[Features]

Top 10 MX Tracks In Central NSW

6 months ago | Words: Ollie Sharp | Photos: Ollie Sharp, Jake Jackson

Is there a divide in the dirt bike sub-culture when you head west of the Great Dividing Range? We explore the region’s prime riding locations to find out including Goanna Tracks – the home of the 2017 Transmoto 8-Hour @ Coonabarabran.
This content was originally published in Transmoto’s print magazine in November 2011 (Issue #14).

As far as east coasters are concerned, heading west of the rat race and over the Blue Mountains is like driving into some mystical fantasy. A dreamland where kangaroos are the size of Clydesdale horses. Where crows morph into four-legged carpet pythons with chameleon skin as they float down from tree branches. Where perfectly prepared moto tracks dot the Central West like patch of mushrooms in a footy field. Where locals are strangely friendly, the air is smog-free and the night time stars are so bright, you can spot your own reflection in them.

Perceptions of life, clubs and racing beyond the east coast bubble may seem too good to be true, but Central Westerians apparently call it a reality. So when the opportunity for Jake Jackson and I came up to steal Editor Wigan’s Navara ute, load up the T-Build KX450F and head out west to race the inaugural Dubbo MX Roar, we didn’t hesitate. What began as a simple plan to cover a race we’d barely heard about, turned into a moto road trip with Raceline Pirelli Suzuki’s Errol Willis and Lawson Bopping to experience west of the divide dirt biking modus vivendi.

The adventure kicks off with a caffeine-induced high as we roll out of Transmoto’s Sydney HQ at 7.30am on Saturday morning. Six and half hours away, across the picturesque dividing range, the Dubbo Dirt Bike Club (DDBC) is greeting Junior motocross riders keen to assault a fully prepped track and ink themselves into Dubbo MX Roar history. Our goal is to catch the afternoon’s racing, but we’re running a tight time schedule; having taken two hours to check into Blacktown after being consumed by Sydney’s traffic.

Not long before we hit Lithgow, there’s an RBT doing good business at 10am in the morning. I’ve been targeted and instantly regretted losing the paper-scissors-rock-off with Jake earlier that morning to decide who took on the first driving leg. It was only five hours beforehand I was at a movie premiere in Manly, attempting to win over the ladies with my best one-liner. Having seen the KX450F in the Navara’s tray alongside the swags, gearbags and provisions, the local law enforcer rams a breathalyser in my face, and a wave of anxiety washes over me. Counting to 10 seemed to take an eternity, until the green light flashed and we were sent on our way. Bathurst, Orange and Wellington gradually fell into our mirrors and life from that point became one massive blur. After six and half hours and several piss-stops, we’re greeted by the strangest town welcome sign we’ve ever seen. Trying to make sense of the animals on the sign, it’s then we realise the Dubbo MX was right alongside the town’s famous Taronga Western Plains Zoo, and pegged straight for it.

Not far from the Zoo’s boundary line, we locate Dubbo’s pride and joy: Morris Park Speedway – the home of many a stadium cross. Seconds later we spot a blue Ford XR8 ute power-sliding out onto the shingle road before fish-tailing wildly past us – complete with bike and gear in the back. The young kid at the wheel, flat peak mounted sideways and full of teenage rage, barely blinks our way before thick clouds of dust consume us. “I think we’ve found the track,” exclaims Jake while looking at me with a grin from ear to ear. He’s relishing the immaturity of the lad behind the wheel.

At almost three o’clock in the afternoon, we barely catch a glimpse of the final two Junior motos on our walk from the carpark to the clubhouse. In our energy-drink-fuelled daze, we bump into Raceline Pirelli Suzuki’s team manager and head mechanic, Chris Woods. He’s smiling, having already spotted us a mile off. Chris introduces us to DDBC’s Mick Ticehurst. “Good to see you lads. You’re a bit late … you get lost or something?,” remarks Mick, clearly taking the piss. Mick takes us over to meet DDBC’s president, Mardi Colbran. She’s clutching a coke can, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s mixed with something else, as she’s unnaturally relaxed for someone who’s been at the track since 5am, overseeing the day’s racing. It’s not long before we’re introduced to most of DDBC’s enthusiastic and down-to-earth committee. Not only were they a bloody friendly bunch, but most of them were clutching ice-cold XXXXs and the penny drops – the day is done, competitors were heading home and without hesitation, Queensland’s finest brews were being consumed – beer from a can and rum in a coke can. As Jake and I were soaking up the Dubbo hospitality, Mardi yells, “Oi, Ollie, Jake,” as two beers are flung from the esky. “Get a couple in ya, they won’t drink themselves.”

A couple of cold ones later, we wander back over to the truck and rendezvous with both Errol “Feral” Willis and Lawson “Boppo” Bopping. Both lads were fresh from the Rockstar Energy MX Nationals championship season and were extended open invitations by the club – with support from Raceline Pirelli Suzuki – to take a stab at the $1000 winner-takes-all MX Roar Open invitational. They’re both excited at the potential purse and, to tell you the truth, so was I. Racing the Roar would be a first for me since migrating to the Oz six months ago. Feral and Boppo signed a few signatures – as the locals frothed at the opportunity to meet national racing stardom in a relaxed environment. It wasn’t long before Boppo shot off into town to find a motel for the night, leaving Jake, Errol, Chris and I to stroll over and greet the entire Woods clan – of which there were a few – and set up camp. While Errol came equipped with his monster van to sleep in, and Chris had the team truck, Jake and I forgo all manner of luxury to swag in the Dubbo dirt. As darkness consumed the pits, several bonfires were ignited with the aid of VP race fuel. And it wasn’t long before the cackle of drunken laughter – mixed with the tantalising smell of steak and rissoles grilling on the barbie –filled the night’s sky.

Having eaten my share of succulent beef burgers, I leave the Woods clan bonfire in Jake and Errol’s capable hands, and wonder over to an equally friendly-looking campsite – complete with its own semi-controlled inferno warming its punters. Immediately, I bump into Mardi, still holding her deceptive rum and coke-filled drinking vessel. She’s pretty talkative by this stage, so I prompt a conservation about tracks, clubs, riders and life this side of the Dividing Range. Within five minutes, Mudgee and Districts Motorcycle Club’s President, Jeff Dray, introduces himself. A retired national competitor himself, Jeff, along with Mardi, make it clear how strong the off-road riding and club scene is. Freeflight, Mudgee, Parkes, Dunedoo, Tottenham and Dubbo are all within roughly 100 kilometres of each other and the connection between the districts’ riders is strong. As it transpires, not only do riders out here belong to more than one club, but each club promotes a share-and-share-alike approach to their members. And each event is as much about fostering the racing as it is about grassroots friendships through the sport. Jake and I have only been at the track for five hours and we’re already overwhelmed with the accommodating vibe. Out here, there’s a no-bullshit approach to life, there’s no cotton-wool-wrapped responses, and parents leave their kids to learn from their mistakes – no matter how painful they may be.

Before checking back into Camp Woods, I’ve rolled out my swag alongside Jake’s next to the ute. To my shock, I’ve discovered the swag’s zips have jammed open with erosion. Ricko, Chris’ uncle, notices the perplexed look smeared across my face as I try to quietly tackle the issue with Jake. Taking me for some sort of pampered soft-cock, he screams out, “What’s wrong, you poof!?”

“The swag’s buggered,” I respond. “Bullshit,” Ricko fires back, lifting himself from his camp chair while clutching his lethal JD and coke mix to inspect my predicament. “Mate, there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Ricko, before ripping into me with all sorts of profanities and homosexual innuendos. Valuing a good night’s sleep before racing the next day, I stand my ground: “Look, mate, that thing wouldn’t keep a wombat warm and dry in the middle of summer.”

Chris finally intervenes and relieves me of any further harassment by offering me the team truck’s cab bed for the night. I gladly accept, grab my Peter Alexanders, head straight for lavish gas-heated showers the club had supplied for overnight campers, break out the Jean Paul Gaultier Le Gel Douche and attempt to wash away the shame.

After a cracking night’s sleep in the truck, I tear over to the Navara, jump in, start her up and rev its tits off. It doesn’t take long for Jake, who’s swagged under the front bumper, to hurtle out of his slumber in a dreary rage. We both down two bowls of muesli and a cup of face-contorting instant coffee offered by Ricko. A quick scout of the pits reveals the likes of motocross and enduro Pros Ben Burrell, Jake Smith and Megan Rutledge, all keen to give Feral, Boppo and the local talent a run for the $1000 MX Roar Open purse. While Boppo walked away with the A-Grade Open-class Overall after a nudge or two from a super-quick Beau Ralston and Jason Reed, Errol claimed the A-Grade Lites-class Overall. But it wasn’t without a lot of heat from Mitch Norris and Kody Wheeler. Goon award of the day went to Errol who prematurely fist-pumped like a teenage girl at a Ricky Martin concert, thinking he’d won the MX Roar Open ahead of this teammate. It wasn’t until the remaining six riders from the elimination-styled penultimate heat race were ushered back to the start line for the final race of the day, for reality to slap Errol in the face. Boppo grabbed the final holeshot and successfully held off a retribution-fuelled charge from Errol to become $1000 richer. And he flicked Errol the bird as they crossed the chequers, just to rub it in.

With the racing finished, Jake and I wandered over to the clubhouse to find Mardi and the committee. In a déjà vu moment, two ice-cold XXXXs are flung at us before prize giving and we were almost tempted to bunker down with a few more and enjoy the club’s post-event debrief. If we weren’t due in Errol’s hometown of Wagga Wagga that night, we would’ve probably stayed. After a couple of solid handshakes with the club staff, the Woods family and Jake Smith, we chase after Errol and Boppo who’ve exited the track in wild power-slide. Before settling in for the six-hour second leg of the road trip, we fill up on Maccas in Dubbo – right outside Subway where the athletes consume heir footlongs. Dubbo’s fading afternoon sun has silhouetted
the golden arches, and Neil Young’s Old Man is cranking through the radio – Dubbo’s just received a big tick from me with their taste
in classic rock.

It’s a good thing Errol knows the road to Wagga like the back of his hand; he drives like he rides ­and we had no idea where we were going. Errol and Boppo even managed to do a flying driver change somewhere along the way, which only came to light as we passed the boys to stun them with a Kiwi-styled road trip moon. My aim was to make sure Errol copped an eyeful, but it turned out to be Boppo at the helm. Close to 11pm, we roll into the Willis family estate, shattered and wired. Errol, along with his folks, Jenny and Graham, provide a quick tour of the family’s hideaway. It’s a warm, understated country residence. It’s not until we enter Errol’s room that we notice that moto is this kid’s life. There’s race posters covering every inch of the walls, a pet python, racks of trophies and at least one cracked helmet for each of the 12 years he’s been racing. Tomorrow we’re heading out to Errol’s private practice track, five minutes from town on the banks of the mighty Murrumbidgee River. But for now, it’s lights out.

Standing in Errol’s shed early the next morning with Jake and Boppo, admiring the rundown supercross track in the Willis’ backyard, there’s a deafening explosion. With our eardrums still pulsating, we spin 180 degrees to find redneck Errol grinning from ear-to-ear and holding a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun that’s still smoking. Much like Ryan Villopoto, Errol’s got the munitions bug and we all have a crack at shooting shit. Errol then disappears and comes back out with his latest purchase. “This is my new pride and joy for the hunting season, a high-spec’d bolt-action .223 rifle,” he confirms, and the destruction carries on until both five-round clips run dry. The guns go back into the safe and we head straight for Errol’s wonderland. It had rained a few days beforehand and the track – a mix of topsoil and sand that wound through gum trees – was in epic condition. While we geared up, Errol took to retouching several berms with his Bobcat before roosting off to put the thing away. Acting like a bunch of pricks, Jake, Boppo and I headed straight for Errol’s handiwork and shredded them to bits. Naturally, it offended the fiery Wagga resident and he took to roosting the crap out of Jake until his bike boiled its fluids.

After three days of road trip shenanigans, riding epic tracks and meeting amazing local folk, reality couldn’t have hit us any harder as we loaded up for the trip back to the rat race. As the Navara kicks into life, there’s a recognisable clink of an alloy can, followed by the ‘phzzz’ of escaping pressure before the cabin is unmistakably engulfed with the sweet aroma of Red Bull.
“Back to reality,” says Jake as he powers up. Back to rat race reality it is, mate.

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