The oil cri­sis

Old Bike Australasia - - FRONT PAGE -

You would have to go a long way to find a bet­ter run, and more spec­tac­u­larly suc­cess­ful race meet­ing than the 21st Phillip Is­land Clas­sic, which took place over the Jan­uary Aus­tralia Day long weekend. Mag­nif­i­cent rac­ing, a bumper crowd, and even de­cent weather made for a pro­moter’s dream and a fab­u­lous ex­pe­ri­ence for nearly 400 com­peti­tors.

But be­hind the scenes, there were anx­ious mo­ments when it ap­peared that a size­able chunk of the pro­gram faced can­cel­la­tion af­ter de­lays on Satur­day soaked up nearly two and a half hours of what should have been track time. The rea­son? A cir­cuit lib­er­ally coated in lu­bri­cant – the dead­li­est sit­u­a­tion imag­in­able on a high-speed road rac­ing cir­cuit. It took more than one hour for crews of vol­un­teer mar­shals and other helpers to mop up the mess and spread oil-ab­sorb­ing ce­ment dust around vir­tu­ally the en­tire track, while spec­ta­tors who had paid good money to watch rac­ing twid­dled their thumbs and waited, as did the com­peti­tors. And no sooner had the cir­cuit re-opened for rac­ing, ex­actly the same thing hap­pened again – a trail of oil stretch­ing along the rac­ing line for the ma­jor­ity of the lap. More ce­ment, more sweep­ing, more de­lays.

When rac­ing did re­sume, and with twi­light fast ap­proach­ing, events were re­duced to just three laps, but it was ob­vi­ously go­ing to be im­pos­si­ble to com­plete the day’s sched­ule, mean­ing that the un-run races had to be car­ried over to Sun­day’s al­ready tight pro­gram. To the credit of the race or­gan­is­ers, Sun­day went off with­out a hitch, and the rapid-fire races, with one lot leav­ing the pits as the pre­vi­ous race fin­ished, were all com­pleted.

But the point is, why in this day and age should this sit­u­a­tion con­tinue to oc­cur? Most com­pet­ing mo­tor­cy­cles and side­cars are pre­pared and pre­sented metic­u­lously, but there is al­ways a hand­ful of junk that have no place at a race track. The trend to hugely over-bored and thus highly-stressed en­gines in the pop­u­lar P5 Un­lim­ited class has led to in­nu­mer­able mas­sive blows ups and sub­se­quent oil spills. More­over, when oil lines drop off, gas­kets pop and the en­gine’s life blood gushes to the tar­mac, why do rid­ers in­sist on com­plet­ing a lap – usu­ally on the rac­ing line – cov­er­ing the cir­cuit in gunk, ru­in­ing the sched­ule for ev­ery­one and en­dan­ger­ing the lives of fel­low com­peti­tors?

Pre-event scru­ti­neer­ing needs to be strict on this point – a rig­or­ous and no-com­pro­mise in­spec­tion on whether the ma­chine’s lu­bri­cant will re­main in­side the en­gine. No ifs or buts, un­less this is deemed to be fail-safe, fix it or go home. Of course, if a rod pokes it­self through the crankcases there’s lit­tle that can be done, but in many cases, it is sim­ply sloppy prepa­ra­tion that causes the prob­lems, and it is the scru­ti­neers’ job to de­tect po­ten­tial prob­lems be­fore they hap­pen, and ruth­lessly en­force the stan­dards.

For ev­ery­one’s sake.

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