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Historic Southern Classic  November 7-10, 2014

The Southern Classic held at the Broadford Motorcycle Roadracing Circuit is a preeminent event for historic machines in the State of Victoria. Now in its 33rd year this Championship Title staged by HMRAV is amongst the most highly regarded historic race series to win that it attracts riders from all parts of Australia and is a premier event second only to the Phillip Island Classic for Post Classic (Period 4) machines 1969 - 1972.

This year the Unlimited Class attracted entries from high profile Australian Post Classic race teams including Dean Outred on the Honda Works CR750(970cc), Lyell Williamson’s Seeley Norton MkII (1007cc) , Kelton Cheeseman Honda CB750 (940cc) and Greg Parish Laverda 3C (981).

The outright winner is judged from points scored across 4 races from grid positions being allocated from the best times of two qualifying session held on Saturday morning. Open practice is held all day on Friday and is staged in 15 minute sessions for each class in order of engine capacity.

Greg Parish on the DAM Laverda #83 crashes out of 4th place at the Southern Classic at Broadford Raceway.

Laverda at the Southern Classic 2014

Copyright The DAM


Early Friday morning gave the first indication of the extreme weather conditions that can occur in Central Victoria where summer bushfires fanned by hot north winds have been known to rage across open farmland at speeds of up to 120kmh consuming buildings, homes and on occasions incinerating whole towns with little warning.

But at the Southern Classic is was the air-cooled, carburettor engines that fired up at 9am for the first Practice session.

The D.A.M. Classic Racing Laverda had several changes made to its geometry since its last outing. Primarily these were changes to front and rear suspension components and a steepening of the steering head angle. Greg Parish believes the result is greater stability under brakes, better ground clearance and increased agility. Angus Parish,  watching closely from the pit wall agrees, “All around the circuit it looks good, but particularly breaking into corners where in the past it had tried to throw him off it behaves so much better.” The changes were paying off and the unofficial lap times were a promising start.

Photo: AAP. Simon Mossman

Being allocated Bay 6 in the top row of pits right next to the dummy grid is a bonus at this event. Tyre warmers can be left on to the very last minute to gain the maximum benefit of consistent tyre temperature, and visual contact with the circuit for pit crew means no more running back to the pits from the fence at the end of each outing.

Some competitors like the top row so much they even choose to sleep in the pit shed with their bike!

Saturday morning dawned with a cloudless sky and the temperature was already 25ºC. A short push of the bike into the scrutineering area and collecting the lap timer were the first jobs of the day. An apparent coincidence was that the lap timer number issued for this meeting was the same number that Greg had used on many occasions, the familiar 183.

“After yesterday’s great practice I’ll take that as a good omen”. Greg clips the timer into its special mount on the front fork.

By the end of the second Qualifying period the ambient temperature in Broadford had raised the mercury past 35ºC.

“Everyone is having traction trouble out there and it shows in the lap times”, Greg commented after coming in from the second qualifying session. “The back just moves around like riding on liquorice”.

Indeed the overall times of the fastest bikes were not anywhere near the Circuit’s Lap record with most riders complaining that they were 3 to 4 secs off their best.

Greg, “Yes, we are down on our best time, but considering the heat and the tyres we have I’m quite sure we’ll do well when it comes to racing. If we are only 2 seconds off our best time now in these conditions then I think we are actually going better than ever”.

With the sun beating down on the competitors the air temperature was now 38º and track temperature was nudging 50º with little or no wind to ease the  discomfort of both rider or machine.

Race 1 comprised a mixed grid of Forgotten Era bikes from 1973 - 1980 (period 5), and Post Classic Unlimited bikes from 1962 - 1973 (period 4). The DAMCR Laverda started from row 3 in position 9 in a field of 29 starters.

“I got a great start and was 7th into turn one. The bike handling so much better under brakes than ever before. I just put my head down settled into it, the bike felt so different, very confidence inspiring. Peter at Promecha did the mods to the forks for me and the difference is amazing”.

By the end of lap 2 the DAM Laverda had moved up into 4th place in it’s class.

“Coming out of turn one on lap 3 I nailed the throttle and the back just lit up big time. Here I was doing a ‘Marquez’ and I’m thinking; if I hesitate I’m over the bars! I kept on the power and it straightened up ... a bit close, I wonder if anyone got a photo?”, Greg quips with a big smile.

There was no photo, but Parish had brought the D.A.M. Classic Racing Laverda home to a comfortable 4th place and the team were very satisfied with that result. Exactly 1 second off his best ever lap time on the current layout of the Broadford circuit, all the more impressive because of the appallingly hot  conditions that completely destroyed the edges of the British made Avon tyres in just 15 kms of racing.

With a fresh set of tyres being fitted it was time to think about race 2.

“The level of competition here this weekend is extremely high and although we are going really well it’s obvious that I’m never going to catch 3rd place and get into the trophies this weekend, those bikes are just too far ahead. I can only hope they explode in the heat or something. I’m comfortable and easy in 4th. So I’ll be happy to finish there and play with the suspension a bit more. The Phillip Island Classic is the next big one and I want to be ready for that”.

The ambient air temperature was now 41ºC. The air-cooled engines were really struggling to maintain good operating temperatures and many were succumbing to seizures, fuel vapour lock and loss of power. Tyres were shredding, losing their all important predictability of edge grip, and brake fade was catching many riders out at the end of the back straight where speeds in the vicinity of 200kmh had to be rapidly brought  down to negotiate a very tight right-hander infamously named ‘Crash Corner’.

The start of Race 2 for the Unlimited Post Classic was almost identical to the first race. The DAMCR Laverda was 7th into turn 1 and took 6th position as the field headed onto the back straight in the opening lap. Ahead were the three Post Classic bikes of Outred, Williamson and Cheeseman, and two Forgotten Era bikes. The D.A.M. Classic Racing Laverda was 4th in class as expected.

“I had new tyres and got an unbelievably good start and rounded up one bloke on the exit of turn one. Near the end of the back straight I saw a Period 5 bike braking very deep, I thought I could get in underneath him when I arrived with another rider right up behind me ready to pounce if I mucked it up. As I started to tip into the corner I saw the Period 5 bike as he came straight across my line and his back wheel clipped across my front wheel. It was my error. The rider behind saw it all and managed to hold it together to run off up the escape road as we slid off into the grass.”

Crash Corner had claimed another victim.

It was a heavy fall. The front wheel of Greg’s bike was lifted off the ground by the contact with the other bike resulting in the full force of the high speed impact being taken on the top of the shoulder and helmet.

“I was aware that I had taken a big hit to the head but didn’t think I’d lost consciousness. I’m not sure how long it took me to get up but the recovery vehicle was pretty quick on the scene and we both got a lift back to the pits hanging onto our bikes in the trailer.”

Still clutching pieces of the broken fairing Greg was instructed to attend the medical clinic before he would be allowed to race again. After thirty minutes under observation he was released with an ice pack on his shoulder, a couple of Panadol, and deemed fit to ride.

“When I got in there they did lots of checks and asked me to raise my arms above my head. I could do it but it hurt. They asked me to put my arm behind my back. I could do it but it hurt. Old injuries always hurt when you fall off. I have broken that collar bone, shoulder blade and ribs in a previous accident and because I still had full movement we all assumed that I was just pretty badly bruised”.

Meanwhile Angus Parish, Serge Canale and Antony Carberry had been assessing the damage to the bike. Their main concern was whether such a heavy hit to the right side of the engine could have bent the crank. After measurements were made and it was found to be undamaged, another alternator cover was fitted along with a new brake master cylinder and a footpeg bolt. With the fairing cleaned up with an angle grinder and a bit of tape holding the screen together it passed scrutineering ready to race.

But by the following morning there were already doubts about Greg’s fitness to ride after he had difficulty in pulling his leathers on. Using his spare helmet Parish and the DAMCR Laverda took to the circuit in the early Sunday morning warm-up, only to pull into the pits after less than a full lap.

“As soon as I opened the throttle on the back straight I realised that I couldn’t hold onto the bars, braking was ok, but I couldn’t ride like that. I was unsure about the true extent of the injury but it was irrelevant anyway as far as racing was concerned.”

The rest of the weekend saw the DAMCR team hanging over the fence watching the races from the sidelines and chatting with disappointed Laverda riders who had come to see a 180º triple cylinder ‘going hard at it at full noise’ on a race track.

There was the obvious question posed of whether D.A.M. Classic Racing would be at the Island Classic in eleven week’s time? And much to speculate about Greg’s injuries and attendance. Maybe a guest rider? Angus perhaps? The following week Greg and Angus Parish flew out from Melbourne to work on television productions in Perth WA, Brisbane QLD and Gippsland Vic and had no time to investigate the injury further. “Greg just kept the pain killers going and I took over the camera work most days.” Angus says rather nonchalantly. “We got through it OK.”

Then, four weeks after the crash at the Southern Classic races at Broadford, Greg has his shoulder x-rayed to reveal the damage. A non-union fracture of Distal Clavicle and Separation of the Acromioclavicular Joint (AC Joint).

With the healing time unknown and treatment options that involved surgery, the D.A.M. Classic Racing team withdrew its entry to the Phillip Island Classic to be held in January 2015.

Riding with a broken collarbone

Photo: Greg Parish ACS

Antony Carberry and Greg Parish share a laugh, ‘... doing a Marquez”


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