Reviewed by Richard Tutin
The word “Immortal” is an interesting one. It is used to describe those who might live forever. They inhabit folk stories and, in modern times, action movies. It is also used to describe those who have excelled in a particular field. Various sports, for example, have honoured those whom they regard as great participants and contributors as immortals. So, we have immortals of Cricket, Rugby League, Soccer, Motor Racing and in this volume by Darryl Flack, Australian Motorcycle Racing.
Before he embarks on the task of telling the stories of those whom he and his team regard as Australian motorcycle racing’s immortals, Flack in his introductory chapter discusses the criteria that was used to determine who could be considered as an immortal and why they were included in the book.
Many are of course household names. Wayne Gardiner, Toby Price, Troy Bayliss and Casey Stoner spring to mind and have their own dedicated chapter. Others such as Keith Campbell, Tome Phillis and Kel Carruthers are also included for they made their mark in the early years of Australian motorcycle racing and were household names in their time.
As well as strutting the Australian stage, these champions also hit the world stage. In the early years they raced on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom which is still regarded as one of the most dangerous circuits in the world. They also raced on the circuits of Europe including Hockenheim and Moulins. Daytona in the United States also figured prominently on their schedules.
In Australia they raced at Phillip Island and Mt Panorama at Bathurst and on small country circuits such as Lowood in Queensland and Mt Druitt in New South Wales. As they raced, they built up both their skills and reputations.
Flack, in telling their stories, reminds us that these champions, as they earned their stripes, also had to be their own mechanics, timekeepers and business managers. They were in it for the love of racing for, as the stories show, there wasn’t much money to be made until the later years when bigger prizes and sponsorships began to be more regular.
Like many sporting compendiums The Immortals of Australian Motorcycle Racing is the type of book that can be easily put down and pick up as needed. The photos that enhance each chapter will be of interest to anyone who enjoys the sport. The book is clear, concise and well presented.
Towards the end, Flack also includes the names and a brief outline of those who made their mark in motorcycle racing but, unlike the immortals, did not win world championships. He terms their efforts as the Honourable Mentions.
What’s a motorcycle racing immortal? For Flack it is those whose efforts and tenacious characters, along with their perseverance, have led them to the top of the field. They are the champions of champions whose names will and are long remembered. Their contribution to the sport they love will live on as their stories continue to be told in the years to come.
After graduating with a business degree and working in marketing roles, Darryl Flack followed his passions for writing and motorcycles when he became the Sydney editor at Australian Motorcycle News in 1990. He has freelanced for Two Wheels, REVS, Cycle Torque and Britain’s Motorcycle News and US weekly Cycle News.
The Immortals of Australian Motorcycle Racing: The World Champs
by Darryl Flack
Gelding Street Press
ISBN: 978 064520 705 7