Published on March 22nd, 2015 | by Boris
2015 BARRY SHEENE FESTIVAL OF SPEED
Apart from the Island Classic, this has got to be one of the best motorcycle race meetings in Australia.
Crusty old bastards, wild-eyed young bastards and every brand of race-addicted bastard in between those two extremes is in it and on it.
The place reeks of race fuel and determination. Men are grimacing with distaste at unco-operative motorcycle parts, or stabbing them into co-operation with screwdrivers and spanners. Others are grinning with satisfaction at having shaved a second off their best lap or not exploding in a ball of ancient Japanese-flavoured flame.
It is a place and a time of rare and primal glory. And it is blessed by the Road Gods.
I’ve been going to the Barry Sheene Festival of Speed for years. I make a point of it. Lots of other people do, too. The crowd attendance puts the two competing superbike series’ to shame.
Which is quite instructive for the respective promotors, I would think.
Sure, it’s not as…well, glitzy as the ASBK and Formula Extreme.
There are no pit girls (not that there are all that many anyway) and there are no big corporate semi-trailers and factory teams.
But there are legends and icons. Malcolm Campbell, Robbie Phillis, Cam Donald, Steve Martin and even Fast Freddie Spencer were on hand this year.
And there are motorcycles of such stunning beauty and glorious heritage that grown men are reduced to keening, sparkle-eyed rapture.
And of course there is the racing.
Which, like all motorcycle racing, is pretty damn fine, because motorcycle racers make it pretty damn fine. They can’t help themselves. The fuckers will race for shits and giggles, let alone food.
It doesn’t sound like a normal race meeting – but since no-one goes to “normal” race meetings, that point is kinda moot.
The Festival of Speed sounds like what race meetings used to sound like in the 70s and 80s, when thousands of people would flock to Oran Park, Amaroo Park and Mt Panorama, breathing in Castrol R fumes and exhaling two-stroke, and cheer over the shriek of YZ strokers and the rasp of the CBRs, GSXs, and GPZeds. These were the same bikes we were riding on the streets. How could we not go and watch them race against each other?
Well, fundamentally, we couldn’t.
But the Festival of Speed also sounds like what motorcycle races used to sound like in the 50s and 60s and 70s. Because bikes of that era race there as well. And until you’ve heard a Norton getting its prehistoric guts hammered into Turn One, you’ve not heard anything worth hearing.
Today’s youth is unable to get this. I feel sorry for them.
They’re running around on LAMs bikes.
And while there is a Kawasaki 300 series, no-one gives a shit about going to see LAMs bikes race.
Some of that youth goes on to buy Gixxers and R1s, but they don’t give a shit about going to watch those rockets race either. So our two competing series’ languish spectator-free. The LAMs kids do give a shit about ATGATT. And being ‘safe’. And what glove needs to be put on first.
They are lost to motorcycling. They just own motorcycles.
But lots of people give a shit about seeing fire-breathing, oil-spitting, piston-slapping missiles ridden by desperately unhinged madmen.
I am just one of those people.