Wayne: The Wayne Gardner Story
Motorcycle champion Wayne Gardner is mostly remembered for winning the 1987 500cc World Championship, but this documentary by Jeremy Sims is a reminder that Gardner played a key role in putting Australia on the map for sports fans, and also popularising motorcycling in his country.
Born and raised in Wollongong, the sportsman’s journey began with a dirt bike that he purchased for five dollars. He spent hours riding it each day and realised that there was nothing else he would rather be doing. He began racing locally and it took no time for him to attract attention. When Japanese race team boss Moriwaki came scouting for talent, Wayne made the risky choice of using wet weather tyres because he expected it to rain during the race. His prediction was wrong, however, and it was only sheer perseverance and a streak of folly that enabled him to show off his skills anyway and get noticed that day.
Gardner did so well with Moriwaki that public interest in him grew very quickly and the team couldn’t keep him for even one full season. The Australian moved to Honda, and, in spite of many challenges and a disastrous Grand Prix debut, he went on to enjoy success, fame and a lavish lifestyle. His 1987 victory was not just a fantastic personal accomplishment, but a source of enormous pride for all Aussies. So big was the impact of his win that it led to the building of an Australian race track to host the GP thenceforward.
Aside from Wayne’s motorcycling career, the documentary narrates his love story with childhood sweetheart (and subsequent wife) Donna, who shares her memories with fondness. Each phase of his story is told from her perspective as well, giving the audience to understand that she was instrumental in helping him achieve his dream. In fact, the production’s focus shifts gradually to Wayne’s personal life, and the final scenes are dedicated entirely to how their relationship panned out.
Although Wayne: The Wayne Gardner Story stays on the surface and doesn’t go confidently in one direction or another, it does give a clear idea of what the atmosphere was like and what kind of emotions prevailed on and off the racetrack. The high pressure, the elation of winning and the dejection when things didn’t go according to plan are all felt. The use of cartoon animations to relate childhood events is also a nice touch. The film doesn’t quite reach the deeper layer of feelings that a biographical narrative can sometimes expose, but it is nevertheless an interesting look at the sportsman’s life, and no doubt a nostalgic account for motorcycling fans.
Wayne: The Wayne Gardner Story is released digitally on demand on 7th June 2021.
Watch the trailer for Wayne: The Wayne Gardner Story here: