2018 A4DE: Be Part Of History!

1 year ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: iKapture

Since its inception in 1978, the Yamaha Australian 4-Day Enduro has been regarded as the most prestigious annual event on this country’s off-road race calendar. And as you may have heard, the 4-Day will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this coming April, when it returns to its 1978 birthplace of Cessnock. So to get a handle on how things are progressing for what promises to be a historic event, we spoke to a key member of the 2018 4-Day’s organising committee, Cessnock Motorcycle Club’s Malcolm Hall, whose father, John, was the driving force behind the inaugural A4DE in Cessnock 40 years ago.

For its 40th running, not only does the A4DE return to its birthplace at Cessnock; it also returns to its traditional timeslot in April. Was that about paying homage to the 1978 event, which ran at Easter, or is there more to it?
Well, for many years, that time of year has tended to work well for the 4-Day. It gives riders enough time to prepare after the Christmas break, plus the weather has cooled down a bit by then, and riders’ annual race budget isn’t in tatters. The other benefit of an early-year timing is that the 4-Day can play a part in the selection of the ISDE team. In recent years, the event’s late-year timing – and the limited number of Enduro-format AORC rounds – means it’s had no bearing on the ISDE team selection.

So why not stage it on that Easter weekend again?
We initially wanted to run the 2018 event over Easter, but decided against it because that long weekend tends to attract a lot of recreational riders on the trails we’ll be using. So the event will kick off with scrutineering on the Tuesday after Easter, April 3. Having that long weekend beforehand means people will have a week-and-a-half away from work, but only need to take four days off to race it. In that window, they can prepare, walk the tests, race the April 3-7 event itself, go to the presentation, and then pack up and head home at their leisure on the Sunday.

Tell us about the back-story to this iconic event returning to Cessnock?
About two years back, Matthew Short – who’s our club Secretary and involved with the NSW Enduro Committee – suggested to me and our club President, Glenn Toner, that we ought to run the 2018 4-Day because it’d be the 40th anniversary of an event that was first run by the Cessnock MCC at Cessnock in 1978, and the brainchild of my dad, John. So we put our hand up, submitted the idea to Motorcycling Australia, and made the point that for its 40th anniversary, we wanted to bring the event back to its roots, and put enduro back on the map. MA is well aware of the club’s track record with events and our plans to properly promote the 2018 4-Day. And in the absence of too many competing bids, they happily awarded it to us. Motorcycling NSW has also been very supportive. Much like the collaboration between clubs to run the 2014 4-Day at Dungog, Cessnock will be joining forces with the Dungog, Oyster Bay and Central Coast clubs this coming year at Cessnock. Each of those clubs has been allocated two special tests apiece. Aside from sharing the workload, this set-up helps ensure we involve all the really experienced people from those four clubs and deliver the best event for riders.

No doubt the added significance of the 2018 event for you personally is the fact it’ll pay homage to your father, John – the founding father of the event.
The entire organising team is passionate about the event. But you’re right; that does make it extra special for me. In the past few months, I’ve talked to many people I haven’t spoken to in years, and every single one of them has gone out of their way to voice their praise and admiration for what Dad did for the sport. That experience has given me an even deeper respect for what he did, if that’s at all possible [laughs].

Your father’s significance to the event will also be recognised by the introduction of a new class, right? Explain that.
Well, after speaking to several Aussies who rode the Vintage class in the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in France a few months back, it prompted us to look at incorporating a similar class into the A4DE. The idea took hold very quickly because it played into the 2018 event’s heritage theme, and Geoff Udy – who raced the first 4-Day in 1978 – suggested we call it the ‘John Hall 1978ers and Vintage class’, which will be based heavily off the FIM ISDE Vintage class rules. Within the class, there are a few sub-classes called Pre-1979 and Pre-1986 model bikes. In spite of initial scepticism from some, we received 50 entries for this class alone within six weeks of entries opening, and we’ve now extended the class cap to 70 to meet extra demand. We also plan to stage a demonstration ride at the final moto for any ‘originals’ who raced the 1978 4-Day, but who don’t want to participate in the entire 2018 event.

Word on the street is that there will be special appearances by a few very big names of yesteryear, too…
Yes, I’m happy to confirm that American off-road Hall of Famer, Dick Burleson, will be in attendance. Dick actually came out for the 1980 4-Day, and won it. Also, Norm Watts – winner of the inaugural event in 1978 and father of Australia’s first World Enduro and AMA GNCC Champion, Shane – has also confirmed he’ll be there. Shane still holds the record of six Outright A4DE wins, and now that he’s living back in Australia, I believe he also plans to race in April.

But the primary classes remain the same for 2018, right?
Yes. We’ll use the traditional E1, E2 and E3 classes. Plus we’re trying to really push entries for the Women’s class off the back of the phenomenal success the Australian Women’s Team has had at the past five ISDEs. We committed to investing into the pre-event promotion of the 2018 event, and that’s paying dividends already. Within two months of opening entries, we’ve had more than 170 riders sign up – which is around half of the 350-rider cap.

Meaning the $80 ‘early bird’ discount has served its purpose?
It looks that way. Motorcycle racers are typically last-minute entrants into events, so having more than half the entries in before Christmas is a very good thing. The early bird rate of $570 applies until February 6, after which the entry fee reverts to $650. Entries then close on March 20.

Why cap entries at 350 riders?
From a commercial point of view, the 4-Day’s success hinges on getting good entry numbers, and that’s why we’re focusing very much on the riders; on making sure the trails, tests and entire experience is a memorable one for them. And we believe a maximum of 350 riders will help us achieve that objective.

It’s always nice to have sponsors on board early too, right?
Right! We plan to make an announcement about associate sponsors early next year. But we’ve already announced that Yamaha Motor Australia will be the naming-rights sponsor for the 2018 4-Day. Yamaha has been a huge supporter of off-road and enduro community in Australia, and with the AORC and A4DE in particular. Yamaha continues to put their hand up to back the sport and they’ve been the primary sponsor for the 4-Day since 2010. They’ll be bringing their bLU cRU truck and display to highlight how customers can step up from their PW50 through to their top-end enduro models. Plus they’ve donated a 2018-model WR450F with a one-off 4-Day graphics kit that’ll be raffled off.

Fittingly, two of Yamaha’s big brass – Managing Director, Steven Cotterell, and Brand Manager, Peter Payne – both raced that first event in 1978.
Yes, they did. Unfortunately, neither of them finished that 1978 mudder. I believe Steven had a problem with his chain (only the Victorian riders’ bikes with their all-new O-ring sealed chains could withstand the punishment of the mud and grit) and/or busted his wrist, while Peter crashed and slid under a car, tearing the cylinder off his Yamaha. But the point is, that sort of longstanding experience and passion for off-road racing is part of Yamaha’s DNA, and it underlines the value of their investment into the 2018 event, 40 years on. Both Steven and Peter will be at the event, and we’re hoping they’ll take part in the demonstration laps at Day 4’s Final Moto.

How and when will Yamaha’s 2018 WR450F be raffled off?
The bike first appeared on Yamaha’s stand at the recent Sydney Motorcycle Show, and will be displayed mainly at Chris Watson Motorcycles in Cessnock in the lead-up to the 4-Day in April. From early January, we’ll only be offering a total of just 350 raffle tickets at $50 a pop, and the money raised will go back into making the event bigger and better. Stay tuned for more details about how to get hold of the limited raffle tickets.

The Cessnock area is renowned for its epic riding terrain. So what can entrants expect at the 2018 Yamaha 4-Day?
We’ve tried to incorporate as many of the tracks used for the 1978 A4DE and 1992 ISDE as possible. National Parks’ restrictions means we’re a little more limited with what land we can use compared with 40 years ago, but there’s so much good riding terrain in the region, we’re spoiled for choice. There will be a few kays of road here and there for transport sections, but very little. Our objective is to make it a challenging event with a wide variety of terrain. It won’t be a Romaniacs-style extreme enduro event, but the 4-Day is an Australian Championship event, so it should be tough.

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