A Bill Meyer Photo
Story by PETER WHITE ( written in 1970 ) Thank you Peter, to the late Des Lawrence's widow Mrs.Rita Lawrence, Jim Shepherd, Bill Meyer and Geoff Davis ( photos).
Date was December 16, 1962 - a Sunday which, as colleague Dave Booth recalled, " will live in our memory forever".
"Horse" replaced John Hook in a handicap heat and defeated Randy Brighton and Warren Hawkins in a very reasonable time. A first up win - a rarity in itself - and how well I remember standing on the inside with Des Lawrence watching Gordon slide around, a grin from ear to ear and so at ease that he actually let go the handlebars on the bottom corner each lap to give us the thumbs up sign ! Try doing that while holding down a slide on a speedway bike and see how you fare !.
So fast was his climb that four months later he was off 120 yards, spotting Airey a neat 50 yards in handicap events. Only Jim ( in the handicaps ) and the "Master of Kembla" , Bob Sharp, could contain the gangling, spectacular youngster who held the one and four lap records and was the overnight rage of Australian Speedway.
Exactly a year later after he started he was sole backmarker on 150 yards. Sharp was from 130, Airey from 90.
In Gordon's first start from the mark, Bob Jameson fell entering the bottom corner and Gordy executed a glorious throwdown, but on the slick track he hardly slowed at all and slid into Bob's bike, tumbling up and over it.
GG's hand was severely lacerated when caught in the chain and he also damaged a leg. His first speedway injury and one that curtailed what might have been a successful assault on the 1964 Australian Championship at the Sydney Showground.
His record at the Royale was just as impressive - 5 wins, a third , two engine failures and two falls from 10 scratch race starts.
Then came the highspot of his life when he and Airey, longtime racing pals, were offered a two year contract to ride in England for promoter Mike Parker. Bob Sharp had helped with the negotiations and in February they sailed aboard the "Canberra". Their first team was Sunderland, in the far North of England, competing in the old Provincial League.
This Sunderland Team photo shows Gordon fourth from right and Jim Airey third from left. This was the first team the boys joined upon their arrival in England. They later moved to Wolverhampton before Gordon signed for Poole and Jim with Sheffield.
Both Gordon and Jim took some time to settle down but when they found their feet, scores started to come freely. The they transferred to Wolverhampton, in the Midlands, after Sunderland went bust.
In 1965 the British League was formed and Gordon had more than held his own with the tougher competition. He averaged seven points a meeting, plus a big swag of bonus points and missed out qualifying for the World Final by one point. In a run off for reserve spot he was beaten by Mike Broadbank. Jim Airey later emulated this feat in 1967.
During the 1964 - 65 British winter Gordon married Elaine Manshover and worked at his trade as a signwriter.
He returned to Australia at the end of the 1966 season and stayed for a fraction over two years, during which time he raced with exceptional success at most major Australian circuits. One of his most noticable achievements was persuading Liverpool Promoter Frank Oliveri to book the Solos to race at the track.
Gordon and Frank were close personal friends and the local lad quickly became a hero at the track.
He saw off the best, including World Champ Ivan Mauger and established such a reputation that he cabled terms to return to England in 1969 for the Poole Pirates. It is now history that the team won the league last year ( 1969 ) thanks largely to a vital points contribution by our "Horse". During the off season Poole travelled to Poland where they engaged in a series of matches. as a further indication of Gordon's brilliance he was top scorer for his team and, on occasions, really routed the tenacious Poles on their own tracks.
Gordon ( right ) and Johnny Dodds do a little Skid Kid practising after school. GG started in the Skid Kid trials after persuading Des Lawrence to fit a rack to his car so he could take the bike to various speedway meetings.
Gordon, Helmut Schippl and Multi Word Champ Ivan Mauger.
1970 saw a more subdued Guasco and on November 1, together with wife Elaine and daughter Joely- Ann, he returned to Sydney to again spend the summer racing at Liverpool.
His presence was to be one of the highlights of the season.
Tragically, fate has decreed otherwise and now a nation mourns as we pay Tribute to Gordon Guasco - a brilliant motorcyclist and one of nature's finest gentlemen.
( Gordon lost his life at the Liverpool track on the 8th of November 1970.)
Gordon Peter Guasco was a man born to race on two wheels.
So great was his impact that he was renowned not only as a top Australian Speedway rider but also a star of short circuit, scrambling, road racing - in fact all forms of motorcycle racing. Only occasionally men of such great natural ability light the scene so brilliantly.
A man who could vertiably work magic with a throttle in his hand and his legs straddling that awkward beast, the motorcycle. Apart from his family, bikes were the great love of his life. To race them was HIS forte. To win was an art at which he excelled. No praise can be too high for his ability. No matter the machine, the track or the competition, he was the bloke to beat. As a rider who relied largely on balance, falls were part of his repertoire. Nothing, however, daunted his spirit, his will to race and win.
He was truly the local lad made good.
A fine action shot depicts Gordon churning up the dirt on hid short circuit BSA at the Vineyards.
Tired but happy, the placegetters in the National Short Circuit Championships at Victor Harbour, South Australia pose for the camera man. Gordon ( third from left) and Jim Airey alonside, reflect the thrill of the big occasion. Gordon won the National Unlimited Championship from Jim with D. Basham third.
The name Guasco is of Italian origin, his dad having emigrated from the North of Italy as a youngster. But Gordy was as Australian as Kangaroos and Boomerangs.
His early years were spent " in the bush " at Horsley Park, now considered a Sydney suburb. " Smut", as he was then nicknamed, amused himself watching short circuit racing at the old Winstanes track ( near Horsley) and had as a near neighbour present day ( in 1970) speedcar star, Len Brock. Gordon attended Liverpool Boys' High School but left at the age of 14 to enter an apprenticeship with Fairfield signwriter Des Lawrence.
While at school Gordon continually pestered Des for a job. The young 'un had a flair for drawing and painting and set his sights firmly on a career in signwriting.
The Guasco family had moved to Fairfield shortly beforehand and Lawrence, unable to resist such enthusiasm, took the nipper under his wing and so began an association that was to culminate in Guasco's fame on the world's Speedways. Guasco stayed with Des for eight years and to this day (1970) is the only employee Lawrence has had.
Lawrence also a well - known photographer on the Speedway scene, was at that time doing the rounds at the Parramatta ( Cumberland Oval ), Windsor and Mt Druitt tracks. Gordon accompanied him everywhere and thus obtained his baptism in the sport. Many people's most vivid memories are of young Gordon hawking Des's photos around the circuits. In fact he was probably as well- known for that as he was latterly for his own track prowess.
Three of the 1960s brightest stars - l to r.
Greg Kentwell - Jim Airey - Gordon Guasco
pose for the camera at the Sydney Showground Speedway - The Royale.
A Bill Meyer photo.
Of course, the kid came in constant contact with the competitors, knew most of them personally and, naturally, longed to race himself. He built up a Skid Kid bike which he badgered Lawrence into taking to Cumberland Oval on the ladder rack of the car. There he broadsided to his heart's content, intent on emulating the deeds of his idols.
Eventually he attained racing age and, under pressure from Australian Short Circuit champion, Keith Davies, purchased a bike to race in that sphere. Gordon joined his local motorcycle club, Fairfield, to start a long and successful association. He became friendly with other budding cyclists Jim Airey, Len Atlee and John Dodds and a strong comradeship formed.
Now a racer, GG had to adopt an emblem or colour to wear. Lawrence suggested that due to his initials, he should distinguish himself with a horse.
And so began a new nickname which was to stick right through his career. "Horse" showed tremendous natural ability from the outset and tore into the opposition on the shorts circuits with no mercy.
His talent was plain; here was a motorcycle rider who was headed for the top in a very short time.. Unfortunately controversy surrounded his first championship win and it eventually turned out to be no win at all !
Guasco annexed the NSW "C" grade championship at Muswellbrook but a re run was ordered and Gordon declined to take part, thus a second result was posted with Jim Wyman the winner. Fairfield club protested and the matter went on for some 18 months before finally being turned down. Gordon never had a chance to regain that title as he moved up to "B" grade soon after and, only a couple of meetings later again, assumed "A" grade status. A meteoric rise indeed.
On September 30, 1962 at the age of 21, "Horse" won the State Senior Champoinship at Boxers Creek, Goulburn, beating the Australian champion Dave O'Brien, Wyman, Airey, Davies and Dodds. On November 10, 1962, he had the finest meeting of his career when he travelled to Encounter Bay, South Australia for the National titles.
Junior Solo ( 251- 350cc) result was: Airey, O'Brien, Guasco. In the Senior Solo ( 351 - 500cc) Gordon was leading when his clutch flew to pieces on the last corner and he coasted over the line second to O'Brien.
The Unlimited Powers, however, saw a brilliant Guasco stave off all opposition on his mighty little 350 cc machine. With his larger capacity bike out of action, he faced 1000cc Vincents and the like on a far under powered machine. 350s in those days were no where near as fast as the current bikes of that capacity either.
Gordon would be passed on the straights only to make up ground again with sheer skill on the corners. Airey followed him home for second with D.Basham third. That was GG's last meeting on a short circuit.
Between times he had been dabbling in scrambling and road racing with much success but it was Speedway that attracted him next.
Gordon bought an old, beat up Velocette - JAP and after a couple of sensational practise runs along Granville Street where he lived ( !! ) he turned up at Kembla Grange Speedway.
The rest is history.
Gordon runs the pole line on Ivan Mauger at Liverpool.
GG goes Road Racing style at Mount Panorama, Bathurst.
Meeting No. 21 at Liverpool in 1970 saw the running of the
GORDON GUASCO SOLO LAURELS CLASSIC
Riders appearing on this programme included:
Trevor Harding from WA.
Ole Olsen from Denmark
Sandor Levai of Hungary
Howard Cole of England
Gordon's family were present and promoter Frank Oliveri said in the programme that many of the riders had given up their only chance of qualifying for a start in the national championship series at the Sydney Showground in favour of riding to assist the dependants of a close friend, and he thanked them sincerely.
The Gordon Guasco Laurels 1979
Ist Dave Mills, 2nd, Allan Jones and 3rd. Ray Palmer.
Photo courtesy of Steve Magro Collection, thanks Steve.