Legends: Wayne Gardner
In 1988, Swan Breweries showcased leading Australian sports people in television advertisements, with the catchline: “they said you’d never make it”.
In a first for Australian motorcycling, reigning world 500 champion Wayne Gardner was featured. It was further proof of how much Gardner’s achievements changed local perceptions of motorcycling racing.
Gardner was a catalyst for two major developments – live national television coverage of all the GPs and Australia having a world-championship GP. He was tireless in promoting the event.
Schooled in dirt track, then on 250/350 Yamahas and finally on Superbikes, Wayne left Australia in 1981 having never won a national title. Success with Honda in Britain earned him a crack at 500 GP on an RS500R triple in 1983.
In 1986, Gardner won the Spanish GP at Jarama in his first appearance as a full works GP rider on the Honda NSR500 V4. He won again at Assen and a sodden Silverstone. The following year, Honda improved the bike and Gardner took the championship with seven victories, the first Australian premier-class crown.
The 1988 bike had issues and Gardner was second in the title, and then came the fabulous victory in the ’89 Australian GP. He won it again in 1990, riding with a broken wrist.
Determination personified, Gardner pretty much willed himself to take the last of his 18 GP victories at Donington Park in 1992, ahead of Wayne Rainey. At other times, his determination hurt him.
Apart from GP success, he won two Castrol Six-Hour races, three Swann Insurance Series, five British crowns and four Suzuka Eight-Hour races. At one stage, he had so many wins in Japan that he was nicknamed ‘Mr 100 Per Cent’.
Switching to cars, Gardner raced successfully in Australia and Japan. And now at age 52, he’s taken his two sons motorcycle racing in Spain.