1996 Splitfire/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki KX125
Growing up as a totally obsessed Motocross fan since as long as i can remember, theres always been a few machines that have stood out more than the rest. One team in particular i think we can all agree on are the Pro Circuit team bikes during the 90's.
Why the 1996 bike you ask? Well, whilst scrolling through social media i noticed Pulp MX was having David Pingree on their Live podcast one evening. Immediately without hesitation i wondered how easy it is to send in a question and get it mentioned on the show? Or even better, is it possible for a former pro rider to ride a bike if you built one?
The immediate answer you would get if you ask your friends is "no chance" but whats the worst that could happen? They could just ignore the question or say "No"
But before i send the question i made sure i mention a bike Pingree would have raced in the past, and not a bike that a lot of people have replicated. The 1997 is the popular choice, So that was out, so it was between the 1995 & 1996 model. Out of the two i preferred the 1996 in all fluo green for the Outdoors Motocross with chrome in Supercross.
So it was decision made! Now, sending the question.. I didn't expect what happened next! 44 minutes after posting it he replied to my tweet. "125? Hell yes"
That was the moment it was 'Game On' and i'd build the closest replica 1996 Splitfire Pro Circuit 125 Kawasaki on earth.
Even if it was just a spirt of the moment for him i had already planned the whole thing in my head.
To make things more real, Pulpmx even read out the question Live on the show!
David Pingree 1996 - Photo courtesy RacerX
Anyone who builds vintage bikes understand how long it takes sourcing correct parts for a build. Especially age correct, original ones.
So heres our parts list
-Fluo green UFO plastics
-MXA Splitfire Seat Cover
-Renthal Cloth Bar Pad Purple
-Renthal Purple/Silver Bars
-Pro Circuit Exhaust Expansion
-Pro Circuit Silencer
-Pro Circuit Footpegs
-Pro Circuit Kitted Rear Shock
-Braking Front & Rear Discs
-Braking Front & Rear Carriers
-Pro Circuit Bar Clamp
-Works Connection Bash Plate
-Works Connection Water Pump Guard
-Black Excel Rims
-Pro Circuit Linkage Rods
-OEM Parts (Too Many To List)
First thing that needed to be done was tabs to be made and welded onto the frame for the bash plate, and water pump guard. Like the factory guys do..
We dropped the parts off to my friend Mark at Fox Tech. We discussed the plan, what needs doing, how accurate i want this build to be. We both agreed i'm crazy, but its a great project to be involved in!
Anyway, long story short i got a Works Connection water pump guard from Italy, Works Connection bash plate from America. Lined them up on the frame where they needed to be. Tabs made, welded on, they line up and fit perfect. Job well done thanks to Mark! Now.. Ready for painting.
Pro Circuit kitted Rear shock imported from America.
Everything blasted and ready to build!
New bearings supplied by All Balls Racing.
The hardest and most suprising part of this build was finding the fluo green paint. It wasn't as simple as popping to the nearest paint and decorating store and picking it off the shelf. A long google search wasn't much help either so it was about getting in contact with friends around the world to source the stuff.
After countless emails i could only find the correct colour in America. It cost more than i like to admit, but it was worth it. I cannot wait to see this build begin to take shape!
The engine so far. The Pro Circuit ignition cover is currently under debate, as the team didn't use them until 1997. I may or may not get a Boyesen ally sandcast cover, sand the raised lettering smooth and hard anodise it or cerakoted. The outer clutch cover (not pictured) currently has a KHI Factory magnesium cover on. But for the purpose of making the build rideable, it would make more sense using the OEM cover and hard anodising it/cerakoting to make it look like the magnesium factory cover. I'll also hard do the inner clutch and water pump cover. Another detail is the team didn't use a front sprocket guard, only the aluminium inner OEM part.
Engine and airbox now on the build. Plus subframe, refurbed swing arm and age correct steel Pro Circuit foot pegs.
The radiators that originally came with the bike were damaged and unable to restore like new again. So i ordered a used OEM 1997 set from ebay and sent straight to GMX. They turned out perfect! Fuel tank, electrics, clamps, rear shock, OEM frame guard, age corrent Pro Circuit pipe, linkage rods and kitted rear shock on.
Age correct purple/silver 7/8 Renthals bars and bar pad like the team used. As well as a age correct original Pro Circuit bar clamp. Thanks to Mark at Foxtech he had a set of nearly new original 46mm Kayaba set of front forks i purchased so it looks near new!
Now the fun begins.. Black excel rims with the correct yellow font, spokes ordered and built on the blasted OEM hubs. Brand new Braking front and rear discs, billet carriers. Brand new original UFO fluo green plastics, original MXA seat cover.OEM brake cables, Clutch lever, renthal grips, Honda Nissin front brake master cylinder like the team used.
On its wheels! Still a long way to go until its finished.
Brand new OEM clutch perch, clutch lever, rear brake lever, linkage bolts, gold D.I.D chain and renthal sprockets. Running stock 13t front 50t rear.
Now a little detail the anoraks will love. We noticed the Pro Circuit riders had a carb canister on their bikes attached to the frames. So after a quick search online we noticed Pro Circuit sell them on their website available to the public in a bright red colour. However the splitfire machines ran them in black. So one was ordered and headed straight to anodising.
The carb canister is to prevent 'bog' after a heavy landing on jumps.
They say the best memories happen when they aren't planned. How true is that though? Well.. lets find out!
to listen to the audio via iOS
So we begin our journey searching for a bike on a website called ebay. After a week of searching and zero luck finding a age correct bike i expanded the hunt onto a website called gumtree. Where i am certain the people on there would sell their family for a pound.
Within the next 10 minutes i came across what can be described as a age correct heap! Im sure some of you reading this have had similar situations on tinder..
Anyway, it was too late to back out now. The time was 8pm and the seller agreed to meet up at 10pm. Long story short, he was a nice guy, bought it, got home just before 1am and i was ready to go!
That morning i was able to see the heap much clearer. The bike was as bad as the ad showed. But i knew i could turn this sloth into a Margot Robbie! It had potential.
The bike was stripped down to the frame. Most of it was held together with zip ties (i'm not joking)
I could ramble on about what was missing, needed replacing but lets just get on with the build!
Mickael Pichon's 1996 Splitfire Pro Circuit 125 Kawasaki
Teammate to David Pingree
to listen to the audio via Windows
With Factory KHI magnesium casings being brittle and corroding over time, it was up to the next best thing.. cerakoting! I also got a billet boyesen ignition cover, rubbed the logo down to smooth to make it look factory magnesium like what the team used. Cerakote is only 1/1000th of a inch thick but it looks stunning!
She's 99% ready!
The Pro Circuit silencer has been shortened
Fantastic backgrounds made by Unbounded Designs, they are perfect. Even down to the number board templates going around the panel/seat bolts just like the team did. Strange the Factory Kawasaki team didn't do that..
A big thank you also goes to Tom Brown at Motoxtreme who ran the bike in and Jordan Carter testing it before the event.
All thats left is fork tube, rear shock & silencer stickers to go on as well as black grip tape to go on the frame.
The day has come! Farleigh Castle VMXDN 2018. The bike is ready for David Pingree to ride in the Super Evo class. Ping wanted to run the #29 for Saturdays practice session just like its 1996 again. Check out the custom bike stand graphic printed by Unbounded Designs.
Now this is very cool! Troy Lee Designs, long time sponsor and good friend of Pingree painted a helmet the same as what he used in 1996!
Check out the video with Troy Lee & David Pingree discussing about it HERE
Saturday practice & qualifying session done. Pingree qualified a impressive 8th on a 125 against 250s & 500 machines.
Headed out for Practice and Qualifying
Now it was time for Race 1 and 2. 'Get nervous time!' The results didn't matter, the bike lasting and Pingree enjoying the event was priority. I was a complete nervous wreck waiting for the chequered flag to come out. I coudn't relax until the weekend was over with those thoughts in the back of my mind, but seeing a former Pro Circuit Splitfire Kawasaki rider on a replica near identical was epic!
Race 1 Pingree as expected got a bad start against the 250s & 500s. But boy, was he making the bike sing! Keeping fast corner speed railing around the outside of guys who race circuits like this regularly. I know its almost expected, but that AMA style that Europeans lack was stunning to witness.
Moto 1 - 5th place. What a ride!
Race 2 was a different story however, Pingree started 3 gates from the very inside cutting across the larger cc machines. He came around the first turn 5th! Unreal. He had 2nd place in his sights, railing the 'whooped out' bumpy corners like you would do on a playstation game. After a couple laps the race got red flagged due to a rider getting injured. It was very serious and we wish the guy a speedy recovery!
Moto 2 - cancelled. Super Evo will be the very first riders on track Sunday morning, with 1 sighting lap and headed straight into a race.. uh oh!
Sunday, weather has been good to us all weekend, however.. track work has been done overnight and the place needs a lot of water to keep the dust away. So as you can probably guess, the circuit is a mudder and Pingree is first out. Its no secret they dont get as much rain or conditions we get in America. So i was feeling bad for the guy.. i was also checking we brung spare clutch plates, piston, oil, coolant!
A holeshot is priority in these kind of conditions, and especially on a old school GP circuit as it is narrow and tough to pass. Pingree has no hope on a 125!
The gate dropped and he was no where to be seen. He and the bike were caked in so much mud it wasn't until the next lap i could see the fluo green on the radiator shrouds to know it was him. I didn't expect him to finish if i'm honest. But the guy did, picking off riders and getting retaken up the long hills. "Man, i should of sat that one out" was the first thing he said as he pulled off the track. I chuckled, thought the same thing but in retrospective, he had gotten the opportunity to race the historic circuit in conditions completely unknown to those back home. He can look back, laugh and have a great story to talk about.
Moto 2 rerun - 22nd.
Now Farleigh Castle is very good at obsorbing moisture and making the soil dry quick. So the next 2 races should be dry. Which is good news for Pingree and the bike!
Race 3 and conditions were possibly the best they've ever been all the times i've watched or ridden the circuit myself! We got GoPro footage of this race and it is damn good! Very luck also as it was possibly Pingree's best race as well.
A bad start again (dead last) and i was fearing he may not enjoy sunday. I had no idea how the hell he did it but he'd gone from outside 40th up to the top 10 in just 1 lap! It was game on, he had the spectators on their feet and our hearts racing. I could tell near the end of that moto he was tiring, and who wouldn't? Eating rocks by 500s isn't easy.
Moto 3 - 4th. You can watch onboard footage of this race Here
Final race was upon us. The bike had lasted, i had guys congratulating me on making it happen and it felt good. I did have to tell them "No relaxing yet, we've got 1 race left. I can't sigh relief until its over"
Dejavu of race 3, Pingree got sandwiched at the first corner, blitzed through the field. What was special to me during this race was actually seeing his Wife Amber and 2 daughters cheering him on every lap. They hadn't stopped supporting him since the moment he sat on the bike and to me thats what i love about the sport.
Moto 4 - 4th
Overall - 8th.
The end of a memorable weekend and 10 months of buildup.
I'm not sure how to describe how I feel right now. But I'll try my best
Since for as long as I remember I always wanted to become a pro Motocross rider. And in reality not all dreams come true. But if I couldn't become a pro or live a life racing Motocross any more, I would only dream of a pro rider riding a bike of mine some day instead.
I have never felt excitement, stress, nerves in my entire life like I have building up to the VMXDN knowing David Pingree, a guy I watched countless times on my recorded VHS tapes as a kid growing up, will race my 1996 Splitfire Pro Circuit 125 Kawasaki.
What a hell of a weekend it has been!!
A massive thank you to everybody that made this project happen. Davey Coombs at Racer X, Mark Fox at Foxtech, Tom Brown at Motoxtreme, Jordan Carter, Lewis at Unbounded Designs, my family, Chuck and Rick Davies, Clayton Grubb, Terry Adams, Pete Hulbert, all the guys around the world who helped me source parts. Dave King for such an awesome event each year and the Yamaha RFX team for allowing us to have the bike under the teams rig. Fantastic people.
David Pingree and his family are the nicest people you could imagine. From the moment we all met them to the end of the weekend they were so welcoming, thankful & helpful.
You can check out the interview Motohead had with Ping from Farleigh Here
I can ramble on for hours, but I've barely slept these last few weeks. I can now stop worrying, smile, remember this moment forever and have zero regrets.
Thanks David, it's been one hell of a journey! Hope to see you all again in the future.
As they say in the movie Field of Dreams - "If you build it, they will come!"
Photo Courtesy Kris Barry
Photo Courtesy Kris Barry
Jordan Carter testing the bike at Marshfield Motocross Circuit
Photo Courtesy Jon Ashby
Photo Courtesy MotoHead
Photo Courtesy MotoHead
Check out the interview with David Pingree by Racer X Here