Aussie motorcycling legend set to hit New Zealand for film premiere
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Living a life where the world bestows upon you numerous nicknames probably means one of two things ... you're either a deeply memorable person, or a bit of a troublemaker. Or — perhaps in the case of Wayne Gardner — you're both.
Just over three decades ago, Gardner was about as big as motorsport stars could be. A ten-year career in various two-wheeled formulae (along with the help of Kiwi great Graeme Crosby) had led him to the bright lights of the 500cc Motorcycle World Championship. And in 1987, he was world champion — the first out of Australia.
It helped pave the way for a number of other quick and successful Aussies on two wheels to hit the world stage. People like Mick Doohan, Darryl Beattie, Troy Bayliss, and later on Casey Stoner came along following Gardner's triumph. And the boom in Aussie presence also helped the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix morph from a national race to a prize event on the international MotoGP calendar.
Now a doco has been made about Gardner's story from "Larrikin Kid" and a starter bike that cost him $5, to world champion. It's titled Wayne, it's produced by the same people that produced McLaren, and you can check the trailer out above.
The film's New Zealand premiere takes place this coming Friday at Rialto Newmarket, and 58-year-old Gardner himself will be in attendance to host a Q&A session with Kiwi motorcyclist Mike Pero following its screening. You can find out more about the event by clicking here.
Gardner's two-wheeled exploits are what he's obviously most well-known for, but as a '90s child it was his action-packed transition to four wheels that's stuck with me.
After retiring from the international motorcycle circuit, Gardner attempted to forge a secondary career in car racing. He slotted straight into top-flight racing with drives in DTM and at the 1992 Bathurst 1000, before joining the Holden Racing Team for a full-time Australian Touring Car Championship drive in 1993.
Though he was often quick, it quickly became clear that the former world champ had a bit of a target on his back. He would often get muscled by other drivers. Round two of the season at Symmons Plains was a vintage example; Gardner qualifying on the front row only to be taken out by another former world champion in Alan Jones.
Going his own way in 1994, Gardner soon scored the involuntary nickname of 'Captain Chaos' — slightly less earnest than his previous nicknames Larrikin Kid and Wollongong Wizz. But despite the tag and despite the spins, his Supercars career still had its highlights.
Along with two Bathurst 1000 podiums in 1993 and 1995, he won the first night round in series history at Calder Park in 1997, despite having declared it was unlikely his team would have the coin to complete the season. And later on he claimed a surprise Bathurst 1000 pole [pictured top] as the lead driver in Glenn Seton's second Ford Falcon AU.
After an on-off 2002 season with Stone Brothers Racing, Gardner had a huge crash in Bathurst 1000 practice. While adjusting his brake bias on the run (a Supercars feature that was subsequently killed off) Gardner lost all brake ability and crashed heavily at turn two [pictured above]. It was his last time racing in Supercars, and he retired from motorsport shortly after.
Nonetheless, Gardner's transition from two wheels to four was a solid one — and came with more drive and better results than the likes of Bayliss or Stoner's attempts. An Aussie battler of the highest degree, and one who's story was overdue for the big screen.