Wayne Gardner wins World GP Bike Legends opener

Yesterday saw the first racing action of the inaugural World GP Bike Legends festival at Jerez, and it was 1987 500cc champion Wayne Gardner who took victory.

Gardner was able to get the better of Didier de Radiguès and Kevin Schwantz, who was riding the same 1994 XR84 machine that he rode as world champion, to the chequered flag in the first 500cc Legends race of the weekend.

On the victory, Gardner said: “Wow! Winning feels as good as ever, but just to be out there riding with all these guys is amazing. It’s a dream come true really, I’ve been involved from very early on in this project and it’s so good to see people here meeting their heroes and watching these amazing bikes again.”

Third-place man Schwantz added: “It was fun! I got a really good start and I saw Freddie’s bike choked a little but coming off the line so I felt like I had a good opportunity to push right away, got into the first turn and then everybody was right on me. It turned out to be a fun race – I’m not sure we were riding at world championship level, we were at a level we were all comfortable with and could have fun passing each other.

“I didn’t win which normally changes my attitude quite a bit, but you can’t win them all! I love racing here – I think we see that the Spanish fans appreciate 100 per cent effort all the time which is what I used to give when I was racing.”

Behind the podium finishers there was a great battle going on for fourth place between pole-sitter, Christian Sarron, Niggi Schmassmann and the 1985 250cc and 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer.

The American eventually had to settle for sixth place on his Yamaha OW48R machine, but was still full of excitement and joy about the racing action that had just taken place.

He said: “It was good fun! What was great was that we were running a good pace, and the bikes ran ok. Getting that first race going was such a historic thing and I think years from now we’ll be looking back and realise how cool it was. I think the fans enjoyed it, and we enjoyed it.

“The laps went by really quick, but for us all to finish really close was great. Everybody’s worked so hard over the past year to put this together, so it’s been a privilege for all of us riders and for the fans – and we’ve got two more races tomorrow to look forward to!”

Britain’s Steve Parrish finished in ninth place on his Suzuki XR34, with ‘The Prince of Speed’, Phil Read, finishing the race 11th on his Suzuki Mk1RG.

There will be plenty more racing action today at Jerez with another 11 races scheduled to take place, including two more 500cc Legends races, two 250/350cc Legends races and also the supporting International Classic Grand Prix events.