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WHERE ARE THEY NOW?- Ross Hedley | Columns | Gassit Garage

Ross Hedley’s ventures across OZ and Europe typified the perils of a privateer in the 70s

You won the 500cc class in the 1972 Castrol Six-Hour with Les Kenny. That was a big deal.

We were trying to get bikes out of Yamaha, but they were all set with Ron Toombs and Bill Horsman. Then Don Bain at Tom Byrnes offered us a Kawasaki 500 – well I should say six Kawasakis! They gave Les and I one each to ride around the streets to get the hang of it, then two practice race bikes, a race bike and another one for parts. It was the golden era of production racing, there was a plenty of bikes being sold and dealers and distributors were spending lots of money.

Tell us about the race and up and down the coast to far-flung meetings in the early 70s.

We had my dad’s Valiant and we’d leave after work and drive through the night to Surfers Paradise – 12 hours straight – arrive at 6.00am and wait for the gates to open. On the way, you’d have a race with the other guys. You’d see Toombsie or Hindle and other boys on the road, and you’d have a drag to see who could get there the quickest! One time we got to Surfers and Toombsie pulled up just after us. A truck coming the other way side-swiped his trailer and emptied all the bikes out, smashed and bashed. The camaraderie was fantastic, everyone rallied around; someone had a fairing, someone else had screens or levers and managed to get all of his bikes, in patchworks of colours and sizes, back together. Talking about camaraderie I remember the time Les and I went over to Virginia in South Australia, and my 350 did a big-end in practice. Billy Horsman, who was one of my idols, came up to me and said, ‘you’ve come a long way, you can ride my 350.’ Not any 350, his 350.

Then there was a trip home from Virginia….

My mate Keith Simmons was driving Chris Baker and me across the Hay Plain. Chris and I nodded off, which was sort of okay, then Keith nodded off which wasn’t. We woke to the car sluing from one side of the road to another, then the trailer flipped. We get out and the bikes were upside down across a paddock. Chris and I were six weeks away from leaving for the UK, and our bikes were all smashed up, tools and spares everywhere. We had six weeks to repair the bikes, paint ‘em and crate ‘em for the trip to England.

The camaraderie was no stronger than the members of your club, St George.

My dad built this massive shed out the back of his place and we’d have some club mates around a couple of times a week. We had a phone-intercom to the house and we’d call up mum for cups of tea – ‘How many?’ and we’d say ‘16!’ Chris Baker remembers mum bringing down biscuits, cakes and scones into the wee small hours. We had road race bikes, motocrossers, short-circuit bikes and trials bikes there and we just sat around drinking cups of tea, talking bikes and racing. It might sound funny now, because everyone else was going out to the pub, but we hung around for hours in that shed drinking tea having the times of our lives.

Tell us about your Sulby experience at the TT

I was racing a 125 in 1974 heading down Sulby Straight doing about 190km/h when the gearbox locked up. I was thrown down the road pretty hard and ended up half-way into a hedge. I’m lying there in a paddock a bit dazed, and I look around and there’s these cows mooing at me, my legs dangling over the verge near the track. I see my bike sitting in the middle of the track, and I’m waiting for marshalls to come and get it. Then I realise they are no marshalls nearby and I hear a group of bikes approaching, howling in the distance. Pretty banged up, I crawled out and dragged my bike off the track just before the group descended on it.

What are up you to these days?

I have a steel and alloy fabrication business called Fast Fit at Kirrawee (in Sydney’s south) and I live on the NSW south coast. I’d been out of a bikes for a while, then I got a Yamaha XJR1300 a little while ago. I started doing trips and runs with a group of younger guys, but I still have enough of the old form to keep them honest!

By Darryl Flack

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