They did what? Pass Go. Do Not Stop. Repeat | Columns | Gassit Garage
There was to be no change of scenery on these endurance rides
Clear out the back of the garage and you’ll find you own at least two copies of the Guinness Book of Records. For almost three decades this annual tome was the default gift choice for birthdays, Father’s Day and Christmas. A quick scan and you could choose a path to 15 minutes of fame. After all, it couldn’t be that difficult to keep a hula hoop rotating while bouncing a rubber ball and reciting Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’. For 72 hours.
This sounded a little prissy to road racers Allan Cunynghame, Peter Stoneman and Dave Richards, who thought the ‘World Motor Cycle Endurance Riding Record’ a more worthy effort. Having got hold of Ken Blake’s BMW R90S, a machine which had travelled little more than 650km to finish in second place in the 1975 Castrol Six Hour Production Race, they figured the job half done. Surprisingly, they chose the Mount Panorama circuit, which was not closed to local traffic. Despite a summer deluge they circulated for almost 6300km in January 1976, raising several thousand dollars for the Spastic Centre; all of which was incidental to keeping the BMW’s wheels in motion for one hundred hours and one minute. A new record.
Err, not quite! It seems the old, old record of one hundred hours had been eclipsed by a team of Brits who had ridden a Honda CB500 Four outfit continuously for one hundred hours and two minutes in October 1975. Though, for some reason, the news never reached Mount Panorama before the boys decamped for the pub in Bathurst to celebrate.
Brothers Mike and Brian Shirley, together with Shane McLachlan were not about to make the same mistake. With a trio of Z900s supplied by Kawasaki, sponsorship from Sydney radio station 2SM, and Oran Park Raceway at their disposal, they were determined to do whatever it took. First was the ‘human endurance’ record for which all three riders attempted to ride non-stop for 24 hours. This was only a prelude for the Guinness World Endurance attempt but allowed for live links to radio 2SM so they could mention sponsors Avon, Caltex and AMCO Jeans. This is what people did for amusement prior to apps.
Then, riding in three to four-hour shifts with six hours’ rest, the three riders switched to a single machine, lapping the Oran Park short circuit around the 70-second mark. Refuelling through a three-metre hose from the back of a ute was a tricky affair, but had become routine after the first 24 hours. Rider changes were more problematic. Arriving at the pits, the incoming rider would switch to sidesaddle and slow to ‘human running pace’ – which proved a difficult to judge after ripping down the straight at 160km/h plus. The relief rider, running beside the machine, would take control of the handlebars and mount from the right as the incumbent slipped off to the left, generally discovering the human running pace of Usain Bolt for a few panicky metres.
It all worked well for the three riders, the nine strong pit crew, the observers and, most importantly, Mr Bob Burton from the Guinness Book of Records, who confirmed the new record of 114 hours. But, only two weeks later, four Novocastrians rode a Suzuki GT750 around Mount Panorama for almost two weeks.
In the 40 years since McLachlan and his mates entertained breakfast radio listeners with their stunts, Guinness has been joined by so many trivia sites it’s mind bending. However, for the record, ‘Dusty Rusty’ Vaughn rode his Harley round the Continental Tire Test track in Texas for 24 hours back in 2011. A distance of 3250km.
Only one year later, Shamsher Bahadur took exactly 25 hours to ride from Ranipokhari to Narayanghat in the Himalayas. And he did so without his feet or any other part of his body touching the ground.
At trials-bike pace, Shamsher had plenty of time to enjoy the views.
WORDS PETER WHITAKER
Photo credit Crocodile Press