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Mad Dogs & Daytonas

Triumph Daytona 1200 and Super III

(from the Travels with Guido series, #267, by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, December 2020)


Touring on some Brits with a Brit

It was one of those odd situations that crops up occasionally: someone strolled into what was then the palatial Melbourne offices of Motorcycle Trader mag (RIP) and announced we had a guest worker in the joint, namely Sean from the UK.

It turns out he was a former editor at Motorcycle News in the auld dart and was still an active contributor, though his real job had changed and had more of an IT edge to it. Anyway, what were the chances of grabbing him and doing something motorcycle-related while he was in the neighborhood?

I’m always a little flummoxed when approached with this sort of request. What would a visitor like to do? Where he comes from, surely he’s got bigger and shinier things to occupy time – the Isle of Man TT springs to mind as an example.

As it happened, the world superbike circus was in town, which pretty much solved the problem. Though he had seen more than his fair share of superbike races over the years, Sean had never clapped eyes on Phillip Island and was very curious to see the place in the flesh, after years of watching it on the box.

So the next issue was what to haul out of the shed for the ride down to penguin central, then it became obvious: the Hinckley twins. Both the Daytona 1200 and Super III had been languishing in the shed for weeks and desperately needed a run. Sean was at MCN when these bikes were launched, though ironically he never got to ride a Super III, so this would be his first experience of one. After two decades and a 16,000km journey to the other end of the globe, I hope it was worth the wait.

Just to round out the Australian experience, we were mid-heatwave at the time, with the temperature firmly planted in the mid-30s. What’s that Noel Coward song?

“In tropical climes there are certain times of day
“When all the citizens retire, to tear their clothes off and perspire.
“It's one of those rules that the biggest fools obey, because the sun is much too sultry and one must avoid its ultry-violet ray…
“…Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”

As it turned out, we arrived at the Island and chose midday to start our walking circumnavigation of the outside of the track. If he was the Englishman, I guess that left me the role of mad dog. Fair enough.

Anyone who’s tackled that treck will know it’s worth the effort, but a pretty dumb thing to undertake in 36 degree heat, particularly given the lack of shade and the considerable distance. Still, it’s become something of a ritual for the Lemmings Motorcycle Club (motto: death before courtesy) – in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s written into the club constitution.

As the pair of us gradually took on the colour of cooked beetroot, Sean expressed real surprise at the gentle nature and mood of the meeting when compared to many of its overseas counterparts. He was delighted to see the fencing was only waist high (rather than prison-height) and said it was a novelty to actually see a race without having to peer through wire mesh.

We were there on the Saturday, so the crowd was on the thin side, which was great because you could actually stretch out on the grass and watch a race or qualifier, without having to fight for elbow-room.

As we concluded our tour, I congratulated Mr S on the completion of his first lap of the Island, even if he needed to trim a few hours off his time if he were ever to make it on to a superbike grid.

Just as we were mounting up for the ride home, young Paul Kesting (who had helped out with a bunch of ride stories over the years) wandered up to say g’day. On learning Mr S’s story, he blurted, “Geez, you came an awfully long way just to end up riding a couple of English bikes!”

Okay, make that mad dogs, Englishmen and Kestings…

See more Travels with Guido here



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