Excursion: Crawford River Classic VMX, May 2011
Motorsport Retro’s weekend at the Crawford River Classic VMX could be best described, as an anti climax.
On the plus side the extra week had allowed us to have our 1984 Kawasaki KX 250 race ready. The KX had blown a shock at the first round, was running badly and leaking oil all over the place, so we decided that it was time for a full top to bottom engine rebuild and suspension makeover.
I enlisted the help of fellow club member and 1984 KX enthusiast, Scott Copeland to get the job done. Scott’s work can only be described as meticulous, and combined with his knowledge, contacts and passion, the rebuild came together pretty smoothly. Of course there were all the usual challenges to overcome, the waiting for parts, the discovery of new problems and their subsequent solutions. After a massive effort and many late nights from Scott, we found ourselves still rebuilding the clutch and gearbox late on the Thursday night before the event. A few laps of suburbia at 10.30pm was the only running in the KX would get before the “Classic”.
Also after the last round, I decided to sell our 1983 Suzuki RM 125 and have a crack at the pre’78 class, so I purchased a 1977 husky WR390 from Husky expert Fernando Franco. So it was with great excitement that I headed to Buladelah with a rebuilt and fully sorted KX and a “new” Husky.
During practice the KX felt much improved, especially in the handling department, whilst my first ride on the Husky confirmed that this was real mans motorcycle. How those 70’s stars like Heikki Mikkola, Roger DeCoster and Jimmy Weinert managed to ride those things so hard, for so long and jump them is beyond me.
Saturdays racing was on the MX track and I was soon lining up for my first pre ’78 race on the Husky. I got a poor start, and rode around trying to keep the front end from washing out and the back from swapping ends on me. I knew these old machines didn’t handle too well, but something was up. Then I remembered I hadn’t set the tyre pressures since they came back from the bike shop. A quick visit to the pits rectified the problem and the excess 30 psi was gone.
Race 2 in the pre 78 was better. I got the holeshot and roared off into the lead. I think I led until the last lap when I faded pathetically and was overtaken by my old minibike rival Justin Weisemes, still I was pleased to finish runner up on what was only my second ride on the bike
Then it was time to race the KX . I was excited to be racing the bike and thrilled to be lining up next to my team mate Jono, on his identical ’84 machine, after all the effort to get both bikes ready. Jono is a real talent and has a fabulous flowing style and as I was sitting there, it occurred to me that he was certainly a genuine challenger for a top five finish.
As I was revving the bike I suddenly noticed that each time I twisted the throttle it dumped coolant out of the overflow at high speed. Something was seriously wrong.
Scott being a champion bloke had come along to make sure the bike was 100% sorted, and so I wheeled it over to him for diagnosis.
Meanwhile the gate dropped and the race started without me. However Jono was in there and he went for it, in what was his first ever motocross race. He got a fantastic start and was about third into the first corner. He then raced brilliantly and hung on for a fine 5th on debut.
At this point I was still hanging about behind the starting line absorbing the bad news from Scott. His fear was that the new sleeve had dropped a couple of thousandths of a millimeter in the barrel, just enough to allow the exhaust gas to blow into the cooling system. This diagnosis proved to be accurate. It was a huge disappointment for both Scott and I, but there was some small comfort in knowing that we hadn’t caused any extra damage and that Scott didn’t personally carry out the re-sleeving work.
Whilst I was standing there looking like a lost soul, helmet in hand, but with no bike, Justin came over to me and asked if I would like to ride his bike in the pre ’85 “all powers” race. It’s this sort of sportsmanship and camaraderie that I love about the VMX scene. It’s was a nice gesture and one which I instantly accepted. Thanks Justin.
So now I was on an 1984 Honda CR250 staring at the gate, throttle wide open, waiting for it to drop. I popped the clutch and went pretty much nowhere, and ended up about 8th into turn one. I enjoyed the Honda’s aggressive power delivery and balanced suspension and I used it to pass a couple of guys and finish somewhere in the top 10, with Jono just behind me.
I then spent the rest of the afternoon with Scott pulling the head off the KX, whilst Jono competed in the brand and age races. In the brands race for Kawasaki’s and Suzuki’s, Jono pulled the holeshot and led for three quarters of a lap before getting passed by a guy on a PE250, complete with headlight! A great result for both riders.
That night we tucked into a few beers and enjoyed a fabulous spit roast and re-lived the days highs and lows. By the time Fernando came over spruiking his absinth and rocket fuel it was time for bed.
Sunday was a cracker day with sunshine and cool weather for racing. Perfect. The Crawford River Classic’s five lap trophy races for pre ’78 bikes were set for the morning and I couldn’t wait to get out there and tear up the grass track
I lined up on the Husky and got a mediocre start and found myself in about 8th place and eating heavy roost from Birko on another Husky. Unfortunately moments later Birko had a massive highside and was gone. I couldn’t believe the pace everyone was running on these big old beasts, it was only lap one and I was already dry mouthed and puffing.
By lap two things had settled down and I decided to make a move and try a charge to the front. I picked off one bike after the next over the next few laps until I found myself just a bike length behind the leader. However by this stage I was fighting to keep the thing in a straight line, I had mega arm pump and almost binned it a few times, so I had no choice but to wind back my pace. Then Justin passed me (on his way to victory) and I decided to just hang in there over the last lap and settle for third, but about half way through the lap the bike bogged and I was back to fourth and with just a small straight and the final corner left to fight back. But there was to be no final corner challenge, as the big swedish girl died and rolled to a stop……out of bloody petrol!
After the race Jono came to the rescue with some fuel and some tips on filling it up a bit higher next time. We went back to the pits and and packed up, as unfortunately we both had to head back early.
As usual we had a great time, and we will be better prepared for the next event at the Lakes.
We couldn’t go racing without the help from our current partners. Many thanks to the guys at Motul, RK Chain, Polisport, Dead Dog Racing, Northside Motorcycles, Classic Fasteners and The Trials Experience. And special thanks to Scott Copeland for his work on the KX.
Images: Rich Fowler and John Finlayson