While trolling through my old photos (looking for something else entirely) I came across these two little gems.
Ever since I started motorcycle touring I have kept a little book in which I kept the details of each trip. I still do so, though I haven’t been as diligent in the last few years. However, there are occasions when being able to refer to the book is handy and this is one of them. The Book tells me that this photo was taken on the 7th of January 1999. I was living in Canberra and my New Year’s tour was up to Queensland and back. I covered 3117 kms on the CBX550 (the one that I recently bought back from Margie in Melbourne). I went via Canowindra, Dubbo, Coonabarabran, Tamworth, Dorrigo, Woodburn, Beenleigh, Surfers Paradise, Grafton, Kempsey, Speers Point, Albion Park and home.
While on the Gold Coast I thought I’d take a look and see if the long-since closed Surfers Paradise International Raceway was still there. I had only ever been there once before and that was when I was living in Ipswich. Chris and I rode out there on the Saturday to catch the practice for the Swann International Series finale in 1985. While wandering through the pits I noted a big crowd around the only garage in the pit area and deduced that it would be where Wayne Gardner was pitted and so it was. There was a roped-off area at the front and the punters were 10 deep trying to get a squizz of Wayne and his NSR500 Honda. The man himself was sitting in a director’s chair watching the mechanics at work when he looked up and caught my eye in the crowd. “Phil,” he said, “What are you doing here?” He motioned for me to get to the front, step over the rope and sit down in the vacant chair next to him. There were numerous dark looks and grumbles but I did so and sat down. I spent the next half an hour or so chewing the fat with the future world champion. It was a great time.
The next day Wayne went out in the race carrying the big, bulky ABC video camera on the NSR. Dicing for the lead he threw the bike away into the creek alongside the back straight. It made for great TV but Wayne was pretty cheesed-off. 🙂
Anyway, fast-forward 14 years and here is me looking for evidence of past glories. I knew that the track had been closed for some time (it actually ceased operation as a race track in 1987) but I believed that it was still in use as a driver training venue. Anyway, it was worth having a look. No GPS in 1999, just paper maps but it wasn’t too hard to find and I pulled up at the gate which was, surprisingly, open. Well, the gate was open so what do you do? I rode in and across the track. It soon became clear that the authorities/owners didn’t want anyone using the circuit any more. The actual track was barricaded (see pic above). But did that deter me? Of course it didn’t. The barricades may deter a CAR from getting onto the track itself but they were no deterrent to a determined motorcyclist.
In no time I was belting around the track. Well, not so much belting as the owners had further tried to deter track usage by dumping huge truckloads of dirt in the middle of the track. Problem? Of course not, they just turned the track into a slalom of sorts and I did lap after lap of the track thoroughly enjoying myself while keeping a whether eye out for someone who might come along and interrupt my fun. Despite my misgivings, no such killjoy appeared and, after knocking off a dozen or so laps, I pulled up at the gate, took a couple of happy snaps and buggered off.
The area is now under housing with (as far as I know) no actual evidence of the track being there. Just another great track lost to “progress”. Though my acquaintance with it was brief in the extreme, I’m glad I got the chance to see it and ride around it.