Barry Sheene Festival of Speed Underway at Eastern Creek – By Phil Hall
Under a cloudless sky with conditions far more resembling those of Summer than Autumn, the QBE Barry Sheene Festival of Speed, kicked off today (Friday) at Sydney Motor Sport Park.
Held each year in honour of the two times World 500cc Champion and only a week or so after the anniversary of his death in 2003, the aura of the larrikin Cockney always hangs closely around the three day meeting.
Today was Practice and Qualifying as well as the first few races proper on the programme. Unfortunately, things can often happen to derail those plans, especially at such a big meeting and a serious sidecar accident in the middle of the day that required intervention of the Westpac helicopter put the programme well behind time (reports tonight suggest that both rider and passenger are not as seriously hurt as first thought, which is always the most important consideration)
As always there were the good luck stories as well as the bad luck ones. Visiting lady racer, Maria Costello had her plans for riding in two classes scuppered by a crankshaft issue on Mick Neason’s XR69 replica so Maria will only be riding Rob Francis’s VFR400, a bike she has previously ridden and thoroughly enjoys.
The Gazi Suspension entry of Leo Cash had a throttle cable issue in qualifying and will start well down on the grid in the P5 races as a consequence. Perennial favourite, Robbie Phillis spent most of the day chasing correct jetting on his Trident Suzuki and there was a lot of head scratching taking place in the #32 pit.
The spread of entries across the categories is impressive as usual with riders and bikes travelling from all over Australia to compete. Consequently, the “form” can be easily upset and winners emerge from seeming obscurity.
The New Zealand team in the Trans-Tasman challenge is strong again with the beautiful Honda 900 Bol d’Or of Vince Sharp being a notable and significant addition to the team.
Special guest for the weekend is triple World Champion, “Fast” Freddie Spencer and he seemed delighted to be at the track, charming his way around the pits and being accessible in a way that he would not have been able to be during his GP days. He is slated to do some demo laps on both Saturday and Sunday on a very special VF860 replica of his Daytona bike. That should be worth the price of admission all by itself.
Late in the afternoon a welcome cool change hit the circuit but, along with the change came a shower of rain that roughly coincided with the first of the P5 and P6 750 races. Many riders were caught out having to ride the race on slicks and the topsy turvy nature of the results from that race should give the competitors an opportunity to make up for any unexpected problems in succeeding legs.
Trade shows are in large number as usual and bargains are to be had in the paddock as well as the value happening on the track. If you can get out to the track tomorrow or Sunday, or both, don’t miss it.