The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is home to some of Wayne Gardner’s fondest memories.
The Australian motorcycle legend did not just win twice at the iconic track, either, playing a major role in World Championship racing arriving Down Under.
It was Gardner’s global success that raised the profile of motorcycle racing in Australia and after three premier class victories in 1986, the Wollongong-born rider went and won the world title in 1987.
As Gardner conquered the world, he was also involved in an ambitious project to bring a world championship race to Australia, with promoter Bob Barnard pleading for his help.
Gardner could see Barnard’s vision and agreed to promote the event, taking on a hectic schedule of media commitments, while his new friend got to work on making the race happen.
The Phillip Island site needed significant work to make the race a reality but the pair pulled off their dream and in 1989, Gardner made history.
He was drained in the build-up to the big day, though, with an overflowing diary of media commitments - in addition to the work he had done raising the profile of the bid for the race - taking its toll.
“I had spent three months doing PR and marketing around Australia to every news outlet and when I got there, I was exhausted from it all,” he told motogp.com.au.
“I never thought I had the cojones to go out there and ride as hard as I did but when you’re riding in front of your home crowd … and your home track, you lift. You get this special energy.
“You can see the people cheering and the crowd waving and it just spurs you on to go out and do bigger and better things, that you think is impossible.
“It’s the national pride that brings that home.”
Gardner famously went on to beat American Wayne Rainey in a thrilling race, celebrating by carrying the Australian flag around the track on a victory lap.
He backed up the feat in 1990, too, edging out compatriot Mick Doohan in a heroic triumph achieved with a broken wrist and the fact the fairing of his Honda was hanging off.
Reflecting on the event 30 years after his triumph, Gardner, talking to ex-MotoGP™ rider Chris Vermeulen in a video chat, added: “I think we are all proud of what Phillip Island Circuit and the Grand Prix’s in Australia have been - and will be in the future.”
Gardner’s son, Remy, is attempting to follow in his footsteps and race in the motorcycle world championship’s premier class.
The 22-year-old currently races in Moto2™ and has shown several signs in the past 12 months that he is set for a big future.
Gardner was full of pride when talking about his son’s achievements, even if he humorously recalled a run-in the pair had last year.
“He started off so good last year … he was a little bit unlucky and he did a couple of mistakes last year and that cost his confidence and when his confidence left, he couldn’t get it back,” he said.
“I wasn’t any part of it [from] about mid-year through - he threw the spanners at me and told me to get out of the garage!
“I don’t hold it against him - it’s just a frustration as a racer … so I stood back and watched last year. He’s still very, very young but he’s very, very fast.
“I think when he gets back on the bike this year, I’m sure he’s going to have some good results.”
Watch the full chat with Gardner and Vermeulen here.