[Husqvarna]

Sandman Stories from Nabiac’s 6-Hour

4 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Donat O'Kelly, Sal Aloisio

When you’ve got 450 entrants, and almost that number again in friends, family and support crew, there are literally countless stories to come out of the inaugural Transmoto 6-Hour at Nabiac. And no doubt many of those will be told across social media channels in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, here’s a small selection of stories from what will go down as a memorable, historic weekend at the Nabiac Motorsport Complex.

THE MEETING OF MINDS

It all started late last year. After jumping out of the surf on the NSW central north coast, Transmoto Event Manager Robbie Warden swings by Taree’s infamous old oiled dirt track of Old Bar for a quick look-see. Ten minutes later, he’s having a yarn with Taree MCC’s president, Troy Baker. And 10 minutes after that, the two blokes are hatching a cunning plan to stage an all-new Transmoto event at the Nabiac Motorsport Complex 50km to the south – a 160-acre property with a network of trails, a decommissioned airstrip that was used back in WWII, and a famous motorcycle museum just down the road. With family and friends at the Complex, Baker plants the seed of an idea with the crew at the Central North Coast Sporting Car Club (CNCSCC), who run it. And two months later, only back in March this year, we have a deal in the place to stage a Transmoto 6-Hour at the venue; a replacement for the Coonabarabran 8-Hour, which for the second year in a row, is too dry to stage. So, on June 29-30, 2019, having solely run four-wheeled events for 63 years, the Nabiac Motorsport Complex opens its arms to dirt bikes for the first time, and 450 riders are privileged to be part of this piece of history. By the time we all roll out of the venue on Sunday night, Aussie Dakar champ, Toby Price, has already committed to bringing his trophy truck back to one of their events later in the year. You reckon the locals were happy with that? You betcha!

UNIQUE, PRIME LOOP

With an altitude of just 1 metre above sea level, you wouldn’t call the terrain at the Nabiac Motorsport Complex undulating. There’s a dip or two and plenty of corners on the track, but nothing that remotely resembles a hillclimb or downhill. But don’t think for a moment that that meant the 18km race loop for the inaugural 6-Hour wasn’t interesting. Or testing. Being primarily sandy terrain in low-lying tea-tree scrubland, the track whooped-up good and proper, and by the end of play on Sunday, Transmoto Enduro Event regulars were calling it the most brutal and challenging track ever. Sure enough, under some of the deeper ruts that formed over the course of the day, the water table revealed itself. And thanks to constant rainfall in the week leading up to the event, there wasn’t a skerrick of dust. The entire course was just a prime shade of loamy sand that meant there was no need to even wash your bike after the event. And by all accounts, it delivered a very different experience to the other Transmoto events.

DING-DONG FOR THE OUTRIGHT

Incredibly, the Central Coast Ham & Bacon Pairs team led the field for the first half of the race. But by the fourth hour, they’d slipped to third Outright, leaving it to the UniFilter and Chris Watson Motorsports teams to duke it out for the Outright win. And what a battle it was for those final two hours. Both teams had their hiccups (for example, UniFilter’s Geoff Braico threw chain on their penultimate lap, while the CWMS team’s Michael Kirkness was peeled off the bike when he tried to use a water barrier for a berm), and it turned into a final lap showdown between the two. And even though MX Nats red plate holder, Todd Waters, managed to hunt down and pass UniFilter’s Scott Keegan on that final lap, Keegan did enough to stay in front on elapsed time and claim the win. So Nabiac became the first time in the history of Transmoto Enduro Events that the rider who took the chequers first didn’t actually win the race. And having finished second and third a number of times, the UniFilter boys finally notched up a very gratifying debut Outright win. The margin was just 18 seconds in the end – not a lot after six hours of sand!

PRICE & WATERS IN DA HOOD

When it comes to Pro moto riders, egos can often stand in the way of them being personable dudes. But the two big-name Pros who rocked up at Nabiac, Toby Price and Todd Waters, are at the other end of the likability spectrum. Both of them are as down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky and approachable as they come, and countless punters went home from the 6-Hour weekend with stories of campfire yarns with one or both of these two fantastic ambassadors of the sport. And pretty much everyone got to see these characters – both notoriously good sand riders – at full noise out on the track, as they courteously blew by all and sundry at Mach 2! It doesn’t get much better than having AORC/Finke/Hattah/Dakar and Motocross champions in the same pit paddock – especially when they’re smart enough to ride within the amateur spirit of the event, and enjoy a roadtrippin’, campin’ good time with friends and family. And how good was Pricey’s “Don’t Mess with the Fat Kid” bum patch?! They were the same duds he wore to victory at the Dakar Rally back in January, and we can’t believe the media didn’t make more of the in-joke at the time.

A MILESTONE FOR MELANOMA

The proceeds from our fundraising efforts at the 6-Hour were donated to Beard Season, a great bunch of wooly-bearded blokes who, after losing loved ones to melanoma, set up a not-for-profit health-promotion charity, and were on-site at the 6-Hour with a free, pop-up skin-check clinic. And what a great idea it turned out to be. With the help of a local skin specialist, Dr Paul Brennan, the Beard Season clinic performed more than 40 skin checks over the course of the weekend, finding two melanomas at an early stage, and advising 15 other entrants that they had suspect-looking skin blemishes that they needed to follow up on. In addition to raising $1200 for Beard Season via the starting grid footrace, another $2600 was donated by the winning bidder in the Pole Position Auction, Toby Price (actually, truth be told, it was donated by the Owlpine Group consortium of Matty Macalpine, Sam Moore and Toby Price). And what a classic scene it was when Price shaved Ben Debono’s beard off in front of the huge crowd at riders’ briefing. Debono lost his 29-year-old wife, Leah, to melanoma three years ago, and was clearly moved by the size of the donation, and the fact he ‘lost’ his jaw’s pride and joy to a bloke who’s riding feats he idolises and who, fitting, had himself been shaved after his amazing Dakar Rally win in January after loosing a bet to KTM teammate, Laia Sanz. For the record, Price and Matty Macalpine decided to stitch up their slightly less fit teammate, Sam Moore, by insisting he take up the pole position opportunity and lead the field away by a full minute. Sam wasn’t shitting himself in the slightest, but the big fella acquitted himself very well.

IRON ROBBIE BYRNES

For most people, the idea of racing the Ironman class is sheer madness. But racing in sandy conditions and a whooped-out track that tenderises your legs and lower back is a whole other level of masochism. Not to mention the sand that inevitably gets down the back of your pants and does your coit an added disservice! But 20 blokes still lined up for Nabiac’s 18km loop, and 15 of them saw it out to the end. There was never more than four minutes splitting four-time Ironman champ, Jack Heffernan, and former Conondale 6-Hour winner, Robbie Byrnes. And in spite of running out of fuel on the final lap, the Beta-mounted Byrnes managed to score a donation from a passing competitor and bring it home, less than a minute ahead of Heffernan. Note bad for a bloke who busted three vertebra in his neck (for the second time) just 12 months ago!

YOUNG PORKY PAIR ON FIRE

The Central Coast Ham & Bacon Pairs team duo of Luke Bray and AORC EJ-class flyer, Korey McMahon, set off like scalded cats at the start of the 6-Hour and kept everyone in their wake for almost three hours. Almost inevitably, the three-rider teams ran them down in the afternoon. But it was a damn impressive effort for these young blokes to hang on and run third Outright, and win the Pairs class convincingly. Keep your eye out for Korey McMahon in the Under 19s class at Hattah this weekend cos this kid is clearly the real deal in sandy conditions.

WHAT GARBAGE?

When Robbie Warden jumped in the Polaris to do a twilight lap of the five-fingered pit paddock at Nabiac, he couldn’t even muster half a small bag of rubbish. As requested, everyone had used the garbage bag supplied in their competitor bags and taken their rubbish home with them. And for us, that’s about as clear a sign of respect as you get. To all you Nabiac entrants: thank you, you legends. The crew from the Central North Coast Sporting Car Club and Taree Motorcycle Club were also suitably impressed, meaning we’ll be welcome back to this fantastic venue to stage the 6-Hour for many years to come. Music to everyone’s ears.


MORE FROM NABIAC

TRANSMOTO 6-HOUR @ NABIAC: RESULTS

TRANSMOTO 6-HOUR @ NABIAC: HIGHLIGHTS

6-HOUR @ NABIAC: PHOTOS OF YOU

 

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