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It’s Thursday and that can only mean one thing: another MotoGP™ Podcast is available to listen to and on Episode 12, the dulcet tones of 1987 500cc World Champion and MotoGP™ Legend Wayne Gardner.
The Australian, father to current Moto2™ rider Remy Gardner, runs us through what it was like being teammate to Freddie Spencer – the man to beat - in 1987, the year Gardner won the World Championship: “I guess the thing that stands out in my mind is I started the year as Freddie Spencer’s teammate, and Freddie was the man that was going to challenge for the championship.
“And I was there in my second year as a factory rider and I was there to learn from Freddie and to build my speed, and what happened was Freddie, at the beginning of the year got an injury, and something happened to his eyes, and he couldn’t race for a number of races, and the focus was then put on me by Honda, their hopes of the championship. So I was kind of pushed into it a little bit early to chase a world championship, but it was probably a good thing at the time. I had to take the responsibility and get on with it, and managed to go on and obviously win the championship.”
As well as talking about his career in general, from when it all started in the UK to when he decided to announce his retirement at Donington Park in 1992, Gardner talks about the impact his success had on motorcycle Grand Prix racing in Australia.
“I think my career changed the whole perspective of bike racing in Australia,” says Gardner. “There was very little coverage, there was no Grand Prix coverage at that time, and I guess my success, over the years, building up to the world championship, attracted the attention of the original SBS network, and then Channel 9 and Kerry Packer. And through the success, Australians started to tune in, and started to follow the sport, and realize that bike racing isn’t like Harley Davidson people.
“It’s bright and colourful, and very exciting. And because the motorcycle racing had this image of black Harley Davidson bad guys, and they started to see how spectacular the sport is, how exciting it is, visually watching the riders climb over the bike in coloured suits. The TV coverage wasn’t very good those days but it was enough to capture the nation’s appetite on what the bike racing is today. And of course, after I won the world championship in ’87, and I went on to ’88 and so on, Australia was very… I was in the front of newspapers and the coverage was huge in Australia, and that’s when they decided then to try and apply for a Grand Prix in Australia, and they then resurrected the old Phillip Island circuit, which was originally a dirt track, and now you see how good it is.”
To listen to more of Gardner, head over and listen to the latest edition of the MotoGP™ Podcast now!
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