He’s a living racing legend and proof that age doesn’t matter. Get to know Oh Kah Beng in this instalment of our Most Interesting Biker series.
While most in their 60s are choosing life at a much slower and relaxed paced, such isn’t the case for this week’s featured personality Oh Kah Beng. Riding bikes fast is still a daily routine for the 62-year-old native of Sungai Pinang, Penang.
“Age is but a number. I may be 62 but when I’m on the bike, I feel like I’m 26!” proudly said Kah Beng when we first queried about his age. Given his past history as a successful GP bike racer, it is easy to see why speed is still a big part of his life, even in retirement.
Depending on your age, you might know Kah Beng by his other nickname, which is ‘Foreman’. “Growing up, I used to work out of my father’s workshop. This was where I spent most of my childhood, tinkering with bikes and learning about them,” said Kah Beng about how he first developed his passion for bikes and racing.
The other result of this born-into-a-garage life for Kah Beng is his seemingly intimate knowledge of how engines – both two- and four-strokers – worked, and how to make them go fast. In essence, Kah Beng is indeed a race engineer whose skills were honed out of experience and self-learning, not through a diploma or degree course.
With his dad’s garage catering to a number of Commonwealth expats that indulged in club racing, Kah Beng’s exposure to this fast-paced world was inevitable. He even worked as a pit mechanic for them first before eventually gearing up to compete on dirt.
“My first chance to race came when one of my dad’s friend offered his Montessa motocross bike to race with when I was 16. I was still pretty tiny still at the time and I could barely place my feet on the ground on it!” recalled Kah Beng before he continued about how he had to try hard in getting his father’s permission to race.
He eventually did, and Kah Beng went on to race on the dirt on the very bikes he tinkered with in his father’s garage and was soon beating the guys that owned them too. Kah Beng only made the switch to circuit racing when he was 19-years-old where he debuted in the famed Penang Grand Prix on a two-stroke 250cc production class racer.
“I was quite a nervous wreck on the grid at my first race. I almost didn’t start the race because I forgot to put the ignition key in the right position, so I had to push-start my bike,” said Kah Beng as he recalled that fateful day.
He eventually got his bike going and fought his way up the order before a stroke of sheer luck gave him a dream finish. “Towards the last parts of the race, Bulldog Kwan – a top racer at the time – crashed out of the race. It let me finish the race first in class and second overall.”
This was the start of a long and illustrious career for Kah Beng. Soon, ‘Foreman’, as many of his peers called him then, began competing seriously and winning in the national championship’s production class categories before finally graduating up into GP bikes in 1975.
His prime came during the 1980s where he dominated the national GP bikes championship races for both Kawasaki and Suzuki. He even had various stints racing abroad and even competed in the illustrious Macau GP race in 1982 and again in 1983 where he came in second overall astride a Yamaha FZ750.
In some of his overseas stint, Kah Beng was even fortunate enough to have raced alongside some of the greatest of the era. Highlights included Barry Sheene, Randy Mamola, Ron Haslam, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Gardner.
However, Oh Kah Beng’s life as a racer came to a halt in 1986 when he suffered one of his biggest racing accidents. It was bad enough to force him into retirement, but Kah Beng’s desire for speed didn’t die out. In fact, in his retirement, Kah Beng managed a race team and even spearheaded a motorsports division for leading oil firm Shell here in Malaysia.
Oh Kah Beng then returned to compete in the national championship in 1991 where he won his last title before retiring from active racing for good. “After that, I went and joined Proton to do my national service,” said Kah Beng jokingly about his endeavour into the world of four wheels in his retirement.
At Proton, Kah Beng’s so-called ‘national service’ wasn’t bad either as he was placed as the head of the Lotus Cars Division until he left in 2014 at age 60. This was where this passionate racer began toying with the idea of setting up the MFG – Most Fun Gym motocross park.
These days, the retired racer can be seen riding in and out of MFG daily on his Ducati Monster 795 where he runs things and conducts lessons as the park’s principal coach. Here’s where Kah Beng shares his wealth of riding knowledge to participants, maintaining a strict ethos of “Its not all about riding fast, its about riding well” in his lessons.
This is also a place where you can see Oh Kah Beng being truly at home – riding dirt bikes really fast. Don’t be fooled by his age or his physical size, this ‘retiree’ can still leave other younger riders in his dust, especially astride his two-stroke Yamaha RD250 motocross bike around MFG.
What’s truly remarkable is the fact that Kah Beng is one of the friendliest blokes you’ll ever meet too, especially if you’re an avid petrolhead or bike enthusiasts. You can take our word on this, Kah Beng is one guy you can easily strike a conversation with, especially about bikes, cars and racing.
Grounded, passionate and an all-out nice guy, Oh Kah Beng is one personality that all Malaysian motorsports fans can be proud of. You can get to know this living legend better by simply visiting the MFG motocross park located in Sungai Penchala.