Thursday, September 1, 2022

RIP - Wakefield Park

 A long time ago in a galaxy country town far far away, I'd just purchased my first road bike, a Kawasaki ZZR250 so I could go road riding on long trips away. At this time I'd been riding an XL250 dirt bike around for about 6 months and was still very much a learner. After a little incident on a ride with my older brother out the back of Wyangala Dam where I ran off the road and dropped the bike after I'd stopped just before launching over a 6ft drop and scaring the bejesus out of myself, my brother suggested that I go to the track and do some rider training. Yep good idea that.

And so a couple of weeks later I had booked myself and a friend of mine into a Roadsense rider training course at a new race circuit at Goulburn, southwest of Sydney. The new circuit was the 2.2km long Wakefield Park Raceway which was made in 1993 by veteran racer Paul Samuels and his business partner John Carter, their vision was for historic events and club racing in the mid 1990s. Back in the 90s there were only 3 other permanent race circuits in NSW; Amaroo Park, Oran Park and Eastern Creek(SMSP).

Amaroo Park closed in August 1998 to make way for a housing development, then in 2010 Oran Park also closed for the same reason, the encroaching urban sprawl of Sydney's outer suburbs had swallowed both circuits.

Wakefield Park Circuit Map 2000-2022

Wakefield Park is positioned 11km south of Goulburn's CDB in the middle of sheep paddocks as seen on google maps above.


It was somewhere around 94-95, the memory is a little hazy these days. I was a bright bushy eyed kid from the bush, eager to learn how to ride properly. I still remember the first time on the track. They took us around for 2 sighting laps to give us a feel for where the track goes. I clearly remember thinking "Gee why are they going so fast on these sighting laps?"

After many cornering drills, braking drills, gear shift selection drills and combinations of corner/braking drills, by the end of the day I was thinking back to those opening 2 laps and how slow we actually had been riding. My eye's had been opened now to a whole new world of riding. I borrowed "A Twist of the Wrist" by Keith Code from flyboy and proceeded to do another 3 or 4 rider training days at Wakefield Park and Eastern Creek before moving onto track days at Eastern Creek.

Back in the mid 90s Wakefield park was pretty basic as far as tracks go. There was a control tower, 2 or 3 sheds and a set of open air pit garages, the track and that was about it. From this the track eventually grew. Back in the day it was rare for me to carry a camera, but I did take one of those disposable film cameras  to the track, my photos then were pretty poor but you can see the barren look of the track back then.

Circa 1995

Circa 1994

1994

The circuit was sold in 2000 to Rob Hodkinson and Paul Phillips, who made several adjustments to the track layout, straightening out the hook turn. This attracted major events to the circuit including club sprints, time attack events, manufacturer drive days, driver training programs, state championship race meetings, PROCAR, Shannons Nationals, endurance races, Australian Superbikes and the V8 Supercars Development Series.

I was lucky enough to be accepted by Motorcycling Australia(MA) as official media photographer at the 2021 and 2022 ASBK rounds at Wakefield Park, this was a pretty awesome experience for me I must say and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Here's a small selection of photos from the last 2 years of ASBK at Wakefield Park. I have more photos over at my facebook page

Lachlan Epis

Mad Mike Jones(46) & Troy Herfoss(17)

Oli Bayliss




Wayne Maxwell(1) & Mike Jones(46)

Troy Herfoss

Tom Drane

Bryan Staring


It's quite surreal to experience the inside goings on of a race event, to get access to areas that normal race fans cannot get access to, the people you meet and things you see behind the scenes is quite the eye opener. I never imagined bumping shoulders alongside Australian Racing Royalty before now.

Wakefield Park Media Centre

It's interesting to listen to the banter between the riders behind the scenes when the cameras are not on. Below was a short video I made of Tom Reynolds the MA media manager interviewing Mike Jones/Wayne Maxwell at the end of round 3.

Shooting at high noon - Inside turn 10 at the marshall hut

In 2007 the circuit was purchased by the Benalla Auto Club(BAC) and has been running events successfully until now. In 2021 the BAC submitted a Development Application(DA) for a major expansion to the track facilities. The DA for the complex was for a new two story pit building, an off road experience area and further use of the campgrounds, in total worth $5.6 million.

Artist's impression of the pitlane redevelopment

It is estimated that Wakefield Park brings in $18-20 million to the Goulburn community both directly and in-directly. There were rumours in Goulburn Mulwaree council that it would not be approved. On the 13th July 2021 an extraordinary meeting of the Goulburn Mulwaree Council took place which I watched on live stream. Nearby residents spoke about noise from the track affecting their daily lives, business members of Goulburn spoke about the benefits the track brings to the community, sports people like ASBK rider Tom Toparis 600cc Supersport Champion and goulburn resident spoke.

In turn council members spoke, some in favour and some not in favour. At the end of the day council did finally approve the DA but stunningly they slapped a whole raft of noise restrictions on the circuit.


“Council has also included noise limits as a condition of consent, with four different categories of noise being red, amber, green and blue. Included in the condition is a transition period over a three-year period commencing 1st January 2022.

“At conclusion of this period, in the year commencing 1st January 2024, Wakefield Park will be limited to 30 days per calendar year with noise not to exceed 95 decibels, and a further 100 days with noise not to exceed 85 decibels."

Wakefield parks response was to take Goulburn Mulwaree Council to the NSW land and environment court as this would make the circuit unviable to operate. On the 13th July 2022, in yet another stunning decision by the NSW land and environment court Wakefield Park was slapped with an even harsher restriction limiting the circuit to 30 days racing per year. You can read the official court report here - 

The Verdict

With Wakefield park running out of options the decision was made to close the track down as of today, 1st September 2022. All events have been cancelled. The backlash on social media and mainstream media has been quiet intense. Businesses already reeling from 2 years of Covid are now struggling further with takings down in the last month. Motel/hotel bookings cancelled all over Goulburn, pubs/club empty.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council you reap what you sow. There is nothing else in Goulburn to attract visitors, wherefore art thou supposing to fill that $20 million dollar hole?

Another NSW race track bites the dust, now there is only 1 permanent race track in NSW in Sydney Motorsport Park ironically smack bang in the middle of Australia's largest city. It only took 6 leftard complainers to have this track closed due to noise.

Farewell Wakefield Park, we can only hope that a politician somewhere will step in and reverse this absolutely ludicrous decision but in this day and age its looking less likely.



Friday, April 29, 2022

The return trip home

The trip back from tassie was always going to be a let down, I'm mean how could it compare and the weather forecast wasn't looking good today with rain and showers for Melbourne. We said goodbye to Flyboy and Andy as they both were headed for Adelaide.

Melbourne

We just managed to skirt around the rain riding along the freeway and got as far from Melbourne as possible before stopping at the Wallan service centre. We said goodbye to Craig and Geoff here as they were heading home today. The rest of us were heading north with no certain destination known. We'll see what happens was order of the day.

A few stops here and there along the way, picking up Stu in Broadford as he seemingly got behind then went past as we stopped for breakfast. We meander through Beechworth and on up to Holbrook. It was around 2:30pm so Doug called a few pubs, nothing in Boorowa, Scotty suggested Tumbarumba. The Tumba pub had rooms so that was were we were heading. Going down Jingellic road Stu pulls over and says let's turn around, the skys were black and foreboding, so we approached Tumbarumba from the Rosewood side from the north. Storms were approaching and it was raining to either side of us. We just made it into the pub before the heavens came down, how's that for luck?



When we were getting fuel in Holbrook I saw some USB cables and bought one to try on my Africa Twin, plugging the phone in it started working and the maps came up on the dash. This made navigation much easier, wish I had that at the start of the trip, the one I had kept vibrating lose and I eventually lost it so borrowed Flyboys cable.

It was bucketing down outside but we stayed dry, Stu found the $10 cocktails, so we had about 5 each until they ran out then went back to beers.

Cheers for an awesome tour, the hard core crew



Got two hands, just need two mouths....

Scotty ordered the T Bone, when it came out it was about an inch thick and covered the entire plate. Biggest T Bone I've seen in years.


We retired to the common room upstairs after closing for a couple of end of tour drinks. We would be home tomorrow.

Cheers and thanks for reading this far.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Tasmania 2022 Day#8 - Saving Tassie one pub at a time tour

Sadly today was our last day in Tassie, loading up the bikes we fueled up, oiled the chains and checked tyre pressures. Funny the front tyre was down 4psi and rear was down 5 psi. It seems that the tubed tyres leak somewhat more than tubeless. I always seem to top them up every couple of weeks.



We headed out of Queenstown via Zeehan Highway and then turned up the B28 via Lake Plimsoll, it was only 30min out before we took a short stop to have a look over the lake. Beautiful mountain scenery here on the west coast.



It was only a short stop as we keep going onwards up the Murchison Highway and then took the turn off towards Cradle Mountain. As it was a nice sunny day I thought we should have some great views over cradle mountain from Black Bluff lookout. 

There were 2 Asian tourists in the carpark when we parked up the bikes. The guy started looking at our bikes and was hysterical with joy when we all pulled up, he tried to communicate with us with his broken english; read very broken english. Turns out he was a motorcyclist back home, showed us photos of his ride. Very funny him oohing and ahhing at all the bikes.

Climbing up to the top of the lookout we had superb views over the valley below and all the way out to Cradle mountain. Spectacular scenery, the last time we were here it was covered in cloud.




The chinese couple took some photos of all of us standing around the pinnacle, new boy band cover photo time.


It was time to get going again, so I thought that I might be able to get some photos of the guys along the road somewhere so headed off to look for a spot before they were ready. At the speed they ride I reckon I'd have about 2 minutes to find something and setup. Not much time really.










Flyboy came back after he went past as I was packing up my camera, didn't have the heart to tell him I slipped and panned too quickly when he went past and probably missed the shot. So we then rode together to catch up to the boys. 

We finally caught up to them as they were getting ready to head in for a coffee at Cradle Forest Inn at Moina, I decided to order Scones with jam&cream. They tasted as good as they looked and the coffee was nice and strong. It was saturday and lots of bikes were out today, a few bikes were stopping in here so must be popular with the locals.



Flyboy said there a nice little lookout on the left a few kms out the road we'll go have a look. The others kept motoring on so we quickly checked it out. There seems to be endless lookouts all over tassie all with various levels of spectacular.


Next up was the ride across to Sheffield. At Gowrie Park found this large mural painted on a shed along the roadside.



As we were head to Sheffield I saw a sign to the right that said Paradise 3kms. We both stopped and did u-turns and went back and headed down the road. Unfortunately Paradise is just a locality and nothing there just a house or two. I didn't even notice a sign, but google maps shows there was one.

Still a excellent little diversion in some beautiful countryside, I came around a sharp downhill right hander and suddenly a bee/wasp flew inside my helmet that was slightly cracked open for ventilation and was buzzing around in front of my eyes. Lucky I had my internal dark visor down as it was caught in-between the two, but nearly ran off the road trying to get it out. 

Paradise Road

We stopped in a Sheffield where the guys were filling their pie holes with all sorts of goodness from the bakery. I was still a bit full from the scone but couldn't pass up an opportunity to save another bakery, so got a small sausage roll/spinach roll. They were awesome. Gee the jackets getting tight on this tour.....




Sheffield is best known for it murals painted on the buildings, there were a couple right next to the bakery. I didn't have time to go searching for more as it wasn't long before we were heading across to Beaconsfield. Flyboys workmate was also going to meet us there, he was riding an Africa Twin as well and was also getting on the boat tonight.



We rode out to Beaconsfield and then across Batman bridge to Georgetown, there was a strong side wind riding along here that was blowing us all over the place. I was kinda over it by now and to be honest didn't really want to ride out there as Flyboy said it was a shit ride, he was right. Georgetown was a small fishing village, the pub in town near the waterfront looked nice however. Time to head back, via some brilliant backroads from Beaconsfield to Devonport, it was getting late so no photos and I was having too much fun.

Rolling into Devonport the guys were looking for somewhere to eat. Flyboy mentioned he was going into the city centre so I thought I would go take a look, the boat doesn't depart till about 9:30pm or something like that. Both Flyboy and Andy went to a car wash to wash the bikes, so I joined in to get most of the dirt off from the western explorer and the bugs.


It was rather cold out waiting to board the ship. It seemed to take forever, as we chatted with a few of the other riders there. A couple of shots of Fireball warmed us up somewhat while we waited.
 



TASSIE Epilogue

Another successful tour of Tassie completed, no one died which was good and there were no crashes which was great even though I tried my best with the wallaby incident.

Tassie is such a great place to ride, there are so many good twisty roads with awesome views of mountains, lakes, farmlands, forests, beaches and historical places. Plenty of dirt roads too for even more adventures.

Thanks to a great bunch of guys for such a memorable trip, without you guys it wouldn't have been the same. All good riders, and great company. There were many tall stories told in the pub at days end, good times. Shout out to our fearless tour captain Dougie, for booking all the important stuff. Thanks Legend.

We booked all of our accommodation, mostly pubs in advance. Lucky as most places were booked out. Our first day was 26th March and last was 2nd April, 8 days in total. The temperatures were good mostly, although we did have a few cold days near the end of the trip, earlier in march might be a better option but it was still good until early April but I probably wouldn't plan a trip later than this. Most of the accomodation at the pubs cost between $50-$75 which is great value. Fuel prices were sky high at around $2.30 - $2.35 per litre, but have since dropped to more reasonable levels($1.80).

I did 2873kms around Tassie on my trip meter, average 359km per day which was a good distance I think and I did over 5000kms for the trip in total. You could do more kms per day but I feel that you would end up missing a lot of things, as it was 8 days was good but still a bit short. I think you would need a good 14 day trip here just so you could see and do a lot of things. Camping would make it cheaper but could be bad in wet weather.


We did our best to inject some much needed funds into the local pubs and bakery's, although the bakery score looks pretty low, we did spread the love to some local cafe's, no franchise places for us. 
Pubs Saved Counter:              11                
Bakery's Saved Counter:        6

Day 8 Map Reference