Interview: Wayne Gardner

Posted on 7 Apr, 2015 by Scott Jones
Wayne Gardner Melbourne Phillip Island 2014

After speaking to Remy Gardner at Losail for the opening 2015 MotoGP round, I spoke at greater length with Wayne Gardner, the Australian 500cc World Champion (1987). The Gardner family offers a unique perspective of the challenges of coming to Grand Prix racing as a young rider not lucky enough to have been born in Spain.

Mr. Gardner’s candid remarks about his efforts to give his son the opportunity to reach Grand Prix motorbike racing reveal much about the current situation: It is not only the premier class that has become prohibitively expensive and dominated by riders from the Spanish motorcycle racing development system.

Scott Jones: Please tell us about the challenges of bringing a young rider from Australia to GP racing.

Wayne Gardner: It’s extremely difficult. It’s a long way to come, for a start, but the national levels of racing in many countries, I think, are a disgrace.

The challenge is that the motorcycling federations in each country don’t explore the other countries to see what they are doing. I don’t think they look deep enough to see what problems they have internally.

I’m talking about Australia now, but I expect this is reflected in the States – our country, Australia, is so big you have different rulings for each state. And then you have the motorcycling body that really don’t have a lot of experience and, with no research, aren’t making calculated and educated decisions.

So there’s no formula for juniors to start at a young age as there is in Spain. If you look at some of the categories they have in Spain, kids can start riding pocket bikes from 3 or 4 years of age, which is unbelievable. In the past, I would’ve said that’s probably not the right thing to do. But when you start looking at the talent that’s coming through, and I use Fabio Quartararo as an example, his dad has had him racing since around 3 or 4 years of age, on pocket bikes. You look at how good he is now, and it definitely shows the results of starting at a young age in a controlled environment.

Unfortunately, other countries just ignore that. I was one of those at first, but now I’ve seen it and it does work. So if the other countries don’t adjust, if the governing bodies don’t adjust their calendars and events and age limits, then we’re going to see Spanish champions for a long, long time.

I look at some of the talent here [in the GP paddock] and it’s incredible. So now there’s only one way to succeed, to challenge and catch up. That’s to come live in Spain and participate in a high level of competition.

Remy Gardner Losail 2015Remy Gardner, #2, Moto3 Race, Losail 2015

That’s exactly what we did because Remy had this dream of going racing and wanted to be a Grand Prix rider. So the challenge was pack our bags, to quit work, sell businesses, and go live in Spain. And then to afford the astronomical price of what the Spanish Championships cost. That’s another challenge in itself.

More, including the costs of running in the CEV and the challenges of being a world champion’s son, on the next page:

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