Side­car swinger is back on track

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Heather McCracken

Ann Plum­mer loves be­ing back in the swing of things.

The 45-year-old is racing side­cars again af­ter a 16year break to raise her two chil­dren.

That means most Satur­day nights this sum­mer will find her cling­ing to the side of a roar­ing mo­tor­bike as it hur­tles round a speed­way track.

“It’s good to get the adren­a­line go­ing again,” she says.

“I haven’t smiled this much in ages.”

In the speed­way world, Ann’s known as a swinger: The passenger who gives es­sen­tial bal­ance and weight to the three-wheeled racing bike.

She rides with Birk­dale res­i­dent Dean Longman, also 45, who en­tered the sport three years ago.

Ann’s hus­band Tim also races side­cars but was al­ready in a pair when she de­cided to make her come­back.

The Massey res­i­dent first got into the sport in 1986, spurred by an off­hand com­ment from a flat­mate.

“I was flat­ting with a guy who did it and he said there was no place for women on the track,” she says.

“So I got a bit mo­ti­vated and got my own bike and hit the track.”

She’s one of only a cou­ple of women racing in New Zealand, but Ann says be­ing fe­male makes no dif­fer­ence on the track – and that’s how she likes it.

“Once you’re through that gate there’s no him and her, you’re just com­peti­tors,” she says. “I don’t get treated any dif­fer­ent. I’d hate it if I did.”

Swingers crouch on a nar­row run­ning board on the side of the bike, us­ing two han­dles to hold on.

On the straight, Ann shifts her weight back over the rear wheel to give the bike speed.

Through the cor­ners, she stretches along the side, her head hov­er­ing just be­hind the front wheel.

“It’s all about where my weight is,” she says.

“You’ve got to work to­gether be­cause if I’m out of sync with what he’s do­ing we go all over the place.”

The bike has no speedome­ter, so the pair are never sure how fast they’re go­ing.

But on big tracks with long straights, side­cars can reach up to 140kmh, Dean says.

Swingers wear back braces to pro­tect their spine from in­jury, and spe­cial pad­ding along their hips, where they scrape the track.

But Ann says so far she’s al­ways walked away from a spill.

“When th­ese bikes fly you just hope you’re not un­der­neath when they come back down again,” she says.

Ann says racing feels the same now as when she started more than 20 years ago.

“I still feel the same men­tally as I did when I raced be­fore,” she says.

“I don’t bounce back quite as read­ily, but it’s the buzz on the day that counts.”

Dean has been racing for three sea­sons.

He says he was en­cour­aged into the sport by a friend, and has been hooked on the adren­a­line rush ever since.

“You get ner­vous be­fore you go out, then you go on to the track and that’s it – you just go for it.”

Af­ter up­grad­ing to a GSXR 1100 bike this year, the pair have started plac­ing and even winning races.

They com­pete at Auck­land’s Rose­bank speed­way, a ded­i­cated bike track, and Waikaraka Park speed­way.

Dean got started in the sport for about $1800, but says some can spend close to $5000 on top-of-the-range bikes.

He says there’s a great ca­ma­raderie be­tween com­pet­ing rid­ers, who help each other with equip­ment.

Speed­way New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Savell says the sport, which be­gan in New Zealand in the 1960s, has de­clined in re­cent years be­cause of a lack of suit­able venues.

Only about 100 bikes are now com­pet­ing, com­pared to 250 pairs 20 years ago.

“They do need smoother tracks and a dif­fer­ent sur­face,” he says.

But he’s hop­ing for a resur­gence with more ded­i­cated tracks be­ing built, of­ten in­side ex­ist­ing speed­way tracks.

Side­car rac­ers need a li­cence from Speed­way NZ and mem­ber­ship at a speed­way club.

But Mr Savell says any­one keen to start can get a one­day li­cence from their lo­cal speed­way and have a go.

Racing is held at Rose­bank Speed­way in Avon­dale and Waikaraka Park in One­hunga through­out the sum­mer.

For de­tails, visit the web­site www.waikarakafam­ily speed­way.co.nz or speed­way. co.nz.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Need for speed: Side­car team Dean Longman and Ann Plum­mer at Waikaraka Park speed­way.

Photo: IAN ABRA­HAMS

Head first: Ann gets into racing po­si­tion dur­ing a prac­tice run.

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