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Grid Talk – Dr Richard Draper | Columns | Gassit Garage

Dr Richard Draper isn’t your regular team owner and racer. We caught up with the good doctor to find out a bit more about him and his team, Sugar Plum Racing

How did you get into bikes?

I grew up on a farm around Parkes, New South Wales, and I learnt to ride on a Honda 90 step-through ag bike. I eventually went to Newcastle University to train as a doctor.

I’m a country GP but I’ve worked on and off in emergency for 25-plus years, with most of that spent in Parkes. After I finished university I bought my first roadbike. What I would do is fix crashed bikes, so during the next two years I had about eight bikes. Some I remember are a Katana 1100, an RZ500 V4 two-stroke, an ’85 model GSX-R750, and two FZ750 Yamahas. When I look back on it I had some iconic bikes in the early 90s. I just wish I had even one of them now!

But I got out of bikes and into waterski racing for 17 years. After that I got back into bikes and a friend said I should try the track riding thing, which I did with California Superbike School.

In terms of me getting into road racing, I’m completely a product of the Race Your Mates system put on by Terry O’Neill. I think I rode in the very first Race Your Mates at Wakefield Park. The PCRA was the first club I joined.

Can you tell us a little about Sugar Plum Racing, how it came about and what it involves?

After a big crash in September 2012 at Wakefield Park, I needed 12 months off to recover. I had a BMW S1000 but couldn’t ride it due to the injuries. I’d run into Di Jones and shared a garage with her a few weeks previous, and after talking things over she agreed to race the bike in ASBK the following year.

The team name? Well, I was dating this young lady at the time who used to call me Sugarplum. She moved on, as young ladies often do, but the name stayed – with her blessing, of course!

Some people thought it was because we had a female rider, but it was all me… A lot of the guys in the paddock thought it was funny I was the ‘sugarplum fairy’, and I’d often hear a disparaging, “Heyyy, Sugarplum!”

Little did they know, every time they said that they reminded me of this young lady, so I had no complaints!

What about the riders you are supporting now; how did you choose them?

This year we are supporting Trent Thompson and Brian Bolster, and sometimes we have guest spots at certain meets. It’s mostly about a bunch of people who have similar ideas on going racing, having a good time, expectations, etc.

I’ve got a ton of bikes and don’t mind providing an opportunity for people to get on and have a go. We seem to gel as a group, and our supporters refer to it as the Sugar Plum family.

You’re a qualified doctor at a race meet; how do you feel you can help out when there are already medical staff on hand?

Luckily I know most of the medical people at racetracks in New South Wales from my days waterskiing.

The medical crews at Wakefield Park and SMSP are very professional – registered paramedics and ambulance officers. The vast majority of doctors like me don’t do pre-hospital work, and the best people at it are usually paramedics. If a doctor is going to be present, they have to be carefully selected and comfortable working in that emergency pre-hospital situation. That’s where I can sometimes use my knowledge and help, especially if I’m at a track where the paramedics may not be as experienced. It’s just about summing up the situation.

If someone’s badly hurt and they can use an extra pair of hands, I feel I should help.

No doubt, though, when I have to jump back on the bike after an incident, it does cost me a few seconds a lap next time out. It’s hard to get your head out of the medical room and back on the bike.

What’s your best tip for riders or racers faced with the scene of an accident?

The best thing I could recommend is – don’t panic.

Have a basic first aid certificate, and take a step back and pause. When you’re under stress and the adrenaline is flying, take a moment to let your basic first aid come back to you.

Your favourite bike?

Honda VTR1000F Firestorm. I’ve owned eight over the years and it’s easily my favourite!

Interview MATT O’CONNELL