Peter Melton’s Friends Pay Tribute
After winning the Australian Supercross Championship in 1992, ’94 and ’96, the Supercross Masters Series in 1995 and ’96, and the Australian 250cc Motocross Championship in ’96, Peter “Reggie” Melton didn’t have anything left to prove. But in 1999, in his early 30s, the Queenslander got together with long-time Kawasaki dealer, Brett Whale, and had a crack at the Australian 500cc Motocross Championship aboard a fire-breathing KX500. Incredibly, Melton won the Aussie title in both 1999 and 2000; in what would turn out to be the last Australian 500cc MX Championship ever staged.
Sadly, on November 1 last year, Peter “Reggie” Melton lost his life while riding a motocross track in Queensland. No one will ever forget Reggie’s God-given talent on a motorcycle or his illustrious title-winning record, but it was his laidback, knockabout nature and sense of humour that made him so popular among his peers. And after Reggie’s funeral, a bunch of those people were moved to send Transmoto a few words about Peter and his legacy. Here’s a selection of them…
“Peter Melton was one of those rare characters who was tough as nails on the track, but such a chilled-out legend of a bloke off the track. Everybody loved Reggie. He pretty much came up with everyone’s nickname and always had us all cracking up laughing all the time. The fact that he was so smooth and technical on the bike, with such a good racing brain, meant that he rarely hurt himself. That was a huge reason why he was able to race right up at the top level of the sport for so many years. He seemed to get better with age, and I’ll always remember him as flawless on that Kawasaki through the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“I can clearly remember so many battles with Melts over the years, and the one thing that stood out was that you could always race clean with him and not have to worry about getting punted into the cheap seats. His skills were that good, he could set up a pass and execute with such precise line choices that you sometimes wondered how the hell he just did that. And he never used much energy when riding, so you could always count on him charging right the way to the chequered flag. He’ll be sadly missed by the MX community, his family, and a huge number of close friends and supporters.”
“It was a massive shock and made me really sad to hear about his passing. I used to know Reggie very well back in the day. Racing in Oz meant spending many hours in the trusty HiAce vans road-tripping around the country. Racing this way sometimes meant staying away from home for a month at a time, and when we raced in Queensland, I was always welcome at Pete’s house, along with Troy and Mark Dorron. Pete was always so generous like that. He was always a good guy to ask for advice about bike set-up or riding tips. But just watching him ride was a great way to learn because he had so much natural talent on a dirt bike. He had a happy-go-lucky appearance, but was a seriously determined and strong-willed dude … though he loved a bowl of ice cream every night back then. He was a serious jokester with a one-liner for everything. And he gave plenty of riders their nicknames – Wicksy (Steven Andrew), named after a hyperactive German; and Boxy (Matt Skerrett), named after the shape of his head. They both stuck to this day.”
“Peter was one of the best teammates I ever had. A standout memory for me was simply being Reg’s teammate; being able to ride and train together every day – just hanging out together and drinking oils (coffee) and having fun times. One day when I mentioned to Reg that I was scared of riding these big, powerful 650 Honda thumpers, he replied, ‘You should’ve ridden a 490 rodbox at Manjimup! Every time I twisted the throttle, I got double vision, man!’ He was just such a fun guy to be around. He trained harder than people may have thought, although I guess all the championships proved that. Will miss you, mate.”
“I loved Reggie. Smooth fast, prepared his own bikes, awesome to sponsor. I just always struggled with being called ‘Whale Head’. RIP, brother.”
“When I look back on my racing career, I probably only had two teammates I got along with really well. One was David Armstrong and the other was Peter Melton. Peter and I were teammates back in 1990 on the Malboro Yamaha team. He was so easygoing. When it came to the serious business of testing, we could sit down together and have some really intelligent and valuable conversations. And then two second later, he’d snap into the class clown. Pete was a quiet achiever in everything he did. And his riding talent was unreal. Technically, he was very, very good. He was so smooth, you’d rarely see roost coming off his rear wheel. It struck me that he had a good balance in his life – both during and after his racing career – and probably kept to himself more than the average Pro rider. I was really saddened to hear the news of his death.”
“I think everyone meets someone who has the ability to change your direction in life. For me, that person was Peter Melton. His knowledge about motorcycling, business and just enjoying life was invaluable to me; lessons I still use today and will continue to do so. His wit and sense of humour was brilliant. The funny times we all had are memories that will never be forgotten. He was one of the best human beings I have ever met.”
“As was the case for all of us, it was very difficult to hear and understand what happened with Pete. The afternoon I found out, I dug our some photos from my racing days. I found pics from the months we spent in America in late 1988; when I travelled over there with Pete, Lyndon Heffernan and Ross McWatters. I also found some photos of my days living at Pete’s mum’s place, plus practicing, racing, and travelling with Pete, Dale Britton or Jason Marshall. So many great memories and great times. Pete was so causal and calm and nothing seemed to worry him – weather it was getting bikes ready to race, or packing the van to go racing, or making it to airport to catch a flight. I remember one time when we were racing the Mareeba SX, we took our mountain bikes on the flight to Cairns so we could ride with Glen Jacobs and his mates on the World Downhill Mountain bike track. I won the Mareeba SX that year (my only ever 250-class SX win) and the next morning (after a big night out), the mountain bike ride made us really late getting to the airport. It was taking a long time to check in, and all Pete says is, ‘It’ll be right, we will make it’. And we did. The plane waited 15 minutes for us to board, and the people on the plane were not very welcoming. The funny thing is, after the mountain bike ride, it was Pete who thought it was a great idea to stop at a tavern and have lunch and some beers. I’m pretty sure he knew the plane would wait for us. Everyone who did anything or went anywhere with Pete would have similar great stories.”
“Reg was one of those riders who always appeared so calm and laid back, nothing seemed to faze him too much. He wasn’t flashy, loud or a showboat; he just went about his business in an unassuming manner. On the track, he was so smooth – to the point of looking slow – but his results show just how fast he was. And statistically, he was one of our greats. He rode anything and rode it fast, and was such an easy person to deal with at any level.”
BRAD McALPINE (Former mechanic, long-time friend)
“It’s very hard for me to put Peter into words. And it’s only now, a few months after Pete’s passing, that I realise what an impact he’s had on my career since our friendship started around 1992/’93. My meetings were through Troy and Mark Dorron, who I got to know through Lee Hogan. We all hung out in Victoria when the races were in town. I was mates with Lee Hogan and worked with him through 1994 season. Pete – or ‘Reggie, as we called him – was doing things on his own at that time, and I remember Troy telling me that Reggie mentioned he needed a mechanic. I got the call, and within a month I was working for 15% of Reg’s prize money and living for free. When Pete picked me up from the airport, I had my life packed into two gearbags. And to this day, every time I land in Brisbane, I always remember that first hot and humid experience in Queensland as a 20-year-old. After quick hello and get-to-know, Pete gave me a rundown on a few landmarks and then we went straight to Stanmore, a local MX track south of Brisbane. My first day at work was hot and dusty in a van with no air con, and that’s how it was for three years with Pete from 1995 through 1997.
“Pete was very much a hands-on guy with his bike and showed me the way. Although I grew up on a bike, raced myself, and had worked at a Pro level as a qualified mechanic, Pete knew his stuff. I met all his mates and the key people in his life in a few weeks and still hold them close to my heart. We had mixed results in 1995 and won the Aussie SX Championship on board the Kawi. Towards the end of that season, Peter told me he was going to train (more than before) for the ’96 season, and he did. He won all three national championships that year – MX, SX Masters and Aussie SX. What a year! I remember laughing and driving through the night to get back to Queensland so Pete could be at home and with his mates and family to celebrate. We did so many miles together in the Toyota HiAce, mainly driving through the night, running out of fuel, draining the bike’s fuel tank to fill the van up. I remember cutting plaster off his arm just eight hours after it was put on (Mildura SX, 1995). After 1996 and ’97, we raced hard. Pete was still competitive, though there were no championship wins. Then I got an offer to work for another team in ’98, so I returned to my home of Victoria and a young lady (who is now my wife).
“Pete’s place was always open for drop-ins and a chat or a quick AMA race rundown over a beer. It wasn’t a party house; it was more of a place to chat and reflect. Pete had many friends a lot of riders’ parents relied on Pete to understand their kids and what they were going through to try and make it to the top of the sport. He always made time for people; sometimes too much time. But that was Pete. We stayed in touch over all these years and he’d always shoot me a text after a race with whoever I was working with, just to offer his support. And late last year when I went to the States with Dean Ferris – when Dean rode so well and stuck it up the best of the best – well, Pete just loved that!
“To get the call that Pete had passed was so hard, especially that he was on a motorcycle at the time because he made minimal mistakes on the things. Pete’s funeral had a massive turnout. It was a reflection of the person, not the racer. So many old faces. So many memories of the man and mate I knew.”
“I didn’t know Peter Melton personally. However, I’ve always had a great respect for his achievements on and off the track, and his ability to do a lot of his own bike preparation and suspension set-ups was nothing short of fantastic. My guess is that he probably won a lot of races in the workshop. There was a huge turnout at his funeral and listening to the eulogies by various people made it clear he was a character who we will all miss. On the Monday prior to the funeral, we were having one of our ‘On Any Monday’ social trailrides and our lead rider, Rusty Dewez (who is a sign writer), made a great-looking sign with a photo of Peter on it to dedicate the ride to him and his memory.”
“I got to know Reggie back in the early ’90s, initially as one of our MC Mart athletes, then later when he came across to Monza Imports and rode for Fox and Shift. He used to stay with us for local events and we’d hang out, then lend a hand at the races (no mechanics back then). Reggie was always down to earth, humble, appreciative and sporting a sense of humour, which was drier than the Simpson Desert. He was laid-back in typical Queenslander fashion, which was in stark contrast to his grit and determination once he hit the track, where he continually laid waste to his competitors with his fluid, effortless style. It was no surprise that he stayed around and gave back to the sport that had given him a lot. I was sad to learn of his passing, and I extend my deepest condolences to his family. RIP, mate.”
“I had the privilege of getting to know Reggie about 25 years ago in early the ’90s during my tenure at MC Mart – a now defunct motorcycle accessories distributor. We had aggressively signed on an all-new roster of team riders back then under the MC Pro brand. Amongst them were Glen Bell, Steven Andrew, Peter Melton, Dale Britton and others. Pete was a factory Kawi rider back when a ‘factory ride’ meant driving a pie van around the country, chasing the various series. Whenever the racing was in Victoria, Reggie, Phil Sargent, Goose Marshall and Dale Britton would invariably stay in our pad in town for at least a few days at a time, and we would ‘prepare’ for the weekend (which meant some good times before getting down to business for race day). I would spend most of these race day weekends helping out as a mechanic – by which I mean really basic stuff like filters, tyres, maybe some gearing and jetting. Pete was always on top of his bike set-up and his deep mechanical understanding stood him in good stead for his post-racing career as a renowned tuner.
“Always on the ready with a quick smile, Reggie was a bundle of nonchalant self-deprecating humour, grace, generosity, humility and determination, all in one. His speed and determination to win belied his easygoing nature. He was never a ‘win at all costs’ guys who’d resort to parking a competitor; rather, he’d use his Kevin Windham-eque technique to get the job done. A recent USA road trip with Shayne King ended up being almost a ‘Best of Reggie’ stories trip. We literally spent half of a four-hour hike retelling and reliving some of the funniest moments we’d shared with the great man, literally days before he passed away.
“You’ll always be in my heart and mind, Pete. It’s so tragically sad to have lost you, but every memory brings a quick smile and a reminder of great times with an even greater bloke. RIP, my friend.”