Tracks in Time

Morgan Mile

Old Bike Australasia - - CON­TENTS - Story Ge­off Nuske and Charles Ed­wards. With thanks to Dene Davies, Barry & Trevor Sweet­man, Nigel Camin, Rod Hunter.

Si­t­u­ated on the in­ter­sec­tion of the main roads from Ade­laide in the south west, Burra in the north west, and Ren­mark to the east, Morgan sits on a bend in the Mur­ray River. For many years, it was the place where fast bikes raced, and to be suc­cess­ful you needed skill, brav­ery, and a quick mo­tor.

Morgan is a small town ap­prox­i­mately two hour’s drive east of Ade­laide. It is si­t­u­ated on the banks of the River Mur­ray, was es­tab­lished in 1878 and has a pop­u­la­tion of 4-5000 in­hab­i­tants. It sup­ports two pubs, a large shop, ser­vice sta­tion, car­a­van park and some smaller busi­nesses. It is sur­rounded by sta­tion prop­er­ties and some ir­ri­gated prop­er­ties. Thank­fully the river frontage, while very pretty, has not been over de­vel­oped. From the time of its es­tab­lish­ment un­til the early 1900s, Morgan was the busiest river port on the Mur­ray, cater­ing for paddle steam­ers which trav­elled the length of the Mur­ray and Dar­ling Rivers, tow­ing huge barges loaded with wool, grain, dried fruit and packed cit­rus. From Morgan this could be freighted to Ade­laide via rail. On re­turn trips th­ese paddle steam­ers were float­ing hard­ware stores to the river prop­er­ties. The ad­vent of bet­ter roads and trucks and faster freight even­tu­ally killed off the paddle steamer in­dus­try but rem­nants of it can still be seen at Morgan, in­clud­ing a re­stored paddle steamer, part of the load­ing wharf, and one of the orig­i­nal ware­houses. It is a very in­ter­est­ing part of the his­tory of South Aus­tralia.

The Mile. The chal­lenge.

The Morgan Mile is si­t­u­ated about two kilo­me­tres from the town and be­gan life as a horse rac­ing track. It is a quite flat area and the track shape was ap­prox­i­mately a Cap­i­tal D, with one end (Turn 1 for so­los) slightly flat­tened off. The Start/Finish was si­t­u­ated on the straight side of the D and the safety fence also ran along this straight. The grand­stand gave a good view of the whole track. The track sur­face was brown loam with some lime­stone peb­bles. It was kept damp dur­ing race meet­ings and did not suf­fer badly from ruts of “dig­ging up” dur­ing meet­ings. The usual track grad­ing and wa­ter­ing was ap­plied and as a Side­car rider I al­ways found the track con­di­tion to be ex­cel­lent. Be­cause I was work­ing and liv­ing in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, I did not be­come in­volved with the Mile un­til mov­ing back to South Aus­tralia in 1985. What be­came The Mile was orig­i­nally “dis­cov­ered” by Wally Thamm and Alan Jenk­ins, who took their dis­cov­ery to the Ve­lo­cette Club in Ade­laide. In com­bi­na­tion with the Morgan Sport­ing body, Long Track solo and side­car rac­ing com­menced in 1973. Ini­tially there were two meet­ings per year; in June and on the Oc­to­ber Long Week­end, but this was re­duced to just the Oc­to­ber date. Classes catered for so­los in 125, 250, and 500cc, Speedway so­los, and 500 and 1000cc Side­cars, plus a class called “Club­man’s” which catered for spe­cials and “chook

chasers” (2-stroke mo­tocross bikes). In Ade­laide at the time we had a bloke called Roger Feast who built very good Hagon-style frames, and quite a few of th­ese raced at Morgan with all sorts of mo­tors. The ‘Slid­ers” were the way to go. As Rod Hunter said, “Th­ese things (the ‘Slid­ers’)were re­ally only glo­ri­fied bicycle frames af­ter all, so they re­ally took a bit of controllin­g, es­pe­cially at the speeds you did at Morgan.”

It would be impossible to list ev­ery rider who com­peted at Morgan but some of th­ese names may jog some mem­o­ries: Char­lie Ed­wards, Les Lewis, Chris Wat­son, John Boul­ger, Dene Davies, Phil and Gain Sedge­man, Phil Crump, Trevor and Barry Sweet­man, Mitchell Shirra, John Sears, Jeff Long, Peter and Henry Koes­ling, Dave Foot­ner, Phil Franklin, Greg Lutze, Ian Nightin­gale and Graham Mut­ton. Amongst the Side­car rid­ers were Dean and Kevin Tay­lor, Clar­rie Jones, Brian Schultz, Dave Parker, Brian Radford, Kym McCon­nell, Rick Mon­roe, Nip­per Crabb, Chris Fraser, Neil Burston, Keith Bichart, Mark Drew, Len Bowes, Dar­ren Treloar, Graham Ja­cobs, John Bud­cock, Dyson (WA), Mal Greig, Neil Munro, Chris and Brian Fla­herty, Geoff Nuske, Wayne Kearvill and Wayne Man­der. And most im­por­tantly St. John’s Nurse Jenny Bichard. The South Aus­tralian Sweet­man broth­ers were spec­tac­u­lar and suc­cess­ful at the track; both tak­ing ti­tles when the Aus­tralian Long Track Cham­pi­onships were held at Morgan in 1975 – Trevor the Un­lim­ited and the Club­man’s class, and Barry the 250cc as well as the 500cc. That 1975 meet­ing was pos­si­bly the big­gest in the cir­cuit’s his­tory, with a mas­sive crowd to watch rid­ers from all over Aus­tralia. As well as the Sweet­man broth­ers, ti­tles went to Char­lie Ed­wards (125cc), with the Tay­lor broth­ers scoop­ing the Side­cars classes: Kevin (Ju­nior) and Dean (Se­nior). Barry Sweet­man tells of three no­table

meet­ings; the 1978 Side­car Spec­tac­u­lar which at­tracted out­fits from Aus­trali­aw­ide. The 1978 Morgan Cen­te­nary Meet­ing, with two Amer­i­cans on Flat Track Har­leys which were in­ter­est­ing but not spec­tac­u­lar, and the 1979 Big Track Spec­tac­u­lar, the fi­nal won by Trevor Sweet­man on a Long Track Jawa. At one meet­ing the SA Po­lice at­tended with a radar gun, clock­ing Rick Mon­roe on a big speedway out­fit at 222 km/h (133 mph). Trevor Sweet­man says the po­lice clocked a Long Track Jawa solo on the curved sec­tion of the track at 160 km/h. Chris Wat­son dis­in­te­grated the God­den mo­tor on the main straight, ru­mour has it with nitro and methanol in the fuel tank. The rac­ing was fast and fu­ri­ous and you had to see it to be­lieve it. Most of the speedway so­los had quite small back sprock­ets and were dif­fi­cult to push start, and out of the gate needed a lot of clutch slip to get go­ing.

I still have vivid mem­o­ries of John Boul­ger com­ing down the straight flat out on a Feast-framed pushrod Wes­lake, lay­ing hor­i­zon­tally on the bike, chin on the head stem and feet and legs straight out the back, slid­ing in the turn, ab­so­lutely spec­tac­u­lar con­trol at quite high speed. Mitchell Shirra who has rid­den speedway and Long track all over the world rode a God­den framed Jawa be­long­ing to Nigel Camin at Morgan. He won on the day and com­mented that he had never rid­den Long Track as fast as Morgan. Mark Drew came down from Dar­win with a big Speedway out­fit to ride Morgan be­cause he had heard about it. Af­ter the meet­ing he said he would not be back be­cause it was too fast. I am sure those of us who raced mo­tor­cy­cles have our favourite mem­o­ries of events and tracks, but mine is and will al­ways be the Morgan Mile. Apolo­gies for those I have not men­tioned but like me I am sure they have some terrific mem­o­ries of the Mile.

The Speedway class gets un­der way with Dene Davies lead­ing Don Stafford (193) and Trevor Sweet­man (8). Graeme Eber­hard takes the out­side line on his 250cc wa­ter-cooled Yamaha twin.

BE­LOW The grand­stand. BOT­TOM Judges and timekeeper­s’ box. BOT­TOM LEFT Amer­i­can flat track rider Char­lie Searle on his Har­ley­David­son in 1979.

ABOVE The Morgan Mile, seen from the air in 1979.

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