Review: WAYNE is a High-Octane Testament to Aussie Underdog’s Excellence

August 2, 2018

by Mitch Ziems


“He sprouted horns the moment he got on that grid.”

It sounds like the kind of comment you expect from an arch-rival, but this description of MotoGP legend Wayne Gardner comes from his mother. It’s a testament to Gardner’s palpable energy, his ruthless pursuit of excellence, and the exceptional courage he demonstrated on his journey to become Australia’s first Motorcycle World Champion.

Wayne, the feature documentary debut from director Jeremy Sims, captures the highs and lows of this journey in a way that is as thrilling as it is inspirational. That’s not just because of Gardner’s underdog status, but his career-long battle with imposter syndrome, fought on a world stage that had never seen his kind before.

Through interviews with friends, family, and other riders, a whole lot of photos, and the occasional manga-inspired animated sequence, Wayne follows Gardner from the junkyard where he bought his first bike for $5 (technically $2.50, as he went halves), to his incredible victory at Australia’s first Grand Prix. All of these aspects come together to form the image of a man who was sometimes cheeky, sometimes stubborn, but always dedicated. It’s this dedication that defines every one of Gardner’s achievements; the dedication to prove he was the best rider in the world to everyone – including himself.

Perhaps the most striking element of Sims’ presentation of Gardner is his complexity. Beloved for his “colonial” antics in the UK, where he would chuck wheelies while ascending hills for the enjoyment of the audience, he represented the Aussie larrikinism seen in popular media throughout the 70s and 80s. At the same time, he was breaking down social stereotypes by working with a sports psychologist who enabled him to approach races calmly, and more strategically. It was this balance that brought him so much success, and set a precedent for those who followed in his tyre prints.

Another important factor in Gardner’s success was his then-girlfriend, Donna-Lee Kahlbetzer. Donna was just 17 when she decided to join Gardner in the UK, but she quickly proved herself to be more than a romantic partner. Donna grounded him, kept him focused, and knew exactly what to say to give him the push he needed to win.

Sims makes a wise decision by giving her almost as much screen time as Gardner himself. The result is an emotional story of companionship that underpins the thrills of the track, and gives audiences greater understanding of just how Gardner made it through the extreme physical and mental challenges of his journey.

No matter how familiar viewers are with Gardner’s story, Wayne is a sturdy testament to a true Australian legend well worth watching. While the likes of Mick Doohan and Casey Stoner might have partially obscured what it meant for a boy from ‘The Gong’ to be named Motorcycle World Champion, nothing quite captures just how amazing it was than the comment made by his long-time adversary (and teammate), American Eddie Lawson:

“When he won, he got the key to the city. When I won, I got a parking ticket.”

Special screenings of Wayne will be held in August before the film releases in Australian cinemas on September 6th.

World Premiere:

Friday 3rd August 2018 at 6.30pm
Hoyts Melbourne Central, Melbourne Central Shopping Centre
Tickets available here

Q&A Screenings:


Sunday 5th August 2018 at 1.15pm
Hoyts Melbourne Central, Melbourne Central Shopping Centre
Tickets available here


Monday 6th August 2018 at 7.15pm
Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, 380 Military Road, Cremorne
Tickets available here


Tuesday 7th August 2018 at 6.30pm
Event Cinemas Wollongong, 68 Burelli Street, Wollongong
Tickets available here

Wayne opens nationally on September 6th.

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