Today I learned the secret to the success of Aussie world champions like Mick Doohan, Casey Stoner, Troy Bayliss and Wayne Gardner. It’s dirt track racing.
Brought up riding small-capacity motocross bikes on tracks that are like road-racing circuits, but are dirt instead of tarmac (so have left and right bends, not just an oval) as kids, they learned the art of bike control before heading off to tarmac and world domination.
I spent today with 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner at his 150-acre farm 100-miles south of Sydney. I got to witness his two sons Luca (9) and Remy (11) strut their stuff on their dirt track bikes and was gobsmacked at their incredible talent. In Remy’s case his fearlessness and aggression is a chip of the old block if there ever was one.
Nurturing these kids’ natural talent with Gardner senior’s advice on riding and bike set-up, they could go far if that’s what they want to do, but Wayne makes it clear he doesn’t want to push them, just support them in whatever they want to do.
Gardner is convinced dirt track is the way to groom world champions of the future, teaching riders to push the front and rear in and out of corners in relative safety, a skill they’ll need in the very top class of racing. He’s not convinced the European approach to starting kids early on tarmac is the way to go.
It’s true that when a 15-year old Casey Stoner came to the UK to race in 125s he used the UK road racing to propel him into Grand Prix, but back home he’d already spent years racing dirt track and had skills way ahead of his peers.
I had a fascinating day with Wayne and my head’s still spinning with his stories of his 500cc GP days, and all the projects he’s up to now. Rest assured you’ll be able to read more about him and his kids in MCN soon. I shot some video too.
Continuing on the Grand Prix theme, I’m off to ride a Yamaha YZR500 tomorrow...
All Australia blog entries:
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6