With Nowra Speedway being effectively closed for the current season (long story) it was looking like my Summer was going to be a bit thin, speedway-wise. But then my good friends at Goulburn Speedway threw me a lifeline. For quite a few years I have been doing commentary for the club when their dates didn’t clash with Nowra’s so I know the patch pretty well. Unfortunately, last season the dates clashed at almost every meeting and the committee decided that they needed more than just a part-time announcer and they hired someone else.
I didn’t mind as I couldn’t do the job anyway and, besides, the guy that they hired was a good friend from my old Kembla Grange days so it was a win-win situation.
At the start of this season, however, Ken found that he couldn’t commit to the whole season and it was already clear that Nowra wasn’t going to be able to run a full season so Goulburn asked me if I could do the 2022-2023 season for them. I agreed and so I have been travelling up there each meeting and doing the announcing duties.
Goulburn is a great little country circuit that has been running since 1971 so it has a grand history. The committee people are really nice folks and they really appreciate my efforts in helping them promote the races there.
Like every track, Goulburn has its pluses and minuses. Some of the pluses I have already mentioned and the track improvements completed during the last off-season has made it not only a much “racier” track but one which the drivers can enjoy even more. The changes to the T1-T2 corners have made for better racing and more enjoyment for the drivers and the spectators.
The only real minus is the track’s placement. On the side of quite a steep hill just north of the city, its “billy goat” territory when you have to walk around it and do the pit walk duties and the orientation of the track with the front and back straight running north-south means that the control tower faces directly west. Consequently, vision of the track and the racing for the critical 45 minutes or so when the sun is going down behind the hill, is difficult. Looking straight into the setting sun while you are trying to commentate is tricky. I’m certain the the track’s original designers didn’t think of that when they laid it out but it’s set in stone now so you do your best.
Last Saturday night looked like it was going to be a good one. The weather forecast was favourable though temperatures in the mid-30s were predicted so it was going to be hot.
After doing the obligatory pit walk, I was already pretty bushed as the Wingless cars had been placed in the old pits on the northern end of the track and the rest of the competitors situated at the southern end in the “new” pits. No discrimination here, it’s just that the Wingless people usually turn up with 50 or so cars and fitting them into the new pits plus all the other divisions would never work, so the Wingless get a pit all of their own.
The other huge plus for the speedway over previous years has been in the matter of track preparation. Clay tracks are hard to prepare and, unless you get them right, you have a good surface for the first few races and then the track dries and becomes bumpy and very unpleasant for the rest of the night. At Goulburn this has often been the case but either the existing curator has done some homework and learned the skill of clay track preparation or the track curator is new and knows his beans. Either way, the tracks this season have been superb, wet and slippery for a few races until it packs down then smooth and reliable from then on right until the end of the last feature race.
Now I took both of these photos just before wheel packing started and no more than 15 minutes before the first race. Looking at that you would think that it was WAY too wet and would never be ready in time. BUT, the track man knows his stuff. The temperature was 34 degrees and he knew that the harsh Summer sun could easily dry that moisture out, and quickly. A few (and I mean just a few) minutes later, the Wingless cars had done a quick wheel pack and the track surface looked super.
The night’s racing was great and, barring a couple of terrifying accidents from which the respective drivers walked away unaided..
..the drivers and the crowd went home happy. They would have been happier had not an electrical malfunction in the track’s main power box plunged much of the facility into darkness just before the Wingless feature race bringing the proceedings to a premature halt but it had still been a good show.
By then it was pretty late anyway and it was decided to call time. I didn’t get home till nearly 1 so it must have been a late finish.
A three day MotoGP test at Sepang hasn’t really proved much except that Ducatis will be ruling the top 10 unless something dramatic changes. Aprilia were the big improvers while Yamaha’s early joy at finding some extra top speed turned to dust when both the riders found that they were still all at sea when it came to time-attack performance. And Honda? What can you say? They appear to have zero answers for the appalling performances of the bikes from last year even trying some of last year’s parts in the test. Last year’s parts? Really? Looking back is not going to get you forward, boys. Some mass sackings in the HRC engineering department seem to be needed.
That’s it till next time, stay safe.