Rolling into the race track gates we picked up our 3 day passes arranged by my old man earlier in the month. The sounds of two wheeled machinery being ridden at warp speed could be heard, adding to the sensory overload one experiences for the first time, going to something they have wanted to see all their life. There were bikes of every shape and size, if we had just come across the sea from bike heaven, this must be bike world! With our wristbands on we made for the camping area overlooking turn 1.
Everyone that we had bumped into along the way in our travels across Australia had said that the Superbikes were a lot more 'people friendly' than the bigger money spinning GP bikes to go watch. Access is easier and camping not so packed out. Hydro and I idled in through the tents and bikes and found a spot right on the fence looking over the track.
You could sense other riders closely watching us, except for a few BMW 1200 GS there weren't a great deal of 'Adventure Touring' bikes. Everyone seemed to be on shiny cruisers or ultra fast looking road bikes. It felt cool standing out amongst our fellow motorbike peers, that they were checking out our foreign number plates, bikes battle worn and gear stained in a strange red tinge from a desert dirt far, far away. Unpacking and setting up with a well rehearsed precision brought friendly enquiries from everywhere. We felt at home.
Base camp at The Island. Backsides trackside.
After setting up, we jumped on the bikes and did a slow perimeter lap of the track stopping a corners and viewing mounds. The first one we stopped at, a rider came off at speed, tumbling to a halt in the kitty litter right before us metres away. The rider dusted himself off, running back to his machine to remount and look for a gap in the speeding traffic so he could rejoin the fray!
My embarrassment with my nagging injury after what I had just witnessed, soon vanished at our very next stop. A rider high sided his bike landing again right before us, but face down on the track and not a movement to be seen. I genuinely felt ill with worry before track marshals slowed the other passing bikes and the ambulance came out to stretcher the rider away. Hydro turned to me and said very much concerned "This is Friday qualifying, will there be anyone left to race by Sunday?"
Below was the 3rd crash in as many stops around the track!
I could not believe the pace of racing, nothing like the TV had me to believe.
Riding around Australia on dirt bikes doesn't really allow to pack your 'Sunday Bests" clothing. On more than a few occasions we were challenged for our passes to admit us into the corporate box area while smartly dressed patrons walked on by us. Luckily in the BMW show bag we received on entry had a clean collared shirt to put over our travel stained and wrinkled attire! Corporate box dining and drinking...
To watch the riders take off and come into the garages below our box balcony was a privilege. The animated discussions, filling in of the 'timeboards' before they flew past, pit girls, performance bikes, revving engines, it was all happening.
From being away from it all, to being in the absolute thick of the action was a sometimes unbelievable change of circumstances.
In the pits with Marco Melandri's weapon.
Marco Melandri #33, Ty Matek #1, Chaz Davies #19
These guys and girls that race not just only at the top level but any level have my complete admiration. To put their bodies on the line at the speeds I witnessed, amazes me totally. I was surprised initially of the average size of the racers, no bigger than jockeys, but on thinking, it makes sense. Must be the TV, they look bigger on it...