The shame of Kevin Magee’s career is that he never got the opportunity to truly shine. When you look back at his 500cc career stats, it makes for disappointing reading, not because he had an underperforming career – he didn’t – it is more that he had the ability to achieve so much more.
Magee had the talent to be a world champion, but the best result he had was fifth, back to back in 1998 and 1999, the only years that the Horsham motorcycle star completed full seasons.
His debut season was in 1987. He got to start three GPs with Kenny Robert’s Yamaha team. He raced at Japan, Holland and Portugal, securing an impressive third place in his final event of the year.
His performance saw him elevated to full-time rider with the team in 1988, sharing the garage with eventual three-time champ Wayne Rainey.
In his two years riding with Kenny Roberts, he won his first and only GP at Spain in 1998, which he clearly lists as a career highlight, and was rarely out of the top five.
Everything was pointing towards a world championship title for Magee. As a comparison, Rainey finished those two years in third and second place in the championship, then went on to win three straight. There are many motorbike experts that say that Magee could easily have experienced world championship success in time, but it was not to be.
In 1990 Magee was still with Lucky Strike, but with the powerful Suzuki team. The season started strongly with a fourth place in Japan, but it was the second round of the year that had the biggest impact on Magee’s career. Magee was involved in a sickening accident at Laguna Seca (USA) where his head hit the track causing a blood clot, requiring surgery. He did not race again that year as he slowly recovered from his injuries.
Magee did return to 500cc bikes but only made three more appearances in the world’s premier class. During this same time he also raced in the World Superbike Championship. Not only did he win twice at Phillip Island but he was on the podium seven times across the eight races that he contested.
Magee was never able to regain the form that saw him as a title contender earlier in his career and retired from racing in 1994.
Magee’s career can be split into two parts – racing and broadcasting. When his racing career came to a premature end he almost immediately opened the door to the commentary box.
Since 1995, Magee has enjoyed a career with Foxsport and will be a regular on its newest motorsport channel SPEED, which debuted last Monday (November 1).
“I’ve been doing Fox Sports since I retired,” Kevin Magee told Speedcafe.com.au
“I’ve mainly focused on World Superbikes and MotoGP but that will change now that Speed has started.
“Speed channel is motorsport 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“I’ll look after a wide range of sports, there’s plenty of content from the States and from here.
“The Australian Superbike Championship, Speedway, Sprint cars; it’ll be great for the motorsport fanatic out there.”
Magee is looking forward to promoting more motorcycle racing via SPEED.
“The racing in the Australian categories is very competitive,” said Magee.
“Supersports, the lower classes where the young guys are trying to get into the higher ranks, there are plenty of young Aussie guys trying to make their mark.
“SPEED will allow us to keep a close eye on their progress, whether it is happening here or overseas.”
When Magee is away from the buzz of television he is not far away from the race track. In-fact it’s fair to say his life still revolves around the track.
During his ‘down’ time Magee not only attends races as a fan, but he road tests bikes for various motorbike publications.
“I love watching MotoGPs; I rode my bike down to Phillip Island and had a great time,” said Magee.
“I do some testing with ‘Two Wheels’ and ‘Live to ride’ magazines.
“I still love riding bikes; I was at Eastern Creek recently testing some bikes. It’s all good fun. Race tracks and bikes, they don’t go away.”
Magee is also involved with the next generation of motorcycle racers as a mentor and coach.
“I’ve done a lot of road racing coaching with the young guys over the years,” said Magee.
“These are young guys with road racing experience but with higher ambitions.
“With Motorcycling Australia we’d run courses at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. We’d spend a couple of days at Wakefield Park doing the practical side, supported with the theoretical at the AIS.
“I’d ride around with the guys, stand on corners watching them work the bike on the apex, we’d do thorough debriefs and the lap times would come down and you’d see them improve.”
Apart from riding, Magee is passionate about road and bike safety. He would like to see more done to ensure everyone can co-exist on our roads.
“I think we need to do a lot more in conjunction with road safety so everyone can assimilate, regardless as to whether you drive a car, truck, motorbike or pushbike,” said Magee.
“We just need to have a common denominator where everyone agrees to look after each other.
“Driver education is lost and gone; people do a written test and they are allowed to drive. They don’t do a practical test next to a driver, so they have zero experience and then they are in a bad situation and they become a statistic, that’s not the way to go.
“It’s really a lack of experience and lack of consideration for other road users … and there are too many distractions.
“We need to do things better and make our roads safer for everyone.”