowe has at various stages in his life been all three! We were duped.

Not wanting to draw attention to the ever growing scandal, Holli, Lotus, Lily and I continued with the team launch and plied our sponsors with alcohol and friendly local women while behind the scenes The Pigs Ear boys (minus that strange Chuck Manson who’d earlier headed upstairs with a wasted Grace Slick) were formulating a plan to find the wayward Aussie accountant. Luckily the launch went off like a well shaken beer. The press drooled over the slick British Racing Green machines and for the next few weeks nearly every bike magazine in the world featured photos of our proud creation. We had everything on our side except money. There was enough in our private kitty for the team to appear at the first round in Belgium in two weeks but unless we found that swine Farlowe and recover our sponsors money, we were tottering on the edge of a deep puddle of Poo Poo.

Next issue: The team arrives in Belgium—The Pigs Ear Boys hit the road in search of Trent—Holli breaks under the stress…and more drama and mayhem from your favourite GP team.

***


More from Nigel Hollingsworth and PJ Read


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