Monday, 25 February 2013

World Superbikes – Phillip Island 2013

By 10am on Friday, me, Steve, Red Devil (F650GS Twin) and our two king sized chairs were waiting at Gate 1 for a slice of the action. When we arrived the World Supersport riders were enjoying a free practice session. As soon as we found our first vantage point, at the braking zone for turn 1, we were off the bike and watching; awesome.

Tex & Bundy Charity Fundraisers at the Expo.
When you first arrive at the track it’s hard to know what to do because there seems to be so many options. After a cup of tea, and a gentle reminder that we had all weekend, we headed over to the Australian Motorcycle News (AMCN) Expo. I spent a long time pouring over the merchandising. In the end all I wanted was a stubby holder but when I found Steve he said “you already have a stubby holder” and that was the end of that. Steve liked the MV Augusta track bike, which for $8500 seemed incredibly cheap; I said “no” to that too.

The California Superbike School had a stand at the expo. Steve Brouggy runs the school and when I said “I always read Steve Brouggy’s articles in Two Wheels Magazine,” who should turn around but Steve himself. Steve willingly talked to us about motorcycle skills and techniques and we nearly booked in for two days tuition when the school meets at Queensland Raceway in June; maybe next time around.

Playing at being a media photographer.
After lunch we took advantage of our paddock passes and wandered up and down at the back of the pits. At that time, all the garage doors were down but we still managed to catch a glimpse of Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri. By the time Steve activated the camera they had both slipped behind closed doors.

As Phillip Island is the first World Superbike race of the year, there is always a little extra tension wondering who will be out performing whom. We watched the first qualifying session from the pit roof. It’s fun up there, looking down on the guys riding in and out of their garages. Michel Fabrizio, riding an Aprillia for Red Devils Roma, caught my eye. Fabrizio was the talk of the town on Friday night as he was top of the board when the first qualifying session was over.

Marco Melandri at MG corner.
On Saturday we were down at the track early enough to plonk our chairs in one of the plumb spots at MG, the slowest corner of the track. MG provides the best option if you want to see the bikes up close and personal. We are so lucky that Phillip Island Circuit still has low fences; long may this be so. It was a hot day, at one stage they were reporting a track temperature of 50 degrees. I kept wetting my shirt and that kept me comfortable for at least half an hour.

One of the wonderful things about the WSBK’s at Phillip Island is they allow the bikes to park inside the circuit. We left our lunch in Red Devil’s aluminium panniers and I was the one sent on the mission to retrieve it. Lying there, right beside by bike was an ignition key. There were plenty of bikers taking a breather in the shade but no one had lost their key. We placed the key on an old Akubra hat and laid the hat down in a prominent place. We all thought that if we had lost our key the first thing we would do is retrace our steps.

While I was collecting lunch there was a bit of banter going on between the bikers. One guy asked me “Are you going to upgrade the BMW when Volvo releases their motorcycle?” I just smiled. Surely this was a case of the pot calling the kettle black; this guy was riding a Suzuki V-Strom! When I found a wicked looking Husqvana motorcycle, I said “It could be handy to ride a bike that can sew a patch on your jacket too.” Luckily the owner didn’t hear me.

Superpole was good value and I think it made nearly everyone smile when old favourite Carlos Checa, riding his Ducati Panigale 1199R, took out pole position.

Race day action at Siberia.
On Sunday we sat ourselves high on the hill at Siberia. The day was hot and even Bass Strait failed to deliver a cooling breeze. We slow cooked in our denim jeans but at least we weren’t getting sunburnt. The atmosphere amongst the spectators at Siberia is great. The entire audience clapped for every rider at the conclusion of each race and when a local girl sang the National Anthem some dude called out “You F…… beauty;” everyone cheered.

The racing was spectacular with Aprillia taking out the entire podium in the first superbike race. Unfortunately, our man, Marco Melandri, was taken out of the race by pole sitter Carlos Checa. Race two was a little more democratic and although the Aprillia’s of Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli were first and second, we were delighted to see Marco Melandri, on his BMW S 1000RR, taking out third place.

On Monday morning, still high on our latest motor racing fix, we rode away from Phillip Island in a heavy sea mist. I noticed I had a lump in my throat and I felt certain that one day we’d be back for more.

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