My Big Ugly Scary Phillip Island Moment

On-board the Spondon TZ750 in oil out of Siberia

spondon yamaha tz750 static 3/4 view
The Spondon almost returned from the Island considerably different from how it arrived. See vid for details.Courtesy of E-tech

Sixteen months ago I flew to Phillip Island with the American team to race Rusty Bigley's Spondon-framed Yamaha TZ750 in the Island Classic vintage races. Team member Scott Rehl (also TZ750 mounted) slapped a GoPro on the front of my racer for just about every practice and race, and only recently found the data cards in the bottom of his gear bag.

In this vid I started 40th on the grid because I burned out the clutch during the qualifying race. Here, I’m up into 13th spot when I almost highside myself to Brisbane on an oil slick laid down by the bike immediately in front of me…in other words, no time to get a flag out before I entered the oil.

VIDEO: On-board the Spondon TZ750 in oil out of Siberia

The Island Classic is wild and the bikes are built to the limit. I thought it strange that teams arrived at a vintage race with pallets of spare engines, but as the weekend unfolded it became clear that these things were going to grenade. Oil on the track halted or delayed the action several times, cooling my enthusiasm for returning.

Riding the Spondon is edgy enough on a perfect track and this vid wasn’t my only near-miss: I had lost the front end in an oil slick entering the Hairpin in a practice, narrowly missing a crash that claimed more than one bike. Twice I came within millimeters of getting pretty beat-up.

The oil slick in this video brought out the red flag - again. I returned to the pits white-faced and trembly, it was that scary a moment. The bike went full-lock in third gear and for some reason I stayed on board. And then it went again! I’ve never been so out of shape and survived the experience…and this one would have been bad…like 105-mph, $80,000-bike bad.

yamaha tz750 track race action
The American team captain and main player Dave Crussell and I, both on TZ750s, searching for a way to beat the four-strokes.Courtesy of E-tech

Above I wrote, "…and for some reason I stayed on…", but I must reference my recently-published body position article in CW magazine (now available on this site); I believe a major reason I stayed in the saddle is because I was "full-GP" off the left side of the TZ as it accelerated out of Siberia. Freddie Spencer and Jeff Haney taught me about head-drop when a dirt-tracker snaps sideways, and I unconsciously mimicked that move as the TZ went full-lock. Yes, it's something I practice on my dirt bikes and track bikes and preach to students; at The Island it kept me healthy…that and a huge dose of luck/blessings.

Enjoy the video and thanks again Scott Rehl at Luxestar VIP and all who support Rusty Bigley and me on this incredible Spondon TZ750.

american racing team at phillip island
Part of the American team at PI 2016: Mike Studzinski, Kurt Lentz, me, Rusty Bigley and Scott Rehl. The common thread here? Each of these men races or has raced TZ750s.Courtesy of E-tech

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