-- Greg Rust reports on the THR two-seater experience - Two-up anyone?
I never thought I’d see my colleague Daryl Beattie agree to ride pillion
passenger on a motorcycle! Beattie, a former 500cc race winner for HRC, is about
to throw his leg over the Team Honda Racing Superbike at Sydney Motorsport Park
but it’s ASBK racer Josh Hook who’s in control. Every motor racer I’ve ever
known struggles with sitting in the passenger seat let alone hopping on the back
of a bike. The laid back Queenslander is making jokes in the final stages of
preparation. “They had to stitch in extra leather to make a suit that fits me
these days,” he says. “We’ll be looking at the sky a bit with this extra weight
over the back wheel too!” Beattie is still in good shape and seriously
underrates what he can offer as a rider.
Hook, who’s in his first year racing the Superbike for the MotoLogic squad, has
already warmed the tyres up. He’s ready. The 20 year old fires the CBR1000RR
into life. The exhaust note is smooth now but the burbling tone, at idle, let’s
you know the engine has so much more to offer. Conditions couldn’t be better.
Bright sunshine and, other than teammate Jamie Stauffer who’s also doing guest
rides today, the track is clear. Josh clicks the race box into gear and the pair
launches out of pit lane.
Also trackside is my colleague Barry Dubois from the Living Room. He’s a builder
with a big love of motorcycles! Respected chef Darren Robertson from Ten’s
Recipe to Riches has also joined us. Our motorsport producer Michael Heaton is
in social media mode capturing the moment. We’re all glued to the main straight
as Hook & Beattie blast by at 260k’s an hour!
They return to pit lane after a few laps. Beattie’s laughing so hard even the
helmet doesn’t offer much soundproofing. He jokes that Hooky needs to work on
his apexes and that team boss Paul Free might fine his rider for the few they
missed. Stirring aside Daz has nothing but praise for the youngster and has a
slightly different take on the experience to most passengers. He’s thought about
the laps like a racer and how different the perspective is from the back seat.
The reactions are mixed for Barry, Darren and Heato after their rides. Nerves,
exhilaration but all are grinning from ear to ear. They’re in awe of Jamie or
Josh’s skill depending on who they went with. One side effect is that all three
just want go riding again. Mick’s even talking about getting a track-day bike,
although I don’t think he’s told his wife about that yet! Collectively they all
insist that it’s now my turn.
I head back into the pit garage, which looks like it’s set up for a championship
round. Professional banners, boards and signs line the walls. A crew member
directs me to an area that’s partitioned off up the back to get changed. I may
as well be in the apparel section of a motorbike shop. Every piece of safety
equipment I need is here and the team are great with detail. It has to fit right
for you to enjoy the experience fully and also for maximum protection.
I walk out feeling bow-legged – a by-product of the leathers. I climb aboard
Hooky’s bike reach around and grab the passenger handle set on the tank tightly.
“You right?” says Paul. My nod isn’t convincing. Someone shuts my visor because
I forgot to and Josh winds open the throttle. It feels like the front wheel is
lifting slightly before we even get off the pit exit road. Before I know it
we’re at turn 2 and I’m doing my best to brace under the intense braking. I
remember to lean with Josh and just try to go with the flow. At these angles I
could almost reach out and touch the kerbing. He winds the power on out of the
final turn and (as all riders do) gets into an aero efficient tuck. It’s as
though he’s talking to the bike. ”C’mon, show me what you got”. The wind is
rushing by me and we get to end of the one kilometre straight in what seems like
the blink of an eye. The techs tell me later we hit 258k’s an hour! After a few
laps I’m exhausted. Hook has barely raised a sweat. Josh also offers some return
jibing to Beattie. “I think his run was better than yours”. I don’t bother to
compare the data. For a change I’m not interested in lap times. I’m actually a
little lost for words. I caught a glimpse of the world in which they
operate….close to the edge. I can honestly say there are few things in life that
make you feel this good!
The Full Throttle Challenge brought together a great group of people including
partners and sponsors. The activities were real levelers too. We had the chance
to test our own skills with the Honda Australia Rider Training (HART) team. Yes
boys I know I need a refresher course! And V8 driver’s Dean Canto, Luke Youlden
and their Sydney Stunt School put us through some James Bond style driving
sequences. But for me the highlight was seeing the reaction of first-timers
after a two-up ride. They’ll drive friends and family mad now talking about it.
And that’s a good thing.