From the Blog

Unexpected

Curtain bathurst 2000

Kevin Curtain at Bathurst 2000
Photo: Keith Muir

From time to time on Facebook the subject of Bathurst, Mount Panorama and the bike races held there over the years raises its head. Those of us fairly familiar with the subject will know that bikes actually raced on the mountain since back in the 1930’s and continued until late in the 1980’s when successive clashes with the police and other administrative difficulties finally brought racing to a close. The Easter event was revived in 1994 but was a tragic one when a sidecar rider and passenger was killed.

Then, in 2000, the event was revived again. By now the bikes were incredibly quick, much quicker than they had been when racing ceased some years before. Despite the promoter being able to secure a large amount of air fence to pad the most dangerous parts of the track, there was still a number of very serious accidents including one where a rider slid UNDER the air fence and inured his back on the concrete wall that it was supposedly shielding. Through a series of most unfortunate circumstances the meeting was a financial disaster, bringing the promoter to bankruptcy and closing the chapter on bike racing on the mountain, probably permanently.

In 1976, Ikujiro Takai, the Yamaha “works” rider, clocked 300km/h down Conrod Straight, breasting the fearsome “humps” on the famous road at that speed, fully airborne. In 1987, the death of sedan car driver, Mike Burgmann, led to the introduction of the Caltex Chase, a kink in the road about 2/3 the way down the mountain that not only eliminated the “humps” but also considerably slowed vehicles as they headed towards the end of their lap of the circuit. Nevertheless, its effect on terminal speed on the straight did not last long as tyre technology and increasing horsepower meant that the cars were soon barely slowing for the “corner” at all.

At the Easter races in 2000, while speaking with the overall winner on the weekend, Kevin Curtain (pictured above at the event), he noted that his Yamaha R1 was exceeding 300km/h before the Chase. I would have expected that given the time that had elapsed since Takai shocked us all with the benchmark some 24 years previously. However, when Curtain then said that he could easily exceed that time again in the short distance between the exit of the Chase and Murrays Corner just a little way down the track, the advances that had been made in that time became abundantly clear. Takai, after all, had set that time on a pukka racing bike, a Yamaha TZ750 (OW31)

WillingLeadsTakai76_700p

Takai moving in to pass Warren Willing, 1976
Photo courtesy mcnews.com.au

 

Takai

Takai returned in 1977 and administered the same dose again

Curtain had done what he did on a close-to-stock Yamaha R1, an astonishing statistic.

Anyway, to the point of this article and to the explanation of the somewhat cryptic headline. Last Monday I received an unexpected email from Trevor Hedge, the man behind mcnews.com.au, Australia’s leading online motorcycling web site. In it he apologised for not being very available at the WSBK meeting the weekend previously (Trevor had actually sat in the seat straight in front of me in the Press Room) and asking me would I consider writing a regular column for his web site. He went on to explain that, with my experience and my obvious ability with writing, my style would be a good “fit” for his publication.

I replied, asking a few pertinent questions and received some very favourable answers to my questions. The upshot of it is that, as of last Friday, I now have a regular column on the web site where I am free to comment on any matters motorcycling that I see fit. In order to kick things off, I have used a couple of (very) old articles from here and will then move on to some “original” original content.

So, what is the connection between this new venture and the bikes at Bathurst? Well, as I was searching for some information about the 2000 event on the web (a very difficult exercise, I can tell you) I found a link to a race report. “Beauty,” I thought, “Someone has published some results.” I followed the link and it took me to, guess where? Yep, you got it. mcnews.com.au Even more bizarre is the fact that the race report was a complete coverage of all three days of racing and, to top it off, the report was written by ME! I had completely forgotten about it, but there it was.

As I said, an unexpected development to say the least. Needless to say, I am pretty chuffed to see my hard work paying off a bit. A bit of shameless self-promotion? Yes, but, if I don’t blow my own trumpet, who is going to?

Oh, and on the subject of self-promotion, my first set of interviews for MotoPod at the WSBK have been published (see link at the right of this article)