After 16 years with the great Valentino Rossi, retired MotoGP mechanic Gary Coleman knows how to spot champion qualities.
And in Lake Macquarie teenager Tommy Edwards, Coleman sees the same focus as the young man he met in 2000 who went on to claim seven world titles and become like a son to him.
But Edwards is going to need that determination and more to make it.
Edwards has secured a ride this year in the World Supersport 300 Championship with Netherlands-based Hel Performance-Benjan Racing after impressing as a wildcard in the final round last October in Jerez, Spain. The Swansea apprentice mechanic was earlier second in the Australian Supersport 300 Championship and champion in the Yamaha R3 Cup.
He leaves Australia on March 1 and his supporters are busy raising money to fund Edwards’ campaign.
Coleman, who returned home to Tighes Hill after retiring at the end of 2016, showed his support at the TomEgun crowd-funding launch at Mavericks on Darby on Friday.
After 24 years working at the elite level of motorcycle racing, Coleman knows Edwards will face huge challenges racing in Europe but believes he has the right attitude.
“Nothing is easy, otherwise everyone would do it. That’s in any form of business or sport,” Coleman said.
“He’s going to have a tough time in terms of racing, but what I found about him, for a young fella, he’s got a very good head on his shoulders with regards to his racing.
“I met Valentino Rossi when he was about 20 and Tommy seems to have the same mental attitude. He knows what he wants to do, his head is in the right direction and he’s willing to sacrifice, and that’s what Valentino did.
“He’s fit, and I impressed on him about that, but he knew. And he’s fit in the brain as well.
“He’ll work well with his team. He’s had a race with them and they love him, and he’s worked well with their mechanics, which you need to do.
“It’s a long, hard road for an Aussie to go to Europe and crack it.
“You look at guys like Mark Webber, he did low-level races for years, so Tommy will have to endure some tough years because he comes for Australia. Just because of the sheer logistics of it all.”
A TomEgun Facebook page and a crowd-funding dinner at Mavericks on Darby on February 17 are part of fund-raising efforts to help Edwards compete this year.
“It’s unfortunate,” Coleman said.
“We feel that there’s not enough support from the motorcycling establishment, the people who run the business in Australia. Not just for Tommy, but for all young riders. There’s not one dollar coming forward for them.
“In Europe, the Spanish and Italian federations spend lots of money on their young riders and that’s why they are all winning races.”
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