Aus-some Race: The Wonder Down Under
on phillip island
by dean adams
Thursday, October 13, 2005

This is from the 1990 Phillip Island GP race--still cool.
les nessman & his flying turkeys
Grand Prix motorcycle roadracing started life as, and remains, largely, a European phenomenon. In the late 1980s, Grand Prix still used such glorious European tracks as the unspoiled Hockenheimring, Spa, Le Mans, Salzburgring and Anderstorp. The riders and teams only ventured off the continent once in a while, to places like Suzuka and Laguna Seca.

That's why it's especially ironic that the Grand Prix circus had to travel nearly all the way to the furthest reaches of the southern hemisphere--to a small island off Australia's southern coast--to stage what is considered by most experts to be the best GP race of the 1980s.

Phillip Island was once home only to Australia's aboriginal natives, along with crowds of penguins, before it gained any notoriety as a tourist destination. And, even today, it is a completely bi-polar plot of land in terms of climate and weather. You can be enjoying a wonderful afternoon in the sun on Phillip Island, and then, not ten minutes later, you'll be running for your safety as a storm rolls in drenching everything and everyone in its path. It is the only place I have ever been in my life where howling winds blow in two different directions, and seemingly at the exact same time.

Most people believe that the racetrack at Phillip Island was built specifically for the 1989 Grand Prix event but, in reality, there's been a track on Phillip Island since the mid-1950s, although Bob Barnard and lots of Australian government funding helped whip the circuit into world-class shape for the inaugural event in April of 1989. Many still consider the almost-constantly turning racetrack at Phillip Island to be the best motorcycle racing circuit in the world.

What transpired in 1989 was truly a race for the ages--a contest that is even today regarded as one of the best motorcycle races of all time. Eventual (and extremely popular) winner Wayne Gardner emerged victorious after an all-out fight between him, Kevin Magee, Wayne Rainey and, as unlikely as it may seem, Christian Sarron. The four of them slashed, dashed and drafted their way around the picturesque circuit until Gardner ultimately pulled a small advantage. His home-soil win was incredibly popular and is still talked about to this very day.

It's no wonder. Everyone who has seen it—whether live or on tape—will never forget it.


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