MotoOnline.com.au gets amongst the pillion rides at the Eastern Creek round of the Australian Superbike Championship.
International Entertainment Group introduced lunchtime pillion rides at Eastern Creek’s fourth round of the Woodstock Bourbon Australian Superbike Championship, giving various celebrities and series sponsors the opportunity to experience ASBK racing from the box seat.
The pillion rides were conducted by multiple-time national champion and former World Supersport runner-up Kevin Curtain for the Kawasaki Racing Team on a ZX-10R, three-time national Superbike champ Shawn Giles on a Team Joe Rocket Suzuki GSX-R1000, and MotoOnline.com.au editor Alex Gobert on a bike built by the Evolution Sports Group.
MotoOnline.com.au’s Adam Kilgannon was also lucky enough to experience the ride of a lifetime as a passenger on the back of Curtain, and here’s his take of the build-up and the ride.
It was the start of another ASBK race day. I was a troop in the MotoOnline.com.au army helping out with the little jobs that Alex may need done during the heavy schedules that are thrown his way come race day.
While in pit lane snapping photos of the riders prepping for race one my phone rang, which to my amazement I heard over the Superbikes warming up. It was Alex on the phone asking where I was and if I could make my way back to Suite 3 for a moment.
I set into a semi-panic knowing Alex is due for a riding demonstration with a thousand thoughts running through my head – maybe I had left a helmet or something in the van parked a good several hundred metres away.
At my arrival back at the suite, Alex had a big smile on his face followed by a cheeky laugh and said “hope you’re ready to go fast”. I asked him “what do you mean?”, and then he said “you’re on as a pillion”. My first thought was yeah right, before he said “I’m serious”.
I looked to the coordinator for the sideshow, Tom Reynolds, who confirmed what Gobert had just told me. “You pass the medical and you’re on,” he said.
I was given a list of a half dozen instructions. The first was to race off and have a quick medical examination with Suzuki RACESAFE, which I knew I would pass, but doctors always have a way to make you feel nervous.
Next stop was race control. I knew I had to make it all happen because it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. As I ran from the medical centre to race control for a day license I could feel my heart beating through my chest waiting for my day license to be organised. It was in that few minutes that the enormity of what was going to happen started to really sink in.
In what seemed to be a lifetime I was handed a piece of paper and was told that I was free to go and enjoy the ride. That was when I knew the ride was actually going to happen and it sunk in further.
Once back in Suite 3, Tom handed me my leathers and gave the other pillions their final instructions.
I was then told Kevin Curtain was going to be my pilot. We made our way down to the podium area where I got my first look at the factory Kawasaki Racing Team-prepared two-seater.
The presentation of all the two-seat bikes was impressive and the factories were taking these display laps very seriously with tyre warmers being slapped on while we waited for the Superbike riders to debrief from their race just completed minutes before.
A quick instruction was handed down by Kevin and I was slung over the machine and in position. I was lucky enough to get a machine with handles on the tank, which made it easy to remain in position on the ZX-10R.
Exiting pit lane was my last chance to get comfortable and then Curtain took a quick look over his shoulder exiting the pit lane before the bike screamed into life with what seemed to be an endless rev range.
Turn two was taken with the greatest of ease as we had some serious lean-angle. Before I could fully comprehend how far we were leaning the bike over, we were flicked upright and short-shifting into Turn Three. As Kevin rolled the power on hard we crossed the bridge with the front wheel aloft.
Braking was precise into Turn Four, which was taken much faster than I ever thought possible – especially with a pillion strapped on the back!
The slight hill cracked into some serious speed, braking extremely hard for the left hander as we tipped it into the corner. It’s so hard to describe how the weight transfers, with Curtain throwing even more trust into the slicks when we went up toward and around Corporate Hill.
We accelerated smooth and hard before more heavy braking into Turn Nine, leaning back over to the right for the turn. While still leaning over, again the engine screamed into life as he shifted through the gears on the gas on the corner exit.
As I tried to comprehend what gear and wondered how fast we were going, we were again then on a monster lean-angle to the right and then left for the final few corners, my thoughts went from speed to slicks thinking that I hope these suckers hold.
Before we were upright, still cranked over hard on the tyre, I felt the front starting to lift and I listened hard to the engine and realised that Curtain had the bike wide-open so we got a good run down the main straight.
The ZX-10R was sounding on song when the front wheel touched back down ever so lightly, and with the throttle still flat out, my mind went to Turn One. It came and went by so fast with a quick lean to the left before we were back hard on the throttle for the exit.
Braking into Turn Two was the hardest part of the whole ride for me on our second lap. After a brilliant run through the first corner it blew me away – the G-forces from the braking felt as though it was going to throw me over the front of the machine.
That time through Turn Two I felt as though it had to be the biggest lean of the lap, with no time to stop and think before we had already made our way through.
One last blip of the throttle popped the front wheel in the air out of Turn Three again before we pulled back into the back of the pit area, which concluded my two-up ride around Eastern Creek.
It was an excellent insight into what a lap must be like for these Superbike racers and a big thank you must go to IEG and everybody involved for making the experience happen.