A blindingly fast lap
By Andrew Downie
I grew up with a keen interest in motorised … well, anything. But early in our marriage, my wife expressed relief that, due to my congenital blindness, I couldn’t ride motorcycles. Unfortunately for her anxiety level (and mine to some extent although I won’t admit it), our first-born grew up also infatuated by two and four-wheeled vehicles and now races regularly. I swear that this was genetic, not environmental. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 2002, before Russell (aforesaid first-born) had a licence, he and I set out for Eastern Creek by public transport to watch a Formula Xtreme Superbike round, from that moment on we were hooked.
More recently, thanks to Team Honda, I was invited via an introduction from Trevor Hedge to experience the thrills of a fully-fledged Superbike at that same circuit with two-time Australian Superbike Champion Jamie Stauffer at the controls.
When my turn came, I used Jamie’s foot-peg, as instructed, to propel myself onto the seat high on the ducktail and planted my feet firmly onto the pillion footpegs. I leaned forward and grabbed the handles on the tank and the CBR launched forward. It wasn’t long before we accelerated out of pit lane, swept through turn one and rushed towards turn two. The heavy braking into turn two felt great. Although I have a reasonable mental map of the circuit, turn three was tighter than I expected. I won’t bore you with reflections of the whole two-lap journey, but a couple of moments stood out. The front wheel was keen to leave the ground and I am sure that, on at least one occasion, Jamie changed up while it was clear of the ground – saves tyre wear I guess. The run down the straight was wonderful. Wind noise was huge, the GPS readout showing close to 250kph.
As we rolled back in to pit lane, I beat Jamie about the back and shoulders with excitement. After I (reluctantly) dismounted, Jamie slapped my shoulder. “You’ve been coming to watch us for years,” he remarked. So much for trying to be inconspicuous.
Following the thrills of the two-seater ride, our group was taken back to basics by the HART riding instructors. I had contented myself with the expectation of being an onlooker while reliving the hot laps. But Instructor Mick directed me to a sweet Honda 125cc scooter. I stepped over it and lifted it from its side stand. “You’ve done this before,” he observed and his observation was correct. Back in the early 1970s I bought a Honda CB175 for $100. Having stripped it of unnecessary ancillaries, I rode it around a sandy, rocky paddock with friends taking it in turns to give directions from the pillion seat (they were highly motivated to be accurate). Unfortunately, factories took over the land and that chapter closed.
The little scooter was a dream compared to my rather unwieldy old bike, complete with bald tyres. Mick took up his position on the pillion seat and proceeded to direct me around the car park. “Turn right,” he encouraged. “Look right,” he barked. And round and round we went. While lacking the adrenalin rush of the superbike ride, this was a very rewarding experience. And Mick told me I was the best visually impaired rider he’d ever supervised!
A very special thanks to Team Honda. The opportunity to travel at near racing speed on a motorcycle was a very rare experience and one I’ll always remember with much enjoyment. While I am not able to be in charge of a race bike, the opportunity to experience something of what racers experience gave me a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the sport.