Graeme “Gyro” Carless has for years run an engineering shop in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. There he crafted a range of lightweight and strong motorcycle wheels as well as doing all manner of building and fabricating work on motorcycles of all kinds, but especially BMW’s. And it was through his range of BMW racing bikes, all named “ECCO BMW’s” that the connection with Kenny Blake was established.
I started out asking Graeme what sort of a person Ken was. “A top bloke,” was the answer.
I asked Graeme how he first came in contact with Ken and he elaborated. “We knew Ken right back in the Jesser Triumph days. He’d bring the bike over from SA and we’d race against him at the Victorian tracks. We were a bunch of wild young blokes who thought they could race their road bikes. We soon found out that that wasn’t going to work and a couple of seasons of that and I retired. But we’d go over to SA with Ken and race against him there and also socialise as well. We’d go back to Ken’s home town, Strathalbyn and drink in the pub where his dad used to drink, “The Robin Hood Hotel”
“I kept contact with Ken right through the late 60’s and early 70’s and at one meeting at Calder, the bloke who we had riding the BMW had crashed it and bent it pretty badly. We were pretty unimpressed, especially my business partner and I suggested we ask Ken if he’d like to ride it and he agreed. Rod Tingate and myself took the bike out to Calder and set it up for Ken and, at the next meeting, Ken finished 2nd in the Unlimited race behind Graeme Keyes (Kawasaki Z1)”
“It’s funny, but in all the years that Ken rode for me, we only ever won 2 races, but we had some excellent placings allowing for the fact that we were racing against hugely powerful Japanese 4 cylinder bikes. At Adelaide International Raceway one year (ED: probably 1977) Ken was the only 4 stroke bike in the Unlimited Australian Championship race and he finished 5th on the BMW. Hansford won, Greg Pretty was 2nd, Ray Quincey was 3rd, Murray Sayle was 4th and then Ken. And there were a lot of other riders on TZ Yamahas who finished behind him on that day as well as the local favourite, Bill, (Barney) Horsmann on the TR500 Suzuki twin.”
I asked about Ken as a person. “We were just mates,” Graeme said, “Ken and I got along just great. Even when he went overseas he took some of my wheels with him and sold them over there for me. He was always willing to help anyone. One meeting we were waiting to go to the line for an important race and we couldn’t find him. Someone then spotted him over in some “C” Grade rider’s pits helping the young bloke out with a problem. That’s the sort of bloke he was. He had no pretensions about himself, everyone just loved him. You will never hear anyone who has a bad word to say about Kenny Blake; it’ll never happen.”
My thanks to Graeme for making the time available to talk to me.