Dead biker 'a true sportsman'

MARK BREHAUT: Overcame great odds to do what he loved.
MARK BREHAUT: Overcame great odds to do what he loved.

The motorcyclist killed in a collision during a race at Manfeild, in Feilding, has been named by police.

He was Mark Brehaut, 45, of Lower Hutt.

The accident happened yesterday during the first round of the Victoria Motorcycle Club's winter series.

The Superbike Championship website today paid tribute to Brehaut, saying that he had earlier almost lost his life  to a serious brain condition.

''The guy was an inspiration to us and many others and a true sportsman.''

It said he died in in a collision with another rider. ''Our condolences go out to Mark's wife Janice and family and friends. Mark was a truely genuine guy who will be missed in the paddock.''

After surviving emergency brain surgery four years ago, the Guernsey native used his love for motorcyle racing to raise awareness of the Neurological Foundation and the Cancer Society of New Zealand.

"I was looking for some way to give back to the community, I found the Cancer Society and the Neurological Foundation. The Foundation's research activities help people with brain disorders, etc, and we're trying to raise its profile," Brehaut wrote on his website.

"I've had lots of contact from people who've had the same sorts of issues as me, and they're encouraging us to keep doing what we're doing - it's great!"

Hospice Wanganui Chief Karen Anderson said Brehaut visited the hospice and he and his family made donations to her organisation. "He was a nice guy," she said.

After emigrating to New Zealand, Brehaut settled in Wanganui and grew up watching the likes of the late Robert Holden and Rodger Freeth racing around the Cemetery Circuit.

He had a dream of riding the high-risk Boxing Day circuit, and achieved that ambition last year, but narrowly missed qualifying.

On his website he wrote of his experience:

"I had to go into the 2nd and final qualifying session for our class not knowing what I had to improve on. In a show of complete and utter respect to the circuit, I decided this was not the time nor place for an all out attack on a hot lap to try and qualify. If I made it with smooth riding at the best of my abilities, then that would be good enough to see me through. Alas, a fastest lap of 1:00.266 was not good enough for me to qualify for the two F2/600 class races later in the day.

"So we took our time packing up, and enjoyed the rest of the day's racing in the scorching Wanganui sunshine."

Brehaut, 45, who lived in Lower Hutt at the time of his death, raced an immaculately prepared Suzuki GSX-R600, decked out in his hero's Barry Sheene colours.

Sheene, a British former World Champion Grand Prix racer of the 1970s, died of cancer in 2003.

Brehaut told a reporter a year ago his interest in motorcycles grew while living in Australia a decade ago.

He got involved in "bucket racing". As the name suggested, some of the bikes were dungers, but it was still thrilling.

Back in New Zealand, Brehaut continued to ride until illness struck.

He'd be in a group riding to the Wairarapa "and at the top of the Rimutaka I'd just want to head home".

"I just wasn't feeling right."

Tests revealed a colloid cyst in his brain, and he was hit with hydrocephelus, an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles, or cavities, of the brain. In short, his brain was being squeezed against his skull.

He said he felt he was either dying or having a stroke.

Emergency surgery relieved the pressure in his skull and freed him of the agony of "30 years of migraines".

On recovering he promised himself he would live life to the full, a life that would end in tragic circumstances on Saturday.

The Dominion Post