Aussie MotoGP 6 Days To Go | Events
The Australian round of the MotoGP is only six days away — there’s no better time to tip our lid to Australia’s six Grand Prix world champs.
Australia received its first-ever Grand Prix world champion when Keith Campbell crossed the line to become the 1957 350cc Grand Prix World Champion. The AMCN Hall of Fame inductee was 27 years old when was crowned world champ riding a 350cc Moto Guzzi, but unfortunately it was the end of the Italian marque’s racing heyday and Campbell found himself defending his title on a privateer outfit the following year. Sadly, he was killed in a racing incident in July 1958 at Cahors in France.
Australia only had a four-year wait before it had another Grand Prix world champion to its name, this time in the 125cc class. Aussie Tom Phillis was crowned the 1961 125cc Grand Prix world champion and finished second to Mike Hailwood in the 250cc class the very same year. Unfortunately, like the Aussie world champ before him, he was killed in a racing incident the following year. Phillis lost his life at the 1962 Isle of Man TT and his ashes were scattered at the TT start line in Douglas.
Eight years after Phillis lofted the title trophy, Kel Carruthers was crowned the 1969 250cc Grand Prix World Champion on a Benelli and in doing so became the last-ever rider to win the 250cc title on a four-stroke machine. FIM rule changes (and the factory’s financial woes) meant Carruthers was forced to seek alternate arrangements and lined up to defend his title on a Yamaha. The lost the deciding race of the 1970 world championship by just 0.03secs to Rodney Gould. He also finished second in the 350cc world championship the same year.
It was a long, 18-year wait before Australia could celebrate the crowning of its next world champion, but it came when a 28-year-old Wayne Gardner won seven out of 15 races to be crowned the 1987 500cc Grand Prix World Champion. His success caught the interest of the Australian public and two years later, and after a lot of legwork by Gardner himself, Australia hosted its first-ever motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island in 1989 which attracted a 90,000-strong crowd. Fittingly, Gardner won the race.
Half a century of victories and five consecutive world championships between 1994 and 1998, Mick Doohan is by far the most successful motorcycle racer this country has seen.
Two years before his maiden title, Doohan broke his leg in a practice crash at Assen, an injury that escalated so high with major complications that at one point Mick was facing amputation of his right leg. But he returned to the track for the penultimate round, still leading on points, but unfortunately lost the title that year to Wayne Rainey and forced Aussie fans to wait until the end of 1994 for the dominant Doohan era to begin.
During the next five seasons, Mick Doohan won 44 out of the 69 races and became only the second rider after Giacomo Agostini to claim five consecutive titles.
Twenty years after Wayne Gardner won Australia’s first premier-class world title, Casey Stoner delighted fans worldwide when he was crowned the 2007 MotoGP World Champion. It was his second year in the premier class, but his first with Ducati, and his life-long dream was realised just 23 days shy of his 22nd birthday. He sealed the crown with three rounds to go and an 83-point lead over Valentino Rossi. “I want to win the race a Phillip Island,” he said after his title win. “It’s a race I haven’t been able to win yet.” He dominated the race and won by nearly seven seconds ahead of teammate Loris Capirossi. And he never lost a race at the Island between that day and his retirement at the end of 2012. He won the 2011 Australian Grand Prix with Repsol Honda to win his second world title in front of an adoring home crowd.