Hopetoun GP 2015

It was a long trek up to the small town of Hopetoun in the Mallee region of Vic for the 2nd annual VERi Vinduro and it was well worth the drive.

We wandered out to the Dattuck Dunes on Saturday arvo for some test runs to sort out jetting and develop some sand skills. Riding in sand requires a different skill to what most of us are used to, I normally climb over the tank to turn a bike but in deep sand you have to sit back and keep the front light. Despite knowing this it was hard to change habits for all the corners in the 60 Km course. The best plan of attack in deep sand ( and some of it was nearly axle deep) is it to accelerate to keep the front end light, but eventually you end up riding at ‘ludicrous speed’ and as soon as you back off the front wheel becomes a plough and your picking yourself up thinking "what happened”

It’s a bit like when you’re towing an unbalanced trailer, when it starts swaying you simply accelerate to pull it back under control but then you find yourself travelling at 150 and can’t accelerate anymore and you start thinking that it would have been much wiser to have just crashed when travelling at 80 At least when you crash in sand it is soft.

After my Saturday testing I decided to drop the needle down. I wanted to avoid seizing it in the sand which is quite common as the sand is horsepower sapping so I had raised the needle in a vain attempt to try and richen it. Bad move, it ran terrible. While fiddling with the carby old mate Mark reckons my tank is too close to the exhaust, "Nah, she’s fine” I said with confidence, after he walked away I had a closer look and was horrified that it was touching so had to walk the campfires to scab some rubber to bump the tank up. Got it sorted so all was good.

It was a warm night in our cabin with the heater running all night but it was a different world when you stepped outside. It went to minus something over night and there was thick ice all over the cars. Thank god for campfires.

There was a short ride from the Parc Ferme to the start line and I headed over early to take some pictures but as soon as I got off the bike I noticed fuel running down everywhere. Oh No, what have I done! A quick inspection revealed a broken fuel line. All my tampering with the tank the night before had damaged the fuel line. A brisk walk back to the car for some pliers to cut & refit but a tiny piece of hose refused to leave the fuel tap barb, and it was the type of fuel tap that has the barb pointing inwards. Had to try and reach it left handed as my right wrist refused to bend backwards to reach it.

We have had motor vehicles now for over a hundred years but evolution still hasn’t kicked in to give us limbs for working on vehicles. Kids have had game controllers for only a couple of decades and already they can use these things like no normal adult can manage!

Got the fuel line sorted and gave it a quick kick, it fired straight away and then promptly fouled a plug straight away. Bugger. I wasn’t carrying any tools on me as I refuse to carry such things on my body and I haven’t bought a tool bag for the rear guard as yet. I deem it better to DNF than to risk injury from such things so it was another brisk walk back to the car while pushing the bike this time. Tried cleaning the plug and using another old plug I had but all to no avail. Knew I should have replaced that new plug when I used it. Old mate Bruce wandered by, he had travelled up to the event just to help out. His intentions were to help out the club with the running of the event but I claimed him as my own helper. He found me another plug but it still failed to fire. It was now down to the good old roll start to pump some life into it. Finally it fired and I rode it around the car park to warm it up and clean it out properly. Then Bruce found a new plug so we put that in. I was starting to wonder if I wasn’t supposed to ride today. Was this a sign from the gods that I shouldn’t go out on the course? Was this an Omen that should be heeded? Or was it just a sign of bad maintenance!

I rode over to the start line where riders were let off 3 a minute with a rope start under a huge banner but there was no grand send off for me. They had already packed up to go to the first checkpoint. It was 20 minutes of transport to the dunes and I managed to catch up to the sweep rider at least!

The start of the event required a short run up a steep soft sand dune about 20 mtrs high. I nailed it fine on the Saturday but my first attempt Sunday had me stick up to the axle not quite at the top. It was an effort to get back down to try again, the back wheel had locked up. I managed to bulldog it down and studied it to see why the wheel was locked up. The chain was a tight as a violin string but nothing was wrong! Then I noticed the chain was away from the bottom of the rear sprocket, the sprocket had jammed itself full of sand so tight it could no longer move. Life is full of new experiences that I don’t need! Lots of chain kicking and rocking back and forth finally saw me on my way.

I tackled the dune hill again this time with success only for it to die again once over the top. What now? Doh! Another face palm moment, I had forgotten to turn the fuel back on after turning it off while dragging it back down the dune. I rode off for another 100 mtrs then had to stop as now my eyeballs were getting sandblasted from my front wheel! I had taken my goggles off as I had steamed them up with all my unnecessary exercise. I suddenly realized why I never actually made it to ‘Expert’ status back in the 80’s

My comedy of errors was finally over so I was under way on the course itself, trying to choose lines only to find the bike was choosing its own lines. The track was car width but you didn’t have the usual 2 ruts to follow, ruts in the deep sand went every which way. It was as if the 59 entrants before me had weaved uncontrollably from one side of the track to the other!

I followed suit

.The sand shallowed out after a few K’s to only rim deep becoming much more rideable. Lots of great trails meandering along farms and dunes. One section through some shrubbery had me thinking the only thing missing was a distant smoke bomb. Some more steep soft dunes in the otherwise flat landscape and then some fast flowing dunes that had you riding ‘freestyle’ from one side of the track to the other in top gear. The tracks were exhilarating and while relatively easy to conquer took effort to ride fast which is what my muscles were telling me on Monday.

We had a few entries for 'Man of the match"
Richard Symons did well to complete a loop with out a clutch.
Chris Shaw forfieted by dropping out after his gearshaft broke clean off, if he had of ridden the whole event in 2nd gear.
Just as well he didn't as the clear winner was Ken Creighton on his BMW GS800

Many thanks to Beaky and his crew of helpers who set out a magnificent course, some of which was courtesy of some generous local farmers, Rachelle did her usual excellent job of administrator as well as first aid and Mick for manning the starts (despite not waiting for me!), the local Hopetoun community for letting us scruffy old bastards in for the weekend and the Lake Lascelles camp ground that was a pleasant and scenic place to camp.

Looking forward to the 2016 event although maybe with a bit more machine prep next time.

Photo's courtesy of Glenn Day, Geoff Morris & Greg Dymke

Story by Geoff Morris

Dakar KDX
Lee & Mark
Crack of dawn