Top 100 motorcycles of the 20th Century

The 1973 Konig and Kim Newcombe


The Konig was based on a 500cc German water-cooled four cylinder two-stroke boat engine. First built in 1969 the prototype was mated to a Manx Norton gearbox and clutch. Power was usable between 7-9,000 rpm and the engine produced 68bhp.


In 1970 with Johnny Dodds as development rider and Kim Newcombe as engineer the Konig took a leap forward. Raced at the Assen TT that year it was giving 75bhp through a six speed Norton based gearbox. After much redevelopment the Konig appeared in 1972 at the Nurburgring with Kim as the lead rider. In the 500 West German GP the Konig proved exceptionally competitive beating the all-conquering MVs on top speed. Kim proved to a brilliant rider on the Konig which continued to be plagued by problems related to the gearbox and clutch arrangment, which was bodgy at best.


In 1973 Kim consistently placed well and was one point off winning the 500cc championship when he was tragically killed at Silverstone. The year ended with Kim posthumously achieving 2nd place splitting Agostini and Read.


The Konig was also successful in sidecar form with Rolf Steinhauser and Josef Huber becoming sidecar world champions on a Konig in 1975 and 1976.

Postscript: 2004


Dennis Hanley has been so kind as to provide an update re Kim Newcombe and the Konig. A New Zealand group is producing a film on Kim. I quote from his latest email.....22 Aug 2004:

"Hi Muzza, thought you might be interested in these shots from last weekend in Belgium at the Bikers' Classic.

These shots were taken by Frank Bischoff from Sachsenring. He is a racing enthusiast & remembers Kim & the König from Continental Circus days in 70s. The event, only its 2nd year, was a huge success & many of the legends were there. Phil Read, John Surtees, Chas Mortimer, Bruno Kneubühler, Kent Andersson etc were there & featured in the parade of Classic Champs.

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Mark Newcombe with Phil Read and the Konig

This is the first time Janeen has ever been back to a race meeting since Kim was killed in 73. It was a very special coming together for her & her friends after 31 years. In a special part of the programme, Mark Newcombe & Renzo Pasolini Jnr
rode 2 laps of honour in a tribute to their fathers. It was very moving. Mark rode a König owned by Hans de Wit of the Netherlands. Kim made it for him in 1972 out of the König (outboard marine engine plant) factory in Berlin.

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Mark Newcombe (left) and Renzo Pasolini Jnr (right)

Kim & Janeen lived in Berlin for 6 years in which time he developed, made & rode the bike which in itself is a mammoth achievement & Mark was born in Berlin in 1969.

There is a documentary underway by Richard Driver from NZ. His film crew were in Belgium recording the action plus several interviews with 70s heroes. It will be a fabulous insight into the König & also the life of Kim & Janeen as they took on the world.

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Mark, Janeen Newcombe and Phil Read

Hope all is going well for you in WA.

All the best
Denis Hanley
(Family friend of Newcombes in NZ)
New Zealand

Email: "

Thanks Dennis and Frank, Mark and Janeen, much appreciated. Wish I could have been there.

From: Jeff Sawyers

Just read your website and thought I would write to you and impart my information on Konig engines.

In 1977 we were running a Weslake 850 in sidecar racing in the UK at national and international level. We were becoming totally outclassed and couldn't afford a 700 Yamaha which was what everyone was starting to use. There were three of us from York in England that travelled down to London to buy the new 750 Konig engines. They were Howard langham/Jeff sawyers, Chris and Malcolm Andrews and lan ward/Ted Fenwick(the classic racer). Howard and l had our Weslake chassis modified by Terry Windle at Thurgoland and tried the bike out.

We had a lot of problems with the 'rubber band' to drive the rotary valve where it turned 90 degrees and also with the porous crankcases that we had to seal with fibreglass resin. Even when we had the engines running, which entailed using starter rollers of the ford transit we used for transportation and copious amounts of 'whizz' (easy start for diesels), the performance was disappointing. We persevered for half a season but then due to spiralling costs we gave up. Howard started a bike shop in York and l went to Germany contracting for 5 years. When l came back to England in 1982 Howard had bought a TZ750 and we had another go for a few years until marriage took over and l jacked it in. lt's a shame because with 2 stroke knowledge being so much better now we could have solved a lot of problems. l believe that the 750 Konig was developed especially for use as a sidecar motor.  l think that we paid about £700 for each of the motors in 1977 and used PGT gearboxes bolted to the water pan. l remember that when l lifted the motors out of the back of the car they weighed next to nothing. After picking up a Weslake engine they were very light.


Don Jarvie kindly provided this picture of Kim and the Koenig .....Don was a friend of the Newcombes from when they lived in Brisbane Australia.


Martyn Perry has recently supplied this photo of Kim...... taken at Silverstone the evening before he was killed. Martyn says he spoke to Kim for a short while about the Konig, and asked him to sit on the bike for a quick photo.
I remember the next day, as he set off in the lead, then lost a couple of places, and then didnt come round at all. Phil Read, who I know was a good friend, and I think, was in the lead at the time, came past the pits, looked towards presumably Kim's pit crew, and shrugged, to say he didnt know what had happened. They didn't stop the race from memory, and it was only later that we found out he had been killed, ironically at a corner which Phil Read had recently told the operators was dangerous.

Kim Newcombe

Thanks Martyn for a historic picture and memories of the sad day.


Documentary on Kim Newcombe

in 4 parts

A documentary about motor-racer Kim Newcombe, who turned heads in the 70s on a König motorbike he developed and designed himself. He was killed racing in 1973 and posthumously came second in that year's World 500cc Grand Prix. The film mixes interviews and underdog triumph on the track scenes, with Super 8 footage of family life on the circuit, and poignant wife-of-maverick reflections from his widow Janeen. Love, Speed and Loss won best documentary at the 2007 Qantas TV Awards and Air NZ Screen Awards for best documentary, directing, and editing.

Courtesy : NZ ON SCREEN and


Just saw the articles about Kim Newcombe and Dieter König. At that time ( early 70’s) I was racing powerboats, class OC ( hydroplane hulls powered by 4 cylinder, two stroke, rotary valve 500 cc König engines, running with methanol). Kim had spent some time at König’s factory in Berlin, and I understand that his arrangements with Dieter was that he could set-up the König engine in his motorbike frame and work to build some of the outboard engines. Actually, Kim had built two 500 cc engines that I had bought from König, and they were really fast….


The 500 cc engine was not properly designed for a racing bike; very long and cumbersome engine, and the torque very high in the rpms. Only suitable for long straights, but likely not very easy to handle in the curves, and Kim was very tall, unlike today’s bike drivers. You may know that our “ three points proprider” racing boats had no gearboxes, only a very thin underwater unit and a small double blade propeller and that you had to immediately hydroplane to reach 12,000 to 14,000 rpm and enjoy the thrilling beast. 


In October 1972 ( or 1973) the Continental Circus went to Rungis, South of Paris ( near Orly airport) where they organised a GP. Les Halles de Rungis are  the meat, fish and vegetable wholesale market for Paris area and a large part of France.  The circuit was designed on the alleys of this market, absolutely not suitable for motorbike racing, very slippery and only limited by straw bales, but at that time neither money nor circuit safety were the major issues. Most of the riders parked their small caravans near the track( one of them had serious problem during the night with carbon  monoxide)  and only a fraction had mechanics. Since I lived near Versailles, as well as my own “mechanic” ,Frederic, a very nice bodybuilded guy who was a scene painter at the Opera of Paris and showing his muscles when he drove his historic “black out”  US army green Harley Davidson to the boat racing spots. Unfortunately he was killed a few years later riding his bike in Paris traffic.


Back to Rungis, Kim took a excellent start and was in the first group after the first lap, but ceased rapidly to pass in front of us, and after several laps we were very concerned as we had no news from the primitive PA system3. KIim’s  wife, seemed more used than us to this type of problems and her face  looked more confident . Boat racing is between two or three buoys and you can usually watch most of the circuit and see what’s happening. However, when I stopped racing tunnel hulls ON 2,000 cc Mercury , in 1985, I discovered why my own wife was never quiet when I raced and often crashed, as many of my driving friends!!!!


After perhaps 30 minutes, we saw Kim pushing what was left of the bike, as he had crashed on leftovers of carrots or leaks… No problem, his racing leather was damaged but he was not badly injured. He was to have his terrible accident in England later in the same year.


I thought that you may be interested by those memories. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to shot pictures at Rungis!!!  But I had a lot of respect for the CC riders of this period ( I was raised in Le Mans, and as you imagine spent most of my teenager time on the Circuit de la Sarthe, but that is an other story) .Incidentally, they thought we were more crazy to race our small water rockets than their motorbikes.


All my best from Biarritz in France.


Jean Claude Baccetti


12 allée du Makila

Domaine du Golf

64200 Bassussarry (France)

See the König Photo Gallery here

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