Tuesday, April 05, 2005

CamperVus- fun for all of us! WSBK weekend

Thanks to Mr Sam O'Loughlin Maclachlan of AMCN fame, Mr Tricky and I had rather fine tickets to the World Superbikes at The Island for the Saturday and Sunday (2nd, 3rd April). ("The Island" is uber cool speak for "Phillip Island").

WSBK (this is uber cool speak for World Super BiKes) is a production based race series for 1000cc machines, as opposed to MotoGP which is prototype based. WSBK has a one tyre maker rule (Pirelli) and they have two races on the day. The support class- the Supersport category- is for 600cc 4 cyl machines (750 twins- but lets not piffle, and don't ask why the twin 1000cc machines compete against 4 cyclinder 1000cc bikes...). The Supers are about 3% slower than MotoGP, so still lotsa fun.

Tricky in front of the now famous $100 van. Please ignore what he's doing with his "good" hand. Thank you

Beyond the heady environ of WSBK races, Sam had foolishly been suckered into a semi factory ride on a Kawasaki ZX10 in the Australian series. A few years ago he nearly won the Superstock category (for C and D graders) but now found himself in the heady A and B grade premier class of Australian Motorcycle racing.

All this excitement awaited us, but first we had to get there. I wanted to ride down, but Mr Tricky has an "angry hand" (ask him- not me) and can't really wear gloves and further the Speed Triple has a busted second gear AND lastly Mr Tricky is frightened by my second-gear stand-up wheelies on his beloved R1150GS. The wash up was he wanted to take his $100 ex Terry Hammond cycles van instead. In a strange way this was the right decision. I'm not talking about the comfort and convenience of a van, but the fashion statement that such a vehicle makes. Sometimes being so horribly uncool goes full circle- right back to cool. We almost made it back to cool.

So we hit the road south. Cruising along at 80-90km/h (foot flat to the floor) being passed by old ladies in brown Toyota Crowns has its charms for the first two or three hours, then gets a touch tedious. Being passed by a clapped out CB 250 was the last straw, but Tricky has not quite sorted out the Nitros kit for the van, so we kept on keeping on. The hours wore on, we grew tired, eventually we were out of Cranbourne on our way to The Island. (There I go again with that cool speak!)

Despite Tricky looking more like a bikie than a mechanic, we got our passes and went trackside. First shock: Mr. T went straight to trackside rather than barside. He was evidently keen to have a look at the riding. Was this the same man who'd missed all of the F1 racing a few years ago only to wind up naked outside his house with no wallet or mobile phone, scratching at the door like a cat? No, and yet YES.

Sam in pit lane for race 1, Australian Superbikes. Any blurring is from his shaking, not mine.

We ambled over to the Aust. Supers pit area and found Sam chatting to some chubby red headed kid who was keen to give him a few tips. Tricky said words to the effect of "Who does that kid think he is?" or sumsuch. To whit I replied "That, my foolish friend, is Adam Fergusson." To whit he replied "Who the hell is Adam Fergusson...?"

Adam Fergusson is the reigning Australian Superbike and Supersport champion, a factory Honda rider and former AMA (US supers) racer. That's who.

Tricky was suitably chastened, though secretly I think he was quote proud of his ignorance. Adam was giving Sam some advice on how to take on Lukey Heights. It seems he goes very wide and doesn't apex until 2/3 of the way through. Handy stuff, but Sam (by his own admittance) is a better racer than qualifier and the "handy" words might have been better the day before qualifying rather than the day after it. Helpful advice completed, Krusty (Adam's nickname- not sure whether I'm on a nickname basis just yet) told Sam that by his reckoning, he was 10 seconds a lap quicker and it was a ten lap race. With a Sam's laptime around 1:40 (100 seconds) this meant Adam would lap Sam at the chequered flag and do unmentionably awful things to him as he did so. It turned out that indeed he and Sam would hit the finish line together, but not quite the way he had planned...

The fat kid from "Hey Dad!" telling Sam how to ride. Sam shows his thanks by showing him how to play the "air saxophone".

Helpful advice aside, Sam wasn't quite himself. Facing the biggest, craziest, hideous, dangerous, scariest and potentially embarassing challenge of his life had him strangely on edge. After checking the time on his mobile for the 20th time in 10 minutes, it was evident he needed to have 4 wees, a spew, a 50 paper-sheet pooh, a spew-wee and some time alone. We refused to oblige. I made fun of him till he had a murderous look in his eye and a wrench in his hand. Only then we left.

Spending almost the whole day above the pits was very frickin' choice. We saw the start of Sam's races, and got the details and subtle behind-the-scenes stuff that television cannot possibly get across to the interested punter. My favourite moment was watching Ducati Supersport rider Berta preparing to go out for final qualifying. His team manager removed the front paddock stand and held his fist in Berta's face and said "Forza, FORZA!"- "Strong, STRONG!". It may have looked inspirational, but Berta qualified way down and then fell off around lap 3 in the actual race next day. "Fate attenzione molto catso" might have been a better angle- "Be very careful dickhead!".

Race 1 in Oz supers was a cracker. Sam got a flyer- showing that practising starts a lot can pay dividends. (His job requires lots of standing start acceleration tests) Motorcycle racing has a lot more passing and counter passing, but nailing 6+ guys off the start as Sam did in both races means that faster per-lap riders had their work cut out for them. I'm thinkin' with my drag racing experiences, maybe I could get a holeshot... and then get hammered before Honda and lapped before Lukey.
Tricky checks out the action on the Saturday. Actually he's looking for pit bitches. The truth can only now be told.

But thank the Goddess Sam can corner as well. Despite ohhh, 170 rear wheel horsepower trying to spit him off at every opportunity, he took his awesome start and kept the lap times consistent AND nearly caught Adam Fergusson who had been lapping rather slowly after his tyre lost a chunk (despite him saying it had "slipped on the rim"- which frankly sounded like a gay sex thing). Sam missed beating him by a bike length (might have been more, but this is my story), but more disturbingly missed the chance to elbow him in the kidneys. I was keen to give Adam a gob full, but once he removed his helmet he looked like he could take me out or hit me with something metallic like the team truck. I'd already told him "The pen is mightier than the Fireblade" and was feeling pretty full of myself. No suprise there.

Apart from the 45 knots of northerley wind messing with us, the weather was sunny and warm. We should have gone home while we were young and pretty. The afternoon's highlight (for me) was meeting Dieter from "The C Word". I asked him who he was following this year (the Ten Kate Team) and wondered aloud whether the good luck they brought Aussie wildcard Josh Brookes who won the World Supersport race while being stalked by the lads from the C Word could strike twice. It did. Charpentier won the Supersport, but Muggers and Vermuelen had mixed results in the WSBK races.

Saturday night was coming on fast and Tricky went insane. It's too easy to say it was a bit "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" but, fuck me, it was. Trickster wanted to go into Cowes and get totally wasted and then get someone to drive us to a secluded lane and sleep there. This was pure Tricky bollocks-speak. He wanted me to drive and then... it doesn't bear thinking about.

Smile Foggy, you miserable old bugger. Tricky made me take so many pics of this sad old bastard, I have to put one up. What is it with the Poms and Foggy? Not like he's Mick Doohan or nuthin'

Luckily I recalled a sneaky vacant block opposite the house we'd rented in Cowes for MotoGP '04. Big, grassed, with a few trees for shelter it seemed a perfect spot for two healthy hetro men to sleep in a van together and do unmentionably dreadful things to each other with a range of polycarbonate products and non surgical lubricants. Tricky got the billy going and we had herbal tea and sat in the van till it got dark. Angry bats were in the air. The Trickster was in form, make that informed of a growing hunger and we stumbled off into the black night. The "black night" phrase may seem a cliche, but it was very dark- so dark Mr T insisted we check out a rather interesting camper/bus. I called it a "CamperVus" because I kinda developed a speech impediment. Turns out the "revolutionary" CamperVus was in fact trellis on a fence. This "trellis-not-a-bus" situation was not realised until dawn. We ate at a pizza joint after a 4 hour wait and a few beers. It should be noted that we were not in a fit state to be left waiting in that matter. We had pressing issues that required we be fed immediately and voluminously. Finally the pizzas arrived and they were inhaled like a footballer doing a line of speed.

The less said about the night in the van together the better. It felt like I was having an 8 hour full body MRI scan in a monkey's sauna. The fact that I was the one making it smell like a monkey's sauna is largely irrelevant and the true details remain sketchy. I do recall threats- physical threats against my person in the event I "broke wind" again, but I challenge anyone to eat and drink the crap trackside food we'd had and NOT play the trouser trumpet till dawn.

The weather had turned on us like one of my ex girlfriends (though thankfully we woke to find our underwear had not had the crotch cut out- so it wasn't quite as angry as one of my ex's). We were exuding a rather masculine aroma and lacked the basic facilities to remove said odour. I choose to stand in the rain in my jocks and soap up once wet- make that once damp. Worked for me, but Tricky considered it either disturbing, erotic or both. No, wait... just disturbing.

Tricky had decided to remain horizontal while I piloted the van into Cowes for brekky. An old bloke from next door had heard us carrying on (Tricky: "Put your CLOTHES BACK ON!" me: "No, there's still soap on my nuts!") and came out to give us a serve for camping (illegally) on the vacant block.

Sun sets on day 1. Goddamn I'm arty.

Wrong. More like this:

"Pity I didn't see you blokes last night, coulda parked in the driveway... and had a proper shower"

Oh fuck, thinks I. "Yeah, right, err cheers" and the bloke gives us a wave with a "See youse at the track" and then the old bastard laughed.

Bacon and egg rolls added to the ever ripening bowel situation and the rain added to the feelings of impending doom. I could tell you all about the racing, but you can read that elsewhere. Sam's race was cancelled, it was 50 knots outta the west and the only thing missing was Barry Sheene introducing it as "gateway to hypothermia". Tricky wanted to retire to the warmth and dryness of the van once race 2 in WSBK was red flagged due to rain. I indicated to him that full wet weather racing can be rather entertaining. He indicated that I could take watching the racing in the rain and stick it up my arse. I indicated he was a goddamn piker and a dickhead if he was going to go go home now when it was just getting exciting and he indicated it was his van and I indicated that he could stick his van up HIS arse and he indicated... You get the idea. The upshot was that by the time we had finished arguing, the riders were on the grid for the restart. Corser won after the Duckworth/Lewis system was applied, Kagayama entertained all by sliding rain tyres all over, turn eight was an impromptu pitstop (everyone crashed there) and Regis Laconi did a headstand-with-twist into front-number-kiss onto grass onto arse. If he'd gone any further he could have got a chicken and chips pack while lying on his bike. Stirring stuff. Roll on MotoGP...

See a video of Sam starting Race 1.
posted by thr at 11:08 am


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