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Kemp revs on

Wednesday, 4th June, 2014

Rob Kemp is back in the saddle this weekend in Mildura. Rob Kemp is back in the saddle this weekend in Mildura.

By Brendon Gledhill

Broken Hill’s ace Speedway Sidecar rider Rob Kemp will continue his long involvement as a rider when he competes in the Wintersun Classic Speedway to be held at Olympic Park, Mildura over the Queen’s Birthday weekend.

A feast of speedway action will be available for visiting Ulysses Club members when they journey to Mildura for the annual “Ulysses - Mildura Wintersun Run”.

A regular Junior Winter series meeting will be held on Saturday, June 7, where Junior riders will compete and senior riders, of both Classic and modern era will practice.

The Wintersun Classic meeting will be held on Sunday, June 8, with both events to start at noon each day.

It is expected that in the eyes of some competitors the “classic” event will be a mini “World Championship”.

A teenage Robert Kemp, along with his brother Grant, started racing at Mildura’s Olympic Park speedway in the season of early or late 1969.

The guy, who was to become a stalwart and hero of the sport, first competed, for a couple of years, using a 600.cc Vincent “Comet”, which has since become the centre piece of a wonderful local “collectable”, once it was retired from its racing phase.

“Kempy” learned his craft under the watchful eye of fierce local competitors, Dudley Bradshaw, Keith “Curly” Carmes and “Darkie” Nemstas, all of whom were the regular top grade Sidecar riders at Mildura. 

These fellows competed hard, but were always willing to have another competitor to boost their numbers and grow the young sport in Mildura.

They, in turn often travelled to Broken Hill to grow the fledgling sport in the Silver City, saying: “That it was easier to drive three hours to Broken Hill for competition than it was to go to Adelaide or Melbourne,” which they still did, such was their dedication.

Kemp improved as a racer as he and Grant teamed together into a useful combination and about at that time, the new season started with Kemp graduating to his first Triumph outfit, a machine he purchased from Alan “Doughy” Visser. It was on this machine that the “Kemps” rode against the SA “immortals” Neil Munro and Len Bowes, who were both famous in Australian Sidecar Speedway history.

Kempy learned much from riding against class competitors and after a couple of seasons a new bike was being planned.

The great early Mildura combination of Robbie King/John Gates were stars of that era, as was Baden Millward/Mick Bourke and it was King’s father, Norm, who instigated Kempy purchasing an ex Len Bowes Triumph outfit, together with the approval of Broken Hill’s Sidecar master, “Spotty” Bourke.

This machine was to serve Kempy well over a few years and he enjoyed his racing, albeit that he “hated” any referee who excluded him for any action on the track. Thankfully, Rob’s hatred of any official only lasted until his blood pressure reduced and his next race was ready.

Rob was always known as a ferocious, but incredibly fair rider and he was always respected by fellow competitors. He enjoyed riding in State competition against the likes of Gary Treloar, Phil McCurtayne and Keith Sewell, while in Victoria riding against one of the greats, in four times Australian Champions, Andrew Cleave/Dave Power.

Rob built up a Ducati Sidecar for his continuing campaign and rode it with brother Grant.

Kempy continued to succeed in his riding and when Grant retired as his passenger he took on Mick Millstead, who immediately became a good and keen passenger, riding against Rob King/”Springa Leak” and the Gates’ brothers for many years and taking many wins over the time.

In about 1988, Rob celebrated the “bi-centenary” by switching to Suzuki power with a GS 750 machine. Mick stayed on board and together they rode at elite level, enjoying riding against locals, Wayne Bradshaw, John and Les Gates, the Zoch brothers, Murray and Alex and Rob Ferguson and doing some travelling to NSW Title events to race as well.

During that era too, with a change to the bigger GSX Suzuki, Rob was pleased to race regularly against Cleave and Power, as well as the O’Brien brothers from WA Glenn and Nathan, who were some of the sport’s very best as was Clarry Jones, Gary Moon, Col Winzar, Jim Mecharoff and the Germans from Shepparton, along with locals, Dave Curran/Evan Davies and the younger Bradshaws, Gates and Mayes.

Mick Millstead retired from swinging and Paul Crossingham took over for a couple of years to when Rob switched to the faster GSX-R Suzuki machine which lasted him until his final modern machine which was an RF 1000 Suzuki, which still sees some action to this day.

Rob was totally loyal to the Suzuki power plant, saying that they were always an “honest” engine and gave him reasonable reliability.

Young Brenton Dwyer took over as passenger to the end of Rob’s career, which had been long and well conducted. Dwyer is now putting into practice some of the skills which he learned from Rob Kemp, as he is now on the throttle of his own machine and is a regular at Olympic Park.

Rob Kemp rode in the very first Sidecar Spectacular in 1977, as well as having ridden in the forerunner of that famous event, as Mildura Club used to always run a massive Sidecar event on the Long weekend in March each year.

It was in 1977, that the club first called the regular Sidecar meeting the “Sidecar Spectacular” and from that day, the meeting has been on every Sidecar riders’ “Bucket list” of “must do” meetings.

It would be unknown how many trips the Kemps have done from Broken Hill to Mildura and return, but travel seems to not affect Rob as he and his wife Verity travel many miles a night to work as “table” Kangaroo shooters on properties to the north, east and west of the Silver City.

It is perhaps fitting that for the last couple of Sidecar Spectacular meetings that the club has invited our Classic machines as the support class. Rob Kemp is back riding again at the Sidecar Spectacular meeting, albeit that it is in a support role.

The sport is all the better for having Rob Kemp as a participant. He is a man of great integrity and while he may suffer a slight case of “white line fever” he has always competed with great honesty and care for his fellow riders. He has always been quick to jump at a small chance of an advantage, but his skill set has always been refined so that he knew just when to go and how far and fast to do it.

Thank you for some great speedway memories, wherever you have ridden Rob!

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