Owen’s famous story began in familiar fashion, as a 17 year-old boy who could not wait to get started in racing. In 1946, after winning the first race he ever competed in, Ray was hooked.
The eldest of ten siblings, Owen was one of the ‘quiet’ men of racing and highly regarded for his humble nature, spirit and humility, determination and positive attitude. His love of racing (anything with wheels) was unparalleled; he simply got on with the job and is widely regarded as one of Australia's greatest experts in race craft.
Astonishingly, Owen either won or placed in the top three in just about every single race, championship, title, trophy event, or series he entered into between 1946 and 1979. His family now holds well over 280 sashes and ribbons with the trophy cabinet in the Owen household long ago exceeding capacity.
Owen's incredible winning record was earned over a wide variety of titles in State and National Championships on grass, dirt, gravel, sand and bitumen. He famously won the majority of his races on his beloved 1936 Triumph 250cc L2/1, which he bought in 1949 and used it to compete in road, grasstrack, short circuit and scramble events with nothing more than a change of tyres and sprockets to suit each. The Trumpy gave Owen his first Title win at the Victorian TT in 1952.
From 1950 to 1979, Owen was simply unstoppable, with career highlights including; a clean sweep at the 1978 Victorian Grass Track Championship and racing everything from Harley Davidson's, Triumph's, Velocette’s, Manx’s, BSA’s to Bultacos, CZ’s, Cotton's and Hagon J.A.P’s in all and any disciplines from; trials, scrambles, speedway and grass track to solo's and even sidecars road racing! He also competed on four wheels at hill climbs and in F3 Coopers classes, again enjoying immense success.
Crashes were incredibly rare, and a testament to Owen’s consistency. Miraculously, he never broke a bone in his body, helping to propel his long career in the sport. Championship's would come year after year for Owen, until he decided to hang up the leathers and boots after three well fought decades of full throttle racing.
In the early 1970s, after recognising a need in Victoria, (close to Melbourne in particular) for a permanent Motocross track and racing facility, Owen acquired a 350-acre property on Melbourne's outskirts, and set about creating the famous 'Ray Owen Motorcycle Park' at Wallan (VIC) for riders to enjoy.
In later years, Owen even has the annual 'Ray Owen Classic Bike Show and Swap Meet' named in his honour, held in the Mount Tambourine area of Queensland- a must attend for all passionate bike lovers. Owen insisting all profits of the event go towards the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, typical of his generous nature and being.
Owen was officially recognised as a Legend of Australian motorcycle sport at a special dinner during the 2017 Shannons Broadford Bike Bonanza (15 April 2017), receiving the well-deserved Motorcycling Australia Legend Award, presented by MA Acting President - Peter Goddard. With his incredible contribution to motorcycle sport and the community in general, the famous Ray Owen received permanent legend status and recognition with the coveted award.
Up until his passing, Owen spent the majority of his time with Patti, his wife of 60 years, his daughters, eight grandchildren and fourteen great grandchildren. He always made time to maintain his great collection of motorcycles and his eclectic mix of vintage machinery.
Ray Owen will long be remembered as a pioneer for Australian motorcycle sport and unsung hero of the Australian Motorcycling community.
Ray Owen surrounded by family and friends at the Shannons Insurance Broadford Bike Bonanza 2017, including Rosco Holden, Peter Goddard and Kevin Magee
For further information on Ray Owen and his acheivents, click here.
Pictures and content contributions courtesy of Holden On Tight.