The oil crisis
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.