I’VE always been a bit of a speedway and dirt track fan but in recent times have only seen them in person sparingly.
But the recent Troy Bayliss Classic at Old Bar was one of the best race days I’ve been to in years.
It was all about raising funds for the Taree MCC, Bayliss’s old club.
And raise some funds they did. The place was packed solid, apparently over 4000 people turned up, and at $20 a head for an adult the club would have raked some cashola in. And good on them.
$20 was dirt cheap for the entertainment given, and everyone I’ve spoken to since the night had a blast.
The amount of talent on display – I mean riding talent – was almost mind blowing, and the racing showed that just about every one of the ‘Legend’ riders still had a fair dollop of competitiveness in their veins.
Check out the field: Stephen Gall, David Armstrong, Chris Vermeulen, Jason Crump, Paul Caslick, Josh Brookes, Anthony Gunter, Randy de Puniet, Josh Waters, Troy Herfoss, Shawn Giles, Garry McCoy, Broc Parkes, Barry Cockle, Jamie Stauffer, Chris Watson, Wayne Maxwell, Chris Hollis, Damian Cudlin, Toby Price, Josh Hook, Vaughan Styles, Phil Lovett and host of the night, Troy Bayliss.
Now, I’ve been to shed loads of road race meetings over the years and I can’t remember the last time I had such a buzz, especially when the gate went down and the bikes launched down the main straight.
At one stage, just as a race was about to start, I said to a mate, “look at the riding ability across that line. When was the last time you saw that?”
A very long time ago, if ever. It never ceases to impress me that guys who were superstars 30 years ago can still ride very hard. Steven Gall, Paul Caslick, Chris Watson and Phil Lovett were three of the older riders who are still very quick and not frightened of having a red hot go. And Troy Bayliss showed he hasn’t gone off the boil either.
There was no quarter given in many of the races, and in one race I’m sure I saw Broc Parkes give Troy Herfoss a love tap. Both stayed upright, and I’m sure friends, after the incident. Maybe my eyes played tricks on me but it was real close. Taree local, and now Honda Australia rider, Josh Hook wasn’t overawed by the big names, winning a number of heat races but I didn’t see him in the final.
I was told later he didn’t qualify for the final, but that seems odd considering his pace earlier in the meeting. Hook has a huge future I reckon. I’ve known him since he first started road racing and it’s rare to see a rider with that much focus. He’s very talented and a future Aussie champ, at least, in my opinion.
There was talk of the Bayliss Classic becoming a series of possibly a few rounds, but I think the logistics of it would make it almost impossible to do. Many of the riders on display are still current racers so any series would have to be done in a short space of time, maybe like the Australian Solo Speedway titles which are run over the new year break.
Another rider who was great to watch was Randy de Puniet, in Australia to marry his Aussie girlfriend, Lauren Vickers.
By all accounts dirt track is quite new to de Puniet but he proved he was a fast learner, putting in some great rides to prove he really is a world class rider.
Rain caused some delays early in the day, and threatened the whole event, but most punters stayed to watch the action. The final included a couple of wildcards, local riders Jarryd Oram and Mick Kirkness. Kirkness has raced extensively in the American dirt track scene, and is arguably Australia’s leading dirt tracker. He won comfortably from Herfoss and Oram in third.
Where to from here? If the organisers can at least run one ‘Legends’ event I think the crowds will come, if only to see their heroes race in a grass roots atmosphere. I would dearly love to see some big twin cylinder dirt track racing on longer tracks in Australia. I could see me building a bike for that, but there just doesn’t seem to be the passion to get it going.
You might see the odd meeting or two which has some bikes like that but it’s small scale really. I believe Newcastle Suzuki/Husqvarna dealer Graeme Boyd is trying to get such a series off and running. If he does I’d love to be a part of it with my son Alex riding.
I should leave the last word to Alex. After one race he said, “I was just talking to Jason Crump while he was on his bike waiting to race. He’s such a nice bloke to talk to.” “Why wouldn’t he be?,” I replied.