One of the fastest-growing events in the country. This you gotta see
Defending champions Brody Nowlan and Josh Pickering again emerged victorious in the 2018 Cessnock Mitsubishi Australian Postie Bike Grand Prix.
But the result was probably insignificant to many of the estimated crowd of 10,000 who pressed the barriers around the 1.38km street circuit on Sunday 18 November.
The opportunity to see – for free – up so close some of Australia’s best motorcycling talent from just about all disciplines is something fans lap up, particularly when big names from road racing, dirt track, speedway and enduro were joined by a late entry of the home-grown motocross royalty in Chad Reed and his cousin Craig Anderson.
Reed echoed the sentiments that have kept the likes of Kevin Curtain coming back each year.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in ages,” the legendary AMA Supercross champ said. “It’s such a back-to-basics event.”
Riders enjoy being part of it, not only is there rivalry between teams, no doubt within the many teams which are made up of family combinations. Hours of preparation had gone in to the machines which carried some highly credentialed performers, and also some first-time racers, but of course not all machines could withstand the punishment they were put through so some big names were not part of the overall results.
After two practice sessions there were two qualifiers then a Last Chance event to decide the 36 teams who would line up for the main event.
After 46 hilariously hard-fought laps the chequered flag fell – but it was only after the top-10 machines were put on the dyne to ensure eligibility, were the results finally declared. With a maximum of just 6.3 horsepower allowed, there were some exclusions with teams not quite getting the performance extraction formula right. Significantly, there were several examples where more than one machine was prepared in the same workshop – in one case that produced a top-five (eventual) finisher, one machine that broke and one that (just) exceeded the 6.3hp limit.
There were some big-name riders who failed to fall under the strictly enforced horsepower limit including Reed and Anderson, Kev Curtain and Rick Oslen and newly crowned Aussie Supersport champ Cru Halliday and Wayne Maxwell among others.
Nowlan / Pickering triumphed despite a one-minute penalty for exceeding the 10-lap maximum stint per rider which would have been crucial had there been no disqualifications. Halliday had the consolation of setting the fastest lap time, at a scintillating top speed of 63.59km/h, as the road racers again could not get on the top step of the rostrum – but you can bet they will be back!
Girls on the gas
It was the first street-racing event in Australia since Port Kembla in 1997 when it was launched in 2014, and in 2018 Cessnock saw the first staging of an all-female race.
With the support of SMW Drilling Services paying the entry fees, qualifying saw 25 bikes on the track and only one of them was missing when the ultra-competitive 10-lap race was flagged off.
All riders had to use a machine that was entered in the main event and three of them raced in the main event.
Nine of the riders finished on the same lap with Keegan Pickering, a clear top qualifier, looking set for an all-the-way win only to be pipped in the last few metres by inaugural Finke Women’s winner Ellyse O’Connor. Behind Pickering were fellow main event contenders Karina Bailey and Sophie Lovett, while Ainsley Childs rounded out the top five.
This was the fifth year the event has been held around the streets of Cessnock and spokesman Dave Robinson stressed the significant contribution that local businesses make. The event has one year left under the council-approved five-year DA, but listening to the Mayor speaking about what the event does for the town and surrounding areas, there’s reasons to suggest it might be around for a while yet.
Here’s an idea. If country centres in other states can pick up the blue-print and host a similar event, perhaps Cessnock could host the series finale?
Australian Postie Bike Grand Prix
1 Brody Nowlan / Josh Pickerin
2 Richie Nowland / Josh Brookes
3 Chris Watson / Michael Kirkness
4 Tom Toparis / Markus Chiodo
5 Joel Muddle / Zac Thackeray
Chris Watson Motorcycles Cup (Repechage)
1 Jackson Jeffrey / Chad Hughes
2 Mitch Boyd / Simon Boyd
3 Tony Marsden / Ryan Young
4 Connor Ryan / Michael Vecchi
5 Brenton Lewis / Kyle Lewis
SMW Drilling Services Ladies Race
1 Ellyse O’Connor
2 Keegan Pickering
3 Karina Bailey
4 Sophie Lovett
5 Ainsley Childs
Report Peter Baker Photography Rachelle RPM Images & Col Boyd