Yes, yes. I know. I’ve been away. I apologise, Dear Reader, as I know some of you have struggled to comprehend the world of MotoGP without my rambling drunken dissertations after each round. I’ve seen the emails the guys at the Motorcycle Alliance have received. They printed them and posted them to me because I refuse to give them my email address. Seriously. Some of you actually miss me. Colour me orange and call me Donald The Mushroom Dicked Dictator.
Besides, not much has happened, other than Marquez pushing himself further into the stratosphere of motorcycling Gods.
My absence from the previous 2 rounds has been for good reason.
I have been riding my motorcycle.
Well, one of them at least. I am fortunate enough to have a few, even if I have little time to ride them. I have been at home in Australia, riding my old Yamaha YZF1000R (the one before the R1 came out, called a Thunderace) to the newly formed desert of Central NSW to visit friends currently in the ravages of horrendous drought. Truth is, they don’t live in the desert normally, but at the moment that’s how it appears. Terrible business.
Farmers are committing suicide faster than our war veterans, which itself is a national shame on us all, not that us city slickers care much about either of them, eh? Sure, you “bought a bale”. Good for you, you sated your city slicker guilt. But then you went to Woolies the next night and bought your $1 a litre milk, the same price you paid 7 years ago when our supermarket overlords decided to go on a farmer killing spree and use milk as a loss leader in a price war to win the hearts and minds of “working families”, whatever the hell they are. Truth is, your $1 a litre milk has been killing farming families since the rort began. But you didn’t care, because milk was now cheaper than bottled water, so damn the farmers.
It’s dry out there.
The rot began when that fat oaf Joe Hockey deregulated the dairy industry in 2000 under Howard’s leadership when he was Minister for Financial Services and Regulation. Damn those dairy farmers, and their co-operatives owning the processing companies and cheese making businesses, allowing them to make good profits from their work. We clearly had to end that and give control to multi-nationals. Because that apparently makes everything gooder. We are a country of geniuses here in the Wide Browner Land.
But I digress.
I like taking my old Yamaha to the country. It’s as old school as a modern motorcycle can be. 1000cc, 4 cylinders, and carbies with slides actuated by a cable connected directly to the throttle. No fly-by-wire systems, fuel injection, or electro-wizardry reducing power in first and second gears to protect you from your shit throttle control. Oh, you didn’t know manufacturers do that these days? Sorry to burst your bubble, but you simply cannot be trusted with the full 200hp available from your ZX14R, at least not in the first couple of gears. You’re not bloody Johnny Rea. Go argue the point with Kawasaki.
The Thunderace replaced the much loved FZR1000, one of Yamaha’s serious litre blasters. By the end of the FZR’s model run, it was seen more as a sports tourer, albeit a very uncomfortable one. The Fireblade had arrived, and made every other litre class bike look like the fat kids on cake they really were. So how did Yamaha decide to take on the Fireblade? They built the Thunderace, basically by massaging the FZR’s motor for some better mid-range and squeezing it into what was basically a YZF750 Superbike class Deltabox frame. The bike looks big in photos due to its styling, but it’s smaller than it looks. And it wears the slipperiest plastic pyjamas of any bike Yamaha had built at that time. Still, Yamaha had learnt that their 1000cc owners would tour on their sports bikes, so they made it much more comfy than a Fireblade. It was a vastly underrated bike in its day, and it remains so. I love it. We will have a road test coming up a little later for you for those interested in some modern era vintage gear.
The mighty YZF1000R. Purty, huh?
Best of all, when the government legislates to restrict our electrically controlled digital bikes to no more than 100kmh, they won’t be able to touch my analog 15 year old super bike. That’s my theory anyway.
It was during my ride, out near Quirindi, that my thoughts turned to the upcoming Australian MotoGP.
This time of year is always fraught with a strange combination of excitement and numbing fear. Riding across the bridge from San Remo to Phillip Island in race week is one of the greatest feelings in Australian motorcycling. Everyone should experience it once. For many years I made the trip from the North Coast of NSW to the island, spending a couple of days in the motorcycling Nirvana that is the Snowy Mountains along the way.
But not any more.
I no longer ride there, thanks to the retardation of modern Governments.
The Victorian Government has lots of different departments, and for some odd reason none of them are allowed to talk to any of the others. It is a form of Democratic constipation which while certainly not exclusive to Victoria, it does flourish there like Hydrangeas on a Seasol binge. That is by no means a criticism of the Andrews Government in particular. This shit has been going on for decades. Andrews is just the latest Premier too stupid to fix it.
You see, the Victorian Government owns a Statutory Authority called the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC for short), which answers to Minister for Tourism John Eren. They are the organisation responsible for delivering both the F1 Grand Prix at Albert Park and the MotoGP at Phillip Island, and they are responsible for keeping those two events in Victoria until the end of days.
According to their latest annual report, the Victorian Government kicked the AGPC can to the tune of a cool $57 million Victorian Pesos this year. That’s taxpayer pesos. And I get why they do it. All states pay big money to subsidise big events, hoping they will bring a crowd big enough to cover the bill. And they take this shit seriously. The executive team of the AGPC is made up of half a dozen big wigs who earn around $1.9m pesos between them. The head honcho is on around half a mill a year. Tidy.
Clearly, they’re smart cookies.
But strangely, they’re not smart enough to pick up the phone to the Minister for Police and tell her to get her wannabe soldiers under control. Or maybe they’re just not allowed. I dunno.
Every year, as thousands of riders from across the country head to Victoria for the races, the Victorian Police, no longer allowed to shoot people on the street at random after their killing of 15 year old Tyler Cassidy in 2008 proved a step too far for thinking Victorians, have turned their attention to committing acts of complete bastardry on visiting motorcyclists on their annual pilgrimage. They lie in wait on popular riding roads across the state, and even unpopular ones, with a combination of covert speed cameras in parked cars, radar wielding lunatics hiding behind trees and signs (I’ve even seen them cover their police car with branches to hide it), and their phasers set to “stun until dead, Captain”.
Their mission is to pull you over and annoy the living crap out of you until you either turn around and go home, or are tazed to death like a biscuit-stealing Brazilian backpacker on the side of the road. And as you lay dying in the gutter, desperate for breath, they will take a swab of the drool leaking from the corner of your mouth and run a drug test in case you were in a pokie room last week where someone was smoking a joint.
I remember one trip, riding alone as I usually do, where I crossed the Victorian Border on the Bonang Highway, a road used mainly by logging trucks, with a couple of hefty stretches of dirt. It’s not exactly a major thoroughfare, but it is popular with motorcyclists. Just after I crossed the border, I was pulled over by the police. They had already pulled over around 20 other riders, who had clearly been waiting there some time. I was told to wait while they dealt with those before me in the queue. Yes, they literally had a queue. Meanwhile, the red-headed one who had pulled me in continued to pull in every bike that came through, while letting every single car go by unimpeded. I’m sure it was completely random. Or something.
Defects were being written for fender eliminators, non-standard exhausts (even though they had no noise testing equipment) and anything else you can think of. They know that dealing with a defect fine for an interstate rider is a pain in the arse. Some were handed speeding fines as well.
When the old officer came to me, he claimed I was speeding by at least 20kmh and started writing a ticket. I asked to see the radar reading, which was clearly impossible, mainly because the red-headed muppet who pulled me in didn’t actually have one. He informed me I would be fined based on his “estimate” of my speed. The old one told me they were specially trained to estimate speed by eye.
Thankfully, this guy and his mates will make most of it worthwhile
“What are you, fucking Robocop?” I inquired politely.
“Do you want a ticket for swearing as well?”, asked Old Robocop.
“The courts have already found the word “fucking” is not abusive. I’ll be coming back to attend court and fight the speeding fine, so I’m happy to come back and make you spend another day in court for the swearing fine too if you like. Magistrates love having their time wasted.”
His gun hand twitched. I sensed trouble.
“You’re seriously going to come back here and contest the fine?”
“Sure. I don’t have a normal job, and I love riding these roads. Why wouldn’t I come back?”
He wrote me up for the lowest speeding fine in the book in the hope I’d just pay it and move on with life, and told me to leave.
The next day, at Alexandra, I was again pulled in, this time by police and guys with sound testing equipment. Once again, they had at least 20 bikes lined up, and were pulling in every bike that went past. Not a single car was stopped. More defects were being issued for random ridiculous things. Sound testing was also being conducted, and given I was on a Ducati with Termi pipes, I was pretty sure I was in the shit.
Their process for testing the bike was to place it a couple of metres from the sound testing gear, and rev it to the limiter for a good 7-10 seconds. Pretty abusive. Every bike was getting defected, even ones with stock pipes.
My turn came, and I grabbed my helmet and asked the officer if he wanted me to do a ride by test. He looked at me like he was stupid (well, he was), and asked what I was on about.
“Do you know how noise testing is done for ADR requirements?” I asked him.
“Just like this” Dopey Cop responded.
“No mate. It’s a ride by test, done at a certain speed, in top gear. That’s why most bikes are geared too high, it’s to get the revs lower at testing speed”.
Dopey looked frightened, and turned to one of the non-cops with the clipboard who was clearly one of the noise testing guys, who was obviously not enjoying this waste of his time. The look on his face told the copper I was right, or thereabouts anyway.
“So you’re going to test my bike using an unlawful test and fine me? That will go well in court.”
He looked pale. He told me to leave, along with the other 8 or so riders gathered there who had heard the conversation. Easier to try the whole charade again with the next lot who came along.
Later that day as I crossed the bridge onto the Island, a fleet of motorcycle coppers were waiting to once again pull over every motorcycle as they came over the bridge and issue another round of defects.
Welcome to Phillip Island. Now bend over.
Anyone would think paying $100 for a one day ticket to the races that allows you only to stand in the sun/rain/mud and share a filthy shitter with 30,000 other drunks would be enough to drive most fans away, but Aussie race fans are made of sturdy stuff. The conditions have never been great for fans at the Island, and just to rub it in, this year they even have pre-pitched tents available as an accommodation option for those looking for the full Manus Island Refugee experience. You and 3 mates can share one for only $880. Four filthy, sweaty snoring blokes in one tent for 4 nights. Be still my beating heart.
Pre-pitched tents are all the rage right now.
But for all its issues in terms of facilities, the Phillip Island circuit itself remains one of the greatest race tracks on the planet. Men with testes the size of rockmelons will come and put on a show like no other, just as they do here every year. For me, that is worth the price of admission, and the overpriced accommodation and expensive food that litters the island’s towns, where shopkeepers are keen to rape our wallets every year. Meanwhile the local police cut laps of the main strip in Cowes in Divvy Vans looking to arrest someone who doesn’t salute them correctly.
The racing at The Island is always brilliant.
I can cop the prices, and I can cop the weather. I can even cop the facilities at the track.
But I can’t cop the cops.
Not any more. I refuse to drive there, and I won’t ride, because I don’t want to give up another week going back to contest bullshit fines, and I dare not risk being tazed to death in a table drain by the roadside like a stray dog that ate someone’s sandwich.
I will still report on the event, but I shall do it from elsewhere. I will ride, but I will ride north. Somewhere warm, by the beach, where the girls spend their entire day in bikinis and the beer is cold and the waves are refreshing and the cops are chilled. I will have TV, and Jorge will still call me with personal updates.
What more do I need?