Skip to content

Where are they now? Rob Madden | Columns | Gassit Garage

Rob Madden was a top rider of the 70s who has gone on to promote the sport

What got you into bikes?

My dad Keo raced at Mount Druitt back in the day, but I didn’t really have an interest in bikes when I was young. I played district cricket and could’ve made it as an all-rounder. I also played rep soccer. I got a Honda Sports 50, which I rode around the backyard, and after that I rode a Honda monkey bike. I was always a little scared about racing, but when I turned 17 I did my first scrambles at Mount Kembla in 1967 on a BSA 350. I went over a 10-foot drop-off and the front wheel had 30 broken spokes out of 36; I was a bit banged up and didn’t finish a lap! I eventually got to B-grade in motocross on a Montesa 250, but it was an inauspicious start.

Tell us about your entry into road racing.

It happened at Oran Park on 5 November 1967 aboard a Yamaha TD1B. I rode a variety of bikes from a 650 Norton to an A1R Kawasaki, and Yamaha 350s. It was interesting going from C-grade to A-grade. In C-grade you would ride tight lines, which was enough to be competitive. When you get to B-grade you start using all of the track, white line to white line, and you think you’re pretty good. Then you reach A-grade and you’re at the bottom rung again, and you start using the kerbs and the aprons on the exits to get to the front. At that point I was the third-fastest bloke to reach A-grade in NSW. It was actually a bit sooner than Dad or I wanted.

Very few people led Agostini in his prime, but you’re one of them.

That was when Ago came out to Calder and Oran in late 1971. I was 21, and I had a very good technique for push starts. I didn’t do the run and bump or paddle, I just pushed my TR2 and it would fire up like a beauty, so I got away first in the first 350 race at Oran. Agostini said later he’d never seen a faster start. I led for a couple of laps, then Bryan Hindle got by me. Then I heard this noise, a quite different noise – Agostini’s MV 350 triple. It got closer and closer and eventually he got by me.

What was it like seeing Agostini at close quarters?

His bike was different, and so were his lines, those wide, sweeping lines. By the time he got by me, Hindle was gone. I’ve got a photo of Ago and me side by side in that race, and I’m going to get him to sign it.

I was out at Oran Park in 1976 with a mate who was watching a race through his binoculars. He was looking back in the field and said, ‘Madden’s on fire, he’s going nuts’.

I know the race you’re talking about. I had my Yamaha 350, and the promoters wanted me to enter in the Formula 750 races and not the 350 races. I wasn’t too happy, and I got a bad start. Once I got into my rhythm I started hauling in Greg Johnson’s RG500, which was behind the 750s. I was sweeping through the corners faster than I’d ever gone, I was absolutely riding beyond what was normal. I heard that Ray Quincey, the fastest young bloke on a 350 at the time, had me down to a 46.2s, which was the outright lap record. Apparently Ray’s jaw dropped when he saw the time.

You led Ago, and raced at Bathurst, the TT and Daytona. When and why did you retire?

In 1978 I rode in the Total Hunter team on an RG500 MkI specced up to a MkII. I won
the national Senior 500cc round at Oran, then I had a big crash at Lakeside. My dad had a very bad crash at Bathurst that year and I was weighing up the whole thing, and I decided to give racing away. I got married in 1982 and started a family, then went post-classic racing in 1988 and didn’t give it up until 2005.

Tell us about your time as general manager of Motorcycling NSW.

In 1994, the ACU (NSW), as it was known, went broke after promoting the Australian Grand Prix at Eastern Creek. MA took it over and I was installed as general manager. We started with a $15,000 loan from Arthur Blizzard and Syd Jackson, and by the time I retired in 2008, M(NSW) had $3.6m in assets. But what I’m most proud of was helping to establish junior road racing in NSW 20 years ago. Many of those riders have gone onto great success nationally and internationally.

What are you doing now?

I dabbled in share trading, and I’ve been technical officer at the Macau Grand Prix for the past five years. It’s been a great experience, and a thrill to meet some of the stars of real road racing.

By Darryl Flack