[KTM]

Stroud’s 8-Hour: The Standout Stories

3 weeks ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: OK Photo

The fifth annual running of the Transmoto 8-Hour at Stroud marked the seventh and final event for 2019, with 500-odd entrants seeing out the year out with a brick-throwing bang. But beyond the event’s pretty photo library and the sizzling sauce of its highlights video – which somehow made conditions appear way less dusty than it actually was – what went down on that hallowed Gunns Gully turf this year? Try this cross-section of 10 standout stories for size…

1. A LAND OF EXTREMES

Stroud doesn’t do normal. It’s just not an option for a town known as the brick and rolling-pin throwing capital of the world. And that also applies to the joint’s weather. Ask anyone who lives in the region, and they’ll tell you that climatic conditions for Stroud are either dry as a chip or biblically wet, and rarely anything in between. And the riding conditions at the past four installments of the 8-Hour on this 1300-acre property in the Lower Hunter Valley have only served to reinforce that binary equation. Two years were ridiculously wet (one so sodden that a series of tractors and fourbies were needed to scull-drag entrants’ vehicles back to the front gate) and the other two were drier than a nun’s … humour. So we were due some prime, loamtown conditions for the fifth installment this year, right? Right! Didn’t happen, though. In spite of 100mm of rain in the 10 days leading up to the 2019 event – and an encouraging downpour on Saturday night – a series of 30-degree days and hot westerlies desiccated the property, prompted a total fire ban in the greater Hunter Valley region, and guaranteed the all-new 16km race loop dusted the bejesus out the 500 riders who took it on. Somehow, that didn’t seem to wipe the smiles off people’s faces. In fact, the venue’s extreme conditions never have. They just seem to make for a more memorable weekend.

2. PIMPED ANNIVERSARY PIT

For a couple of years now, we’ve run a comp that grants one lucky team a free entry (or their entry fee refunded) and a ‘Pimped Pit’ – a pit plot upgrade that sees the team camped next to the Pros in ‘Sponsor Alley’, where they can share a Saturday night beer and BBQ with some of Australia’s best-known riders and industry figures. Yes, it’s all thanks to our V6, turbo-charged partners from VW Amarok. For Stroud, the Pimped Pit was awarded to a Victorian couple, Sid and Ang Sorrell, who’d entered the Pairs class and were celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary on the event weekend. By their own admission, Sid and Ang were a little out of their depth in the dry and dusty conditions (mainly through lack of bike fitness), but they sure seemed to lap up the salubrious atmosphere of their well-shaded pit plot and Saturday’s night’s sponsor drinks soiree.

3. BIG GORDY’S WIND-ASSISTED WIN

Shot-putters and discuss-throwers are typically large customers, and so are the characters who can huck a tyre further than anyone else during Saturday afternoon’s Dunlop Tyre Toss comp at the 8-Hour – all in a bid to win a free set of ‘black gold’. For the second year in a row at Stroud, a strapping big bloke called Gordon Wallace took home the free set of Dunlop hoops for his rubber-hurling efforts. But his footrace win (the running race – in moto boots, with transponder in pocket – which is used to establish the first 50 positions for Sunday’s starting grid) was a bit of a contentious affair this year. Why? Well, it was later revealed that Gordon was sporting a set of low-cut road boots for the grassy dash; a flagrantly unfair advantage, according to some. That’s okay, cos we plan to put the big fella in a pair of brand new, super-stiff moto boots, kneebraces, and three pairs of jeans for next year’s footrace, and see how he fares.

4. ROCKY LADS ON POLE

At the 2019 12-Hour at Batemans Bay and 8-Hour at Wangaratta, more than one-third of the entrants came from interstate. And at this year’s 8-Hour at Stroud, the Yeehaa Racing boys drove all the way from Rockhampton, which would have to make them the furthest travelled (by road, anyway). “We raced the 8-Hour at Mackay back in May and loved it, so we thought we have a crack at another event this year,” explained team captain, Brett Donaldson. “Me and my teammates, Aaron Hutton and Scott Behrendorff, met Josh Green up at the Yeppoon Endurocross a few weeks back, so we decided to drive down and spend a day’s riding at Greeny’s place just up the road here at Stroud, and then have a go at racing the 8-Hour this weekend. And I’m so glad we did. The whole event is huge. It’s got such a good atmosphere and I reckon you guys are doing a great thing for the promotion of the sport.” Putting his money where his mouth is, Donaldson was the highest bidder in Saturday arvo’s Pole Position Auction. His winning $1500 bid was donated to the Booral RFS, and earned the Yeehaa boys a two-minute head-start on the field in Sunday’s race. For the record, the Rocky lads ran 26th in Teams and 33rd Outright.

5. SOME PEANUT STOLE THE SPEAKERS … WTF?

There’s always a couple of jokers who don’t respect Saturday’s 10pm noise curfew; merrily kicking their bikes into life and holding the things against the rev limiter. If they aren’t shut down by neighbours reminding them about the ‘No Dickhead’ policy, the reclaiming of their team race transponder generally puts an abrupt end to the shenanigans. But when some peanut(s) decided it’d be a good idea to steal two of the PA system’s speakers, and the generator that powered the things, we were suddenly dealing with a whole new level of disrespectful buffoonery. Thankfully, threatening that the race start would be delayed until the missing items were returned did the trick, and the 8-Hour got underway on schedule at 7.30am. But seriously, what were these idiots thinking? Honestly, they’re lucky they weren’t lynched by a 500-strong angry mob who’d paid good money to race the 8-Hour and didn’t like the prospect of some thieving goons depriving them of track-time. Perhaps we should post a reward for information that leads to the identification of the speaker-stealing culprit(s)…

6. ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS

A few years back, we’d rarely see the same rider at more than one event each year. More recently, plenty of riders enter two and even three Transmoto events in the same year. But a couple of blokes, Rob Dummer and Jackson Hordern, actually raced all seven events in 2019. Yep, Batemans Bay and Mackay and Coffs Harbour and Nabiac and Conondale and Wangaratta and Stroud – which amounts to a hell of a commitment and lots of driving! “Initially, the idea was for me and my son, Marcus, to race all seven in Pairs class – and we did that for the first couple under the ‘Dum and Dummer’ team name,” explained Rob Dummer. “Then when Marcus couldn’t make an event, I teamed up with some other blokes, including a guy who works for me and who I see as my son, Jackson Hordern. And Jacko had already raced all the events. Then, for the finale here at Stroud, me, Marcus and Jacko got together on a three-man team. The seven events have been a whole lot of fun – aside from busting my collarbone at Mackay and having to get it right before Nabiac, just five weeks later. And for the Transmoto crew to recognise the fact we were apparently the first to race all seven of their events by giving us the Jeff McLeary Memorial Award at Stroud … well, we felt incredibly honoured by that, especially after reading how influential and respected Jeff was as a man and motorcycle dealer in the region,” Dummer went on to say. Each year, the Jeff McLeary Memorial Award is given to the person or team who best exhibits the three character traits Jeff McLeary thought most important in life: fearless, dedicated, spirited. We couldn’t think of more fitting recipients, and it was great to have Jeff’s wife Maree and son Brock on hand at the event to hand over the special award.

7. BIG BEASTS GO BUSH

How do you win an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in Morocco’s 2020 Merzouga Rally, complete with a factory-backed KTM 790 Adventure R to race? You enter KTM’s Ultimate Race Qualifier in one of the six countries around the world where it’s now run. That’s how. The Australian qualifier was run in conjunction with the 2019 8-Hour at Stroud – a two-day affair that kicked off with a 250km navigational route on Friday (which included sections of the nearby Stockton Dunes) and finished up on Saturday at the 8-Hour with a series of on- and off-bike tests: both enduro and grasstrack special tests, along with wheel-change and bike-lift challenges. After a close contest, Simon Arthur and Graham Cheeney claimed the right to represent Australia at KTM’s Ultimate Race in Morocco, where the race winner will also take home a 790 Adventure R for his efforts. And who will ever forget the sight and sound of these blokes pushing KTM’s a big adventure machines through that tight, tree-lined bushland that was subsequently used for Sunday’s 8-Hour race loop? As one keen observer said, “They all pedal those big bikes so fast, they sound like a herd of rhinos charging through the scrub!”

8. “ME, WILLIE & BIG NUTS HAD A BALL”

Some bosses do a lot of pointing. Others lead by example. And it’s fair to say that the General Manager of KTM and Husqvarna Motorcycles in Australia, Jeff Leisk, sits squarely in the latter camp. Teamed up with a couple of good mates who flew in from WA, Leisk was in the thick of it all weekend. He took part in Saturday arvo’s festivities, risked hamstring tears in the footrace to secure his team a good starting grid position, unleashed some ripping yarns on Saturday night, and then anchored his three-man ‘Jeff & Co’ team on Sunday to second place in the Wise Wizards class, running 22nd Outright in a field of 167 teams. “Mate, the dust was nowhere near as bad as I expected,” said a dirt-stained Leisk, looking resplendent in his thongs at the presentation. “You just had to ride to the conditions and bide your time for the track to open up before making passes. Me, Willie and Big Nuts all had an absolute ball. And that’s primarily because these Transmoto events have helped transport us all back to our riding roots. They’ve put the fun back into riding and racing.”

9. FANTASTIC FINKE FILM

A new feature film call Finke: There and Back is yet to make its cinematic release to the public, but Transmoto cut a deal with the film’s distributors to run a special screening at Stroud’s 8-Hour. And if the reaction of Saturday night’s crowd is anything to go by, the film will be a roaring success when it hits screens around the country in November. Based on the events of the 2017 Finke Desert Race, and narrated by Eric Bana, Finke: There and Back cleverly intertwines the backstories and race experiences of several characters – from Pro riders to punters to a paraplegic intent on creating two-wheeled history. It’s beautifully shot, both heartwarming and gut-wrenching, and cleverly captures the addiction that Finke has become for so many riders since it kicked off way back in 1976, when it was simply called, ‘There and Back’. It’s kind of like a combination of On Any Sunday and Dust to Glory, but with way more authenticity, thanks to a healthy dose of inimitable Aussie humour and larrikinism.

10. WEEKEND WARRIORS – THE REAL WINNERS

Transmoto Enduro Events were conceived as participation-based, teams-oriented races for the everyday rider, which is why the Weekend Warrior team category was officially introduced earlier this year; to recognise and celebrate the majority of entrants who pay for their bikes, parts, gear, travel costs and race entries in cold hard cash, and like nothing more than getting out there and tearing around on their bikes with their mates on the weekend. At Stroud, 55 of the 117 teams were entered in the Weekend Warriors category. So, to reinforce the fact we see these Weekend Warriors as the heart and soul of our events, the podium place-getters not only received trophies, but also a swag of gear from the guys at MXstore and Ballard’s OffRoad. For the record, the Shaw-X foursome of Stephen Phillips, Wayne Campbell, Rodney Phillips and Josh Newling took the Weekend Warriors honours, with each teammate taking home a trophy plus a Ballard’s gearbag, hydration pack and bumbag, and a custom-printed jersey from MXstore. Yep, about 300 bucks worth of moto bootie apiece!


For from the 8-Hour

8-HOUR @ STROUD: HIGHLIGHTS VIDEO

TRANSMOTO 8-HOUR @ STROUD: IMAGE GALLERY

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