Motorcycle Racing: The logical next passion.
During this time, I maintained my passion for car racing and I used the bike to ride to meetings at Oran Park and Amaroo. But I was starting to get disenchanted. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a meeting one Sunday afternoon at Oran Park. Allan Moffat, competing in a Sports Sedan race, was baulked going into BP, the final corner before the straight, by a guy called David Seldon. Seldon was driving a 144 Volvo sedan with a V8 engine in it and was just out there having fun. Moffat arrived behind him to lap him on the last lap and, instead of waiting till the straight and passing him easily and with safety, he hustled Seldon who didn’t have anywhere to go, and slowed dramatically. Moffat ploughed straight into the back of the Volvo and they were both out of the race.
Immediately afterwards, Moffat stormed up to the commentary position and started abusing Seldon over the PA. He called him a “peanut” and said he had no right being out on the same track as him and the “professional” drivers in the race. At first the crowd was stunned into silence, but then, when they realised what had happened, Moffat was roundly booed by the crowd for minutes afterwards.
Big money had moved in on my sport and, suddenly, it didn’t seem the same.
So, when Paul told me, late in 1975, that he had attended the practice day for the Castrol Six Hour Race, at Sydney’s Amaroo Park Raceway, I was piqued. Memories of Kel Carruthers on the 250/4 came flooding back and, on the Sunday, I watched the live telecast of the whole race on Channel 7.
A bike dealer from the Gold Coast, John Warrian, was riding a Ducati 900SS and he was riding solo! Despite being last away at the Le Mans start (no electric start for the Ducati), he had steadily worked his way to the lead and, through the pit stop sequences, was looking a comfortable winner. I was riveted. Like most Aussies, I tend to root for the underdog and it seemed to me at the time, that here was a single guy taking on the might of Team Kawasaki Australia’s Z1, with the late Gregg Hansford and Murray Sayle and the Adams and Sons entry of Warren Willing/Hurley Wilvert on the awesome Kawasaki H2R two stroke triple.
Besides, a good mate had once owned a Ducati 250cc single, and, though I’d never seen it, it seemed logical to barrack for the Duck, just on sentiment.
But, as was the case every time, the 900SS flattered to deceive. With just 15 minutes of the six hour race journey left, the Ducati came out of Honda Corner, sputtered once and coasted to a silent stop beside the circuit, just before Stop Corner. The gearbox had seized. Post-race stripdown suggested a serious lubrication issue, but since the race was sponsored by Castrol and all entrants were obliged to use Castrol’s new GTX oil in their bikes, it was considered diplomatic not to push this one too far. Those who don’t have an axe to grind, or who simply don’t care who they offend, will tell you to this day that Warrian would have won the race easily if he’d have been able to use a decent quality oil. Despite the attempt at hushing it up, Castrol’s reputation took a big hit, with letters to REVS and AMCN suggesting that the writers wouldn’t even use GTX in their lawn mowers after what had happened that Sunday.
But the die had been cast. Suddenly motorcycle road racing seemed so much more accessible and enjoyable than car racing.