Former 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner will be offering his GP insights on a regular basis to cyclenews.com readers and we're happy to have him. For more from the Wollongong Wonder, visit his website at www.waynegardnerapproved.com.auUPHOLDING THE FAMILY TRADITION
Team Gardner has just had another huge weekend, with Remy making his Australian road racing debut in a junior support race for the Bel-Ray 6 Hour at Phillip Island. As I said last week, the event was all about giving him some experience on a fast circuit and getting him used to the type of high-speed, sweeping corners that the place is famous for.With Remy being 12, he was only able to compete on a 70, so we used a Honda 70 engine in a Moriwaki chassis. To achieve this, I had Moriwaki send me a special crankshaft to reduce the stroke. The combination created a bit of controversy, but we just got on with the job of learning and racing. Or rather, trying to. Our first practice didn't go so well. The big problem was the mechanic (um, that would be me), who left the spark plug loose, ensuring that we only got one lap of practice in before the bike expired. Great start, dad! From there I went on to again demonstrate why I should never be hired by anyone to oversee their motorcycle preparation: I put in less than half a tank of fuel for the next practice session, but didn't realize I'd actually topped up the reserve tank without turning on the reserve fuel feed. The bike ran out of fuel after one lap. So, after only two laps of practice, Remy qualified 12fth. Thankfully, the actual racing shaped up much better.In the first one, he planned to follow the leaders and learn as much as he could. But after getting up to third straight away, he ended up dicing for positions from third to sixth with three other riders. He ended up finishing fifth - a great start to the weekend. On Saturday we had three more races. In the first he got a good start and battled for third and fourth place - eventually sliding under two other guys coming onto the main straight on the final lap to pick up third. In the next he had another great battle and finished fourth by only two-hundredths of a second. He had been leading the race into the final corner, but was drafted to the line. That was enough to teach him that leading on the last lap isn't always the best idea.In the last race, he went hard from the beginning, but although he chased the leaders aggressively, he couldn't stay with them and ended up finishing a very credible third by six seconds. The most encouraging thing about the whole weekend was the constant improvement he managed to demonstrate. Every time he went out he was faster, and was nine-seconds quicker in the last race than he was in the first. More importantly, there were no crashes and no moments. It all went to plan. The unexpected bonus was the news that he'd also accrued enough points to win the National Junior Nippers Road Racing 70cc Championship. After just one weekend, we couldn't have asked for much more. I'd also like to say a really special thank you to Honda Australia and their staff for going out of their way to provide me with some last-minute spare parts to make our island adventure possible.
I also want to give a big rap to the GAS Honda Team, whose pit garage we shared for the race weekend. They're a great team - very, very professional - and it's no surprise to me that their riders Wayne Maxwell and Josh Brookes went on to win the 6 Hour event. They were outstanding. In fact, if I ever put my leathers on to do the 6 hour again (who knows, it could be a possibility one of these days) I'm going to join that team. While I'm at it I also want to mention a young rider named Ty Lynch, who had his first-ever road race at Phillip Island in the Honda 150 four-stroke category. Impressively, he won the class. Ty's only 14, but comes from a strong dirt track and motocross background. I think the weekend's result says a lot about his ability, and also shows yet again just how important a dirt riding background is when it comes to road racing. I know a lot of people don't agree with me, but it's simply the best way to gain the confidence and skills required to race on the hard stuff.
I'm not sure if everyone saw Sydney's Sun Herald on the weekend, but the paper ran a big double-page spread detailing my views on road safety and my involvement with the National Road Safety Council. I've already had a lot of fantastic responses to the article from people who agree that big changes are definitely needed if we are to reduce the level of road-related deaths and injuries. My thoughts on education and driver and rider training, road-rule reform and race track safety haven't always been met with enthusiasm in all quarters, so it was great to see the subject getting such a positive airing. I've now been on the Road Safety Council for 12 months and I can't believe how fast it's gone. It's certainly been a real learning curve.Having been granted an opportunity to witness the complexity of government protocol close up, I now understand why reform can take so long. Anyway, I think that big changes are afoot and that we're really going places in terms of making the road a safer place. I'm looking forward to another 12 months in the role, although just how involved I'll be will depend on Remy and Luca's 2011 racing schedules, which are already shaping up to be pretty hectic. I'll have a better idea of what this will entail in the next couple of weeks and will keep you posted.