For many, the period from 1970 to 1985 was the Golden Era of Australian Motorcycle Road Racing. The 1970s introduced new names and stars, but none greater than Warren Willing, Gregg Hansford and Ken Blake, who rose from national dominance to the international stage and paved the way for the likes of Wayne Gardner and Michael Doohan to go on and win World Championship titles for Australia.
This tableaux is a shrine dedicated to pay homage to three young lions who dominated Australian motorcycle racing and brought a modern, new look and personality to the scene, sweeping away the somewhat staid and dated era of the ‘fifties and ‘sixties.
Warren had a career spanning over 40 years at the highest levels of International motorcycle racing. As a racer, a team manager, a mentor to future world champions, and especially as a technical engineer.
Warren grew up in the Sydney suburb of Dundas. He started riding and racing in 1970, going on to win Australia’s most prestigious road racing titles, before competing internationally. His riding career ended in late May, 1979, when he was involved in a massive accident on a closed-road circuit in Northern Ireland. Two years and eighteen leg operations later, Warren began his second career as a team manager and technical engineer, working for Wayne Rainey in the Kenny Roberts Marlboro Team. In the year 2000, he guided Kenny’s son, Kenny Jnr, to the World 500cc crown.
Warren also worked for KTM as a consultant and chassis constructor in their 125cc and 250cc MotoGP campaigns and for Ducati in the early days of the new MotoGP format. He passed away in Australia, surrounded by his family, on September 4 th 2015, from cancer related issues, aged 63 years.
Warren’s Racing Career Highlights
Winner Australian Unlimited GP Bathurst
1st Australian 250cc GP Bathurst
First-ever 100mph lap. Mount Panorama, Bathurst.
Australian Unlimited Road Racing Champion.
1st NSW 350cc Championship.
Gregg was born in 1952, in East Brisbane. With financial help from his mother, he began competitive motorcycle riding on dirt tracks and motocross, before turning to road-racing in the early 1970s.
Gregg’s first major achievement was a close second to Warren Willing in the 1974 Unlimited Grand Prix at Bathurst. In 1975 he and his co-rider, Murray Sayle, won the Castrol Six Hour Production Race at Amaroo Park. Gregg was one of the first professional motorcycle road racers in Australia, winning six national titles.
He won the Canadian round of the 1977 World FIM F750 championship, and from 1978 to 1981 made annual visits to Europe to compete in the grand prix series. He was victorious in ten international GP events, finishing second in the world championships in the 250 cc class and third in the 350 cc class in 1978 and 1979. Serious leg injuries from a crash during the 1981 Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps forced his premature retirement from the sport. Gregg switched to local car racing events, a move that cost him his life in a production car crash at Phillip Island, in Victoria, March 1995.
Gregg’s Racing Career Highlights
Castrol Six Hour Production Race.
Australian Unlimited TT at Laverton.
U.S. National 250cc Race at Laguna Seca.
World Championship Grand Prix Races. Including double victories in France, Sweden and Yugoslavia.
Australian Unlimited Road Racing Championships
World 750cc Championship Round Races.
Bathurst 1000 Car Race at Bathurst. Co-driving with Larry Perkins.
Ken Blake was one of Australia’s most beloved motorcycle racers. Known affectionately as one of “Nature’s Gentleman”. Ken was born and grew up in the Strathalbyn district of South Australia. Riding his own Triumph , he won consecutive Australian Unlimited TTs before switching to Kawasaki and winning at Bathurst in 1970. In the next ten years, Ken rode all kinds of bikes on tracks across the country; often he would ride in three or four events in a meeting, competing in 250, 350, Unlimited and Production races. He rode Yamahas, Kawasakis, and the ex-works Bruno Spaggiari Ducati 750 SS.
The Castrol 6 Hour was perhaps his greatest stage. Ken was the consummate Production racer. In 1973 he rode a Kawasaki Z1B 900 to victory, riding solo, a feat he repeated in 1975 when again he rode solo, bringing the BMW R90 S home in second place. In 1976 again he was BMW mounted but this time, sharing the ride with Tony Hatton and finishing second again. Ken’s position in BMW history is cemented by his victory with Joe Eastmure in the 1977 Castrol 6 Hour on the BMW R100 S.
In 1976, Ken Blake rode the International Meeting at the Laverton Air Base. The greatest rider of that time, Giacomo Agostini and his works MV Agusta was there, along with a host of top internationals. Ken was riding a Suzuki RG 500 and hounded the Italian for the lead, before stunning the world, and Agostini, with an amazing victory.
In 1979, Ken tried his luck in Europe. He finished second in the 500cc Belgium GP riding a 350cc Yamaha. His talent was recognised and he was signed to ride in the Honda France Endurance Team.
On June 9 th , 1981 Ken was riding at the Isle of Man. He had started late due to a fuel leak. He pitted and shot out in eighth place chasing down the leaders. 5 km down the road at Ballagarey Curve, he hit a wet patch, slid into a roadside obstacle and died instantly.
Ken’s Racing Career Highlights
Bathurst Unlimited GP, taking 5 secs off the outright lap record.
Australian 500cc TT.
125cc and 250cc Australian Championships races at Bathurst.
Castrol Six Hour at Amaroo Park riding solo.
350cc and 500cc Australian Championships.
Australian TT at Laverton beating Agostini.
Second place in the 500cc Belgian GP.