Welcome to Simon’s report on the 2015 Barry Sheene Festival of Speed. Tony Carroll and I were discussing how much fun we were having on track so far this year, and he brought up the concept of us driving down and taking part in the Barry Sheene. After a bit of coaxing he convinced me it was a great idea, and with just the two of us it would be financially viable and not require too much organisation as we could just drive down with the bikes on the trailer. All that was required was convincing my wonderful wife Tamara that I was capable of going racing unsupervised without doing anything silly, amazingly she let me go!
My dad (Gary Dickson) decided he would come down and be pit crew! Having someone to put warmers on/off, refuel bikes and check tire pressures etc was AMAZING, it really took the pressure off and enabled Tony and I to just focus on riding as fast as the conditions would allow. We took 2 bikes each, Tony rode Gary’s spare CBR250RR as well as his VFR400, while I rode Tony’s spare VFR400 that I previously rode at Phillip Island, as well as my trusty CBR250RR.
We loaded up Wednesday evening and got on the road Thursday morning for the long haul South. With 3 drivers it was a fairly easy trip, we didn’t get lost or experience any dramas on the way down. We arrived at Sydney Motorsport Park at about 6:30pm, setup our pit bay, got the tent up, showered and went for a meal at the Eastern Creek Pub, before getting into bed at a decent hour.
I had entered the Period 6 250cc Production class, and the Period 6 500cc class, each class scheduled to have 1 practise session, 1 qualifying session and 1 race on the Friday, 2 races on Saturday and 2 more races on Sunday. To add to that I had nominated for the Barry Sheene feature race, the top 25 fastest period 5 and top 25 fastest period 6 bikes would qualify – with times being taken from the class qualifying sessions. The Barry Sheene feature was scheduled to be 3 races of 10 laps, 1 Saturday and 2 Sunday. To ensure I was going to be tired I also entered into the Freddy Spencer feature, open to all 125cc and 250cc bikes. It was to be a 1 race affair on Sunday. To add to the intrigue all races were progressive grids, meaning your position from qualifying would only count for the first race, positions on future races were decided by the finishing order from the prior race in that class.
Practise and Qualifying went well, with Tony and I getting used to the track, it being Tony’s first time there and my second we were lacking a bit of local knowledge. In the 250 class I got out there and just kept trying to improve my pace with each lap. I ended the session successfully going faster than I had on my previous tour of SMP, a best lap of 1:51.094 put me on the second row of the grid in 7th, the next 250 Production bike was starting from 11th over 3 seconds behind. My last trip to Sydney in 2012 saw me leave with a PB of 1:52.3 so I had clearly improved as a rider since then. Tony qualified in 14th with a 1:56.110, 3rd of the P6 250 Production riders.
For the 500cc class I had a plan, and that was to follow Harley Borkowski (#00 Honda VFR400) around and learn how he rides the circuit. Through a bit of luck I managed to hold onto him, everytime he was starting to open up a gap on me, a slower rider would get in his way mid corner and allow me to close back up. I managed to put together a best lap of 1:47.912, earning me second place on the grid. Tony lost the tow on the first couple of laps and qualified in 6th with a best lap of 1:49.502.
Everything went sour as we were called up to the first 250cc race, the heavens opened and dumped a decent amount of water on the circuit. I got a cracking start where I took the lead into turn 1, however things resumed normal service a couple of seconds later as a number of riders went past me. Dan Harrisson (#43 Honda CBR250RR) came past me and had a big slide through turn 5, I was determined not to crash on the first day and just kept at a pace I was comfortable doing and Dan kept getting further away. Mid way through Ryan Young (#20 Honda NSR250) overtook me, I tried to up my pace but could not lift enough to get back in front. Ending race 1 as the 3rd P6 250 Production bike. Best I could manage in the wet was a “scorching” 2:21.599.
The rain nicked off in time for the P6 500cc race, I got away nicely and slotted into second place behind Harley, I was unable to keep the pace of Harley and on the last lap found myself being overtaken by Daniel Birch (#13 Honda VFR400), I retook the lead into the turn 9 hairpin, however he was able to hold tight and use my slipstream to get his nose across the finish line ahead of me, a tactic I should have employed rather than making my move on the brakes. Best lap of 1:49.645 on the final lap, 0.04 faster and I would have taken 2nd position, however it was a good race and I was happy to run with the leaders.
Tony, Gary and I joined Queenslander Andrew Relph (#68 Kawasaki ZXR750) for dinner to celebrate making it through the first day on track. Saturday started well but ended early after a couple of incidents meant a number of races had to be dropped.
The track started dry for race 2 on the 250, I was able to get out and lead the class by the end of the first lap, on lap 4 of 5 it started to sprinkle and I dropped my pace to ensure I would not crash. I finished first in my class and 5th outright, with a best lap of 1:50.5790, which I was very happy about as getting to the 1:50 mark was my goal for the weekend.
Race 2 for the Period 6 500cc’s and I got good enough start. I found the pace to stick on Harley’s tail from the beginning, I decided I to let him lead and just stay close and continue to learn the best way around the circuit. About 1/2 way through the race Damien Mackie (#6 Suzuki RG500) appeared on his rocket-ship RG500, he passed me on the run to turn 10, then blew past Harley down the straight, I did all I could to hold onto them but could not get close enough to make a move, so I happily took home 3rd place. I set my fastest lap of the weekend, and achieved my goal of getting into the 46’s with a 1:46.092 on the final lap!
Tony and I qualified for the Barry Sheene, me in 32nd and Tony in 38th but we opted to skip the first Barry Sheen race as the weather looked like it was going to open up again, and I was also concerned about the amount of tire left on the VFR400, this was the 4th event for the tires. Gary, Tony and I selected a local Indian restaurant and were pleasantly surprised to find it served fantastic food!
Sunday started wet, however the track was almost fully dry by the time race 3 for the 250’s got underway. I got away decently and set a decent pace trying to ensure none of the other P6 250 Production bikes could stay with me, with 2 laps to go the rain started to sprinkle, I slowed to ensure I kept i t upright, but I had opened enough gap on the other production bikes to ensure I won my class with a best lap of 1:53.809.
The track was all dry again for the third P6 500cc race. Another reasonable start got me away with the leaders, however they opened up a gap on me while I was dicing with Glenn Hindle (#50 Yamaha TZ350) and Lech Budniack (#27 Yamaha TZ250). I picked the wrong line through turn 5, and Tony made a super move to ride around the outside of me, then Cameron Donald (#C Egli Vincent 500) slotted past me on run to turn 6. Finally Vito Maniscalo (#8 Honda VFR400) got a perfectly timed stream and crossed the finish line a couple of inches in front of me. 8th to cross the line and 5th in class was not the result I was looking for.
I took part in the second leg of the Barry Sheene race and had a ball on track, making some fun overtakes around the outside and on the brakes. What the VFR400 lacked in horsepower it made up by being more nimble, as most of the other bikes in the event were 750cc or larger machines.
The Freddie Spencer feature race I went out to have a bit of fun, I got a bit carried away, and set about putting down my fastest laps of the weekend aboard the 250! I started 8th and finished 6th with a best lap of 1:49.147, my fastest ever lap of the track aboard the CBR250RR.
The final race aboard the 250 I got away cleanly and stuck with the GP bikes until it started to sprinkle on the second lap. A few GP bikes overtook me over the next laps, however I successfully finished as the top P6 250 Production bike to make it 3 wins and a 3rd to seal victory over the weekend. The pace was not fast due to the damp track, but my best lap of 1:53.640 was enough to seal the weekend. I’m thrilled to have taken a class victory at my first Barry Sheene!
The fourth and final Barry Sheene feature race was directly after the 250 race so I sat it out to prepare for my final race of the weekend the P6 500cc. The track had dried up again for the race and I got off to a decent start finishing lap one between Harley and Damien. I put in 100% to hold onto them to try and seal a podium. My 3rd place finish was what was needed to seal 3rd outright! A thrilling end to the weekend. My pace was good with a best lap of 1:46.603. A great finish to a very enjoyable weekend.
|Total Laps (racing & qualifying)
|Average race start lap time
|Average race flying lap time
|1st (grid spot 7)
|1st (4th outright)
Thanks to Tony for the loan of the VFR400 and organising the trip down. Also to my sponsors – Penrite Oil, Xcite Bikes, HEL Performance, 2fiftycc.com, CaraData, Litek and Kaiser Baas. A final big thank you to Lara Sims and Ray Oxford for sending me some great action shots to use in this report!