A documentary portrait of New Zealand motor racer Kim Newcombe, best remembered as the New Zealander who came second in the 1973 World 500 Grand Prix Championship and for the Konig bike he built himself using the engine from an outboard motor.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2005
In motorcycle racing circles Kim Newcombe is remembered as the New Zealander who came second in the 1973 World 500 Grand Prix Championship. He’s also famous for the bike he rode, which he developed himself, using the engine from an outboard motor, then refined for the German manufacturer Dieter Konig who became his friend and mentor. Justin Pemberton’s documentary portrait is a showcase for the Super 8 footage shot by Janeen, Newcombe’s childhood sweetheart, then wife. These films of action on and off the racetrack conjure up the romance and hard-scramble that characterised life for a young couple travelling the continent on the World Championship Road Racing circuit in the swinging 70s. Newcombe’s friends and colleagues provide anecdotal testimony to his geniality and his obsession with racing, but what’s most unusual about this film is the way in which the dashing figure in the old movies registers as a phantom. Janeen became a widow at a very young age and this portrait of youth, vitality and sporting obsession is filtered through her enduring sense of loss. — BG
In the 70s, I was an aspiring motorcycle racer and Kim Newcombe was one of my heroes. To me, he was a romantic and faraway character – an intrepid visionary who had challenged the all conquering Italian and Japanese marques. What he achieved in his impressive streak of races in 72 and 73 was shamefully underappreciated by the English and Italian motorcycle press at the time. I suspect many in the Grand Prix racing establishment resented the success of the unassuming kiwi with his hand-built bike powered by a German marine outboard engine. But he was a national sporting hero to both East and West Germans who were united in demonstrating their national pride in the success of Kim and the Konig…
Justin’s interpretation of the Newcombe story is essentially a love story with Janeen as the central story-teller and seen largely through the lens of her home-movie footage. Love, Speed and Loss - the Festival cut – is a thoughtful and emotional film that is both melancholic and celebratory. It allows for Kim’s achievements to set an example for anyone to dream and believe in the power of the individual, but it doesn’t gloss over the darker side of the story and the personal challenges faced by Janeen after Kim’s untimely death. The screening of Love, Speed and Loss at the Telecom 37th Auckland International Film Festival represents an important step towards bringing the remarkable achievements of Kim Newcombe to new generations of New Zealanders. — Richard Driver