10 August 2019

The Classic Rally Phenomenon

From Australian Road & Track Magazine - Winter 1992
Artwork produced by Brian Caldersmith for the 1992 video sleeve.

Mototorsport does a full circle and returns to an era of challenge, camaraderie, chivalry and low budget.

Top level motorsport has exploded into a fury of stress, excess and enormous expense. Formula One drivers could practically pay the Third World debt with their spare change!

What's left for those of us who want to race, have fun and not take a triple mortgage to do it? Of course there are always club sprints, motorkhanas and sundry events, but they can get a little wearisome after a while.

Enter the classic rallies, currently springing up all around the country. Now common in Europe, the wave really began here with the 1988 Hallet Nubrik Grand Prix Rally, and has spawned the now mandatory Repco Mountain Rally and others like the Targa Tasmania.

Usually about four to six days long, these events combine all the action and thrills of navigational sections and competition events, and culminate in gala fib-telling occasions.

What sort of car do you need? Some events have boundaries like the pre-1975 Repco. The Grand Prix Rally will consider almost anyone with a 'special or unique car of some sort. When they get thirty MGBs applying, however, they have to pull a few out of the hat. It's quite common too to see humble Morries and Holdens mix it with the exotic Ferraris and Porsches, often embarrassing the more expensive machinery. Factory and dealer teams appear regularly as well as company directors, pro race drivers, doctors, accountants, janitors and council workers. Everyone can get in there and have a go. More often than not these events gain enough interest to attract substantial TV and newspaper coverage, and can always be seen in glossies like this one.

The costs can vary. Take an average two-person team and their accommodation, travel, food, etc.. Targa Tasmania: probably around $5-6,000 easily (that's a dear one!). Grand Prix Rally: say about $2,500. Now, the Repco is a real bargain at under $2,000, and tends to attract those who find the sometimes snobby GP Rally out of their league. The hidden costs are a little unpredictable but obviously must include provision for repairs, car preparation, your ‘accustomed manner', and so on.

Both the Grand Prix Rally and Targa Tasmania will undergo (I hear) substantial changes for their next events. Neither can be expected to get cheaper, but the Repco organisers have hit on a formula straight away - and it works. Volunteers make a heroic effort to stage the event, keeping costs down straight away, and the competitors just love the testing navigation.

So if you have a smart car in the garage and don't know what to do with your next holiday, throw in the wife and kids and go on a rally!

Related story: Jaguar Drivers' Club Repco Mountain Rally at CuriousJag (with video)

See the National Museum of Australia's Historic Vehicles in Action

Brabham racing car, Royal Daimler, Aeroplane Jelly T-Model Ford truck will take to the track

A hundred years of automotive history will be in action when a selection of iconic vehicles from the National Museum of Australia take to the track at Wakefield Park Raceway in Goulburn, New South Wales, on 17 August.

05 July 2019

Will Electric Motorcycles ‘Spark’ a Riding Revival?

While there is nothing revolutionary about electric vehicles, new technology and greater concern for the burning of fossil fuels has seen a new wave of electric motorcycles ready for market.

When the giant Harley-Davidson Motor Company develops a brutish electric motorcycle, you know something is afoot.

H-D’s new LiveWire project is all the indication you need to know electric motorcycles are about to go mainstream. Customers in North America will be taking delivery of their pre-ordered machines from August, while Aussies and Kiwis will have to wait until 2020 for theirs - with a price tag of around $40,000.

LiveWire is clearly aimed at riders who like big, powerful machines. Top speed is cited as almost 180kmh and - hang on! - you can get to legal highway speed in about three seconds. H-D intend to build a network of charging stations throughout the dealerships to cater to the expected 200km range. Charging can be completed in about an hour, so there's plenty of time for a coffee and window-shop while waiting.

And it’s just as well H-D is ahead of the game with LiveWire because breathing down their neck is a swathe of similarly futuristic machines ready to take them on.

Former H-D engineer and motorcycle designer, Erik Buell, has unveiled his first full-size electric machine, the Flow electric motorcycle under his new brand, Fuell. Last year, Buell teamed up with Vanguard Spark, formed by Alfa Romeo F1 principal Francois-Xavier Terny of Vanguard Motorcycles and Frédéric Vasseur, founder of electric Formula E race car company Spark Racing Technology. With this kind of backing, the serially luckless Buell should be a force to contend with. The Flow “urban mobility” electric motorcycle will be a relatively modest performer and priced at around half that of the LiveWire.

Beyond these two, BMW is known to be seeking hybrid drive technology patents, Triumph are again surveying owners while Finnish company, RMK, are preparing a science fiction-styled machine called the E2 which utilises a hubless rear wheel and direct drive motor.

“The future is electric, we’re not far from starting series production,” said Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali who, along with VW Group Chairman Matthias Mueller, upped the ante when he said Ducati would have an electric motorcycle “by 2020”.

And if that wasn’t enough, Chinese electric motorcycle company Super Soco expects to sell three much cheaper, scooter-like electric models in Australia any time now.

So, it would seem the die is set for a serious influx of electric motorcycles sooner rather than later. Just when these machines will finally make their way down to Australasia - and at what price - is the next question.