THE Gates family have done a lot for the Mildura Motorcycle Club and sidecars here in Sunraysia.
But when I sat down with Leslie Gates, his son Byren, Byren’s son and Leslie’s grandson Kayden and Leslie’s nephew Brock, son of the late John Gates, it was clear that the sport had also provided them with lifelong memories.
This weekend the Motorcycle Club will host the Gates Sidecar Cup.
Although the event has been held before, this one will have extra special meaning as it acknowledges the contribution particularly made by John Gates, who passed away late last year.
John’s twin brother, Leslie, is quick to state the family became involved with sidecars because of John.
John was a former club president, but as I established over the next half an hour while chatting with the family, that was only the very beginning of what he did for the club.
Essential tasks aside, Leslie and John also combined to make a formidable duo on the track, as Leslie recalled the instance he got the call up from John to jump on the back of the bike.
The call came one Saturday, after Leslie, who was a truck driver at the time had just gotten back to Sunraysia, and the next night he found himself swinging off the back of the sidecar, driven by the experienced and talented driver in John.
It was the start of a five year partnership, a pairing that seen them, incredibly, win five club championships.
As Leslie recalls modestly, John had great skills, but something tells me Leslie is to credit as well.
John went on to win another five club championships after this, cementing his name as one of the best in the sport locally.
Growing up seeing his Dad and Uncle John race sidecars, it was almost a natural progression for Byren to find his way into the sport.
And as a 13 year old, 37 years ago now, Byren made his debut in juniors.
He’s won a Victorian Title since then (in 2005 with Dean Keeble) and been World Number Four and there’s an impressive story behind that achievement too.
Racing at Murray Bridge, Byren shouldn’t have even been racing that final back in 2011, coming from second reserve with his rider Devon Gates.
That event is just one of the memories Byren will carry with him forever.
There’s no doubt tomorrow night’s meeting will also be one to remember for Byren, as only the third time he has competed in the event named in honour of his family.
Bike trouble has prevented him from taking part in other instances.
Tomorrow night he will pair up with Eli Bock, with the pair only having a practice under their belt together.
At 50, Byren said he has a good few years left in him yet.
Byren’s son, Kayden, who was runners up in the Junior National Title with his rider Harley Ackerley last season, is only a couple of years off riding in seniors, and with a cheeky grin Byren indicates that is what he is waiting for – to race against his son. Kayden welcomes the challenge, boldly stating he has the win in the bag.
And then there is John’s son, Brock, who listened to Leslie and Byren discussing his Dad’s achievements and contribution intently, adding to the conversation when needed.
Brock, at 32, two years ago, was awarded life membership at the Mildura Motorcycle Club, highlighting the contribution he himself has made to the sport.
Although Brock doesn’t currently race, he’s dabbled in both sidecar and solo racing, but has found the “dirt track stuff” more to his liking.
Brock was raised track-side, with bikes almost in his blood.
He fondly recalls accompanying his Dad down to the club each Wednesday night for practice as a child, and said one of his favorite memories of his Dad is watching him race at Olympic Park.
Hearing the banter between the four, the memories and stories shared, there is one thing that is for sure: This Gates Sidecar Cup might now be acknowledged without the presence of John, but his legacy and passion lives on within his family.
– ZOEY ANDREWS
Kayden, Byren, Leslie and Brock Gates.