The brightest young Aussie prospect ever survived hideous injury to nurture the careers of others
Kevin Magee had the mark of greatness on him, everyone in the late 80s could see it. After a good but not startling career in Australia, and some staggering early wild card GP experiences in 1987, Magee started his real GP career alongside Wayne Rainey in a factory Yamaha 500 team operated by Kenny Roberts.
Nowadays 'Magoo', as he is affectionately known down under, is the expert TV commentator on Australian TV, a part-time magazine road tester, an instructor for an Aussie race school and trains young kids to go faster for Motorcycling Australia, their national federation. So he's pretty busy for a guy who was once reported by one American newspaper to have died on an operating table in the vicinity of Laguna Seca on April 8 1990.
Magee's entire GP career proved to be one of intense competition and frequent misfortune and injury, leading to eventual enforced retirement. The best moments were pretty stratospheric. "Winning a GP in Spain was the high point, but when I turned up in Europe for the first time in 1987 things changed," says Magee. "At only my second ever GP, at Assen, I qualified second."
Being drafted into Kenny Roberts' Lucky Strike Yamaha squad in 1988 looked like a dream for the young Kevin, but it seemed clear to outsiders that he was not regarded as quite on the same level as Roberts' protégé Wayne Rainey.
The start of the reversal of Magee's career came in 1989, at the place where it would be effectively ended a year later - Laguna Seca in America. Local rider Bubba Shobert's racing days were ended when he ran into the rear of Magee's bike as the frustrated Aussie stopped off line to do a burnout, furious that his machine had started to run out of fuel on the last lap. A year later, riding a Suzuki, Magee had a sickening fall which saw his head slam into the track, causing internal bleeding and a blood clot, necessitating major surgery.
It took about a year to recover back to something approaching his old self; longer to get back fully into fighting shape, but head injuries like Magee's always leave a psychological and blotchy neurological scar. But Kev's mixture of laid back intensity and straight-up sense of humour shines through. "Recuperation? You reckon I'm recuperated? Then you're easily fooled!"
But Magee the racer still had some high points left in him. He competed in America, Japan, back in Aus, won some SBK races, and then reached a crossroads when his riding days petered out.
Magee's commentary job came the same way as his GP career started, hard and fast. "I heard of a job going at Channel Ten but 'Ace' - this bloke with better credentials than me called Barry Sheene - got that. Then a job came up with Fox Sports and I rolled in there."
Magee still enjoys his bikes, teaching track days and joining the press pack. "I've road tested for Two Wheels (Australian bike mag) for the last couple of years. I'm also a Level One coach for Motorcycling Australia, and one of the directors on the board - which means that you get blamed for everything that people don't like!"
At heart, it's a case of once a racer, always a racer for guys like Kevin, as he quips about what long-term goals he should add to what is a self-declared happy existence. "I was brought up riding four-strokes so my ambition is to go back in time and be born 10 years later. Everybody's racing four-stokes now!"
Posted: 06/01/2011 at 05:13
Was watching the classic races that Eurosport ran over Christmas. Totally forgot about Kevin Magee. Was up at the front giving the superstars a run for their money.
Posted: 07/01/2011 at 10:13
Kev, What an Ausie legend and still an all round nice guy. Great TV commentator, GP rider and the widest smile that would brighten anyone's day!
Posted: 12/01/2011 at 11:04
Posted: 19/07/2011 at 23:54
I saw Kevin Magee ride a Ducati at a race meeting here in Adelaide before he went over to Europe. It was so long ago I cannot tell you when it was. He won of course.
I cannot remember if his injury was down to inadequate run off area or what but it curtailed a great rider.
The best thing, about motorcycle racing, to change in the past 45 years, has been the change to circuits with big run off areas filled with gravel or whatever.
The circuit he raced on here [AIR] has not hosted bike racing in about 20 years and thats a good idea as it is dangerous and cannot be improved for bikes.
I would rather watch live racing from Silverstone on TV, and know that a broken collar bone or so is about the worst that will happen, than go to a local inadequate track and ....well, frankly, watch riders get seriously injured and occasionally even killed.
Kevin Magee commentates on the local TV when the international racing is on and he is always up to speed and knowledgeable and appears to know people and teams.
We are "light on" for decent tarmac circuits but we seem to produce a lot of good riders because we have a lot of riders who can spend 16 hours per weekend from age 6 riding on dirt and just learning to go fast.
Posted: 20/07/2011 at 02:24
Posted: 24/07/2011 at 00:33
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