Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Wayne Gardner turns 50
Wayne Gardner, who won the 500cc motorcycle GP racing world championship in 1987 (aboard a Honda NSR500), recently celebrated his 50th birthday. The Australian rider started competing in the 500cc class in 1983 and retired at the end of the 1992 season, after which he raced cars in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship and Japanese GT series.
Here are excerpts from what some of Gardner’s former associates and fellow racers have to say about him turning 50:
Michael Doohan (500cc motorcycle GP racing word champ from 1994 to 1998)
‘It's hard to realize that 20 years have passed since Wayne and I were on the Rothmans Honda team, in 1989. I have great memories of Gardner, especially of his determination as a racer. In this regard, I will never forget his never-say-die attitude. My earliest memories are of the mid-eighties, when I saw him in action for the first time, on the Surfers Paradise circuit and I was very impressed.’
‘Outside of racing, he was a funny guy especially if he’d had a couple of beers. We’ve shares many memorable moments that still make me laugh. Today, it’s great seeing him enjoying life with his young family.’
Wayne Rainey (500cc motorcycle GP racing word champ from 1990 to 1992)
‘When I came to 500cc GPs in 1988, Eddie Lawson told me about Wayne Gardner, who he said was his chief rival in his career. But I didn’t really notice Gardner until the 1989 Australian GP, where the race turned out to be great battle between him, Kevin Magee, Christian Sarron and me. Gardner won that race, I finished second. Gardner looked at me and said, ‘Today, I was good!’ We raced each other many other times in our career, but on that day, Wayne was not only good but also the best. I wish him a very happy birthday.’
Kenny Roberts (500cc motorcycle GP racing word champ from 1978 to 1980)
‘Wayne Gardner never raced to finish second – he always raced to win. Even when he fell, he simply wouldn’t give up trying – he’d give it everything to win…’
Randy Mamola (Four-time runner-up in the 500cc motorcycle GP racing word championship)
‘My favorite memory of Gardner is on the Jarama circuit in the mid-1980s. Wayne went to see Dr Costa because he had been hurt, and as part of the treatment Costa gave him some suppositories. The next day, Costa came to him and asked him how he was. Gardner replied that he was better but he’d had a hard time swallowing the ‘pills’ prescribed. Until then, I had never heard of anyone who’d swallowed a suppository. By the way, he was also a great racer…’
Donna Kahlbetzer (Wayne Gardner’s first wife)
‘I remember the 1990 Australian GP. Wayne had a sore wrist, was riding a motorcycle that wasn’t working very well, and had the press all over him, piling on the pressure on him to win the race. Wayne looked at me and I saw fear in his eyes – something that I had not seen ever before. Suffering from the pain and the circumstances, he said ‘Donna, I don’t know whether I can do it.’ I never heard him doubt himself, but finally he did get the win despite everything. He was the hero of a nation, in the same way as he was always a hero for me.’
Kazuhiko Tsunoda (Chief Engineer, Honda R&D)
‘My best memories of Gardner are from the 1989 and 1990 seasons, both of the 500cc championship and the Suzukia 8 Hours. Those bikes were monstrous and not easy to ride. I can’t forget the 500cc race at Phillip Island in 1990, when after being nearly flung off the bike, Wayne picked up and still finished first in front of his home crowd. I'm glad to know that is happy and doing well at 50.’
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