From the Blog

Every picture tells a story Pt2

There are dozens of pictures on the internet of riders being “encouraged” by their pit crew to try harder in races. The most famous of these is this one.

Soili Saarinen doing pit board duties for Jarno.

The photo at the top of the article is decidedly more worthy of an article, however, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I took the photograph. Secondly, both the people in the photo are people who I knew and thirdly, it reminds me of the late Jim Budd, one of our best production bike racers in the 1970’s. Every picture DOES tell a story, so indulge me, if you would, while I tell the story of this one.

In 1976 the two people in the picture, Jim Budd with the sign and Roger Heyes, on the bike, had won the prestigious Castrol Six Hour production bike race at Sydney’s Amaroo Park raceway. Riding on a Kawasaki 900 and sponsored by the local distributor of Avon tyres, Lindsay Walker’s team had been the first to really exploit the advertising potential of the Six Hour. The bike was painted in white with red signwriting advertising the tyres. The riders wore white, matching leathers and the pit crew were similarly dressed in corporate gear. It was a marketing triumph as well as a performance one.

For 1977 Walker entered two bikes, doubling the size of his team and hence its advertising potential. It was somewhat perplexing, however, when it was reveal;ed that the winning rider combination from 1976 would be split and that Budd and Heyes were to have a different co-rider each for the enduro races. There was, and still is, speculation as to why Walker would make such a seemingly silly decision. Most believe that it was a personality clash between the two riders that forced his hand and that he’d have preferred to maintain the status quo from the year before. As time would prove, the decision backfired dramatically on the team in 1977 with Gary Thomas crashing the bike that he shared with Heyes and Budd missing out on a back-to-back win when all of the Kawasaki teams were out-foxed by the Don Wilson BMW team who fooled them into believing that the Blake/Eastmure BMW would need the same number of pit stops as they would. The BMW had a bigger tank and that, combined with brilliant tactical riding by Eastmure and Blake meant that they only had to do 3 stops, not 4.

Walker was no mug, as we soon found out. Splitting Budd and Heyes was a bad move and, for the 1978 Six Hour, they were teamed together once more and easily won the race with a combination of brilliant riding and a half-race distance wheel change which gave them the last three hours on a”new” rear tyre while everyone else wobbled around on a shagged rear tyre, hoping it would last to the end at 1600.

But, back to my photo. This was 1977, when the two Team Walker riders were split. Viscount Holdings, a major building company in the rapidly expanding Albury/Wodonga growth area put up a considerable amount of money (I can’t remember exactly how much, but somehow the figure of $10000 overall is swimming around in the dim recesses of my memory – I am sure someone will come to the fore here and confirm/deny the figures.) to sponsor a 1 hour production bike race around the Hume Weir circuit. The amount of money on offer was unprecedented and, to quote Banjo Paterson, “All the cracks had gathered for the fray.”

Budd and Heyes started as favourite and Budd led for much of the race. It was November and, as always, it was punishingly hot in the little bull-ring of a circuit, constructed in the base of a quarry. But Budd was to be denied by a most unusual and atypical mechanical failure on his Kawasaki Z1. This left Heyes in the lead and, once Jim had gotten changed out of his leathers, he went trackside to encourage his team-mate to keep it safe and bring it home. I could say all sorts of things about appropriate clothing and so forth, but, it was hot and it was the 70’s.

Heyes kept his end of the bargain, bringing the Kawasaki home in first place and ensuring that the team took home the bulk of the big purse on offer. See the gallery below for some more of my shots from the race. When I was scanning the negatives from the race, back in 2011 sometime, I was intrigued as to the identity of the photographer on crutches in the photos. It turns out that it is REVS advertising representative and racer himself, Bernie Summers.

Roger in the presentation area.

So, once again, every picture tells a story. Sadly, the Hume Weir track is no longer there, bulldozed into oblivion when the Hume Dam wall was extended in the 90s’ No trace of it now remains. Even more sadly, the man with the sign, Jim Budd is not with us any longer as well, losing a long battle with a degenerative condition in the early part of this millennium.

I often think how privileged I was to be a small part of that great period of Australian road racing. I often ponder how fortunate I was to be able to record a small part of it for posterity, but mostly I am forever grateful that I got to meet the wonderful men and women who MADE that era the greatest era of road racing in Australia.