Classic Dirt: Revisited
If you’re a motocross tragic, one of the best ways to get your fix is by attending VMX Magazine’s Classic Dirt, an annual weekend-long, nostalgia-filled annual festival of dirt. This Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend, the 13th instalment of the event – affectionately know as CD13 – will fire into life in a sea of blue smoke at what’s become the spiritual homeland of the event, Conondale’s iconic natural terrain grasstrack called “Green Park”. Sadly, we can’t make it along to Conondale this year. But to prep ourselves for this weekend’s Classic Dirt 13, let’s revisit last year’s memorable event, which played host to two all-time international greats of the sport, Heikki “The Flying Finn” Mikkola and Broc “The Golden Boy” Glover. This article – in which we asked a few of the sport’s tribal elders to reflect on their CD12 weekend – was originally published in Transmoto’s digital flipmag in July-August, 2016 (Issue #57).
VMX Magazine’s Classic Dirt is a tribute to the formative years of dirt bikes and the intoxicating sport it spawned. Here’s an insight into the event’s 12th annual instalment.
Every now and then, something reaffirms how and why dirt bikes first found their way into your life; an event that prompts you to reflect on the sport’s pioneers, and make sense of your often inexplicable connection with motorcycles. In mid-June at Conondale’s picturesque Green Park circuit – nestled among the rolling grass hills of the Sunshine Coast’s hinterland – such an event took place: VMX Magazine’s 12th annual ‘Classic Dirt’.
This year, a collaboration between Yamaha Australia and VMX ensured “CD12” would be especially memorable because, in addition to the line-up of domestic moto royalty who regularly attend Classic Dirt, organisers managed to attract two international greats – Heikki “The Flying Finn” Mikkola (World MX champ in 1974, 1977 and 1978, and the first man to win both 250cc and 500cc world titles) and six-time AMA MX Champion, Broc “The Golden Boy” Glover. They joined a line-up of local legends that included Stephen Gall, Craig Dack, Anthony Gunter, Mike Landman, Dave Armstrong and Geoff Ballard for a weekend-long, nostalgia-drenched festival of dirt.
We asked a few of these tribal elders of the sport to reflect on what was, by all accounts, a memorable weekend…
Four-time Mister Motocross; Principle, CDR Yamaha
“I’d heard good things about Classic Dirt, but I wasn’t that keen initially because, with the combined race calendars of my motocross and off-road race teams, I spend a lot of time on the road. But I actually really enjoyed the whole CD12 weekend at Conondale. The demographic was older than I’m used to and very knowledgeable, which meant you could strike up really interesting conversations. I ran into a whole lot of people I hadn’t seen for years – including a guy called Rodney Clark, who was my archrival 35 years ago at the Lower Blue Mountains Mini Bike Club [laughs].
“I already knew Broc pretty well – having worked with him through Dunlop in the States, and from racing against him several times over the years – and it was a real honour to meet Heikki for the first time because, to me, he was the first of the real superheroes of the sport. I’d see him in the videos they’d show after our club meetings, and he made a big impression on me as a kid. So it was a real treat to ride around a track side-by-side with him. That said, the riding was almost incidental; for me, the event was all about catching up with people and enjoying the atmosphere. I can now understand why Classic Dirt is becoming an annual pilgrimage for so many people.”
Brand Manager Yamaha Motor Australia
“Back in the 1970s in Australia, there was no such thing as dirt bike magazines or TV coverage of the international motocross events, so we never actually got to see guys like Heikki Mikkola and Broc Glover. They were larger-than-life icons of the sport, but complete enigmas to us in Australia. We knew very little about them as human beings. So for me, being able to spend some time with Heikki and Broc socially in the lead-up to Classic Dirt 12 was a constant pinch-me moment. It was wonderful to have them play a part in Yamaha’s 60th anniversary celebrations, and CD12 was a great opportunity for people to meet and speak with two of the sport’s biggest icons.
“A lot of people didn’t realise that, because of some niggling injuries, Heikki had not ridden a dirt bike in 25 years until the laps he cut at CD12. In fact, he wasn’t even planning to ride at all. But when he saw all the pre-promotion for the event and the enthusiasm from Aussie fans, I think he felt obliged to swing a leg over the bike. It was really interesting to observe how all the Australian legends of the sport still look up to Broc and Heikki and hung off their every word at the event.”
Four-time Mister Motocross
It was a real pleasure to meet Heikki at CD12 for the first time. He was one of my childhood heroes, so it was pretty cool when he and I featured on the same Yamaha poster in 1978 – the year he won a world championship and I won my first Mister Motocross. Broc, I’ve known for a long time. I first met him when he came to Australia to race supercross in the early 1980s, and then in 1982, I raced him at Amaroo Park when he was arguably the quickest motocross rider in the world. That Amaroo event was the only time I’d ever passed him (because he’d collapsed a wheel jumping this huge quad), so a bit of a red mist came over me at the Classic Dirt this year when I found myself behind Broc. I just couldn’t help myself and put a pass on him up this hill [laughs].
“Those two legends really added to the event, but Classic Dirt is special for many reasons, including Yamaha’s 60th Anniversary semi-trailer, which had a couple of my recently restored bikes on display this year – a 1975 YZ250A and the 1981 YZ465 I won the Mister Motocross aboard that year. The atmosphere at CD12 was great, and, the older we all get, the idea of getting out there to cut some demo laps without the pressure of racing seems to get more and more appealing.”
Three-time Mister Motorcross
“Suzuki sponsored CD1 through to CD9, so that initially had a lot to do with me being part of the event. But I just love the thing now, irrespective of who’s sponsoring it, and I find a way to get there most years. I’ve been to a Classic Dirt event in Geelong, Broadford, Raymond Terrace and Wallerawang, but it’s hard to beat Conondale. It’s got awesome natural terrain tracks and the best atmosphere for sure.
This year, they had two motocross tracks – a pre-’75 and a pre-’90 – plus a vinduro track and a flat track. I took my 1981 factory KX500 up to put it on display and rode a 1988 KX250 that I’ve just restored. I did a fair few laps, but it’s really more about catching up with people than it is about riding.”
Geoff Ballard’s Wife
I haven’t been to a race in a few years, but as soon as I heard CD12 was on at Conondale, I was in. And I’m glad I did because the event had all the elements: the best venue in Australia; great Queensland weather; good food, music, wine and atmosphere; riders and spectators of all ages from all over the country; and two of the greatest riders the sport has ever known in Heikki Mikkola and Broc Glover. Plus, the weekend is not just for the blokes who are there to ride. It’s equally fascinating and enjoyable for spectators. I found it really interesting to see how many younger guys are now taking a real interest in the older bikes.”
Aussie Enduro Icon
“I’ve been to quite a few Classic Dirt events, but this year’s was something special. I’d raced motocross against Broc in Tahiti and in the Trans AMA series in America, and he really made the event in Oz because he speaks so well. And Heikki is just an absolute legend. It was pretty cool to be out there on track with them at the same time during the ‘Legends Laps’. Some of the guys were referring to it as ‘ego shuffling’ and I had one embarrassing moment where I high-sided my Maico – all captured on video by my son, Josh, unfortunately. That corner was the first and only time he’s ever pointed a camera at me.
“Conondale is just such a great venue, and it really adds to the vibe. It’s one of my all-time favourite tracks with such a good layout and atmosphere for spectators. My wife, Jenni, has been raving about the weekend ever since. You’ve got to hand it to Yamaha, too. Their support over the past few years, as well as bringing Broc and Heikki out this year, has really been a boost for Classic Dirt.”
Editor, VMX Magazine
“Our initial idea with Classic Dirt was to move it from state to state, and we have staged it in NSW and Victoria. But we’ve found no other venue can match the facilities Conondale has to offer. Green Park has multiple motocross tracks, enduro loops and trials areas, and the guys from the Sunshine Coast club do a wonderful job with track prep. Plus, it’s great for camping and spectator access.
“Yamaha really stepped it up this year by bringing Heikki and Broc out. These guys are heroes to the Australian greats, just as much as they are to the everyday punter, so that’s why we had a bigger roll-up of Aussie legends than normal for CD12. No matter how well they’re known in their own backyard, everyone wants an opportunity to meet their heroes. We’ve had several big names in the past – guys such as Joël Robert, Brad Lackey and Jim Pomeroy – and they were all drawcards for spectators. But this year with Heikki and Broc, the autograph session went on for more than two hours. In addition to having those big-name guys at Classic Dirt, spectators also have the opportunity to simply wander around, talk to people and check out the huge array of bikes. To me, that’s the coolest part of the event.”