Coona’s Men Of 8-Hour Iron

8 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Jarrad Duffy

We’ve never made any bones about the fact that Transmoto Events were conceived as team-based races designed to maximise participation and fun-factor; events where mates could race with and against their mates. But it soon became apparent that the Ironman class would remain integral to our events because these solo entrants weren’t simply there to maximise the bang for their entry-fee buck; they also wanted to be part of an Ironman fraternity and the sense of solidarity that goes with it. And that’s why the stories behind these gluttons for punishment are invariably fascinating ones.
Here’s a snapshot of some stories that stood out from the Ironman class at this year’s inaugural Transmoto 8-Hour from Coonabarabran…


It’s become somewhat of a tradition that special capes are bestowed on Ironman entrants before the race gets under way, and the silky, poo-brown numbers designed and donated by Browns Grafix for Coona were just the ticket to match the venue’s unique red-ochre soil. Making the capes’ handover ceremony particularly special for the 11 Ironmen at Coona was the involvement of two iron-willed characters in their own right, Craig Hale and Ben Grabham. Hale is a serial Ironman offender who was sidelined with a busted collarbone at Coona, but still wanted to honour his commitment to take part in all five Transmoto Enduro Events this year – an unprecedented feat. And Ben Grabham … well, this multiple Finke, Hattah and Australasian Safari winner epitomises Ironman tough. Grabbo famously won the Safari after racing the final two days with a badly busted collarbone, and somehow notched up a Finke Desert Race win, despite riding the entire 230km return leg with a wrist so badly broken, his surgeon said “it looked like a grenade had gone off in there”.
Aside from making the Ironman riders instantly visible for spectators, these capes also proved practical out on the loop because they made it much easier for fast riders to identify Ironmen and give them a little more racing room when passing.


Who would have thought that a bloke who drove all the way from Kiama on the NSW south coast to take part in his first ever dirt bike race, would wind up winning the thing? Certainly not Tom Gregory. But that’s exactly what this down-to-earth character did. Over the course of eight grueling hours, Tom ground out 13 laps of what was arguably the gnarliest and most energy-sapping loop we’ve seen at a Transmoto event yet; an achievement that’s all the more impressive when you consider that the winning Team (of three riders) only completed three more laps than Tom. Making the story even better is the fact that Tom’s mum and dad were his pit crew. Proud as punch, they were. Check Tom out toward the end of the official highlights video from Coona.


It wouldn’t be fair not to mention the fact that Dwayne Affleck led the Ironman class for the first half of the race at Coona until a rookie mistake – yep, he ran out of fuel – cost him any chance of a win (though it did earn him the ‘Hard Luck Award’). But to Dwayne’s credit, he was gracious in defeat and, when speaking at the preso, made special thanks to the fellow competitor who stopped on the side of the track to give him some fuel and allow him to salvage a respectable fifth place.


In previous years, only about 50% of Ironman-class riders have finished a Transmoto 12-Hour or 8-Hour (aside from the 2017 12-Hour’s aberration where, somehow, 12 from 12 Ironman met the chequered flag in the 12th hour), which is why an Ironman-class finish has become such a badge of honour. At Coona, in spite of a 16km loop that was so bumpy, dusty and technical, 10 of the 11 starters saw out the 8-hour grind, and eight of them completed 10 or more laps. Respect!


When you cast an eye down the Ironman-class entry list at our events, the same names keep re-apparing. And at Coona’s 8-Hour, more than half had raced solo at one or more of our events. What is it that they say about women forgetting the pain of childbirth until they expose themselves to it all over again? Not that these blokes can relate to giving birth, but you get the analogy. Speak with these Ironman guys about what keeps them coming back for more, and there’s a constant theme in their responses. It’s all about challenging their mental and physical boundaries; about being part of an elite brotherhood who can look back and their feat of endurance and be proud of it.

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