Throwback Thursday

Gun time

Choose your weapons!

M240 SAW

Full auto on an M249 SAW








It’s back to December 2003 for this week’s Throwback Thursday – to the launch of Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade. The trip started well – Club-class BA flights to Phoenix, Arizona, nice golf hotel, and an afternoon of shooting 5.56mm M249 SAW machine guns.

Luke AFB from Arizona Motorsports Park

Luke AFB from Arizona Motorsports Park

Next day, things got even better at the track launch – round the brand new Arizona Motorsports Park. Located right next to the enormous Luke USAF base, the neat little track rumbled to the sound of big warplanes constantly taking off – from F16s right up to E-3 Sentry AWACS planes.


CBR1000RR Fireblade

2004 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade

And the rumble of Honda’s new litre superbike. This was the first of the next-generation Fireblades, replacing the CBR954RR, and severing the last ties with the original 893cc nutjob. With Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 ruling the roost, Yamaha’s R1 on a roll, and Kawasaki’s ZX-10R being launched the same month in Florida, there was a lot of pressure on the new Honda.


First pass…


No pressure at lunchtime for some wheelie pics though. I was first up for a run, and the snapper (Mr Paul Barshon) lined up with his big 600mm lens on the pit straight. Everyone, from the man who designed the new Fireblade, to the guy who gave the screens a wipe when they came in from a session was standing on pit wall, watching. I did my first run – hmmm, not bad. But surely I can manage a bit higher on the next pass? Well, yes, I could, as it happened.






I've got this.

I’ve got this.



Perhaps not.

Perhaps not.

Note air-gap under rear wheel


Okay then.

Okay then.

Sorry everyone.

Sorry everyone.

The moral of the tale? Try not to flip wheelies. But if you insist on doing so, make sure there’s a top snapper on hand. Luckily for me, the damage was mostly pride-based, although I did dislocate a finger. Ouch. Smashed my brand new custom Arai too…


Mr Nicky Hayden was the special guest, having signed for Honda’s MotoGP for 2003, and won ‘Rookie of the Year’. He’d witnessed my mishap too, and was very pleased to be jocose about it later…


So, which one of you limey idiots flipped the bike?


Epilogue 2:

You’ve probably not heard much of Arizona Motorsports Park. That’s because the locals successfully closed it down for years, while they complained about the noise. All the while ignoring the 150dB sounds of freedom coming from the supersonic warplanes right next door. The track is open now, but with super-strict noise regs. And the 56th Fighter Wing still flies F16s and (soon) F35s all day long…

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