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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hansford, Gregory John (Gregg) (1952–1995)

by Jonathan Richards

This article was published online in 2020

Gregory (Gregg) John Hansford (1952–1995), motorcycle and touring-car racer, was born on 8 April 1952 in East Brisbane, third of four children and only son of Queensland-born parents Henry George Hansford (1910–1967), business proprietor, and his second wife Mona Edna, née Moles, a trained dressmaker and former shopkeeper. Harry had played rugby union for Queensland. He owned Players Sportswear, founded by his first wife Dorothy Lily ‘Dos’ Hansford, née Drouyn (1903–1942), a notable athlete who had represented the State in hockey and baseball. Greg attended Milton State (1958–60), Church of England Grammar (1961–67), and Brisbane State High (1967–69) schools. He later changed the spelling of his name to Gregg and was sometimes known as `Harry’, after his father. With financial help from his mother, he began competitive motorcycle-riding on dirt tracks and then motocross, before turning to road-racing in the early 1970s.

Hansford’s first major achievement was a close second to Warren Willing in the 1974 Unlimited Grand Prix at Bathurst, New South Wales. In 1975 he and his co-rider, Murray Sayle, won the Six Hour Production Bike Race at Amaroo Park, Annangrove, despite Hansford’s having announced earlier in the year that he was ‘finished with production racing’ (Hunt 1975, 24), because he had had his racing licence suspended (and restored on appeal) for inadvertently riding a non-standard machine. Phil Hall described him as the ‘master of Lakeside [International Raceway, north of Brisbane], his “home” track [and] a tight and unforgiving wrecker of bikes and riders’ (Hall n.d.). He was one of the first professional motorcycle road racers in Australia. Having accumulated six national titles and won the Canadian round of the 1977 World FIM F750 championship, from 1978 to 1981 he made annual visits to Europe to compete in the grand prix series. He was victorious in ten international GP events, finishing second in the world championships in the 250 cc class and third in the 350 cc class that year and in 1979. The American champion Kenny Rogers assessed him at the time as the best motorcycle racer in the world, but serious injuries from a crash during the 1981 Belgian GP forced his premature retirement from the sport.

On 28 June 1980 at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, Hansford had married Julie Anne Crick, a receptionist; they were later divorced. In 1982 he turned to part-time touring-car racing, joining Allan Moffat’s team and helping achieve good results; in the 1980s and 1990s he would be a member of a number of other leading teams. He celebrated his first victory in 1984, sharing the driving with Moffat in the second round of the Australian Endurance championship at Oran Park, near Sydney. Following his success—as co-driver with Larry Perkins—in the Bathurst 1000 race in 1993, he was reported to be the first competitor to win both car and motorcycle events on the Mount Panorama circuit (Hall n.d.). With Neil Crompton, he also triumphed in the 1994 Bathurst 12 Hour race. These attainments resulted in his selection as lead driver in a new two-car team of Ford Mondeos that the businessman Ross Palmer established for the 1995 national two litre touring-car competition.

Hansford had owned motorcycle dealerships in Brisbane and a jet ski shop on the Gold Coast at various times in the 1970s and 1980s. Passionate about road safety, in 1990 he founded Gregg Hansford’s Defensive Motoring School, based at the Mount Cotton Driver Training Centre, Cornubia, south of Brisbane; he and his instructors conducted courses throughout Queensland and in the Northern Territory.

One of Hansford’s sisters described him as ‘tall, blonde and very good looking [and as] a genuinely nice guy who was friendly to everyone’ (Anderson, pers. comm.). He ‘always had time to stop and talk and give you the benefit of his valuable time’ (Hall n.d.). His attractive personality and appearance contributed to the great rapport he enjoyed with motor-racing fans. On 5 March 1995, while he was competing at Phillip Island, Victoria, his car left the racetrack and struck a barrier at high speed before rebounding back onto the circuit. Another car collided with his Ford and he died almost instantly. Following an Anglican funeral, he was buried in Pinnaroo lawn cemetery, Brisbane. His marriage to his partner, Carolyn Donovan, had been planned for April. She, their son, and the two sons of his first marriage, survived him. Described as ‘fantastic company, a true gentleman and a complete professional’ (Fowler 2008), he did much to pave the way for later Australian riders, notably the world champions Mick Doohan, Casey Stoner, and Wayne Gardner.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Anderson, Jayne. Personal communication
  • Brown, Jeff. ‘Gregg Hansford, Our “Quietly Spoken Tiger”, Is Poised to Win a World Motorbike Title.’ People (Sydney), 20 April 1978, 36–37
  • Fowler, Rich. ‘Gregg Hansford 1952–1995.’ 8 October 2008. Accessed 20 May 2019. http://www.motorsportretro.com/2008/10/gregg-hansford-1952-1995/. Copy held on ADB file
  • Garland, Leilani. Personal communication
  • Hall, Phil. ‘Gregg Hansford: The Greatest of His Era.’ Half of My Life—Phil Hall’s Motorcycling. Accessed 20 May 2019. https://www.halfofmylife.com/gregg-hansford-the-greatest-of-his-era/. Copy held on ADB file
  • Hammond, Phil. ‘Brisbane’s Gregg Is the “Unknown” Champion.’ Courier Mail (Brisbane), 25 January 1979, 5
  • Hunt, Phil. ‘Face to Face: Gregg Hansford, Australia’s Champion.’ Cycle Australia (Surry Hills, NSW), March 1975, 24–25, 52
  • Kable, Mike. ‘Motor Racer Driven by Quest for Perfection.’ Australian, 8 March 1995, 12
  • Truth (Brisbane). ‘Dead Sportsgirl’s Will Made Court Puzzle: “Players” to be Wound Up.’ 13 April 1947, 32
  • Williams, Ted. ‘A Roaring Success.’ Australasian Post (Melbourne), 18 September 1975, 14–16

Additional Resources

Citation details

Jonathan Richards, 'Hansford, Gregory John (Gregg) (1952–1995)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hansford-gregory-john-gregg-27831/text35577, published online 2020, accessed online 12 August 2020.

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