Barry Lack was Tasmania’s gun rider for two decades
As a 20-year-old in 1974, Barry Lack won his state’s 350cc, 500cc and Unlimited championships, the only rider in Australia to achieve this. He challenged Australia’s champions in major events and teamed with Mal Campbell in 1977 to become the first tyre-sponsored Tasmanian team to compete in the Castrol 6 Hour. After a break, he returned to racing in 1983 to finish second in the state titles on a 250cc production Suzuki.
“You don’t think about that stuff at the time you’re doing it,” he says when asked to comment on his achievements. “But looking back now some of it does seem pretty amazing.”
Lack was destined to become a racer.“My uncle was a keen car racer, so I grew up around racetracks,” he says.
His motorcycling started as a 16-year-old schoolboy when his father bought him a 1966 Yamaha YDS3.
In 1970 Lack was working as an apprentice motor mechanic and bought a new 250cc YDS6. Persuaded by the Tasmanian MCC to take up road racing, the teenager needed his parents’ signature on his race entry papers.
“I raced the YDS6 in 1971 and that involved taking off the street equipment on a Friday night, fitting a race fairing, etc, and then converting it back afterwards,” Lack recalls.
In 1972, he won the Tasmanian 350cc title on a Honda CB350, beating A-graders on Suzuki TR2s. This inspired local Honda importer Lloyd Campbell to offer HRC race kit parts.
“The crankshaft alone was worth $600,” Lack says. “The kit turned an 80mph bike into one timed at 121mph.”
Now an A-grader setting lap records, he was chosen by Yamaha dealer Ian Tilley to receive one of the six new 1973 water-cooled Yamaha TZ350s brought into Australia. “It was the equivalent of getting Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP Yamaha today,” Lack says. He repaid Tilley’s trust by winning the title treble.
The next big test was the Unlimited Tasmanian TT against Australia’s top riders, including Victorian champion Ross Borelli, Queensland champion Rob Garner and NSW legend Ron Toombs.
“Before this meeting people were saying it was the bike, not me, that was winning,” says Lack. “But I led for three laps before the clutch cable failed. You had to slip the clutch to get out of hairpins so I struggled to finish fourth.”
Tilley and Lack then went to the mainland to “give the locals a touch-up”. By now they had major sponsorship from Ansett Airlines.
“Mick Hone and John Maher became friends and helpers,” says Lack of his season of racing at Hume Weir, Sandown, Calder and Adelaide. He was a regular top-five finisher in events so tight that often just 15 metres separated first from six.
When Yamaha brought out its RD350, followed by the RD400, Lack added production racing to his CV.
In 1977 a tie-up between Tilley and Continental tyres importer Frank Hodder saw Lack and a young Mal Campbell race the Castrol 6 Hour at Amaroo Park. The pair qualified their Kawasaki Z900 in the top 10 despite “not having an idea what we were getting ourselves into”. Approaching the three-hour mark, Lack was punted off into a rock wall.
In 1980 Lack stopped racing as he had a young family, but was persuaded to return in 1983 for a one-make series promoting Suzuki’s new RG250 and showed he’d lost none of his ability by taking the proddie bike to second overall in the state championships.
He then raced Suzuki’s new GSX-R750 in Tasmania and Victoria before quitting again in 1990 when Superbike rules made racing too expensive.
Lack has put much back into motorcycling, helping establish an early learner rider training scheme, and commentating at meetings. These days he is semi-retired from a career in the motor industry, which included setting up BMW Motorrad’s Tasmanian dealer network.
“I ride my R 1200 RS every day I can and I also tootle around on a low-mileage 1975 Yamaha XS650,” he says.