Tragically, and despite his exceptional fitness, Ali succumbed to inoperable stomach cancer aged only 42, leaving behind his wife Jo and two young sons. Even in the last days of his illness he implored his friends to take his 'busa round the block so that the tyres didn't flat spot or the fuel start to wax. It therefore seems fitting that Jo was happy to see his beloved bike put to great use by SERV, and thus the Ali B Memorial Hayabusa came into service.
Rewind a few years and Ali, as President of the Officers' Mess at Waterbeach Barracks, needed to provide entertainment for the 007 themed Summer Ball without much in the way of budget. Being the man he was, he identified the resources available to him which included a large former airfield, lots of equipment to clear and mend roads, and an expert and willing workforce. A plan was forming...
Needless to say the evening was a fantastic success, the likes of which are unlikely to be experienced again. A fine selection of Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lotus, Noble, Honda, Porsche and TVR chariots (a Radical was deemed just too ... er ... radical for the evening) graced the entrance to the ball before being put into service screaming into the pitch dark with eager passengers on board.
The afternoon had been spent familiarising ourselves with the layout of the circuit (and locations of the potholes) and provided an opportunity to provide rides for the volunteer soldiers who had worked tirelessly to clear the "track", erect whatever lighting they could find and put in place straw bales to delimit the corners.
This led to the invitation from the regiment to sample some real machines, and so the drivers reconvened at a later date to get a better understanding of the vehicles the Royal Engineers drive as part of their day job.
Today PistonHeads is hoping to be able to continue the link with Ali and his legacy by raising funds for a fleet of bikes and vans for use by SERV. The Ali B PistonHeads Memorial Fund aims to provide further vehicles alongside the Hayabusa in Kent to provide complete coverage of the county, but then to offer the bikes and vans to other regions, including Ali's native Scotland. All donations will be gratefully received at the appeal's JustGiving page here and PHers will have the opportunity to see the bikes bought through the funds raised by the appeal at future events.
SERV is a registered charity staffed by volunteers who play a real and demonstrable role in saving lives by transporting blood, plasma, platelets, samples, vaccines, donor breast milk and any other urgently required medical items to hospitals out of hours and free of charge to the NHS. This saves money and ensures that emergency service resources are not tied up in transport tasks. The service owns a small number of dedicated response bikes that are pre-positioned around the South East which are funded by either corporate sponsorship of individual donations from fundraising, and are ridden by highly trained and experienced volunteer riders. Follow the activities of the Ali B Memorial Hayabusa on Twitter at @busa_bloodbike.
By Jeremy Copp (PHer jeremyc) and Mel Johnson (PHer mel)