Today I SHOULD be in Melbourne, joining with a heap of motorcycle racing enthusiasts and remembering the late, great Kenny Blake on this the 40th anniversary of his death at the Isle of Man. However, I’m here and Melbourne is there, locked in for supposedly health reasons by a dictator who hasn’t even got the courage to be seen in public.
But, that’s life. There is rarely a week that goes by that I don’t think of Ken and references to him are a constant on the social media platforms that I inhabit. Why? simply because he WAS the best and was acknowledged as such by his peers, by the media, by the teams and owners for whom he rode and by the motorcycling public at large.
I’m not going to go into much detail here, you all know the story well and know my long-standing admiration for Ken both as a rider and as a person. By the reckoning of those in the day who knew, Ken was yet to show his best and was just about to sign a contract with Honda in Europe that could seen him go on to World Championship glory. The man himself was torn on this point and there are those of his inner circle who claim that he was about to announce his retirement from the sport having achieved all that he had set out to do. Since he is not here to ask you may make of both of these scenarios what you will.
I count it a privilege to have known him, to have seen him score some of his most important victories and to have photographed him on many different tracks, on many different bikes and in many different classes.
40 years is a long time but the passage of time has not reduced the affection that the fans have for him and I doubt this will ever change.
Years ago I put together a tribute wen site that I comprehensively updated in 1996. In it is a huge collection of photos, both my me and by other photographers both amateur and professional of the day. As well there are extended interviews with many of Ken’s peers and these provide a detailed insight into the man and the high regard in which he was held in the day. The website is www.kennyblake.com.au
Finally, a couple of very poignant photos.
Ken with many members of Australian motorcycle road racing royalty at Imola, in Italy in 1978.
His memorial in the Springvale Gardens cemetery in Melbourne.
Possibly the last photo taken of Ken on the 9th of June 1981. This photo was sent to me by an enthusiast from Belgium who was there on that tragic day.
Ken was just 32 years old when he died. He will never be forgotten.