Three Bathurst antagonists come together to relive 1979 Australian Unlimited Grand Prix
Ron Boulden, Graeme Crosby and John Woodley
Always a much-vaunted event on the Penrite Oil Broadford Bike Bonanza schedule, the 2015 edition of the Gala Dinner on Saturday night again proved to be a fantastic celebration of historic motorcycling in Australia.
In line with the Bonanza theme of ’50 years racing at Bathurst’, the three adversaries from the famous 1979 Australian Unlimited Grand Prix in Ron Boulden, Graeme Crosby and John Woodley came together with MC Alan Cathcart to headline the evening’s proceedings and discuss the race face-to-face 36 years on.
Let’s hear Boulden’s reflections of the race, which was eventually taken out in wet conditions by the then 19-year old on his TZ750 Yamaha, ahead of the Kiwi duo of Crosby (KR750 Kawasaki) and Woodley (RG500 Suzuki)
“When we first went to Bathurst, I was getting fuel blowback which was going on my visor. As a result, someone decided to use a little ball bearing as a check valve.
“The problem was we started practice on the Thursday, and we did a lap and it went really well, then we got halfway down Conrod Straight and the bike petered out.
“This continued from Thursday practice through to Friday night, where I could only get through a lap and a half. Then someone realised the ball was blocking the fuel off and obviously when you’re flat out it will just cease every time.
“We went into Saturday with no intention of doing any good. It was just good to get to the end of the straight without having the thing cease on you. I started to go a bit quicker, but I wasn’t even looking at the lap board until I passed somebody and then I passed somebody else and somebody else, and I thought this is actually really good.
“I ended up coming third on the Saturday and had no idea where I was, because all I was interested in was getting the thing through.
“After Saturday’s success, having got around and feeling comfortable without really racing, I then for a moment thought we were a chance in the Unlimited Grand Prix. I was as quick as anybody there, and it was Saturday that I realised that the bike was extremely quick.
“In the first four laps or so, all I could remember was going across McPhillamy and when the handlebars turned in and went to the stoppers, I thought ‘this is a little bit wet’. I thought this is not going to end well if we keep going.
“But obviously the guys were still going and as Croz doesn’t back off early, you just keep going and luckily it did dry.
“The straight was my best part of the circuit. I tried for the first half-a-dozen laps to race guys over the mountain, but after that I thought this is a bit silly, so I just thought I’d wait and work it out as it goes along.
“It was only about lap six or seven, and I didn’t know I had the horsepower advantage over the two guys. I still couldn’t believe every time I went down the straight or going up the top of the mountain, and I’d look around and John was still there. I was going ‘is he really on a 500cc or not, this can’t be quite right?’.
“At one stage, we got to the end of Conrod and turned into Murray’s, and next minute I look to my left and Croz is there looking across smiling at me. I thought it was on at that stage.
“It was all about when the opportunity arose. It was a matter of if you felt like you could get away and there was an opportunity, you would take it.
“I thought I’d blown it (on the last lap). All I had was the well-thought-up 19-year old’s strategy, which was to keep riding it as fast as you could, but then I really thought they’d got away.
“That was going into the straight, and then for some reason all the sudden I picked up the four bike lengths I was behind, and by halfway down I thought I’m quite comfortable with this.
“I thought I was okay after that, but then I thought if I don’t absolutely exit this correctly around the last corner, Croz or John will come down the inside of me.
“It definitely was my most exciting race. In some respects, we all got on quite well so there was no real animosity to it; it was all pretty clean and fair which made it enjoyable as well.”
Continue through to the recollections of the 1979 Australian Unlimited Grand Prix from Graeme Crosby and John Woodley using the buttons below. Click through to page two