I was thinking the other day about how long it has been since I attended a bike race meeting. I think it must have been before the virus hit the first time so that would be early 2020. Of course it actually seems like much longer than that since so much has happened in the mean time.
As I have mentioned before, my attendance at meetings other than historic ones has been few and far between for quite some time for reasons that I have detailed many times before but, when a good Facebook friend offered me a free ticket to the ASBK round at Wakefield Park this weekend, I took the opportunity.
Stephen is a flag marshal and he attends and officiates at all the ASBK rounds despite residing in Brisbane. He rides his bike, towing a little trailer to the meetings, camps out at the circuit, waves flags for three days then rides home. I guess you could say that he is definitely an enthusiast. So I was very grateful for the offer.
I must confess that I really didn’t go for the racing and, in fact, I went up yesterday (Saturday) which was practice and qualifying day. I DID go up to attempt to catch up with many of my racing friends who I have not seen for some time and I was largely successful.
I was tossing up about whether to take the bike or the car and, in the end, the toss of the coin saw me taking the Golf and I’m sure glad I did. In between Moss Vale and the Hume Highway I encountered a huge rain storm that, had I been on the bike, would have seen me turning around and heading home without ever getting to my destination.
In spite of it being a Double Demerits weekend it seemed that there were more than enough motorists willing to roll the dice and I got properly blasted by all and sundry all the way to Goulburn. Ooh, well, it’s their money, I guess.
The entrance to the track has changed quite a lot since I was last there and, having presented my ticket, I was directed to the spectator area up on the hill in front of the cabins. Only then did it occur to me that I should have told the people on the gate that I have a disabled parking permit. Once we clarified that, I was redirected back down the hill to the correct parking area right next door to the Control Tower, phew.
The next few hours I patrolled the pits looking for friends and acquaintances and it was a great day. Photographer extraordinaire Keith Muir and I chewed the fat for a bit which was great since I haven’t seen Keith for years.
The Superbike and Supersports pits were along the front straight and it didn’t take me hardly any time to realise just how far out of the loop I was. I knew that I would be, I just didn’t realise how FAR I would be. While I knew pretty much all the NAMES, as you do when you follow the news reports of the game, the number or riders who I actually KNEW was astonishingly small. Yes, there was Steve Martin, doing his media thing, Marcus Holt from The Grinning Dingo doing his ARAI Helmets trade stall, and several others but it didn’t really take me long to do the lap of the pits and talk to the people I actually knew.
I was very disappointed to miss Maxie Stauffer, though I did get to speak to his mum and granddad. Maxie had a BIG off on Friday and was nursing several painful injuries that would ultimately preclude him from racing.
Some of my favourite MotoStars performers from years ago are now racing in the big game and it was great to catch up with them, James Jacobs and others. Geeze, these little kids have GROWN some since I saw them last, though.
The Oceanica Cup racers and the Supersport 300 teams were in the pit bays behind the control tower and here I did much better with a large number of the runners here being MotoStars graduates. See my note above about how much these kids have grown. It was great to see the fruits of Damien and Gareth and Alex’s hard work as coaches and event organisers paying off in the professional and polished way these kids are approaching their racing. The whole MotoStars staff can be very proud of the hard work they put in in the 3 years the series was running, they have produced some top class racers and fine young men.
It was great to catch up with Phil Harlon, with whom I shared the commentary box at the final Six Hour race in 2009 yes, 13 years ago, but I was disappointed when I got home to realise that I’d missed my good mate, Len Smith (who had probably been out on the track taking photos) and a few other riders who must have been similarly practicing while I was patrolling the pit lane.
I headed off about mid-afternoon, the traffic heading north when I was going down leading me to the conclusion that it would be as bad, if not worse, heading home and I didn’t want to get involved.
I tried to stay out of the Highway 31 Grand Prix and cut out at Marulan and came home the back way. Home at about 1630 in time to wind down, have dinner and watch the MotoGp proceedings from Portimao.
All in all, a great day. Again, my thanks to Stephen but I’d have to say that, going to the track pretty much confirmed my long-held belief that today’s Superbike racing isn’t a patch on the glory days of Phillis, Cole, Johnson and Campbell. That was REAL superbike racing.