Australian GP 1989: Aussie wins historic Phillip Island race

Legendary Moments Series

Wayne Gardner after winning the 1989 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

A huge crowd piled into the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit to see history made in 1989.

Australia was hosting its first ever World Championship Motorcycle Grand Prix and with eight locals in the field, the fans had no shortage of riders to cheer.

Wayne Gardner headed that list, the 1987 World Champion joined by the likes of Kevin Magee, Michael Dowson and a rookie by the name of Mick Doohan.

Gardner was pipped to the 1988 500cc title by rival Eddie Lawson, who sensationally made an off-season switch from Yamaha to Honda to become the Australian’s teammate.

The Phillip Island event was the second of the campaign and Gardner’s fourth-place finish at the opening race in Japan left him hellbent on winning on home soil to ignite his title charge.

In a race that will go down in Australian motorsport folklore, Kevin Schwantz, who started from pole, was first to fall off his bike, as Gardner and Yamaha’s Wayne Rainey traded the early lead on several occasions.

Frenchman Christian Sarron caught up, too, and even enjoyed a brief stint in the lead, while Magee was not far behind.

But it was mostly a battle between Gardner and Rainey, the pair coming close to colliding on several occasions.

Rainey would later compare Gardner’s racing style to that of a “bulldog” and the passionate fans roared at each of the 19 lead changes, particularly when the latter moved to the front.

The last of those lead changes came with three laps to go as Gardner pounced again before he held off his rivals on a thrilling final lap.

Carrying the Australian flag around on a victory lap, Gardner was mobbed by his then wife Donna, who ran down the track to embrace her husband.

“It was a race I really wanted to win,” Gardner told fans from the podium.

“I still think I’m dreaming now. I’ve got to keep pinching myself.”

He ended up finishing 0.350 seconds ahead of Rainey, while Sarron rounded out the podium places.

Magee narrowly missed out on making the top three and was forced to settle for fourth, despite finishing more than nine seconds ahead of fifth-placed Lawson.

There were two more Aussies in the top 10, too, with Doohan finishing eighth, one place ahead of Dowson.

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