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Wayne Gardner: “My gut feeling says Valentino”

Wayne Gardner: “My gut feeling says Valentino” caught up with Wayne Gardner ahead of the Australian GP to look back at his victories and ahead to the 2015 title.

‘The Wollongong Whiz’ was one of the most fearless and aggressive riders of the 500cc era. Countless injuries didn’t stop Wayne Gardner from taking 18 wins and 51 podiums in his 100 GP starts and lifting the title in 1987, becoming the first Australian to wear the premier class crown. Thanks to the success of Gardner, the world championship made its debut at the Phillip Island circuit in 1989 where Gardner took a sensational win and repeated the feat in 1990, despite a broken wrist. Racing runs in the family, Wayne’s son, Remy Gardner (CIP). now contests the Moto3™ World Championship. sat down with the MotoGP™ Legend ahead of the Australian GP to talk the past, present and future.

First of all how would you assess Remy’s first year on the world stage?
“It’s been a tough year but we expected that, Remy’s a talented rider that lacked experience. He was doing the Spanish Championship for the last few years but he needed a bit more and late opportunity came about to ride GPs. The difference in funding wasn’t a lot so we decided to put him in GPs to gain the experience. He’s got a lot of talent, he just needs more track time, against better quality riders, at different circuits and so on. I think he’s performed really well. He’s learnt a lot and progressed a lot but unfortunately he’s grown a lot and is now one of the tallest riders, nine kilos above the weight limit in leathers. He’s riding really hard in the corner and searching for every millisecond on track, it’s done a lot for him.”

“For Remy’s height and weight Moto2 would be the way forward, his talent is good and he has experience I think he’s ready to be competitive at the front somewhere. Moto3 is not his class, we’ve got to look at Moto2 and we’re talking to two teams but nothing final. There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle still to put together.”

You yourself have taken two sensational wins at Phillip Island in 1989 and 1990, are there any defining memories between the two?
“They’ve both got a lot of pleasure for me. Obviously my favourite was the first one because it was the inaugural race and that GP is on because of my career, so it was good to go out and win that one, as there was a lot of pressure on me! I lifted the game on the day and won in front of 100,000 spectators and the championship has continued to race there for many years so I’m really proud to have been part of the establishment of it.”

“Then the other win in '90, I had a fractured wrist two weeks before in Czechoslovakia in qualifying and I raced and got second there. We thought the wrist would be OK in two weeks but it wasn’t, the doctor didn’t want me to ride but I elected to go and do at least five laps with some painkillers. I never thought I’d last the race but when I saw Mick Doohan come by and start getting away I went ‘This is my GP, I can’t give it up that easy!’ The old determination factor kicked in and I decided to push on, grin and bear it. I still don’t know how I did it to this day but I won it! It was probably one of the greatest victories of my career, against the odds of a broken wrist and a broken fairing. It’s a special sporting moment.”

“I read a story about Aryton Senna having an out of body experience, I had one of those on that day and I didn’t think they were true but it did happen to me. I sort of hovered above myself as I was going down the straight and could see myself riding almost on autopilot, quite an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget. Winning in front of your home crowd is the ultimate.”

What’s your take on the current situation in the MotoGP™ World Championship as Lorenzo and Rossi prepare to lock horns again?
“It’s fantastic, great for the sport and for TV. Rossi’s an absolute legend, probably one of the greatest riders in the history of the sport and trying to gain his tenth world title at 36! Again, lots of odds against him but he keeps doing it. He’s got the Midas Touch, everything he touches turns to gold and he is super lucky all the time but extremely intelligent and clever. They’re both fantastic guys and gentlemen and Lorenzo is riding better than ever. He’s a class act; the Yamaha is without a doubt the stand out motorcycle and it’s made the other brands look silly. The riders can ride it hard, the Honda might have more power but it’s tough to ride.”

Who do you think can take the title?
“I do not know. Who would I like to win? Both! I’m friends with them both and they’re fantastic boys and jeez it’s hard. My gut feeling says Valentino, however, I think Lorenzo is a class act who will give it a real shake and he’s been very unlucky in a few races. With only three events to go he’s running out of time, just one rainy day or one mechanical issues and it’ll change it dramatically. They’re both class acts and it’s a hard one to pick a winner but Rossi has the Midas Touch, the luck is always on his side.”

For years Australia ruled the motorcycling world but recently it seems young riders are struggling to come through.
“We’ve had a huge talent pool in the past Mick and Casey and myself and so on but the big problem is we don’t have the right structure in this country going forward for the local talent. They start too late here compared to Spain and Italy and there’s also a lot more funding in those countries.”


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