-- Robbie Phillis Stars at Barry Sheene
Festival of Speed
-- By, Russell Downie
Eastern Creek raceway played host to the sights, sounds and smells of classic bike racing over the April 1-3 weekend, as the Sydney circuit staged the annual Barry Sheene Festival of Speed.
Hosted by the Post Classic Racing Association of NSW (P.C.R.A.), the BSFOS is one of the biggest classic race meetings on the calendar, and provides a unique spectacle.
With competitors travelling from all parts of Australia, and New Zealand, there was great action across three sunny days of practice, qualifying and racing. Not to mention the packed paddock, full of display bikes, trade stalls and bike clubs – keeping everyone entertained throughout. As with most meetings of this kind, walking from one end of the paddock to the other can be a drawn out affair, with so many great distractions!
One of the stars of the 2011 event was fan favourite Robbie Phillis. Riding both a Suzuki GSX1100 and a Katana, Robbie displayed not only sheer speed, but enough resilience to finish all the events he started.
Finishing proved to be a major hurdle for his rivals, in both the Forgotten Era Unlimited class, and the two-leg Barry Sheene Memorial Race. With the likes of traditional rival Malcolm “Wally” Campbell (Suzuki GSX1100) and World Endurance Champion Warwick Nowland (P & M/Kawasaki 1260), both biting the dust on Sunday.
Although Campbell didn’t go home empty handed, a new Forgotten Era Lap Record of 1:39.8 around the 3.9km ribbon of tar, testament to his sheer speed.
Queenslander Leo Cash also had a good weekend on his GSX1100, always in the fight, and there to pick up the pieces when others had problems.
The other stand out was Kiwi Steve Bridge, riding a 750cc Norton to a class win and outright podium positions in the unlimited races, a great achievement given his power deficit. The Kiwi’s white Norton creating a few discussions as to the best sounding bike on track, it’s soft parallel twin tone incredibly pleasing to the ear, although Phillis’s Katana was just as crisp – and even louder!
Sidecars made a welcome return to Eastern Creek, with both classic and modern outfits on track. In the modern F1 races the Soutar/Rowe combination battled hard with the Jacobs/Bonney machine, engaging in very close racing – at lap record pace - both machines entering the very low 1:40 second bracket. The Bosman/Kellett machine a consistent runner, just off the pace of the leading two.
In the combined Modern F2/Classic Sidecar races, Chivas/Mckinnon showed the pace of their older outfit, taking it to the more modern, albeit smaller capacity, F2 bikes. The Rayner/Cumming F2 combination consistently the quickest in class, winning all three legs, and battling hard with veteran campaigner Doug Chivas.
The smaller bikes were grouped together, in a combined race, which covered Classic 250-350cc machines and Post Classic and Forgotten Era 125-250cc bikes. At the head of the large field was Steven Ward, until a mistake on Sunday afternoon left him and his rare Armstrong in the Turn 8 gravel trap. This left Phil Paton on his Bultaco to win both Sunday’s races, ahead of firstly Neil May (Norton), then Gavin Cosway (Yamaha). These highly tuned smaller capacity bikes, many of which were two-stroke, filled the warm Sydney air with smells of methanol race fuel and castor oil. Something not often achieved at race tracks these days.
One step up, in terms of capacity and lap times, was the Post Classic/Forgotten Era 250/350cc race. The bikes at the head of this combined field across the weekend were Glenn Hindle (Maxton), Glen Kelleher (Yamaha) and Jim Agombar on his similar Yamaha. These boys dipped well and truly into the 1:40 second bracket, with Hindle reeling off a 1:46.6 on Sunday afternoon, during a titanic tussle with Kelleher. Just behind the leaders Sam Muldoon on his Kawasaki H1 500 and Bob Marriner on his Honda CB500/4 fought out class honours, the battle climaxing in a side by side run to the line in the last race. In the end, the bright green Kawasaki proving too strong for the Honda.
Champion Aussie racer Brendan Roberts on his Matchless added some colour to the Classic 500cc field, which was combined with Classic Unlimited and Pre 1950. It was young gun Levi Day who stole the show early, with a new lap record on his extremely powerful Honda CB500. However, after the demise of Levi Day, Ian Lovell was the man to beat. Not even Roberts could get close to the Lovell/Norton combination out front. While the Pre 1950 competitors earned respect for their on-track battles while shifting gears by hand – and absorbing Eastern Creek’s road irregularities through rigid rear ends. Warwick Ellis on his Indian did it best to win the class.
The newest bona fide historic race class is Period 6 “New Era”, for bikes made before 1990. These bikes were combined with the P.C.R.A.’s own class “Pre Modern” for machines made before 1996. While standing at the fence, these fast, high powered, liquid cooled, slick shod bikes gave the feeling of a 1990’s Superbike race meeting.
In the under 500cc New Era/Pre Modern race, Michael Burgess (Kawasaki) consistently led the large field of both Grand Prix and Production bikes home. Levi Nupponen (Honda 400) and Troy Loveday on a similar machine tried hard, but could not match Burgess’s pace out front. Special mention in this class to Alan Kempster, who’s Kawasaki ZXR400 has been specially modified to suit his special needs. Missing both his right arm and right leg, Alan operates all the controls on the left hand side of the bike. His top 10 results are remarkable, even before you take into account his recently broken collarbone!
In the over 500cc New Era/Pre Modern races, Paul Grant-Mitchell on the immaculate Kawasaki ZX7R and Brett Clarke on the similarly well prepared Honda CBR900RR thrilled the crowds with close racing, and incredible lap times. Grant-Mitchell reeling off a 1:38.6 second new lap record on Sunday before showboating for the crowd with plenty of rear wheel action allowing Clarke victory in the final race. With such a large and competitive field, battles were fierce - right through to a 3 wide scrap for 32nd place!
After a weekend of fantastic close racing, P.C.R.A. president Keith Higgs declared the weekend “phenomenal!” And, with huge numbers of competitors, spectators, club stands and trade stands, a massive show and shine and Superbike legends like Graeme Crosby and Kevin Magee performing parade laps – who could argue. Higgs also pointed out, like most club organised events, a huge thank you must go to all the volunteer officials, because without the volunteers these meetings just wouldn’t happen.
The next major event on the Australian Historics calendar is the Honda sponsored Broadford Bike Bonanza later this month.
- Pictorial - Images from Barry Sheen Festival of Speed - Gallery A - Gallery B -