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Bad Boy No.9: Anthony Gobert

First seen tearing a Kawasaki round WSB rounds, now seen struggling to hold down a job in Subway

Seven-times AMA Superbike champion and Ben Spies-beater Mat Mladin once  said of Anthony Gobert that he was the most naturally talented rider ever to throw a leg over a motorcycle. But the thrill of racing a factory Suzuki in 500cc Grands Prix, or of winning World Superbike races on factory Kawasakis and Bimotas, was never enough to content the wayward Australian.

Riding as a wild card at the 1994 WSB round at Phillip Island, Gobert stunned the series regulars by setting pole position and taking a win and a third place. His incredible performance put the then 19-year-old on every team’s wish list and he eventually opted to replace Scott Russell in the factory Kawasaki squad. He won two races 1995 and a further three in ’96 before moving to 500cc Grands Prix on a factory RGV Suzuki.

Gobert caused an immediate sensation in the world’s premier racing class straight away by flipping a middle finger at world champion Mick Doohan on track during pre-season testing and branding him a ‘loser.’ But he caused an even bigger sensation when he was sacked from the dream job mid-season for failing a drugs test. He tested positive for marijuana.

Gobert found a new home in America riding a Ducati in the AMA Superbike Championship and again won a WSB race riding as a wild card at Laguna Seca, but was sacked again after once more testing positive for marijuana.

Still clearly a very fast rider, Gobert’s performances in the States earned him a second chance in WSB, this time with Bimota, and he took a glorious and unexpected win in damp conditions for the underdog team at Phillip Island. When the squad later folded due to lack of funds, Gobert began a merry-go-round of appearances on various machinery including  a stint on Kenny Robert’s KR3 Modenas in GPs, and the Virgin Yamaha R1 in British Superbikes.

He then rode once again in AMA, went back to his roots in the Australian Superbike Championship, and even turned up in the World Supersport Championship for a few rounds in 2006 as a replacement for David Checa, as well as racing in the Spanish championship for a period.

Gobert’s lifestyle off-track was as unpredictable and unsettled as that on it. He turned up at one race looking seriously overweight and sporting dyed black hair and Elvis-style sideburns and shades. When asked about his appearance he said without fuss, “I want to see how fat I can get and still win races.”

In 2006, Gobert admitted to a court in Camden, Australia, that he was a heroin addict. He blamed his addiction on the stress caused by a string of recent traffic arrests that resulted in him losing his licence for four years. He was appearing in court in Camden after being caught speeding and driving without a licence and admitted he was trying to score heroin at the time of the offences.

“When I got the sack from Erion Honda (US Superbike team) for driving under the influence, I went back to Australia and I just partied pretty hard for about six to eight months,” Gobert admitted. “I hated the world, hated everybody, and I hated myself the most. It just got to the point one day, I just kinda thought about it and I realized that I was just smashing myself up. I realized that I gotta put everything into racing and try and succeed. It’s a constant battle, and at the end of the day, I am only human, with normal human problems just like anybody else.”

Former 500cc world champion, Wayne Gardner, lambasted his fellow countryman in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2006 and was quoted as saying “Gobert is probably the most naturally talented rider I’ve ever seen, but a huge disappointment for the way he’s squandered his talent and opportunities. That guy will never learn. He’s had a thousand warnings and he’s still doing the silly stuff. He’s a sad case. He’s a disgrace to the sport.”

Gobert’s troubles continued. In May, 2008, he was charged with stealing two $20 notes from the hand of a 70-year-old man who was paying for groceries in a supermarket in Surfers’ Paradise, close to the track where Gobert had made such a name for himself 14 years before. The following day, the unemployed Gobert was arrested again in the same area, this time for stealing a purse from a 31-year-old woman.
During the bail hearing, Magistrate Michael Hogan said, “This alleged two day crime rampage, to use an inappropriate phrase, involved snatching $40 from a 70-year-old man and a purse from a woman. It is totally appalling behaviour.”

To add to the former star’s shame, he admitted to the court that he had tried, and failed, to secure a job making sandwiches at a local branch of Subway. He was reprimanded for interrupting the judge and calling him ‘mate’ and when reporters confronted him outside the court he said, “How am I looking mate? Pretty? I don’t know why you’re here... it’s all a crock of shit.” He was not looking pretty, nor was it a pretty episode. He was fined $600 and given 300 hours community service.

Gobert has remained out of the public eye since his bail hearing in 2008 and at 35-years-old, he’s unlikely to get another chance at racing, at least in a major team or series. As the man accurately and candidly said of himself earlier in his on/off relationship with motorcycle racing, “They reckon a cat has nine lives and I think I must be up to about number 10 in my career so far.”  That career is long over.