Sunday, February 7, 2021

St George Motorcycle Club Summer Racing series

Late last year SMSP was fitted out with lighting to allow for night racing which I think is a brilliant idea. They can now run all types of night events and maybe at some point in the future we might be able to see  events like V8 Supercars or ASBK racing under lights, that would be cool to see. The possibilities are endless, day/night racing for the benefit of racing fans everywhere.

Image courtesy SMSP Web page

In December, January and February I was able to attend Sydney Motorsport Park(SMSP) for the first ever motorcycle racing series under lights. This was a fantastic event run by St George Motorcycle Club, a local Sydney club with a strong following. Not only did I get to attend the action packed racing, I was privileged enough to attend as Media.

To say I was excited to be accepted was a bit of an understatement, and to be honest I was pretty nervous as well. A few days later the reality of the task finally sunk in. I knew that this was going to be the most challenging thing I've ever tried in photography since taking it up only just under 3 years ago. Photographing fast moving objects in low light, what could possibly go wrong?

In-between round 1 in December and round two in January I'd purchased some additional equipment to make my life a little easier in the process. I'll make another post about that later. But for starters I ordered myself a vest from an online store so I didn't have to wear the pink ones they hand out at the track and I can advertise my photos at the same time. 

Early on when I first started taking photos at the track when I was spotted in the pit area with a DSLR, people would ask where they could view my photos. They must have though if I had a big expensive looking camera I must be a professional right? Those first couple of times I was lost for what to say as I wasn't really putting them anywhere. What to do about it I thought to myself afterwards.

I contemplated putting them here on my blog, but thought I'd rather not combine my blog with the photography side so I decided I'd start a dedicated facebook page for my motorcycle photography work. I can reach a far wider audience with facebook page than I can with my website and I would probably need a dedicated website for photography anyway, like squarespace or smugmug(which I have anyway but don't use much) as the blog is a bit limiting. I'm getting a bit off topic.

After signing on for the first night I  spent a little time in pitlane and I thought I'd make my way around to the inside of turn 1 the fastest point on the track and turn 2 the closest and slowest point on the track.

It was interesting shooting in the twilight even before it was actually dark. I was shooting in full manual settings, and thinking to myself 'jesus' in this low light this is quite hard. I was running ISO setting right up and shutter speed right down trying to find a happy medium. Too high ISO the images are to noisy/grainy, too slow a shutter speed and all the images will be blurry and the night will be a waste of time. At one point in frustration I pulled out my phone and took this image at turn 2. It was looking better than my DSLR pics. Determination set in to get it right. Damn it. This is hard work. Also shows the improvement in modern phone cameras without putting in any effort, this is why smart phones have decimated the point and shoot camera industry.

Frustrated phone photo at turn 2

The first night was pretty much trial and error with plenty of settings tried. Lighting levels kept varying within the same corner as the lights shine brightly on one point of the track and then are diffused with dark patches between the next light. I maxed out the ISO at 3200 with a max shutter of 1/500 but shot down to around 1/160 at F2.8, my 200-500 F5.6 just doesn't cut it in the low light conditions. Lots of blurry shots in there but some keepers as well.

There are 3 classes of bikes in this series. There is the Unlimited 1 class which is basically up to 1000cc Superbikes with laptimes under 1:40sec, then there is unlimited 2 class which is Superbikes with laptimes over 1:40sec and the 600cc supersport class. Racing in all 3 classes has been exceptional.

Here's a couple of shots from the first night out.

Timothy Griffin

Andrew McIntosh

Harley Borkowski

Did I happen to mention the actual racing was fantastic, with only the track lit up and everything else being dark it made you more focused on the racing and what was going on. There was quite a crowd of spectators as well which is unusual at this level of racing. This bodes well for future events. This might be club racing but there are some seriously quick guys in here. Glenn Allerton and Cru Halliday on factory Australian superbikes(ASBK) and the likes of Yannis Shaw on the R1 all in the low 1:30's, yep that's quick.

Reviewing the photos later I was reasonably happy with the results. Some disappointments in there for sure where they looked the goods on the LCD screen but once imported on the my PC they were rather blurry. I was more confident heading out for the second round in January as I now knew the limitations my camera has in low light. I decided that I didn't want to go above 2000 ISO if I could help it or 2500 absolute max,  as I wasn't thrilled with any of the results at 3200. ISO1600 seemed to be a sweet spot but have to be oh so careful with shutter speed and try to keep a steady hand.

So for the second night I thought I'd like to head over to the old turn 9(15 now) where Doohan and Criville had their famous come together back in the 96 GP. I really enjoyed this part of the track as well. The bike speed was slow as well as being really close to the edge of the circuit. I think I lucked out being here just on sunset and captured some amazing images.

Lachlan Epis

Andrew McIntosh

Yannis Shaw

It's as easy as A, B, C

Glenn Allerton

Luke Mills

The second round seemed to fly by and it was over in no time at all. Again the racing was fantastic. I couldn't wait to get home and see how my shots turned out. I was a little disappointed as I was shooting on a different camera body and was expecting better results, but I still got some great results, just not as expected. Lesson learned for round 3 and the final race.

I got snapped in pit lane with two of Australia's premier motorcycle photographers. Rob Mott who shoots for Australian Motorcycle News and Nick Edards from Halflight Photographic who also shoots for Bike Me, Kiwi Rider and Australian Motorcycle news and others and me. Haha. Both great guys.

Rob Mott, Nick Edards & Moi - Image by Lin Cotter(I Think)

Feb 6 was scheduled for the final round and conditions have been ordinary all day to say the least with a smattering of the wet stuff flying about. But by the time race time came around it had all dried up ready for an exciting night of racing. Exciting was an understatement, standing on turn one those bikes were flying by so fast it is unreal to be only a couple of meters from those missiles travelling in excess of 200+kph.

Factory Yamaha R1

Glen Allerton aboard the fire breathing BMW S1000RR

I think it was race 7 of 9 or there abouts the red flags came out. I was speaking to the pit lane flag marshall. She said there was an incident at turn 5. A few minutes later they announced the meeting had been cancelled due to the incident. The careflight chopper was called in which landed at turn 5 to assist the rider a few minutes later. Last I heard that the rider was conscious. I wish the rider all the best.

There was an awful long wait for the trophy presentations that concluded the night. It was no surprise to see Glenn Allerton take out the Superbike class overall winner. All up what a great series it was, racing under lights is fun to watch and I can't wait to do it again at the end of the year. Qatar MotoGP round would be something special, I'd love to go there one day.

If your interesting in seeing more photos I have put up several galleries on my Road to Nowhere Images Facebook page. Click the link to open a new page. Thanks for reading.😎

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Blast from the Past

Whilst visiting my Dad at Christmas he brought out some old photos he had found when he was rummaging through some draws. Looks like he found some long lost photo's of my old ZX-9R from the late nineties. Good times.

First pic is the bike at Dad's place.

Interestingly enough this second picture was taken on the day of Dave's wedding in Orange in central Western NSW.

God we look young in that pic, christ he even has hair, thats how old this is. Must be somewhere around 99 or 00 before I had the R1.

Monday, January 18, 2021

O'Connell Pub Run

Holy shiz balls, 2 rides in 2 weekends. Must be some kind of record. Might have to quit my job and go professional blogging like that Bandit rider guy, he's always riding and posting and I'm starting to think he doesn't actually work, maybe not. Perhaps my wife's getting ready to divorce me and needs time to fill out the paper work....

Our neighbours from Nowra organised a ride out to O'Connell pub for lunch on Sunday and asked around anyone else wanted to go. I think just about everyone went on this trip. Normally its 40 odd degrees and not bike friendly weather here but this summer has been quite mild, only in the mid to high 20's. Perfect riding weather.

So the Sydney covid infested crew headed on out over the Blue Mountains via the Bell's line of road. We were very lucky not to get done by the rozzers in one of the overtaking lanes on Bells, the bastard was hiding in the bushes with his laser. Fucker, just as we overtook 2 slow ass Cam Am Spyder  drivers.

Crossing over Darling Causeway we descended down Victoria pass and gave Geoff's speed camera the finger as we went. Fcukers. We turned off on Jenolan Caves road and headed out to Oberon to meet up with the rest of the crew. Geoff dropped back so I used that opportunity to stop for a quick pick.

What is it with Sunday drivers, we came upon a line of traffic doing 60 in the 100kmh zone. It was difficult to over take due to the undulating terrain and winding road. Only to finally get past some completely oblivious moron with a train of vehicles in their wake and with everyone wanting to road rage him off the road and burn them to death. I hope I scared the bejesus out of them when I went past. Seriously is it that hard to use your mirrors, or accelerator or even pull over to the side of the road and let other pass? So fucking clueless.....

A short break was had in Oberon where a few of the lads inhaled some pies from the bakery while we waited for the Nowra crew to arrive. We received a message saying they'd be 30 min late. It gave us time to catch up and talk bikes of all things.

Soon after the Nowra crew arrived we were off to O'Connell and the pub for lunch. Stu booked ahead when we were waiting in Oberon and it was a good thing he did. They were extremely busy today so we ordered straight away. Still it took about an hour or more for us to get our burgers.......Dave then ate some else's burger, hahahha.

Lunch was ok, the burger wasn't anything special but filled a hole I guess. The short or long lunch stop however you want to look at it was over too soon and we said our goodbyes and headed in separate directions. Our's took us back through Oberon and back up Mt Victoria.

There were plenty of slow Sunday drivers along Jenolan caves road to the point were Stu pulled over so we could let a big long chain of cars go, so we could have an enjoyable run down the hill to the highway. After the 5 minute wait we eventually caught up to them at the highway intersection and had a great run through the twisty bits.

Waiting, waiting.......couldn't have asked for a better day for it.

Bruce made the suggestion to stop at the Lapstone hotel to rehydrate for the last leg home. Not a bad idea and I needed a drink by the time we got there. I've been past here plenty of times before but never ever stopped in. Not a bad little pub.

Thanks for the ride fella's it was a top day out, only a short 350kms but great all the same to be out riding. The alternate is pretty bleak, lets hope we don't go back there anytime soon.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Get your sh!t together mate!

 What the hell has been going on? 

A ride was organised last Sunday at the last minute. It's the first time I'd been on the bike since November last year. God that's sad. So what have I been doing you might ask? 

Well for one I haven't been blogging, and in fact last year was my poorest effort yet. The year that should not be named really took the wind out of my sails you might say. Being a motorcycle travel blog and not being able to get out on the bike really put a dampener on my blogging, managing just 11 measly posts. 

Oh well shit happens as they say. I was only busy with work and normal family life, as we didn't really get out much at all last year. I did get out a bit to photograph some bike racing action which I'll post up about a bit later. So I've got no excuses really, just been plain old lazy. Well maybe its time that I got my shit together and got on with it. On and up as they say, there's no time like the present. Time to start looking for a new bike as well as I haven't done squat about that either.

So on Sunday morning I headed off and picked up Geoff and Scotty for a bit of a loop ride. First stop was for a some lunch on the Old Pacific Highway and to meet St Pat who had just bought himself a Ducati 1198 SP the day before. Lets hope this one doesn't end up like the last one did here. Coming down the hill from Cowan I was followed by a motorcycle cop all the way down through the twisty bits in an 80 zone. D'oh. 

Late last year Geoff managed to pick himself up an sweet looking Africa Twin that he's been using to tour on. Slack bastard hasn't given me a ride yet. What kind of friend is that? Complete selfish bastard!

St Pat's new to him Ducati only had 9000kms on the clock, so it is practically brand new, only just run in. It looked in really good condition as well.

St Pats new to him 1198 SP

Just as we were a bout to leave a guy came over to talk to me about my old R1. He then asked me if I ran a website with a new red & white R1. It's funny, that's the first guy I've bumped into out on the road that's read my blog. I didn't have a chance to have a decent chat as we were moving off, so if your reading sorry about that mate.

Today was the first warm day we've had in quite some time. It was about 30°C today. We've been shivering through high teens and low twenties, definitely not normal for summer here. This time last year we sweltered through 48°C days and bushfires.

We made our way down to Wollombi. The tavern was jam packed with bikes today and there were hundreds of bikes out on the road. We didn't bother going in as there was too many people about, and the dreaded Covid is still lurking about around Sydney so didn't want to risk it.
Wollombi Tavern

St Pat had to head back home, but the three of us made our way up to Broke in the Hunter Valley for fuel and then crossed over the lower hunter and down through the 10 mile on the Putty road.

There were plenty of bikes coming the other way, all of them giving us the swirly finger. Sure enough there was a highway patrol car sitting right in the middle. He had a bike pulled over on the opposite side of the road, but I couldn't see a rider. I saw on facebook user group later that there had been a accident. Hope that the rider was ok if that was him.

We passed by Grey Gums cafe and made our way to Colo Heights servo. This was the first place we had come to that actually wasn't full of bikes, just a handful. We stopped for a break and refreshing drink and chatted all things bikes and still Geoff didn't let me ride his bike, bastard. 

The old R1 felt great out today. It's doing alright for a 21 year old bike. But it's time that I pulled my finger out and got my shit together and got something newer. The old girl is not going to be reliable forever and its just not that comfortable to ride long distance anymore. Still its much better than the 15 R1 was.

One last stop for an ice cold beer before splitting up to go our separate ways. All up a great day out on the bikes.