SHORT TAKE

New Zealand Listener - - BOOKS & CULTURE - di­rected by Jeremy Sims

Wayne Gard­ner’s story truly is rags to riches. Or, per­haps we should say wrecks to riches. A young work­ing-class lar­rikin from Wol­lon­gong, he “went halves on a five-dol­lar mo­tor­cy­cle” from a lo­cal junk­yard, and by his twen­ties was in Europe rac­ing bikes for top teams. It’s an un­likely tra­jec­tory: from New South Wales to glit­ter­ing Monte Carlo.

De­spite not hav­ing the most in­spir­ing ti­tle, Wayne is a doc­u­men­tary full of brash­ness, brio and old-fash­ioned An­tipodean grit. It tracks his ca­reer from his hot-headed early days when he “pisses peo­ple off de­lib­er­ately”, to 1987 when “the Wol­lon­gong Whiz” claimed the 500cc Mo­tor­cy­cle World Cham­pi­onship, and cul­mi­nates in his tri­umphal home­com­ing vic­tory in 1989, se­cur­ing his sta­tus as a lo­cal hero.

We get the usual talk­ing-head in­ter­views and much ar­chive race footage – the flick­er­ing and grainy vi­su­als of the era pro­vid­ing the same kind of nos­tal­gic thrill that pow­ered Senna, still the high-water mark for mo­tor­sport doc­u­men­taries.

Through­out, a cu­ri­ous sub­plot emerges of Gard­ner’s bond with long­time part­ner (now ex-wife) Donna Forbes. At first, she seems to be to­tally de­voted to the racer, a mere cheer­leader, un­til, at one point, at the peak of his suc­cess, she tells Gard­ner to pull his head in. He can only re­ply, “Yes boss!” Their re­la­tion­ship turns out to be one of the most en­dear­ing parts of this re­bel­lious bi­og­ra­phy.

IN CIN­E­MAS NOW

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