For reasons most of us on the racing forum understand well, the name Ron Boulden brings out the worst in a couple of the posters here. Old sour grapes die hard, and grievances that could achieve nothing 30 years ago are still nurtured and kept alive. I was in at the beginning (nearly, as you will see) of Ron's career, and stayed close through the best years, as my many photographs show. I was by no means the only person in awe of his prodigious talent or his success. REVS Magazine, in August 1979, a few months after he had won the Unlimited Australian Grand Prix at Bathurst, published a long cover story on the rider, his family and his team. Nearly 30 years on it makes interesting reading. ALEXANDER the Great, it is said wept when he realised that he had conquered the entire known world, and there were no more territories left to subdue. He was at the time about 25 years old. Even allowing that in those times average life expectancy was closer to 40 than modern manâ€™s three-score years and ten, heâ€™d achieved an impressive amount for one so young. Ron Boulden isnâ€™t weeping, but he is conscious of an impending twentieth birthday. On the one hand it will take him finally out of the â€˜boy wonderâ€™ class (in the past season, anyway, a whole crop of new talent, younger than Ron, has taken over the whizz-kid mantle); on the other side of the coin, he has come a staggering distance for one still in his teens, to the point where the Alexandrian question â€˜what now?â€™ occasionally, if mildly, raises its head. Consider the record; current Australian 350 cm3 road-racing champion; fully-supported rider of the McCulloch of Australia TZ75O Yamaha; backed by Pepsi, Ansett Airlines, Castrol, AGV and Champion; a partner in a thriving motorcycle accessories business. With a whole slew of our top-liners sojourning in Europe this year, Ron is one of a handful making up the local Establishment. A situation highlighted by the numbers of new names which are springing into prominence. Granted, there are plenty of new territories to conquer, but already heâ€™s gone a long, long way. If the bare facts of the Boulden career to date have a single theme, it is that of spoilt, gifted youth. While still at school, he was bought exotic high-powered bikes by his parents; he began racing at an improbably early age and quickly had top-class machinery provided for him: heâ€™s been advised by the countryâ€™s most experienced competitors, his bikes fettled by the best tuners and developers, his interests represented by the best publicity managers; and spearheading the campaign all the way has been the forceful personality of his mother Moyna. These are facts. the dominant structure of the Boulden public image. Where the key to another personâ€™s image is often personal idiosyncrasies, with Ron itâ€™s rather things which have happened to and around him. But paradoxically, what appears to be camouflage turns out to be substance. To Ron Boulden, a fact is simply a fact, to be accepted for what it is, not muddled by probing for motivations behind it. In an age of illusion, he is a supreme realist. What in another would be painful introspection is simply clear-sighted self-awareness. Itâ€™s been said that we all play the game of putting on masks and acting out parts for the benefit of others: Ron is happiest playing himself, for itâ€™s a part in which heâ€™s obviously at ease. The easiness breeds confidence, and the ability to speak about himself without false modesty or affectation. A quick and keen mind lets him go straight to the heart of a matter, and as he warms to a subject the ideas come tumbling out, sometimes quicker than he can put them into words. The result can be a series of staccato sentences, each one cut off by the following one as a theme is developed at breakneck pace. Able to quickly grasp and memorise details, with a maturity which belies his age, and with a self-confessed love of the good things which money can bring, he has been as successful in business as in racing. A long-time association with Welbank Accessories - owned by Cameron and Judy MacMillan - recently blossomed when Ron became a partner in the firm. Welbank and the Boulden family have been tied up almost since the companyâ€™s inception in 1972. Cameron, previously a wool buyer, had started a mail-order concern, handling - among other things - motorcycle jackets and specialist bike books. This side of the business grew, and the MacMillans opened a retail shop in Lindfield, Sydney, with the emphasis on motorcycle equipment. Shortly after the opening they were visited by Moyna Boulden, who, in her forthright way said sheâ€™d come to â€˜check you out, and make you welcome to motorcyclingâ€™. At about this time, Ron had been bought his first machine, a minibike, and Moyna became a Welbank customer. Shortly after a shift to Willoughby, Cameron needed casual staff to help out at a stand at the Sydney Motor Show, and Moyna suggested her 13-year-old son. Further casual work followed, after school hours during 1974, and when at the end of the year he left school, Ron joined Welbank on a full-time basis. During 1975, the Bouldens were an integral part of the growing business, for Moyna also worked in the Willoughby shop. Already Ronâ€™s abilities in the job were evident, plus a keenness which has led to the present situation. Says Judy MacMillan: â€œHeâ€™s had only three days off in all the time heâ€™s worked for us. Once was after he broke and ankle in a race crash, once when he developed an allergy and his face became so swollen he could hardly see, and the third time was only recently, after he had crashed the TZ75O at Surfers Paradise. Even then, he turned up on the Monday afternoon despite having suffered concussion and being bruised all over.â€ Like a lot of youngsters, Ron graduated from a minibike to a small dirt machine, a CR125 Honda. Turning 15 in October 1974, he joined the Willoughby District Motorcycle Club, and acquired a Ducati 750 Sport. A series of fortuitous circumstances also saw him gain an Open Competition licence. Shortly thereafter, he gained a New South Wales road licence, the result of wide-eyed innocence on Ronâ€™s part and the fact that he already had an Auto Cycle Union competition licence. The Ducati was used extensively in practice sessions on the Amaroo Park circuit. It had been bought from Jack Ahearn, a veteran of several years successful racing on the Continent, and a man whom Ron regarded as the complete professional motorcycle racer. He asked Jack for advice with his embryo racing career, and under the watchful eye of the master it began to progress. In mid-1975, the Sport was replaced by another Ducati, a new 900SS, and Ronâ€™s reputation as a hot-shot youngster began to grow. But he was still largely unknown when his entry for the Castrol Six-Hour was accepted. His original co-rider was to be his friend Dave Laraghy, but Dave - figuring the Big One might be a bit out of his depth - was more than relieved when Rick Perry accepted the offer of a ride. Teamed with Perry (who had not long previously made a big impact on the local scene when he arrived from New Zealand,) Ron had more attention directed his way. A profile emerged of a super-young, remarkably quick rider (if very much an Amaroo specialist) who seemed to have top equipment supplied by his parents, and was helped in the pits at club days by his mother, a forceful personality in her own right. Ron agrees that on the evidence itâ€™s not surprising that he picked up a bit of a spoilt brat image at about this stage. â€œl guess I'm lucky that Iâ€™ve not had to scratch for anything. My parents have been wonderfully supportive in everything. Things have just happened to me, and I accept them as they come. But, in a way, I was never a young teenager in the normal sense. I was always treated as an adult, and left to make my own decisions. For instance, with drugs and alcohol my parents gave me the full story, all laid out in black and white. But then instead of putting a whole lot of restrictions down, which, like most kids, I guess Iâ€™d have been tempted to break, they told me the decision was mine, whether I got involved in those scenes or not. And so, by being treated like a responsible adult, I guess I learned better to act like one.â€ The personality which the surrounding events have blurred begins to take focus. The key to the Boulden career is not that he was so young when he started, but that his training and temperament gave him the advantages of someone far older. And further, by being eager to listen and learn, to take advice and use it, heâ€™s avoided the stumbling blocks many of us have to trip on before we finally wake up. The circumstances didnâ€™t mould the successful personality: the personality came first, and moulded the circumstances. Even that first Six-Hour had important lessons to teach. After weeks of practice round Amaroo, Ron and Dave could lap no quicker than 68 seconds. "Then Rick came along," he says, "and within no time he was taking the Ducati round under 62s. He was able to show me where I'd been going wrong, and pretty soon I was down to the same sort of times. For some reason, I seem to be affected by how everybody else is going. Like in practice before a meeting, if the others are slow (for whatever differing reasons), then Iâ€™m slow. If theyâ€™re quick, Iâ€™m quick.â€ The Ducati was the first retirement from the â€˜75 Six-Hour, after what promised to be a good race. Rick had been one of the fastest qualifiers, and Ron was in the top dozen as well. But, less than 20 laps into the event, Rick decked the bike at Hodgson's, breaking a foot-peg mount on the frame. It was brazed up, but soon after the weld broke. In the interests of safety, the team retired, without Ron having a chance to race. It was. he says, a good thing. For if they had placed well the questions regarding his age and eligibility may well have unleashed quite a storm! Early in 1976, Ron received a dream ride, on a Maxton-framed TZ35O Yamaha supplied by Jack Ahearn. Armed with this classy machinery, and mindful of the racing wisdom hammered home in Ahearnâ€™s no-nonsense manner, he cut a swathe through the C-grade ranks, being upped to B-grade in October. His stay there was equally brief, for by Bathurst 1977 he was an A-grader. The last promotion was a little dismaying, for a year previously he had been refused entry in the racing classes at Bathurst on the grounds of insufficient experience, although accepted for the Production race on the Ducati. In the heady days of 1976 aboard the quick Maxton-Yamaha, his desire to do as well as possible as soon as possible produced a couple of spills, and a short period of blaming outside factors when his performance was less than ideal. Critics who felt that Ron had been given too much, too soon, shook their heads wisely. But the period quickly passed as the blunt advice of Jack Ahearn sank home. â€œAs he pointed out, you can't expect to start and simply win every race straight off. Even the worldâ€™s best would be foolish to expect to win all the time. Jackâ€™s cardinal rule was to finish the event, to do as well as you could, but as importantly to be around for the next race. He pulled no punches: as heâ€™d seen in Europe so many times, there was no benefit in riding flat-out and doing well for a few meetings, only to end up dead or badly injured from trying too hard. And for a while I was tending to justify how Iâ€™d gone, blaming the bike or the track or a dozen other things for not winning.â€ â€œThen I took a look at Gregg Hansford: no matter what the conditions, or how he feels, or how the bikes going, Gregg simply gets out there and does his best. I realised that was the only attitude to have, and modelled my approach on his." Towards the end of the year, Ahearn provided Bon with a second bike, TZ250. His first goal (making B-grade) achieved, he set his sights on the next obvious target, A-grade. Even now, Ronâ€™s not one for working towards long-range goals. His habit of concentrating on the immediate task and staying alert for opportunity, has garnered him more success than those whose gaze is fixed so firmly on a distant dream that they miss an easy stepping-stone right at their feet. Certainly, he had no intimation that heâ€™d make A-grade so quickly (he was looking forward to doing well at Bathurst as a B-grader at his first â€œofficialâ€ ride on the Mountain), and beyond that had little thought of attempting the national titles. Consequently, when fellow B-grader Graeme McGregor asked if heâ€™d like to go to Tasmania for the opening championship round, he declined. McGregor won in Tasmania, and duly went on to take the 350 cm3 title for the season. Ron placed second to Graeme in the New South Wales round at Oran Park (his second meeting as an A-grader), putting himself third on the points table. Then followed a win and a lap record in South Australia, a second and a lap record in Victoria, and the realisation that had he gone to Tasmania heâ€™d probably be leading the points table. Even as it was, he looked a chance to overhaul McGregor and Vaughan Coburn with two rounds to run, but a seized motor in Queensland put paid to his chances, and he had to be content with a third overall in the 1977 Australian 350 cm3 Championship. Despite the disappointment of his plans for a clean sweep of the B-grade events being thwarted by his promotion, his A-Grade debut at Bathurst had been a good one, with fourth and sixth places in the 350 and 250 events. Bathurst â€˜78, on the other hand, was a bit of disaster; with an uncatchable lead in a streaming-wet 350 cm3 event, Ron pushed a little too hard and tossed the bike away. For the balance of the season, he made a comfortable job of the national 350 cm3 championship. With two firsts, a third, a fourth and two sixths from the six rounds he finished well clear of the rival 350 pilots. The year was not without its down spots though; in August Ronâ€™s father died, a heavy blow to the close-knit Boulden family. Although pressure of work had stopped him from being as active in the pits as his wife, Mr Boulden had been just as strongly behind his sonâ€™s racing career. The Six Hour was a disappointment, as Ron and Lee Roebuck struggled in fourteenth on an XS1100 Yamaha which was simply not quick. Even the national championship win was a little anti-climatic. The Victorian round, originally scheduled for July, was cancelled; initially it was thought that Septemberâ€™s Western Australian round would be the last (Victoria being dropped completely), and that Ron had the title. Then, in a late decision, the December Sandown meeting was given title status. There was a slim chance Ron could be pipped by Andrew Johnson (if he failed to finish and Johnson won). Consequently he rode to gather enough points to finally make sure of the crown. â€œl guess l was pretty jaded with the amount of racing Iâ€™d been doing. and all I wanted was to make sure of the championship. But I could have done a lot better than the sixth I got, and afterwards I was pretty disappointed in myself. And having picked up the title, I was feeling a bit flat, wondering what I would do next.â€ He didnâ€™t have long to wonder. McCulloch of Australia, who had supported him with parts during the season, offered him the berth on a TZ750F for a tilt at the â€˜79 Unlimited championship. His interest once more at full steam. Ron pitched into learning all he could about the Yamaha fours, their design and tuning quirks, and the riding style needed to handle the 90 kW power output. He was aware that the transition from 350 twin to 750 four is not always an easy one; many a good rider of a smaller bike has found himself going slower on a 750. Conscious of this, he was determined to go about adapting to the new bike the best way possible. To this end, he contracted Warren Willing to set up the bike, and coach him in tyre choices, tuning methods and riding styles. When the bike arrived, Warren and Ron spent several weeks at Oran Park dialling the bike - rider combination in. Slow at first, but as always attentive and quick to learn, Ron found the big Yamaha very much to his liking. The statistics tell how successfully he adapted. In a debut ride on the bike, he raced Rick Perry and the KR750 wheel-for-wheel in the Tasmanian title round, being pipped for first only on the final corner. Then, in what was without doubt the greatest Bathurst Grand Prix ever, he out-thought Graeme Crosby and John Woodley for a magnificent win. With only four meetings on the 750 behind him, Ron is already in the front rank of the countryâ€˜s big-bike exponents. â€œPersonally, I prefer the 750 to the 350,â€ he says. â€œOften on the smaller bike Iâ€™d get into a corner too deep and fast, have to back off a little, and the engine would drop off the power band. With the 750, you can make little errors like that, but itâ€™s simply a matter of turning up the wick again and the power is there. â€œOf course, you have to treat the big bikes with a lot more respect, because with so much power if you donâ€™t watch what youâ€™re doing it can take control. The 750s are very demanding: of money, attention to detail, choice of tyres, and the correct riding style. This is where I think a lot of riders who graduate up to a 750 go wrong. Fair enough, they find it a struggle to come to terms with the bike at first . . . so does everyone. But they keep plugging away, making the same mistakes, and not making a real planned effort to come to grips with it.â€ "Thatâ€™s why, when I knew I was getting the TZ750, I learnt all I could about the bikes, and why I had Warren Willing help me. Heâ€™s unreal, both on knowing how to ride a 750 and on how to set one up. Before he left for Europe, Warren had our bike set up perfectly, converted to Lectron carbs and so quick you wouldnâ€™t believe. But a lot of people jib at paying the $300 or so to have someone like Warren work on their machine. They seem to think theyâ€™re saving money by doing it the themselves, but itâ€™s false economy if the bike still isnâ€™t quick.â€ Ron has a firm belief that there is an easy way to achieve any goal, if youâ€™re prepared to look for it. As he sees it, hiring Warren Willing to prep the TZ750 was the smart way, the easy way. "Too many guys knock themselves out, scraping and struggling. I guess Iâ€™ve been lucky, because Iâ€™ve had a lot of help, but Iâ€™m sure you can do it without scratching.â€ â€œBeing successful at racing is just like running a business. You know, the money side has always been important to me as well. Itâ€™s no use being the worldâ€™s best motorcyclist if it means you end up broke.â€ â€œIâ€™ve made quite a lot out of racing, and I like that. I'd find it hard to give up. For instance, if McCullochs were to take back the 750, and Pepsi and my other sponsors were to drop their support, I could afford to buy a bike and race it myself. But I wouldnâ€™t; I'd probably just do a little production racing and wait until something else turned up.â€ â€œI couldnâ€™t see myself throwing everything away to go racing. l suppose itâ€™s because Iâ€™ve always had a practical streak in me. Whereas most fellows my age are spending most of what they earn as soon as they get it, and they only think about getting set up - buying a house say - when theyâ€™re 25, by that time I want to have a house, and a really good car, and some measure of financial independence. Iâ€™ve got my involvement with Welbank, and the racing; I really enjoy both, both make me money. I couldnâ€™t ask for more." And thatâ€™s the extent of Ronâ€™s long-range goals. Naturally, heâ€™d like a crack at a world title, but not if it means having to struggle from meeting to meeting on the Continent living out of a Transit van. â€œMy goals have always been short-range. When I was a C-grader, it was to make B-grade. Then A-grade, then a national title, then Bathurst. At the moment itâ€™s to win the Unlimited title and to get established in the business. Now weâ€™ve moved to the new shop at Artarmon thereâ€™s plenty of work. And perhaps at the end of the season, do a couple of races overseas. McCullochs have promised me a production YZB500 for 1980, and Iâ€™d like to continue riding the 750 as well.â€ Ron loves racing. riding fast, winning, and naturally enough has a highly developed competitive urge. But he admits that itâ€™s not the transcendental will-to-win that many champions have. â€œI know how good I am, and that there are quite a few riders who are better. But I still think you can win without going all-or-nothing at every race. To my mind, survival is the name of the game, and being too intense about it all can prove a drawback.â€ This easygoing side of his nature is also highlighted by his relationship with his mother, who capably manages both race-day pitwork and her sonâ€™s promotion. â€œI guess Iâ€™m lazy, letting mother do so much work on the bikes, but she wants to, and I must confess Iâ€™m not at my happiest up to my elbows in grease. I understand all the tuning theory, and could no doubt do the stripping and assembly well, but when I start a job on the bike she generally comes along and shoos me away. Itâ€™s always been that way. And she does a fantastic job. While she mightnâ€™t have the understanding of theory and development which Don Billinghurst has, sheâ€™s absolutely thorough and meticulous.â€ â€œWhen I take a bike out, I can be confident every little detail has been attended to. Itâ€™s funny. Weâ€™re very close, yet we fight like blazes. Weâ€™re always having shouting matches, and neither gives the other much credit for doing something well, says â€˜that was greatâ€™. Yet the blow-ups are over in a minute or two, and everythingâ€™s forgotten. We don't bear grudges and despite the fireworks weâ€™re very close. I think this has helped me in business too. I can have a disagreement with Cameron about some aspect of the shop, but it's settled in a few minutes and work goes on without ill feeling.â€ The third member of the disparate but complimentary trio which makes up the Boulden racing trio is Don Billinghurst who has been tuning for Ron for over a year. An aircraft engineer, originally from New Zealand, Don tends to remain in the background, but is articulate and interesting on the subject of two-stroke tuning. His grasp of the subject is evident from the sharp performance and wonderful reliability of the Boulden machinery during the past months. The high point for Ron, Moyna and Don came in the Unlimited GP at Bathurst this year. After twenty laps of once-in-a-lifetime dicing, Ron took the flag by a couple of lengths from Graeme Crosby on the Ross Hannan KR75O Kawasaki, with John Woodley on the Total Hunter RG500 Mk IV Suzuki a similar distance away third. But, up till then, the Easter weekend had been nothing but hassles for the team. The bike seized four times during practice, a problem which defied all attempts to solve it until Saturdays International event. To complicate matters, one of four brand-new Goodyear tyres had mysteriously blistered. Not willing to take a chance on the others. Ron switched to Dunlops which already had the Tasmanian title round behind them. The problems on Friday meant that Ron could only do one lap for qualifying times. Even then the motor nipped up at the end of the straight, and he coasted across the line. But the time was quick enough to get him near the front of the grid, proof that the bike was quick enough if the trouble could be traced. In an overnight rebuilding session the Lectron carbs were richened still further and an experimental tank breather removed. Either or both could have contributed to the problem, because the bike lasted Saturdayâ€™s event out. Ron had taken it cautiously in the early stages and finished third behind Crosby and Rob Phillis. He was much more confident at the start of the Unlimited GP, and was quickly involved in the battle for the lead with Crosby and Woodley. â€œThey were both riding so well, it was unbelievable. I couldnâ€™t match them through the Esses, particularly Woodley, who was riding the 500 superbly. But I knew I had the straight-line speed on both of them, and most laps I could lead Crosby across the finish line, although he could outbrake me into the next bend.â€ â€œIn the middle stages, I tried to clear out on them, but within a couple of laps theyâ€™d caught me again. That really shook me, but I remembered what Jack Ahearn had always said: â€œThink your race right throughâ€ So I concentrated on staying with them, aiming to pass Cros each time down the straight, and being second off the hill on the last lap. Warren had told me I could use an extra 250 rpm if I really had to, but only once or twice or the motor was likely to give. And I had to wait for the last lap, for the element of surprise. Had I jumped Crosby say two laps from the end Iâ€™m sure heâ€™d have worked out some way of getting past me again.â€ â€œJohn mucked up my plans for the last time onto the straight when he passed me at Forrest Elbow, with both brakes locked! It was a remarkable bit of riding, and it meant I was further back than I'd planned to be. I pushed the bike that extra 250 rpm, and for the first time in the race held the throttle flat over the last hump, which took a bit of nerve. And I think because I was further back at the beginning of the straight, Cros thought he had me into Murrays when I didnâ€™t pass him at the usual spot opposite the drive-in theatre. When I did pass him he was caught unawares and I was able to hang on to the line.â€ Each of the three deserved to win, but Ronâ€™s heady thinking race had tipped the balance. As he said later, â€œRemembering Jack Ahearnâ€™s advice was the critical factor.â€ You could say that what beat Crosby and Woodley at Bathurst was the Boulden Machine, an irresistible juggernaut of basic talent, parental support, big-money backing, expert advice and top-line development in which the least important factor was the guy actually riding the bike. That would be superficially correct but essentially wrong. In the beginning was Ron Boulden, a successful personalityand from that the good things followed. Not the other way round. His response to the unanswerable question, â€œWhat if your parents hadnâ€™t supported you, if you hadnâ€™t had all the help and advice, do you think youâ€™d have made a go of it?â€, is candid. â€œYes, Iâ€™m sure I would have. The opportunities are there, if you want to look for them. Of course, Iâ€™d probably now just be getting into A-grade, because it would have been tougher to get ahead.â€ And there we must disagree, however mildly. Even without the flying start, Ron would probably be right at the top, where he is today.