This is the first column from a new MCNews.com.au contributor, Warren Toombs. Warren has been around motorcycles all his life, the son of famous Australian road racing identity Ron Toombs, Warren is an avid motorcycle enthusiast and currently works in the motorcycle trade for Ric Andrews Motorcycles in Gosford. In his first piece Warren recalls some of his childhood memories around the International road racing stars that visited Australia in the 1970s.
International Riders – With Warren Toombs
As a kid I was privileged enough to have motorcycle racers from overseas come to Australia and hang out at our place, normally while staying down the road at the Travelodge Hotel, West Ryde.
One of my first memories of this occuring was as a youngster in 1971, the year that Agostini came to Australia.
We had a reception for him at our home in Carlingford, it was pretty much a who’s who of the racing contingent back in the day congregated at our place… I have never seen so many cars line our street, they continued up and around the adjoining streets.
So around 8.00pm, Ago and his entourage arrive, there is just this huge buzz through the place with him being there and mingling through the Australian contingent of people who had come to meet him.
So as everyone was converged out the back the GOAT came through the house… we were introduced to him and was in awe to know that a living legend of the day had come to our place.
Obviously a long night was ahead with chit chat, alcohol and the knowing of saying I met Agostini.
So the racing side – well that is history as well. Brian Hindle beating him in the first race and then Ago smoking the field in the next race, but that didn’t stop the Oran Park hill being absolutely packed with mad racing fans.
The Singapore/Malaysia contingent
So it was the start of 1972 and we had some riders come over from Singapore. One of the riders was Sonny Soh. At the time he was probably one of the best riders in the Malaysian/Singapore region and came to Australia with a couple of other riders.
Once again the guys were staying down the road from us at West Ryde and would come over and Dad and Mum would go for dinner’s with them. I don’t recall them racing here in Sydney at any stage but they did go to Virginia Park for a race in South Australia.
So as the story goes, Dad was driving to South Australia in the old Fairlane and one of the Singaporean mechanics of the group wanted to go with dad as a passenger… so obligingly, Dad said no problems, as our visitor wanted to see a bit of outback australia and the wildlife.
So whilst driving through the night to get there for the meeting the car was hit by a kangaroo. So the front end was pretty stuffed, they got the roo out of the grill and cleaned up the car a bit, tied the bonnet down with rope to hold it together.
So obviously getting to Adelaide was the priority, and I am sure there were a lot of stories going around about the trip down and a bit of taking the piss out of the Singaporeans and Malaysians, but the fella wanted to see a bit of Australia, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t expecting to see it like that.
This started up a bit of a relationship with the Malaysians and in 1973 Dad, Brian Hindle and a couple of other riders went to Malaysia to race as an Australian team. I remember dad leaving home to go to the airport with his green Australian coat looking very proud.
My Favourite – Pat Hennen
In 1973 and 1974 Pat Hennen came to australia to race, the premier series at the time was called the Pan Pacific Cup.
So Pat and his mechanic, little George Vucamovic, came and set up camp here for a couple of months to do the rounds – Queensland, New South Wales, Adelaide and I think Melbourne.
The racing at Oran Park was a ding-dong battle with both Pat and Dad racing it out, they had every spectator on the edge of there seats, seeing the old brigade and the rising star of American racing, absolutely showing everyone how it was done.
But it wasn’t only the racing that made the impression on myself. Pat and George would come over to our place and do work on the bikes, as well as show me a few tricks on my little Yamaha GTMX 80cc.
Pat would get on it and rip around the back yard, then down into the garage where a new concrete floor had been laid, which of course was nice and shiny and slippery…. the next minute here he is doing about twenty donuts on it, then grabbing a bit of throttle, straightening the thing up and wheelstanding it all the way up the drive.
I was like, shite let me have a go, so on I get, and here is Pat teaching me the art of balance, sliding and having the front wheel in the air. It couldn’t get any better, and certainly helped introduce me into the love of riding, and being around motorcycles.
These are a couple of treasures in my life that cannot be replaced, but even though Ago was the man of the world at that time, Pat Hennen sure left an indelible lifelong impression on me. He certainly is one hell of a guy.