Niall Mackenzie Column - May 2009

Niall remembers the good old days before Grands Prix became too professional when the riders used to seriously let off steam after a hard weekend’s racing...

Posted: 1 May 2009
by Niall Mackenzie

This winter my good friends at Knockhill invited me along to one of those sportsman’s lunches in down town Glasgow.

There is a always a charity element to these events but I suppose their main purpose is for the lads to have decent nosh served up by good-looking wenches, be entertained by the ex-sportsman speakers (ashamed to say I’d never heard of them), after which drinking too much beer can be practiced.

There was an ex-England rugby international who wasn’t really much better, however his scary pitbull looks meant everyone laughed really loud even when he wasn’t being that amusing. Thankfully, and to everyone’s relief, the last turn of the day was a lovely old boy from the world of cricket whose material and delivery totally eclipsed the efforts of the first two. Also in attendance were two of Scotland’s most famous goalkeepers, Alan Rough and Andy Goram. They were also recalling past moments from their careers but in particular Scotland’s participation in the World Cup.

Being a patriotic Scot, whenever Scotland makes it to the World Cup I’m in front of the telly, Tenants lager in hand, wearing a large Saltire over my Bay City Rollers tartan waistcoat (who would have thought Les McKeown was gay?) I digress. I always support my team to the end believing them getting knocked out is always down to bad luck and never their fault. Listening to Rough and Goram was undoubtedly funny but at the same time depressing, as according to them, through many of our campaigns most of the squad was permanently pissed or hung over.!

Anyway it got me thinking of some the big nights I’ve been involved back when riders actually hung around after races to celebrate or commiserate while guzzling whatever might be available.

Wayne Gardner’s camper hosted many of these gatherings, mainly because he was a party monster but also because his Swan Lager sponsorship meant gallons of the stuff was on tap. I remember on one occasion we moved on to the motorhome of Wayne’s great rival Eddie Lawson, which somehow got wallpapered with Parma ham and then had to be re-upholstered before the next GP.

For a time, German 125 rider, Stefan Prien was also well liked on a Sunday night as he was sponsored by Lanson champagne, however when his deal dried up so did the majority of his Sunday night friends. His fellow countryman Ralf Waldmann was sponsored by Muller yogurt and although he wasn’t part of the Sunday night brigade, his rice and fruit corners went down a treat at breakfast the next morning.

At times the post race 500GP parties could get as scary as the bikes themselves as later in the evening strange substances like Sambucca, Baileys and Kahlua appeared after the beer and champagne ran out. I’ve witnessed Wayne Rainey bouncing on, then disappearing through wheelie bin lids, Randy Mamola with two live trout (from the restaurant tank) down his shirt and

Mick Doohan half naked staggering around fag in mouth. And that’s just some of the stuff I can mention.

I was a bad as anyone and have trashed the odd car and even visited an Italian cell dressed as a transvestite (don’t ask). Okay, so we probably partied as hard as any of the footballers but never before an event as letting down your team or supporters was not an option. Once we passed that chequered flag, chucked the leathers off and the lights went down, it was like the Eagles said…’we may lose or we may win but we may never be here again’. Ah, happy days!



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