Monday, 28 January 2013

20th International Island Classic 2013 – Phillip Island

The Red Devil, main straight, Phillip Island.
The Island Classic is a race meeting for motorcycles born before 31st December 1990. This year’s event sported teams from Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and USA, with top guns Ryan Farquhar (335 career wins, including three wins at the Isle of Man TT), Jeremy McWilliams (12 years competing in the world GP championships) and our very own Cameron Donald all putting in an appearance. Giacomo Agostini was the guest of honour and when you saw the crowd of press photographers, at the start of each of Ago’s demonstration laps, it was obvious that the event committee had made the right decision.

Cameron Donald.
On Friday 25th January, after the early showers, we cruised down to the Phillip Island Circuit to collect our tickets and T Shirts. As soon as we arrived at gate 1 we were totally absorbed by the magic of this amazing racing venue. Racers love this track and spectators are well rewarded with many vantage points where you can see the action in every direction. The pits were open to everyone, all weekend, and it was pure entertainment to saunter from one pit garage to another, admiring the hundreds of classic bikes and sidecars that were participating in the weekend of racing. It difficult to tell who was who as the Island Classic is an unpretentious affair and there wasn’t a pit garage sign in sight.

Our bikes were parked at Doohan Corner and we were sitting in our big camp chairs when the racing commenced on Saturday afternoon. The event had attracted a large number of competitors and the racing was excellent with some divisions sending 40+ bikes scrambling for a position in the first corner. We stayed a while at the 50 meter braking zone, observing the different techniques and trying to learn something.

Ago's waving at me.
We were at Siberia for one of Agostini’s demonstration laps and I found myself arguing, with another spectator, about whether Ago was waving at him or me. Once we had settled that score, our new found friend tried to talk us into joining in on Monday’s track day. Reading between the lines, the slowest rider in the slowest group is still circulating at a fair lick of speed. It would be great to ride the circuit and try out the bends but the Red Devil and I are not interested in doing 200km an hour down the straight.

While we were watching the action at MG corner, we met a true motor racing enthusiast. Not only had this guy attended over 1400 race meetings, but he had catalogued all the programs, including the race results for every race. It was amazing to see him meticulously documenting the results for even the support races.

Ago signing my poster and pass.
On Sunday we were wined and dined in the club classic lounge overlooking pit straight. In between eating dainty quiches and Danish pastries and drinking copious amounts of coffee, we stood by the window to catch a glimpse of the day’s events. The best part about the lounge is you get to look down on the pit area and watch all the bikes assembling in preparation for the next race. The grid line-up and race starts are great, too. Watching a motorcycle whizz past at 280km hour isn’t as much fun as a vantage point at Siberia or MG, the slowest corner of the track. As promised, Agostini made an appearance before lunch and with the patience of a saint he signed each and every piece of memorabilia that was presented to him. Some punters abused the system and turned up with a dozen things for him to sign. Ago never faltered, and his film star smile was ready for every clicking camera. I thought his visit was tinged with sadness as he said “It has been a long time since my last visit and will probably be the last time for me to come to Australia.” At 70 years of age he still has an eye for the pretty young babes with long hair.

A little older than my beemer.
The catering staff must be forgiven for serving lunch when race three of the International Challenge was underway, but when you are in the corporate lounge if seems the focus is on different things.

It seemed like the weekend was only just getting started when the last race was being run; Steve and I would quite happily have kept turning up at the track day after day. To help dissolve the post race meeting blues, we retired to Cowes for pizza on the pavement.

Would we do the Island Classic again? You betcha!

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