How the Motorcycle Grand Prix was brought to Australia

When Wayne Gardner first laid his eyes on the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, he thought there was no chance it could host a major event.

“It was like an old, broken down racetrack that had sheep walking over it,” he said.

“[It was] very basic and needed a lot of work. I thought it was going to be an impossible task.”

But Gardner was also passionate about growing motorsport in Australia and was particularly taken by the ambition of promoter Bob Barnard, who was after his help.

Interest in Grand Prix motorcycle racing Down Under was building, too, as Gardner posted three premier-class victories in the 1986 season.

So, Gardner went all-in on the ambitious project, agreeing to promote the cause in countless media interviews while knowing that continued success would only help the grand plan.

Barnard, meanwhile, got to work on the logistics, namely the track.

“I believed in him. I could see his vision,” Gardner said.

“Bob Barnard did an amazing job. It took a lot of hard work and commitment by Bob – he had an amazing dream.

“I guess my big support for the whole thing was going out to the media and explaining it to the general public. I worked very, very hard for it.”

Perhaps Gardner’s best bit of hard work, though, was winning the 1987 world title.

His success only increased the profile of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in Australia and before too long, Barnard and Gardner got their way. The Motorcycle World Championship was coming to Australia.

And on Gardner’s first visit to the iconic track, he knew it would prove a hit.

“I’d only seen photos, I hadn’t ridden on Phillip Island,” he said.

“I’d seen sketches and designs and things like that, and it all looked pretty good and pretty fast.

“But I didn’t realise how good it was until I rode around it.”

An April 1989 date was set for the historic event, but Gardner entered race day fatigued after a media schedule that was bursting at the seams.

He dug deep, though, in a thrilling race that featured 19 lead changes, with a huge crowd inspiring Gardner to edge American Wayne Rainey for victory.

Gardner was then embraced by a passionate Australian crowd on a now-iconic victory lap.

“I was extremely proud to see it [our work] materialise to having our first Australian Grand Prix in Australia,” Gardner added.

“It was a very special moment. I’m extremely proud to win the very first. You can only do it once, so I was extremely proud."

Limited Grandstand and Hospitality tickets are still available for the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2019, including the all new Gardner Club, which celebrates Australia's first ever 500cc champion Wayne Gardner.

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