News 24 Nov 2009

Oz RR: Nowland satisfied with podium position in The 6 Hour


Sydney’s Oran Park Raceway has conducted its final motorcycle event after 47 years. The inaugural running of the Bel-Ray 6 Hour successfully marked a return for long distance motorcycle racing in Australia whilst celebrating the closing chapter of two-wheeled racing at the much loved 2.6 kilometer circuit.

With an introduction and a farewell, Sydney’s blistering heat wave ensured ‘endurance’ conditions at Oran Park not only for the riders but officials, spectators and the events special guests. The temperature went as high as 45 degrees and the 80km/h winds placed the circuit in extreme conditions throughout the day.

None of the above detracted from what the day would bring and with a strong crowd in attendance, singer Brielle Davis made everyone stand to attention with the national anthem just minutes before the start.

The LeMans style start procedure for Endurance racing is rarely seen in Australia and created a lot of excitement as the start time of 10.30am drew closer. The start, which was signaled by the national flag being dropped, was in the almighty hands of former factory Yamaha and Suzuki 500cc Grand Prix star, and past 6 Hour winner, Kevin Magee.

At 10.30am, the flag dropped and the 31 bike field stormed away for the 6 hour marathon.  My former team mate Damian Cudlin took charge blasting past pole position man Zac Davies and leading the first lap. For me, the start was terrible! I just didn’t anticipate Kevin Magee’s arm movement well enough! I had a little bit of catching up to do and after a few laps I settled down and started to move forward. By the time I was up to 4th place, I started to lose the front 3 guys in the traffic even though my lap times were very similar. I decided to conserve a little and let the race unfold… I knew it was going to be a strange race because of the weather.

My team mate Dave Johnson did a great job but our other rider, and the man who did far too many things all weekend, James Spence struggled and made an early pit stop. This slowed us down a little and James decided he couldn’t help us so he wouldn’t ride anymore. It was good of James to admit that and we all understood. Hey, there was only 4 hours to go, it should be ok I thought!

Normally it would have been ok but I have never raced in such hot and windy conditions. I have been in a position (whilst on the bike) and had to ask the safety car to stop the race, but that was because of torrential rain and lightning (Oschersleben 24 hour, Germany 2002). I’ve raced at 3am with sleet falling and an ambient temperature of -3 degrees (LeMans 24 hour, France 2004). And of course Suzuka’s heat is always difficult. But yesterday was sickening. The organisers were keeping an eye on everyone as they moved around the pit garages. Even the younger riders, who are very fit, looked pale.

The front 2 teams of Daniel Stauffer (Yamaha) and Craig Coxhell (Honda) did a fantastic job and we were unable to catch them. We did close the gap at one point but our re-fuelling was quite long during one stop and we also made the additional pit stop when James came in early.

The final step on the podium would be between the number 1 bike of Damian and Alex Cudlin and our number 6 Yamaha of Dave Johnson and myself. We swapped places with those guys during the pit stops and it was a nervous time for us. No one in my team wanted to finish off the podium. I had great support from Dunlop for this race and we had to ensure it was a 1-2-3 for Dunlop on the podium. Marty Dowd, our crew chief from Yamaha Australia, did a fantastic job along with our mechanics. Our team of 4 mechanics only met each other on Saturday morning but enjoyed what they were doing and wanted to be on the podium.

We were fortunate to have the Factory Yamaha transporter at the back of our garage so when I wasn’t on the bike, I could lay down in the air conditioned room in the truck. For me it was a case of doing what I do. I try and lie as still as possible on my back and let everything rest and recover. I think about letting all the aches go and sort of shut down. I knew the last 2 hours would be the time to race. I preserved myself as much as possible at the start and when the guys told me the situation on the track, I knew it was time to race.

At 3pm I came out swinging! I rode like it was a 20 lap race, even though I knew I had to complete 40 laps. I just broke it down into 4 parts, 4 lots of 10 laps. My lapboard showed how many laps I was doing and our position. I had a lap timer on the bike and I was surprised, I was able to lap at qualifying pace and even in traffic I was no more than one second a lap slower. It was a great feeling. I haven’t felt strong like that since 2007. The guys did a great job with the bike and I just hit my marks every lap and the lap timer stayed the same. To do that in those conditions was really satisfying. I did feel sick for about 5 minutes when I got off the bike though!

That session put us in a good position so Dave could control the race. It was very close at the end with our fuel light on for the final 5 laps but Dave knew he could use less throttle and still have enough time over 4th place. It was just what I wanted for the team. Our mechanics were thrown in at the last minute and they went about the task of each pit stop in a calm and common sense manor. It was a great way to end the year.

Craig Coxhell, Russell Holland and Gareth Jones took victory with Daniel Stauffer, Zac Davies and Grant Hay finishing in second position.

It was fantastic to see so many people at Oran Park. People from the past and present. Multiple Australian Superbike Champion Shawn Giles was in the paddock along with current Australian Superbike Champion Glenn Allerton. The television interviews were carried out by former racer and team manager Craig Trinder. Craig and his camera crew covered all the action in pit lane.

I have already spoken to James Spence about 2010 along with some other people. There is a lot of work to do but I hope this will grow into more than just an annual event.