A top Aussie bloke passed away recently, and it took us all by surprise because Alan Kempster was so full of life.
If there was anyone who could be excused for being a bit down in the dumps, surely it would be a guy who’d had his right arm and leg torn from his body by a drunk driver. The word disabled never really worked for Alan; he was more able than many with all four limbs.
I first met Alan at the 2012 Festival of Speed. My photographer dropped some images into the media centre and as I flicked through them I was confronted by a photo that my brain just could not comprehend. Literally half a man racing a motorcycle, and he wasn’t slow by any means – in fact he was bloody quick!
I located Alan working on his motorcycle in a little square of shade under the stairs. He couldn’t afford a pit garage, or even a carport.
Like anyone meeting Alan for the first time, we went straight from strangers to friends in about five minutes. I marvelled at his bike, which had a throttle, brake and clutch lever all on the left handlebar. I wanted to know all about him, and he was happy to share his life story. Not in a ‘pity me’ way, but more a tale of adventure.
More great adventures followed, including his first of numerous trips to the Burt Munro Challenge, where he won many fans and was made Mayor for the day. A day we organised with Mick Doohan at the Phillip IsIand Grand Prix circuit was another. With Mick’s assistance, Alan achieved his goal of a sub-two-minute lap on his old 400cc racebike, which had seen better days. He even travelled to Italy for the inaugural race for disabled riders and became the pin-up boy for the event.
But through all this, Alan just remained Alan. An inspiration to so many people, but I’m sure he would be a little embarrassed about all the tributes flowing his way. I once asked him if he would change anything if he had the power. “I would not change a thing,” he said. “The accident made me the person I am.”
Alan proved you don’t need to win a title to be a champion.
By Chris Dobie
AMCN Mag Vol 67 No 21