CHAPTER THREE – ADELAIDE FORMULA ONE

We moved to Adelaide in early 1984 and I went to work as the Chief Estimator for Macmahon Construction. This meant I reviewed the bids being developed by the State branches, kept abreast of the market nationally to know what was coming, who had work, who needed it and would therefore be bidding strongly. I also worked on the larger and more complex bids wherever they were, and some of these were very interesting, such as the pricing of an iron ore mine for Lang Hancock. This involved a trip to the Pilbara with Lang and a couple of days flying around in his light plane looking at site after site of iron ore he had claims for. The brief for this project was pretty simple, there is the site which will have a rail line to the coast, there’s the hill and here is the geological report. Give me a price per ton for 67% pure iron ore crushed to 6mm and placed in rail cars.

So, planning, designing the mine layout, selecting and pricing equipment and working out the cost for a multiyear contract. Contract mining was something Macmahon wanted to get into as it involved longer term contracts and was actually simpler than building roads and railways, though like most things on earth, that was not how the miners saw it. We could never even get on the bid lists. Lang never did start this mine, his life was one long frustration, although he consoled himself with all the royalties he received for those who did mine his reserves.

Computers at this time still filled a room, the PC was to arrive shortly, but for now Macmahon had a batch ICL machine used mainly for accounts and payroll. One of the big drawbacks to our system of estimating was the time involved. Bids are only out for a limited time, and it was tough to come up with one number, let alone look at some alternatives, or play some “what If” games. We saw that using a computer would change that, but Brian Macmahon had built up a template of how we did things that was successful, and he was used to looking at, so whatever we did with a computer had to come out looking like that. There were a couple of commercial programs available, but none that suited our needs, so we decided to design our own between myself and a programmer. He produced a system using databases, something most of us had not even heard of, and we had it running in two weeks, amazing.

Almost its first use was a feasibility study for us taking over Mount Gunston, a silver/copper mine in the north of South Australia. The current operators could not make money on it and were going to mothball it. We saw this as a chance for Macmahon to prove themselves as miners and I worked up a number of scenarios based on the ore content of each type of ore, the price of the copper or silver, and the exchange rate as those prices were in US dollars. Even the worst case showed we made money, so we took it on and were successful, and today Macmahon are a significant contract miner.

Now what about the race? As most of you will know Alan Jones had won the Formula One World Championship in 1980. This increased the interest in F1 in Australia and Channel Nine were by now showing the races live. State Governments were showing interest in staging a GP, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, our largest cities. Melbourne went so far as to upgrade Sandown and stage a round of the World Sportscar Championship, during which they had problems with the track surface, a common problem at the time. Dallas had staged its first and last F1 race in 1984 with the track disintegrating.

Unbeknown to me there were moves being made in Adelaide to win the rights to the Grand Prix. Now I should explain that a “Grand Prix” is the most important race in that country each year, and not necessarily a round of the World Championship. Australia had run a GP since Captain Arthur Waite won the first on Phillip Island in 1923 in an Austin Seven Special, but we had never run a World Championship round. It was to be the 150th anniversary of the founding of the State of South Australia in 1986, and as usual a committee had been set up to arrange events to celebrate it. A member of that committee, Kym Bonython, apparently suggested a GP as long ago as 1980, but in 1984 it came to life between Bill O’Gorman and the then Lady Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Wendy Chapman, a lady of some drive and vision. Layouts were being looked at through the city itself, and the obvious problems resulted in the track moving east, until it finally came to the parklands and the terraces, which were the natural site for such a track.

Don Breedon was the designer for these early layouts, with the Lanyon brothers also involved as advisors as they had been trying to stage a street race in Geelong previously. At some point the Premier John Bannon and his office, Managed by Dr. Mal Hemmerling, must have decided that this was feasible, and not wanting to miss the opportunity took the gamble to fly to London to meet with Bernie Ecclestone who ran, and still runs, Formula One.  Now Bernie does not make appointments even for State Premiers, I know I have seen it in action and been kept in limbo myself. John Bannon could have come home with egg on his face, so politically it was a big risk, especially with an election due in a year or so. Bernie in his inimitable fashion agreed to a race in 1986, as long as South Australia staged one first in 1985. This was early October 1984, and a race was scheduled November 3, 1985, and there was nothing, no track, no staff, no sponsors, need I go on?    

My reaction to the news was “great, my favorite sport is coming to me, I will take a week off, but a ticket and watch the race.” How wrong could I be? The Government wasted no time and put out a request for proposals for a Project Manager to oversee the design and construction of the track and all the facilities needed to stage the race. One of Adelaide’s biggest consulting engineering groups, Pak Poy & Kneebone Group, approached us to joint venture with them to bid for the work, and as the Chief Estimator I was given the job of working with PP&K to develop a submission. This was early November and we had about three weeks to put it together. The contract was actually to be with the Public Works Department as the Grand Prix did not officially exist yet. Once we had the bulk of the submission done we set about drawing up a Project Organization Chart and assigning people, as this was the key point of this type of project. Now during the preparation of the submission the consultants had worked out that I grew up in England with F1, I had raced here in Australia, and knew all the right people in Adelaide to get things done from my time with the Highways Department. It was as if all the things I had done in my life came to a focus. So they said I needed to be the Project Manager as they felt that would make us certain to win the job. This was a surprise to me, I had not even considered it, but looking back I was the one person in Adelaide to do this. My Directors said that it was not possible, I was the Chief Estimator and made a lot more money for the company doing that than a salary for a year. Pak Poy said OK, then there is no point bidding. I was an interested spectator to this exchange, and finally my Directors said OK, put Bob in as PM.

And the rest is history as they say. How quickly your life can change, and how easily. So we submit the bid, and we are selected, Pak Poy were correct. December 3rd we go to meet Dr. Hemmerling, Mal, to be awarded the job. His first words were “you’re not building a track for 24 prima donnas, you’re showing off Adelaide.” The race was to be a promotion for the State, the forerunner of the current Government run races so popular around the world, so it is us you need to blame as we succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. This was to shape almost everything we did and how we did it. In the end there was an election the Thursday following the race, and I was very conscious of potentially bringing the Government down if things did not go well.

I still have the original notes from that meeting and John Fargher from Public Works was also there with Chris Overland. We did receive a few more pieces of a brief.

  • ·       No trees were to be removed of a heritage or substantial nature. This meant no trees to come out.
  • ·       We needed to liaise with the South Australian Jockey Club about how to get the motor race track across the horse race track.
  • ·       30 to 50,000 temporary grandstand seats were required.
  • ·       200 Corporate boxes.
  • ·       Capital cost estimated at $3 million.

This last was to be considerable underestimate, but in the life of this project the income also increased way beyond expectations, so the all important net cost of staging this event would be contained.

We started straight away on key elements, after all none of us really knew what we were doing and we only had eleven months to work it out, build what we needed, and put it all in place. Grandstands were to be a major problem, there were only about 4000 decent seats in Australia at the time, as the events needing more than that number were yet to happen. Track surface we knew would be a real problem as we had seen what happened at Sandown and Dallas, and was to happen at Spa not long from now. Phase one of our contract was to identify what would be required to stage the race, come up with some preliminary design, provide an estimate of what that was all going to cost, and provide a program for making it all happen. For this we had four weeks, and no Mal did not care that it included Christmas and I was going back to Alice for the holidays.

Although I had raced I had actually no idea of what happened behind the scenes, so to speak, of a race. To provide me with some clues I arranged to meet with the officials at the Sporting Car Club almost immediately to let them tell me what a race control tower needed to be, communications, medical, scrutineering etc. While this was all a long way from what a Grand Prix needs it did at least point me in the right direction. The Chief National Timekeeper, Barrie Frost, was also an Adelaide guy, so he was available to advise as well. Although the sport was pretty stunned that little old Adelaide had stolen the prize we were to receive a lot of help from individuals with lots of experience.   

We actually had the answer to our paving problem from Ralph Dunn at Emoleum, use a Mobilplast binder and reduce the air voids, but it would take a bit of research by the Highways Department Asphalt Engineer, John Potter, to make sure of that.

So we toiled away through December on the report, and I worked through Christmas on the critical path network for the design and manufacture of all the parts and pieces. When we had finished the cost had increased to $5 million with another $1.5 for installation and removal. To that was added a further $0.75 million for operations necessary to run the race. Now most of this was a “guesstimate” as we did not have designs for most of this stuff, and we were not even into how we put it all together, but our report was accepted and we set to work. When we ran the critical path network we were using a computer, even though I had done most of it by hand, and as usual for programming we ran it on “early start.” This means tell us the earliest date we can start on each item. It told us we could start on all of them about now, not very useful, especially as we did not know what we were doing with most of this. So we ran it on “late start,” risky as we would have no time to lose based on this, but it did highlight those items like the concrete barrier that had to start production immediately.

Now I should mention that I effectively had four bosses for this project, plus some interested parties including the local councils. I worked for Macmahon and managed this project for them and Pak Poy, which meant making money on it and especially making us look good for future clients. I would update Brian Macmahon and Doug Kneebone once a month over lunch. Our contract was with the Public Works Department and I reported to John Fargher with a written report every two weeks. As a lot of the track ran on Highways Department roads, and we would use their technical advice, I met with Morry Benvaniste from the Department on a regular basis. I really worked for the Grand Prix Office, yet to be established, and Dr. Mal Hemmerling who was to be the Executive Director. I was to report to the Grand Prix Board at each of their meetings. Lastly there was CAMS, Confederation of Australian Motorsport, the representative of the FIA, the International Controlling body for motorsport. I guess you could add in Bernie to that group.

 At this stage of the project most of the work was being done by the consulting engineers under my leadership, and one of that team was Mick Porter, an electrical and communications specialist, and computer geek. Mick liked them better than people, but would mellow and would eventually become the fourth member of Barnard project management, BPM. My philosophy about design is that it is good to have the people who are going to build it involved in the process and the solution, which is why I loved design/build later in life. So when it came to working out what to do with 9000 tons of concrete barriers I went to the precast industry for advice. We had the basic design parameters dictated by the FIA as far as height, weight and strength, which was to be determined by the heaviest car at its maximum speed, which turned out to be Z28 Camaro being run in the support races. I wanted the industry’s input into the most economical way of producing them and handling, particularly joining them together. We worked with Humes primarily, but excluded no one and being a Government project had to go out to bid anyway. A key decision was how to install the debris fence, the fence that catches a car or parts of a car if it goes above the fence? This could be free standing behind the wall, or on top of it, which was my preference.

The most important factor in this decision was the need to make this all look good on worldwide TV. The parklands are beautiful, and all I had to work with was concrete and wire, it could look like Alcatraz. My thought was that the human eye is drawn to an object that is out of place, or badly aligned, so it was a key factor for us that this block and fence was dead straight, especially down the long back straight, Dequetteville Terrace. Debris fences were up till now a combination of chain wire with a tensioned wire cable at several levels up the fence to give it strength. This would eventually look terrible after it had been erected and taken down a few times, and we also would want to remove a few blocks to reopen roads at times, and did not want the hassle of rolling up hundreds of feet of wire and rehanging it each time. So, what we needed was a fence that had the required hole size and strength, could be installed in panels to match the block length of twelve feet, and would lock into the blocks to form a nice straight line.

Again we worked with a division of Humes that made fencing and looked at several options for panels involving chain wire, but all of them had the problem of tying them together to have the continuity of strength, until someone in Humes thought of their other arm, ARC, who made reinforcing mesh for concrete. This had the hole size and strength, and a design was arrived at that wrapped around an extension of the post holding the blocks in place, a beautiful concept. It took some convincing of CAMS and the FIA that this would work, but our engineers proved the concept which is now standard for street tracks. It was to have many more advantages, but for us the appearance and the ease of installation were the key. Original cost to produce was higher, but that was more than recouped by the ease and lower cost of installation over the next couple of years.

So now we had the block and fence, two key elements, so we went out to bid. I told my designer to be very sure he counted how many we needed, allowing for overlaps and some spares if they were damaged. He assured me he had that in hand, but it almost bit us when time came to install the wall.  

Early on we met with CAMS, John Keefe and Tim Schenken, who were both great to work with. John actually gave me a direction that would be a major factor in what makes Adelaide to this day so special. He told me I was not designing a street circuit, but a circuit in the street, and there is a big difference. What he meant was we were to design this as if we had a blank sheet, and where we could not meet the rules for width or run-off we could ask for an exception, but we were not being given a blank check to ignore the rules. We were fortunate that Colonel Light laid us out some nice streets to work with. They told us that the original design was not acceptable, so we had to rework the layout around Victoria Park Racecourse particularly, and the entry and exit from there onto Wakefield Road. This was made all the more difficult because of the restriction on removing trees, so much of the layout was dictated by that. Actual placement of the barrier was also crucial, and most was fine tuned by me when actually being put into position.

The placement of the barrier wall in relation to the actual track is I believe what makes Adelaide so special. Too often you see the wall parallel the track edge with no relief from the tunnel effect. As a driver I felt that I needed to do two things, move the inside wall at corners back to rear of the sidewalk to open up the view through the corner, and where possible move the wall back away from the track itself. Now, the second of these was not always possible as I had to fit some grandstands in somewhere, so down Rundle Road and Dequetteville Terrace I only had the track width plus a verge on each side. Elsewhere, such as on Wakefield Road and Hutt Street, I could leave the barrier back at the road edge and use curb to keep drivers from using all of it. That left a safety zone if they misjudged the corner, they could jump the curb and recover. Up East Terrace, “Banana Bend,” so called for the banana wholesaler on the corner of the fruit and veg market rather than the shape of the road, I placed the wall on the far side of the other carriageway to really open it up.

This was not done solely for the drivers, but as a result of that direction to “show off Adelaide.” That meant to me not just the physical look of the track, but how it would operate. It did us no good if it looked lovely but did not produce good racing and was constantly under a caution, or worse a red flag. The actual management of the race would of course be in the hands of CAMS and its officials and volunteers, so we had to give them what they needed to do their job properly, but beyond that I needed to consider what would happen in the event of a car breaking down or crashing. Where do we put it, and how do we respond? So, a combination of providing verges, proper run off straight ahead at each corner, regulation gaps to pull cars through at strategic and sufficient points, and cranes to lift cars out quickly if required. Finding cranes is not difficult, the companies love to have their equipment on show, and the operators loved to be part of the show, working well with the marshals.

Apart from the years when rain has adversely impacted the race I believe I achieved the objective.

Some of the roads were already due for reconstruction, such as Wakefield Road, which was in the City Council area, and the track actually abutted four council areas, all of which had to be involved somehow. It was agreed that any resurfacing would be done by the Highways Department, a historic piece of bipartisanship, and the new track in Victoria Park would be let out for contract. The rude awakening for Macmahon was as Project Managers we were excluded from bidding! We had agreed with CAMS that the high speed on the back straight, turbo cars would exceed 200 mph down there, required that the center median and street lights would have to come out and be relocated to each side, along with most of the islands and traffic signals at the intersections. This is another key point for the success of Adelaide, instead of design the track around the obstacles we devised ways of taking them out and putting them back simply for each race. We see all too often street tracks that have been running for thirty years and they still build the track around some light pole that should have been moved long ago.

Many of the design successes that were to solve these problems were developed by the staff of the Highways Department, such as traffic signals that could be removed by unplugging them and a lid placed on the box they were bolted to. Similarly with “frangible,” or in layman’s language easily movable if hit, light poles. It was a true team effort, identifying the problems and finding great solutions.

To solve the problem of crossing the horse race track it was decided that we would depress the road course there and a nine inch layer of Jarah Fiber laid on it for the horses. There was some concern about the long term effects on the asphalt, but a good drain either side and plastic to cover it has kept it just fine.    

The Grand Prix Act had been passed in late December 1984, and staff were coming on board including Glen Jones who was to be the main spokesman for the event, and Terry Plane, the media relations person. Glen was out beating the bushes for a lot of the rental equipment that would be required, and the Government was obviously keen to see as many local businesses used as possible. Glen was finding out that South Australia, SA, was a small pond and there were very limited supplies, and to make matters worse we were competing with the Melbourne Cup. Even Australia was a small resource in those days, and the GP was the catalyst to change that and make many more events possible. Terry was busy doing what he did best and that was to get us in the newspaper every day. I would not appreciate Terry until I started my own events, but like many media and PR people his idea of organizing something was to get people to turn up. Now this is still a good ability to have, but it would lead to some conflict about what to do with them once he had them there walking all over my construction site. Terry’s big thing was that we should not put the media in a tent, that would make them unhappy and they would write nasty things about us. That was a problem as we expected around 500 journalists and there was no building large enough to accommodate them so we had planned on a tent, albeit a European style aluminium frame tent.

The Grand Prix Board were also established by the Act, with Tim Marcus-Clark, the head of the State Bank as Chairman, and the owner of that gull wing Mercedes, Ian Cox, as the Deputy. Bill O’Gorman got a seat as did Wendy Chapman, and the City Engineer for Kensington & Norwood, Geoff Whitbread, was also included. John Large, the President of CAMS also had a seat.

One of the big problems remaining was with finding enough grandstand seats. We had identified where we thought they could go, how many etc, and classified them as gold, silver and bronze to identify the best viewing and therefore the price. But where to find them? There were scaffold seats, i.e. planks, but they were not cheap and took time to erect. There were some smaller operators with specialist systems, but most were not certifiable for safety. Our solution came in the form of John Commerford of Australian Seating Systems, a company that now provides seats to overseas events. John arranged to come over to show me his system, and we met one very hot Sunday in early February in the park with John in a black silk shirt. Not something one forgets. His system was very good, easy to erect, safe and could be set up in different ways to suit the site and the needs. From memory John only had about 4000 seats at the time, but was willing to commit to build more if we gave him a three year contract. The Board agreed and we also set John up as the overall coordinator for our stands, so he committed to meet our needs using his stands, some scaffold, and eventually circus seating and some local seats.

One of the features of the Grand Prix Act was that it basically gave us carte blanche to do anything inside the perimeter fence, and indeed put up a perimeter fence in a public park, for five days. Drive cars in excess of the speed limit in any direction we wanted. Remove people from a public place or deny them entry, and make all those nasty Government Regulations go away. This in reality meant that if there were a problem with a grandstand collapsing or a car going through or over a wall it was my problem. To make sure of this the local councils got together and set up a court appearance to have the judge determine that the Grand Prix Office was in fact “The Crown.” i.e. a State Government body outside of their jurisdiction and so they did not have to approve anything we did, like building regulations, and so were protected from liability. Made my life easy, but fraught with risk. The Chief Justice of South Australia lived on the circuit, and when I went to visit him to discuss his access during the event he told me he thought it “the most draconian legislation he had ever seen, and just wished someone would bring it into his court!”

It is impossible sitting here writing this and looking in my notebook and diary not to be overwhelmed with the task of conveying just how much was going on in such a short span of time. The sheer volume of detail and the large number of groups that had to be met and coordinated or placated. To name but a few they were as diverse as the adjoining Councils, The Highway Department, the Department of Labor and Industry, power, water and sewer Authorities, Telecom, CAMS, Channel Nine, The Jockey Club, The Adelaide Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale Market, the ambulance service, police and fire, the State Medical Authority and three hospitals, including the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Prince Alfred and Christian Brothers Colleges, The Adelaide Bowls Club, and the Country Women’s Assn. It would expand to include the contractors, unions, residents, and the Air Traffic Control and Federal Communications Authority. 

The track design had to be submitted to the FIA through CAMS in early February and we finalized what we thought would work. There was an extremely large gum tree in the middle of Victoria Park which dictated where the start straight and pit building had to go. There was no question of it coming down, and someone actually chained themselves to it to make sure we didn’t. Shades of Albert Park. The first set of corners was problematic, a left-right chicane leading out through the trees via a very quick corner onto Wakefield Street. The discussion went on about the exact layout into 1986, so in the end I just built a large area of asphalt that encompassed all the options so that we could at least get the asphalt down and sort it out later. While the plans would be approved in May, the track was not to be finally given the OK until the Inspector, Derek Ongarro, could physically see it completed.

The Grand Prix Office was coming to life in late January with an actual office on the corner of Greenhill Road and Dequetteville Terrace overlooking my roundabout and the end of the back straight. Staff were coming on and would include Rod Paech who handled the accounts and Judith Griggs, a bright young lawyer who would handle our contracts outside of construction. Anne Gowlett was one of the receptionists, now a successful event specialist herself, Kay Rigby came on as Mal’s Personal Secretary, and Anne Murray as an Assistant to Terry Plane. I was given an office in the GP Office so I was in the thick of things. Ian Cox took a personal interest in my activities being a construction guy anyway and into management theory in a big way. He asked me what my Mission Statement was, and I must have given him a blank look as it had not entered my head to get into that stuff, I was just out there making it happen.     

I was by this time co-opted onto the on-track organizing committee as I was one of very few who knew what a GP was, and nothing happened on track without me being involved anyway. This was to be an event, not just a race, and was the forerunner and model for others to copy, so a whole host of activities were to be planned around the weekend, both on and off course. So committees were set up to manage various parts of this whole extravaganza. The racing program was expanding to beyond just the F1 cars, Touring cars and some historics, so the issue of where to put the support paddock became a real problem. There was no more space where the F1 paddock was located and initially we had thought of the Adelaide Bowls Club parking lot on the corner of Rundle Street and Dequetteville Terrace, which was now way too small, and access was always going to be a problem. This was not a problem to be solved until much later.

As always I am the party pooper, and made myself unpopular by saying no to a few of the ideas. Like having the army run some tanks around the track, on their rubber pads of course, until one threw a tread! Or diverting the John Martins Christmas Parade to be held that Saturday through the track. Over my dead body and I am the one moving the barriers. The parade will never run to time, we have no time, and who cleans up the mess?

A major concern from the start had been the problem of an emergency inside the track, how would we access vehicles? We had looked at a bailey bridge, but the span due to the width of our track and verges made it impossible, and the army said they were not certified anyway. We arranged for the Fire Department to stage a pumper truck inside, and hydrants were to be checked and the number increased, but we still needed to get an ambulance in and out if need be. Remember we did not want to have to stop the race to get across the track. The solution came in the form of a culvert that was needed under Turn One to carry a stream in the parklands. We increased the size to a box culvert just large enough to accommodate an ambulance, and made a channel to one side for the creek to flow in during normal times. Other times people got their feet wet. This was to be the main access to the F1 paddock during the event, but actually worked quite well.

Pedestrian access was another difficult issue. We knew where we wanted them, we just did not know how to do it. The spans were long as I said, over 100 feet by the time you crossed the track, verges, barrier, and the gap to the spectator fence. We looked at scaffold and bailey bridging again, but the cost was prohibitive, and they were ugly! When we met with David Hill, the Channel Nine Producer and now Head of Fox in the US, David asked why we couldn’t install underpasses as the bridges blocked his camera sight lines. I pointed out it was impossible to hang advertising on an underpass, an answer he understood. This was one of those items that would plague us for a solution almost until it was too late, but which in the end was another elegant one. During the meeting with Channel Nine we went over their needs for the telecast, including their studio, commentary and the nineteen overseas broadcasters’ commentary positions, all of which had to face the pits above the grandstand. They needed power of course, and lots of it, none of which existed in the middle of the park. Fortunately the power authority, ETSA, was very cooperative and installed a transformer for them and our other needs. The rear of the grandstand was to be the major corporate food and beverage area and was intensely utilized.

By now the marketing team for the event had been assembled. I say assembled as it brought together some of the best in the business in their respective sphere. PBL, a branch of the Packer Organization along with Channel Nine were the lead marketers with Tony Skelton, Bob Pritchard, and Mike Kennedy.  These guys had been responsible for the promotion of the cricket which by now was run by Kerry Packer. To do the creative MOJO was brought on board, and very creative they were too. The first GP TV commercial made your blood run and I wish I still had a copy, but their first suggestion of a slogan for the race, “Streets of Fire” was not a success. Toohey Allen were responsible for the corporate sales and catering arrangements. Bob Toohey and Brian Allen had been responsible for setting up major golf tournaments in Australia, and that was the model for the marketing of corporate facilities for everyone to copy.

They set up a range of corporate boxes and platforms. The corporate boxes were made by using the rear rows of seats in the main grandstands in Victoria Park around the pits. These were covered and had nice padded cushions and CCTV. Platforms were forty feet square raised scaffold platforms with tents for dining in arranged along the fence at selected points around the track. Sales were so good that by year two there was not an empty space anywhere. The Premier was to have his own box/suite in the grandstand opposite the pits in prime position. I was receiving an education on all these aspects as they could not exist without my organizing them, and the cost had to be geared to what we could build them for. John Commerford and his suppliers did a great job of putting all this together, but as I was to realize later, each contractor was working in isolation and really only had an idea about what he was doing, his part in the play so to speak, whereas I was the one person who had the complete picture. I only hoped it would all go together at the end.

We needed to coordinate with the SA Jockey Club in a number of areas. We needed access to their facilities and would use their horse race grandstand despite their distance from the track, and some of the offices. They also solved the problem of the media center, at least until the media decided in later years they could not walk across a bridge to the pits. They had a large covered concrete floored betting ring, that with an exhibition system we could enclose and divide up and accommodate in 1986 over 1000 journalists. Another problem solved. We also needed to have control of the infield while we built the track, and of course when we ran the race, so they arranged their race program in coordination with the other two tracks in Adelaide to accommodate us. One sticking point though was that we could not have anything standing up permanently in the infield. That would block the race-goers view of the far side of the course. As that was where the pit building was going that gave us a new challenge, the teams definitely would not like a tent.

All the time this was going on John Potter the Highways Asphalt Engineer had been to Sandown to look at their track problem and had sent enquiries around the world asking for advice. The response was that we were unique in our extremes of temperature where tracks were concerned. Even South Africa who we thought would have the same problem told us that Kyalami, their F1 track, was so high in elevation that their temperatures did not approach ours. So John had to work it out for himself, and came up with using the Mobilplast binder, probably the first chemically modified binder, and a very tightly knit surface produced by a 10mm stone and reduced air voids. The mix was given a test laying at Grand Junction Road in late February. Just to be sure we actually received permission for the Highways to repave a corner at Bob Jane’s Adelaide International Raceway just prior to a Touring Car race in April. It stood up fine despite not having the mandatory FIA 60 day curing period in force in those days. John lead an inspection of the existing road pavement which was to result in a fateful decision not to repave Dequetteville Terrace as it looked in such good condition.  

CAMS had started organizing their own side of the race management which in the end would include 1000 course workers and the best of their race control, timing, scrutineering and emergency staff from around Australia. I was liaising with Dr. Edwards from the SA Medical Council about access to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, its’ capabilities in respect of burns etc, which of course were world class. There were also potential issues with out of state doctors working at the event which needed some resolution. I was also working with Brigadier McGreevy from the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade about ambulances around the course for the race, and for crowd first aid. An F1 race does not just double what you would see at a normal national race, it increases it exponentially and we would finally have 45 doctors on site, two helicopters, a full army surgical unit, despite the Royal Adelaide being on the corner of the track, and several fast first intervention vehicles each with a race car driver, doctor, and fireman, with equipment on board stationed around the track.       

Now a race meeting is not run democratically, it has an autocratic structure for fast decision making. The Clerk of Course was the main man in those days, and eventually we had an American, “Burdy” Martin, Head of ACCUS, assigned to that position. Tim Schenken was to be his Deputy with the rest of the key positions filled by experienced CAMS people. The Chief Medical Officer was Dr. David Vissenga, another Englishman with experience in the sport from the old country. David’s role is managing the medical response resources from Race Control where he can advise Burdy of situations with an injured driver on course. The decision on treatment is ultimately his, unlike the normal doctor patient relationship. My first memory of David is one Saturday morning when he had assembled the would-be race doctors in the theaterette at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. The first thing he said was to explain that was how it was going to work, and if anyone had a problem with that then it was OK if they left now. A couple did, and no one thought the worse of them, but most stayed. I would go on to become good friends with David and work with him to improve the motorcycle medical response for the MotoGP.

We had written to all the authorities with underground utilities under the track to make sure that none represent a risk of braking during the event. The Gas Company has an old main in Wakefield Street which they will replace and/or sleeve before the road is repaved. The E&WS, who look after the water and sewer tell us they do not wish to have the manholes welded down to prevent them lifting during the race, these cars will lift manhole covers, but agreed to come up with a way of bolting them down. The E&WS also agree to raise their manholes to accommodate the new finished asphalt level prior to us laying the final coat, instead of digging them up after paving and leaving a patch, their usual practice. Everyone said that will not work, but it did, so why do they still continue to do it the old way for other roads? The power authority, ETSA, agreed that a main fuse blowing during the race would be embarrassing and so they would basically put a bolt in instead of the fuse. We still made sure we had back-up power at strategic points such as the Control Tower, and just as well we did.

Communications were to be a key element in staging the event and I was fortunate to have Mick Porter as part of the team as he was ex-Telecom. One part of the puzzle was the communication around the track for the Race Control to talk to the corner stations. We had intended just laying a line on the ground behind the wall, but that was vulnerable if the wall moved after a car hit it, or at the many openings. Telecom came and made us an offer we could not refuse. They would use their underground system to provide the link for an annual rental, a perfect solution. They would also provide 200 lines into the event, which had to be doubled for the second year.

Radios would be used to back up the land line and for the numerous other systems required to manage a race; fire and rescue, medical, housekeeping, (I still have the chart so we could include it). We also had to design, build and install lapboards at strategic points around the track, mainly on the overpasses, which had to be connected back to timing. We needed a Public Address system for the crowd and the pit area, and CCTV to all the corporate suites, Race Control, Commentary positions and various offices. This latter would be solved by deciding to purchase a low-powered TV broadcast station rather than wire all the over 200 sets. Then there was the problem of finding that many rental TV’s that were worth having, a problem again solved by buying our own. All these problems Mick resolved, but in addition he was my computer guru and helped me set up a spreadsheet to track costs. We worked on the basis of committed costs so we knew where we were at all times and reported to the Board monthly. Tracking all of the over 800 identifiable spaces, offices, tents, corporate suites etc., their furniture needs, power, TV, and phone requirements was a mammoth task, so Mick wrote a program for that which even aggregated the power for defined areas.  

I had the job of coordinating with the police, Sgt Jennings, about where we would close roads off and to start to plan detours. One of the problems we perceived was that the surrounding residential streets would be clogged with parked vehicles if we did not restrict access to residents, so zones were drawn up and color coded with car passes hand delivered to residents in those areas. Parking was never really a problem. The great advantage of a street race in the center of the city is that there are probably less people coming to the event than come to work each day, so the public transport and parking garages are all in place to deal with a large crowd.

The Adelaide Fruit and Vegetable Market remained a big issue, mainly for them, but that reflected back on us. It was one city block with a short side facing the track, so only a few of the wholesalers were affected directly. Now the market is a private cooperative from memory, so it took a few meetings to finalize the arrangements. The market worked every night to early morning except Saturday, so it was only Thursday and Friday we had to worry about, and we guaranteed to have them back open Sunday night so we made them first priority for moving blocks. I think the other stall holders offered to help the impacted guys out as they could access from the inside of the market. There was also a grandstand right at the mouth of Rundle Street and a commentary box to move, so we were in for a busy night after a very busy day.

The market also operated a parking garage in which took spaces along with other downtown garages to house the cars of those residents that were going to be blocked out when the barriers went up. We had a lovely lady handling the relations with the residents and businesses, I did not envy her that job, but I still had to get involved with meeting every one as I was the one blocking them in, so I could tell them when and for how long and what options we had for access. We obviously tried to minimize the time that they would be affected by timing those areas last for block installation.

It is the 16th of February and we finally have a confirmed date for the race, November 3rd. There were dates in October mentioned earlier, but this gave us a couple of extra weeks. We would need all of them as there were still many and significant problems to solve. I met with the photographer from the local newspaper, The Advertiser, to discuss the special needs of photographers as opposed to print journalists. Lockers to store their gear, and platforms designed for them at strategic locations such as the first corner for the start. I learned that Kodak would assist with a mobile lab, no digital in those days, and Nikon would run a lens lending service if we gave them a building. The print media were not forgotten, and no word processors here or the internet. Desks, typewriters, including ones with French, Italian and German keyboards! I guess they did not lug around portables either. Fax lines were recent and most of the work was still done on telex, so lots of those, and phone lines of course. We set up a hotel billing system so that we could recoup the cost of all those long overseas calls, and no one minded as long as we could guarantee they were only billed for their own and the billing system gave them a pin to punch in to any phone to ensure that. Again Mick Porter to the rescue.

We had to provide a fence to keep spectators back from the barrier, which was usually a chain wire fence for permanent tracks, but we needed something cheaper and quicker. Our friends at Humes came up trumps again with a version of the orange safety fence you see at roadworks. They could produce in our corporate and national colors of green and gold, and white stripes, and erected with the steel posts and top and bottom wires to give them the strength to hold the spectators. Worked a treat and looked good too.    

Arrangements were being made apace, and to get over our potential problem with hire and rental equipment we appointed Pat Pearse of Renniks Hire, who was also head of the local hire association, and John Kroeger of Abbey Rents from Melbourne to jointly be our agents to acquire what we needed.

There were also meetings with the two colleges on the track, Prince Alfred who had a playing field facing Dequetteville Terrace and wanted to build their own grandstand and make money, and Christian Brothers whose junior school fronted the track and had a playground that they could exploit. Now the GP office were very protective of others piggy backing on their event, we had a paid a lot for the rights, not by today’s standards maybe, but we had to stop everyone or we could never prevent anyone. That was part of Judith Griggs job, to safeguard our logo and rights from exploitation. We did work with the colleges though as we needed their goodwill. They had major playing fields inside the track and at the south end of the pit complex, and we would need that space, plus it would interfere with their scheduled sports fixtures. Furthermore the noise levels from the race would make classes impossible, so both were looking to shut down on the Thursday and Friday. The area south of the pits became prime turf as I found out in another meeting, this time with the Department of Aviation and helicopter operators who used the area to shuttle VIP’s in and out. This was just the start of what was to become a major air show as part of the event.

Noise was an issue, and there were some dire predictions of its impact especially among older people, but it never became an issue for us, no suggestion of noise mounds or walls. An F1 race is horrendously noisy, and it is just an accepted part of staging the event. “Noise Shelters” were proposed and some were opened, but even though the race could be heard down at the beach, miles away, no one used the shelters that I know of and they did not reappear for later events. It did pose problems for us running the event though, and we designed portable buildings with lead lined walls and double glazing to provide sound proof buildings for race control, TV studio and other key locations. Neat trick. We also used noise cancelling microphones with the headsets we wore, otherwise you could hear nothing, even if there was not a car directly on the track in front of you, the opposite of “the cone of silence.”

We had called for bids on the concrete barriers in late January and they were received just in time for our first major media event. Alfa Romeo was launching a new car in Australia and decided to do it in Adelaide to use the publicity of the GP. They had a local bus service bus dressed up with the car on the side and a display in Victoria Park. Alan Jones was on hand to help us, and Alan and I took the journalists around the track in the bus. We had a police escort to control the traffic as we needed to go the wrong way in some places and I talked them around the first lap to show where it went and Alan talked them around the second to give a driver’s perspective. Alan is very good at this, and when we arrived at the end of Dequetteville Terrace and the bus could not make the hairpin and had back up, he quipped “it handles like a Surtees!” Sorry John, his quote not mine.

Later back at the office for drinks and interviews I was talking to Will Hagon and mentioned that we had just let the contract for the barriers, $1 million or so. Will’s eyes sort of glazed over and he said “you guys are serious about this aren’t you?” It was as if the rest of Australia could still not believe little old Adelaide was going to pull this off. This contract was a big step, one of the largest contracts and one which would take the longest to fill. Humes won it and made the first prototypes for us to see to make sure it would all go together as we had planned.

Around this time I received some help on the construction front with Ian Grey coming on board from Macmahon. I was to give Ian a hard time, but he made up for some inexperience in roadwork with enthusiasm and perseverance, and was to be an invaluable asset during the event. We were putting together the contract documents for the construction of the track inside Victoria Park which of course was not in either the Highways or the City’s road system. We were also looking at how to set up the pit building and service the area with water and sewer, being a park there was little to none of either. As I said the area at the rear of the pit straight grandstand was to be a highly developed one with corporate dining, TV compound and lots of food and beverage concessions. We had a layout we had produced with Toohey Allen, so we designed and had installed a water ring main and sewer to go under the track and around the pit building and grandstand area. Toilets were a big issue, no one liking to use portables, especially women, so we planned to install connected transportable blocks in key corporate areas, and high quality self contained blocks elsewhere. Fortunately Australia had a good supply of those which came manned and serviced regularly during the day.

We still were not sure what to do with the pit building, but had decided whatever we did it would bolt to a slab so we poured a base for the building and the work lane in pit lane. That and the track itself is basically all that remains between races. We installed conduits for power and communications under the track at selected points as well, a practice I always do to this day.

So, eight months to the race and still a lot to be decided, let alone manufactured and installed. The installation was not high on my agenda at the moment, but it was on others. The Builders Laborers Federation wanted to meet and discuss the project and the involvement of their members in areas such as the grandstands. The Government was a socialist one which meant the unions had a strong hand. In fact I was told that basically I had no chance, they knew I had a deadline and Government backing, so give up now. It did not work like that. The Government provided Doug Melvin to liaise with the unions and I cannot speak highly enough of their cooperation. Without the dedication of their members this could not have happened, but then I have found race events stir the soul of the workers to great achievements. In the end we negotiated a site allowance that was commensurate with other sites in town, and the usual problem of inter-union disputes over who does what were amicably resolved.

March begins and more meetings with residents and businesses. I met the Lord Mayor at the Bowls Club to discuss their access during the event, especially ground staff for the greens. Access was to be a big issue for all those I met, and despite my warnings about having too easy an access to their property, I think they were more concerned with having their family and friends have a free ticket. That was to change dramatically. I later met with diverse groups such as the Blood Bank, a pretty vital operation which was actually just outside the track on east Terrace, and Ultrasound clinic on Dequetteville Terrace, and Max O’Neil from Southern Quarries who had an office on Dequetteville Terrace. The O’Neils were to play a major role in my later venture at Eastern Creek, and Bill O’Gorman was a son-in-law of Laurie O’Neil. Small world.   

Others were concerned with access too, but access of a different kind, access for the handicapped. This is always a difficult and touchy subject. If we provide special places then there will always be those who say I should be able to choose to go anywhere, but life does not always let us do everything we want, even without handicaps or disabilities. We did provide wheelchair access with partner’s seats alongside, and water available to keep them cool. The aluminium decks of the stands made them pretty glary though, and hot. Being mainly grass surfaces in the parklands also presented challenges for access.

We were finalizing layouts for race control and timing, and for the on-course commentary and Channel Nine requirements. We would soon be able to go out to tender for those buildings. We had met with the Police Special Ops and the other emergency services and decided to build a large office to be the race secretary’s office and the emergency command center where all the forces could be represented with their own communications and where they could swap information and formulate responses. The only wrong decision here was not to soundproof it.

Bullen’s Circus contacted us about us using their seating, and as we still were in dire need we connected them to John Commerford to incorporate in his seating layout. This was being finalized so we could start to advertise and selling tickets.

Tim Schenken came over from Melbourne with Peter Nelson to discuss the race organization, particularly the fire and rescue. One of our key requirements was lots and lots of fire extinguishers of all shapes and sizes. We had been talking to a few suppliers but the cost to purchase was high, and we would need to service them every year, and rental was just as bad. FFE approached us with the perfect solution. They would loan them to us, we would pay for any lost or damaged and for recharging any that were discharged. To make sure we always had what we needed they would place a unit on site to recharge them as they were used. Perfect. This introduced me to “Big Chris” who was to volunteer for all my future events, even flying himself to Laguna Seca to spend two weeks humping and carrying. Without such people I would not have succeeded.

On that note I should introduce Bill Crouch. Bill was a South Australian Motorcycle Policeman and an avid motor race fan and volunteer marshal. Bill had paid his own way to overseas F1 races in the US and Europe, and probably had more knowledge than almost anyone about how it was done. Bill started to “stop by” on his way past the GP Office to come and ask how it was going. So began a great friendship and adventure. Bill was to be the first and last BPM employee, and would come to the US with me for the US Motorcycle GP at Laguna Seca.

The bids were in by now for the work inside Victoria Park, and Roche Bros were successful at a cost of $555,000. Work was due to completed by the end of May, and a decision had been made to delay the laying of the top course on the rest of the track until then. We had 60 days from November 3, so there was time. The main problem would be laying in what would be the winter, and keeping the mix hot was a real concern. Laying this mix was a problem anyway as had been found in the test sections. The chemical nature of the binder meant it did not harden as it cooled like most asphalt, it set up fast as the reaction happens. Timing of compaction was critical to achieve what we knew we needed to withstand the stress from these tires.

So started April, seven months to the race and Roche Bros commenced work in Victoria Park. Goodyear and Champion both came to see the track and the paddock area to see what they had as a working space. We were still trying to convince CAMS about the debris fence design, and had to make a slight addition to the design to obtain approval before we could go to contract. The manufacture of this was to be done at the reinforcing plant, which is a bit of a “hell’s kitchen” with multiple lanes of mesh being welded at once. During the manufacture I was invited to lunch at a board meeting of the parent company that was being held in Adelaide. The Managing Director proceeded to tell me that during the tour of the plant the guys on the line producing our fence were proud to tell him how far ahead of schedule they were. He was astonished as he had never heard a workman care if they were ahead or behind, such was the power of the GP. These guys were doing nothing different than all the other lines, but this was for the GP!

Security for the event was a big task, both maintaining the perimeter and crowd control, and preserving all the equipment we and the teams had at the track. There were also some people who would do us harm if allowed, so it was big deal. The main two security companies, Wormald and MSS agreed that neither had the manpower to do it alone and approached us about a combined operation, which was a remarkable show of bipartisanship and worked well. Chris Reed was one of the key guys at MSS, and would later work with me and BPM’s own security company, Festival State Security. Fencing the perimeter was a major task, and a temporary fence was not going to cut it in most places. We had no option in some areas, but elsewhere installed a chain link fence with barbed wire. To make reinstallation easy in future years we sleeved the post holes and capped them when not being used. Defining the actual line the fence would take was a painstaking job, and one Ian Grey did a fine job on. Around the residential areas we had to think about their access and about our crowd circulation. People do not like walking to find their path a dead end and have to retrace their steps.

Residents and businesses continued to contact me for information. Sir Walter Crocker, at one time Lieutenant Governor of the State, and Justice Walters were just two dignitaries who lived in this up market area. Another hospital, Parkwynd, was fronting Wakefield Road and while it was mainly a residential hospital they wanted to know what to expect. During the race they actually had their residents out on the balcony watching, so they were not too concerned. A significant group was to contact me, the Country Women’s Association, CWA, a strong lobby group for women and families living in remote areas, who’s State Headquarters was an impressive bluestone mansion on Dequetteville Terrace. Their State Council meeting was coming up in June, and would I come and tell them what was going to happen during the race.

Now I mentioned Peter Nelson, the Race Secretary. His job was to coordinate the officials for the race, among many other things, and he arranged a meeting of all the senior officials in Adelaide. The race was so large it drew the best from all over Australia. Peter opened the meeting by describing a race like an oil painting. I am sitting at the back thinking this guy's lost it. But no, he went on to explain that one small flaw will immediately draw attention and spoil the whole. He is absolutely correct as I was to find out. When I did attend the CWA meeting and stood up in front of 200 impressive ladies I was in a quandary how to approach it. Do I assume they know nothing and “talk down” to them, after all it was safe to assume most of them did not get Channel Nine and the GP telecasts, let alone be interested enough to watch. Or treat them as informed individuals and talk as I would at say the Sporting Car Club? Thankfully I decided on the latter as after I had finished a lady stood up at the rear and asked what I was going to do to prevent a recurrence of that terrible response by the marshals to the accident involving Keke Rosberg’s car at the final corner at Estoril last year when they left it in the middle of the track for ten laps! Date, driver, track and place, she had it all, and what was I going to do about it. I had lots of similar phone calls about the track surface from concerned citizens. I was definitely in the line of fire. The paranoia over the track was only to get worse with the Belgium GP at Spa cancelled after the track broke up after just one practice.

We had a couple of scares on that score, when the newly rebuilt Wakefield Road, not yet to have its GP surface course, started to shows signs of breaking up. It was later traced to an old tram line buried under the old road, but it did not help with the public’s concerns.

April rolled on and we were getting precise with the grandstand locations, identifying which trees need to be lopped, and which power lines sleeved. The back of the stands were so high the back rows could reach out and grab the wires. Channel Nine were finalizing their camera positions and what they would need to support them including a position on top of some overpasses, which we still did not know how to provide. The Government airline, TAA, started to talk to us about the cars being flown in, which would be in two or three 747’s, which there was some doubt about being able to land in Adelaide, or at least take off again. Material handling of another kind started to be a topic of discussion, how to move and place 9000 tons of concrete, and an old friend from my road transport days, Rex Chown of Fleetexpress, came to discuss it, another fateful day. His sidekick was one Noel Lindner, soon to be the final partner of BPM, and husband of Christine.

Power was obviously going to be a big issue, but we did not have anywhere enough data to get a handle on it at the moment, and did not get resolved until almost too late, despite several companies talking to us about being involved.

Other issues raised their heads but were easier to solve. KESAB, the Government litter control group started talking to us about how to handle the tons of trash we would inevitably accumulate, after all this was a tourist promotion and appearance was important. Signage was also a key issue. We had all seen the large billboards around F1 tracks and the overhead signs, and we needed a way to have them made and installed here, when we would not know almost to the last minute where to put them and what to put on them. Terry Slattery of Signs Incorporated would do a great job on this, and it was a real pleasure to work with Patrick McNally who controlled the signage for F1, and still does, and see how to site signs for best advantage. Contrary to popular opinion the TV Company does not film the signs, you have to put the signs where you know they will be filming, and not be moving to blur the sign. A true art.

And so to May, and Mal said “get your passport, you’re going to Detroit.” Six months to the race.

John Blanden, the man who sold me the Elfin, was coordinating the historic portion of the event with static displays while the cars were not on the track. We arranged for a garage adjacent to the track but available to the public to be rented for the weekend for their paddock space and display area.

I was continuing to meet with residents, particularly in that short section of East Terrace where it does a left-right and space is at a premium. One gentleman who lived on the corner was a worry and hard to satisfy, and the hardest to get to once the fence was up, but he had to have foot access. The Unions continued to want to be involved, and Doug Melvin arranged for me to address a joint meeting of all interested unions at their headquarters. I was getting a lot of practice at public speaking, and not always to friendly crowds. One night I recall Gel Jones was due to go to Murray Bridge, about an hour through the hills, and at the last minute cried off. So I got the job, and Rod Paech came too so he could hear what we were presenting so he could handle some in future. We were late so I put my racer’s face on and hit the Mt Barker Road, in those days a series of steep sweeping corners, and about halfway up Rod turned to me and said “I’ve never been around corners like this before.”

Lindsay Burgess who worked for John Commerford at ASS as their site installation man came over to start discussing the erection program. He needed to start on September 1st to get it done, leaving the stands that would block access ways and roads till last. This started us thinking about the installation program. Up till now it was all about making the parts and pieces, now we had to think about how and when to put them together with another critical path program. It was good that we had finalized the stands as tickets went on sale on May 20th.

Paving started the very next day with Rundle Road. The Highways had wrapped the rollers with skirts to try and keep the heat in, and had devised a “heater” for the joints to keep them warm. Placing the pavement is actually more important to me than the mix itself, as even the best mix laid poorly will fail. John Potter had foreseen this and arranged to pave the track full width using two or three pavers in echelon so that there was one seamless mat. The weather was colder than ideal for this operation, hence the heaters, which they had made up on lawn mower chassis’ and propane burners, but forgot the plastic wheels which quickly caught fire and were equally quickly replaced with steel ones.  

To keep the diversity going for me the next day was the first major meeting with the catering companies that would somehow feed and serve drinks to all the corporates in fine dining, and the crowd with hot dogs, pizza and beer. My role was to be able to arrange access, power, and water to all their locations and somehow handle things like grey water from washing up and trash disposal.

And then, just to make life even more insane I moved house! I know I have not mentioned a private life, that is because I did not have one, this job was insane and I was starting to swear I would not do it again. To show how insane it was our internal bookkeeping was showing we were going to lose money on this project. The scope and responsibilities had grown beyond all proportion, which thankfully the Public Works Department recognized, and we started to prepare a submission to virtually double our fee.  

Ticket sales were going great, so great in fact that Mal told me to go and find some more seats and fit them in down at the hairpin onto the pit straight on the Prince Alfred College soccer pitches. Now I knew we were struggling to find the seats we already had on the plans, especially bleachers, so I recommended we buy these. We had been contacted by a representative of a Sydney company that had an American designed system, Stadiums Unlimited that was not strictly demountable, but was structural steel so we could put it up and take it down each year. It needed piers to support, but we put them in low enough that we could put turf back over the top. We added more corporate boxes in the back and a handicapped platform on the front.

All the while Roche Bros had been working away in Victoria Park, which as we discovered had at some earlier date been used as a rubbish dump. Not the best ground for a race track. Roche were struggling and the weather was not helping. The Highways staff who would be paving the track were expressing grave concerns about the finish and strength, and it looked like we were going to be late finishing it. Not a good situation to be going away to Detroit.

Before I went though there was a most important date, the official launch of the GP to the media on June 12th. Media were being brought from all over Australia to attend this function and it was our first real test. The slogan was now “Adelaide Alive” and it would be spot on to how the city and the people reacted. Adelaide did come alive, not the city of churches any more. We all did our part for the launch, and Bob Pritchard from PBL had one thing to arrange. We were to make a present of a very nice zip up windcheater, a race jacket, to all of the media as part of their “kit” and Bob’s job was to have them made. He not only failed in that task, to add insult to injury he wore the only example in captivity to the lunch! Not a popular boy. I was actually made a present of it to wear in Detroit to represent the Grand Prix. This was my first trip outside of Australia since arriving, and my first trip to the US. 

While I was away we put out the bid documents for the garage structure, the pit building. We had been working on how to provide a pit building and race control tower all of which had to be demountable, and reusable. We were aware that a colored steel cladding would be required for appearance, but were concerned how it would look after a couple of years of going up and coming down and being transported. We knew the basic dimensions and the number of bays required, but teams in those days were one or two cars, and the order in which they were laid out along pit lane varies depending on where they finished in last year’s championship. Now a one car team gets less space than a two, so we came up with a system of mesh dividers that could be moved each year to suit. Roller doors front and rear supplied in a deal with Gliderroll. The control tower was a steel girder structure into which we would slide the transportable buildings. Race Control above the garages, Timing above that and commentary on top, with the TV broadcast aerial for CCTV on that. Contract documents were prepared to be issued in mid-June, with bids due the end of June.

We had also finally worked out what to do about overpasses. The spans we needed to cross made the cost of rental prohibitive on an ongoing basis, they would look nasty in scaffold or Bailey bridge, and the need to absorb wind load would need piles in the roadways, a no-no. One of our design team, Kevin Lee or Ken Ineson, hit on the idea of using the stairs to absorb the wind load by turning them at right angles to the bridge. They would have to be a structural part of the bridge to do that, so we would have to build our own, but that turned out to be an economical answer that would look good, only need a large concrete spread footing sitting on the ground, and could be erected with the minimum of traffic delays. We had it down to about 20 minutes to close the road to place each span. Another beautiful solution.

Detroit was a culture shock and an experience. I was sent to see how to run a street race, especially how to close off the streets and put the last pieces together. Detroit had been doing it for four years already, so we thought they must have it sorted by now. It’s true I learned a lot, I wrote a 20 page report after I got home, most of the others that went to races came home with a bunch of photos and not many of the race! Detroit’s race was run around the Renaissance Center, a multi tower development that was in a run-down area next to the river. As its name implies it is designed to try and rejuvenate the area and was developed by a consortium of the major companies, including the car companies. It was just one of whole raft of events that were staged almost every weekend, so it was really no big deal, just the next event. Like most events run in the US it was largely run by volunteers, and staged cheap and nasty. This was not about showing off a city. The commentary box was a highway box  trailer with a hole chopped in the side and carpet stuck to the wall, sitting at ground level, so good luck seeing anything. Race Control was just a portable office with no view, I guess the forerunner of todays?

I was staying up near the GM world headquarters and had to get a cab downtown which was a real adventure. The drivers were African-Americans and I obviously could not pronounce renaissance correctly, so it took about five minutes for them to work out where I wanted to go. One actually asked me if I said rhinoceros? Another was drinking Pina Colada out of the bottle in the cup holder. My life expectancy was not high. It was here that I discovered “foldable toast”, an American specialty.

I reported in to my opposite number, Michael, and set to walking the track. I was there from the Monday prior through to the Monday after, just walking, looking and making notes. Talking to anyone and everyone, asking questions, and they all soon knew of the crazy Australian and told me a lot. The paddock was in the underground garage of the expo building down the road, and the pits were just an open area behind pit wall. I saw the cars arrive and how they unloaded them, pretty scary, and useful for our preparations. I talked to the Longines timing team, and finally worked out why there wasn’t a load of cable running everywhere, they put out a low power broadcast TV signal. Try doing that in Australia without a license, so one more thing to arrange, and nice to know before they arrived.

So it went on, and we arrived at the evening they were going to close the roads down. Now the main tunnel to Canada came out on the inside, and we were closing freeway off ramps. I was expecting some major briefing with the city and police present, but I was just told to meet Mike at his office at 5 pm, rush hour. There were four trucks with sign and barriers and bunch of volunteers. Without any discussion we loaded up and set off and just started closing stuff, not a cop in sight. We would set up for an intersection by driving down the left lane and wheeling the trucks right across the traffic waiting at the light, including buses! They would set up the barriers while a few would hand out leaflets telling drivers where the detour was. If we tried that in Australia there would be a riot. As it was people were getting out of their cars and moving the barriers, so it took a few go rounds to finally get it shut down. So much for seeing how it is done.

Now on my walk around I noticed that fresh asphalt had been laid at all the corners, and was already being torn up by cars with power steering that had to turn around because the way was blocked. This was going to be interesting. Ian Cox had also come to Detroit along with his wife Sue, so I had some company, but spent all day on the track and most of the night writing up notes. Come first practice and we hear that the track is coming up at one corner, and the track crew was going to fix it, so Ian and I jumped on the truck to go see. Now there was 45 minutes until the next session, so a fix had to be done quickly. They were going to use quick setting concrete, and Ian was horrified when they threw a bucket into the river to get the water for it, Ian ran a ready-mix company remember. The crew then messed about, did not have any trowels etc., so Ian and I took over. We found a 4 x 4 timber and used it to screed off the patch and got it done in time. To no avail though, our patch was fine, it was the rest of the asphalt that progressively tore up here and elsewhere during the race, with a number of cars going off into the barrier on this corner.

The best thing about the week was meeting George Couzens who was an FIA track Inspector and would help me when I came to the US to live much later. He gave me a copy of their “minute by minute,” a great tool for planning and managing the event and one we adopted for Adelaide and all my events since. The young lady I met at the post race party was also a highlight of the weekend.

Monday morning came and as I walked around among the trash I asked myself what was that all about? A bunch of people come into town, rape the place, and then fly off and leave others to clean up the mess. I was starting to question whether this was all worth it, but when it is your event that question does not arise. I flew home via Albuquerque and Phoenix to look at some earthmoving equipment for Macmahon.

I came home to a mess in Victoria Park. Roche were still not finished and were claiming delays due to rain, the Highways were not at all happy about the finish and Roche saying they had done all they were about to. After a series of meeting with them and Ian Cox on site we agreed on a mix of measures they would do involving paying for asphalt to replace some of the base in bad areas and some cement stabilized areas. With that they continued and would complete in early July.

I had some good and bad news on return. Macmahon had made me a Director of Macmahon Construction, so I had made it, my life’s ambition at age 38. But so had my replacement in Alice Springs, so I had not had to leave after all. It felt like winning a medal and then finding out everyone got one too.

The work on the GP continued unabated, but by now I had some more help in Bruce Bate from Macmahon, and who would eventually take over from me there as Chief Estimator. Mick Porter was silly enough to tell me one day he had some spare time so I said go and find a way of making tire bundles, we need a lot of them. Somehow he learned of a Government “make work” scheme putting tires together for artificial reefs and talked them into making them in a different shape for a couple of months.

Sales of tickets and corporate boxes were going great, and Mal announced one day that he had just sold the Premier’s box, now we needed to put him one on the pit roof. Now that was a trick as the roof was not designed for that, but another of those bright ideas that my team kept coming up with solved the problem. Hang the roof panels below the structure and then build another deck on top of that to place suites on. Mal had agreed that we should design all the pit building to support this load and deck it all, even though we would only use a short section for the Premier. This was a very smart decision as we went on to fill the pit roof in later years and basically paid for the pit building every year on the proceeds. The forerunner of the “Corporate Club” on all pit roofs these days. As with so much about Adelaide it set new standards.

We needed a suite for the Premier on the roof, and we worked with an Architect who Macmahon used, Peter Milne, for advice. He came up with the idea of using a “Beehive” wooden structure made in SA from local timber so a big plus. It was also prefabricated and could be put together in a variety of ways and taken apart which what was what we needed. Each module was six sided, and interconnected, like a beehive, and we set them up with a central bar area and a lounge on each side with six sided green and gold awnings outside.

So the bids for the pit building came in and a local company, Hallweld won it with some very clever ideas. I mentioned we were concerned about damage to the finish, and they solved that by wrapping each panel with a “C” channel, so when you stacked them the channels were the only pieces touching and they were galvanized.

July is here, four months to race day. We were finally getting a handle on power requirements and had brought on Steven Barrett of Lincoln Scott, an electrical consultant to put together the documents we needed for power supply and distribution. We were also to put out the bids for all the rental buildings we needed and starting to plan for the detours and signage we would need to direct traffic during erection and the event. We had National Exhibition on board to design the media center and the winners’ rostrum, the most important piece of the infrastructure as Patrick McNally was to tell me. The insurance brokers for the event, Sedgewicks, wanted details to go to Lloyds, and the Department of Aviation are now telling me to expect 200 helicopter movements a day and we needed another helipad, and a temporary air traffic control tower on top of the adjacent Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We were finalizing the contract documents for installing the barrier and fence on top. Availability of road sweepers was being checked and arranged, and the gravel ordered for the gravel traps.

Then we had our first piece of sabotage. Someone uncoupled a water standpipe in the racecourse and allowed the pavement to get wet, just what we needed. We asked the CIB to increase security, we could not secure the site yet, it was a public park. Then we were warned that C.A.N.E. were threatening to disrupt the event, and I was asked to identify potential targets and vulnerable points on the track. You have to plan for this stuff I guess. Not everyone was happy with the GP, and it was a high profile vehicle to obtain publicity for your cause. My scope of duties kept increasing, and we had a planning session with Mal, Ian Cox and Bob Toohey about who was to do what in these last months leading up to and during the event. It was becoming obvious that as a temporary circuit there was no maintenance crew, so my construction team were going to have to be it, with me as Operations Manager.  

Roche Bros finally laid their base course of asphalt by the 22nd, and we started on the final course on the 23rd, and by the 27th we were done with the entire track that was to be paved. The final piece in Victoria Park using an impressive three pavers in echelon. We had made it with a month to spare, at least we had a track, or so we thought. The month ended as it was to go on with meetings with the Fire Fighters Union, working with Tim Schenken of CAMS on track details, receiving the prices for the rental buildings, dealing with the Adelaide City Council and Goodyear.

The latter along with Pirelli were the tire suppliers for the F1 cars and so had a lot of tires coming and would need a lot of working space. Shell were also talking to us about all the drums of fuel they would be bringing so arranging the layout of the paddock at the rear of the pits and managing them is a job in itself. I had been approached earlier by Malcolm Ramsey about being involved. Malcolm had raced successfully in F2 in Australia and Asia, building his own cars, and now ran his own engineering company. He said he knew how frustrating it was to be in a foreign country and not be able to have a problem with the car fixed. He was offering to set up machinery to provide that service in the paddock. Now I had been approached by all sorts of people offering to help, especially if it meant a free ticket, so I was pretty suspicious by now and put Malcolm off at first, but thankfully he persisted and was to provide an invaluable service to the teams at his own expense. His guys were really good craftsmen and would be put upon in later years, but in 1985 it is fair to say that at least the Ligier team would not have made the race without Malcolm’s guys repairing the parts for Ligier after hitting the walls on more than one occasion in practice. Malcolm not only provided this service but ran the paddock, and was assisted by Glen Dix who would be the Starter and flagman at start/finish in his inimitable fashion. Would not happen these days.   CIG were talking to us about compressed air and nitrogen for the teams, telling us that although we had put in a compressor and air line to each garage, the teams would not trust it to work. Just part of the F1 approach.

 My relationship with Mal Hemmerling was becoming stronger all the time as one of the key people on the team even though I was strictly not part of the staff, and I was moved into the office next door to his with a connecting door. By race day this was a strong partnership. Occupying a lot of our time was making sure the Premier’s Suite was built the way he wanted it and catered suitably, but there again he was paying for this race.

The worst fears of an inter-union dispute about who does what raised its head over setting the concrete barriers. I personally did not care and told them to sort it out between themselves, which they did and the Construction Workers got the work. Similarly I was not overly concerned with what we were going to do with all this stuff afterwards, I had enough problems building it in the first place. Luckily John Fargher of Public Works did, and found an ETSA yard in the northern suburbs that could accommodate it all, even though we had yet to work out what “all” was. It would be the day after the race before I worried about how to take it all to pieces.

Toohey Allen wanted to rearrange the corporate area behind the main stand. They wanted to flip it all north-south and said it would work better. I said it probably would, but too late now, all the water and sewer was in the ground for the original layout. I did not make myself popular.

One person who did like me though was Tim Schenken. Tim and I were talking a lot about the fine details of the track, and he paid me the ultimate compliment one day when we were down at the hairpin at the end of the main straight. There was some problem that was not obvious to solve, and Tim turned to me and said “you’ve driven, you understand what we are trying to do, and you’re the engineer so I’ll leave it to you to sort it out.” Coming from an ex-F1 driver that was nice.

We were into the fine details now, line marking and curbs being two small but key details. We could install some of the race curb, the old FISA curb in those days, in the water table of existing curbs, but some of it was actually in the road as I explained and could not go in until we shut them down on the Wednesday before the race. That was when the GP Act kicked in. That would not be enough to time gain the required strength, so we devised a bolt-down curb in sections made of glass fiber reinforced concrete. We cored holes about 6 inches diameter in the road and concreted in female couplings to accept the bolts holding down the curb sections.

On the 19th August we let the barrier installation contract to Fleetexpress, Noel Lindner and crew. We also called for the contracts for electrical work, which in the end was handled like the security by a consortium of Mayfield, Nielsen, and O’Donnell Griffin.

A rude awakening was to follow, things were going too well. The new pavement outside the Market started to come up. Hysteria in the media, and some bad moments for me. I was the one shoved in front of the cameras to explain and defend. It came down to some bad old pavement and the water the market used all the time. We planed it out and replaced a section to make sure we did not have a joint in a high stress spot, and John Potter did a highly visible walk around to assure everyone that this was an isolated problem. It was back in by September 11, inside the 60 day window, but only just. A nasty few days though and shades of what was to follow when dealing with the media.

Australian Seating, ASS, were due to start so we arranged for a small local earthmover, Wig Willoughby, to come in and trim up the area they were going to start on the pit straight. This was another fateful moment as Wig was the South Australian Councilor for the Auto Cycle Council of Australia, ACCA, the governing body for motorcycle racing in Australia. ASS were still wrestling with how to build all the stands at the best price and how to find the timber for the bleachers as scaffold planks were expensive to rent and rough to sit on. We had a hole in Rundle Road Stand that we would not fill until literally the last week.

Sir Jack Brabham paid us a visit at the end of the month and was to do a lap a couple of weeks later in his Championship winning car. Excitement was growing, and it became real when both ASS started erecting stands and Hallweld started putting the pit building up in Victoria Park. So started September, two months to go. We had been planning the detours with the Highways Department, including making sure the roads could handle the truck traffic, and the first traffic move was made on Dequetteville Terrace on Sunday 15th so that the barrier placement could start. We needed the barrier to be perfectly straight so we painted a thin grey line with a line marking machine to guide the blocks, and Fleetexpress used a large container fork with a side shift so that they could set them exactly and quickly. We needed the barrier in place this early so that the scaffold stands could be built behind them safe from the traffic. It also impacted the least amount of residential and businesses which were scheduled as late as possible.

When I look through my diary at the endless meetings I wonder how anything was getting done, but that was down to my staff, and the contractors. From the beginning we had involved the contractors and looked upon their supervision as part of our team, not an adversarial attitude as usually exists. This was the only way this could be done without a huge team of inspectors on our side. I still made time to walk the track each day as the only way to really see it and think about what was to be done. This has always been my practice and it has served me well. It also meant I was available, if someone had a problem or needed a decision on exactly what to do at some particular point then they could just stop me and ask me. There were meetings on furniture, signs for grid girls, bunting and signs for the historic garage, and it goes on.

As part of the sweetener for messing up their playing fields we agreed to install an irrigation system for Prince Alfred College, just another thing to do. There were ongoing meetings on security, where they needed lighting, their base, where the fence was and when. I met with the Board of Health about the number and type of toilets and the catering arrangements. I briefed the Fire Brigade, and on Sunday met with the medical team and the army who had their mobile surgical unit set up for us to see. There were still administrative difficulties with the local Medical Authorities, and we had to worry about insurance cover and secondment for South Australian medical staff for the race. Most of this had to go eventually to State Cabinet to get sorted. I was still struggling with finding an emergency helicopter at a price that was not outrageous, and Keith Williams, a motor racing guy who owned Hamilton Island offered to bring his chopper down which could take one stretcher and that solved the problem.

Somehow in the midst of this I escaped for a Macmahon Board meeting in Alice Springs.

CAMS were getting serious about their organization now and brought their officials and fire and rescue crews for a briefing on site, and Bill Crouch, who was to be the Senior for Fire and Rescue arranged for training with Noel Lindner at their depot. This consisted of the usual tray fires to be put out, but Noel and his guys made an F1 car out of cut up oil drums so they could pour petrol on it and set it alight to simulate the real thing. We would go on to close off portions of the track in Victoria Park and set up mock accidents for the FIV’s and ambulances to respond to so they could learn where to position themselves for safety. The event was getting so popular that crowds were starting to walk the track on weekends, and we had to set up a security point for vehicles entering and leaving the site, with individual passes for workers, which included the workers dogs, just for fun.

To join in the fun the Jockey Club, with whom I was still having regular meetings over details, staged a Grand Prix race meeting, the last horse races before the GP as the wood fiber was to be pulled off the track straight after. Each of the races was sponsored by a GP Sponsor and it was a great day out we all needed by now. One problem we did have for a long time was the lack of an event sponsor. I guess it was a big ask moneywise for an unknown quantity and it was quite late before the Government talked Mitsubishi, who had a car plant in South Australia, into coming on board.

The first overpass section turned up on site on the 24th, and the next day the FIA Inspector, Derek Ongarro, made his first visit with Tim and the rest of the guys from CAMS. He was very happy with what he saw and therefore so were we, not to say much relieved. I asked Derek about where to cut the escape holes in the debris fence. In a street race it is hard for drivers to get off the track if they are in an incident or their car breaks down, so holes are cut at intervals in the mesh for them to climb through. Derek looked aghast and said you can’t cut holes in that beautiful fence. He suggested lifting a panel at appropriate points, which could be done easily as the fence looped around the main post and would just interlock higher up. This left a gap between the top of the concrete and bottom of the fence that a driver could roll through. Better still the top of the fence would stick up so the driver could find it easily. This solution was to have unfortunate unforeseeable consequences in Melbourne later, but for now everyone loved it. The fire guys said they could put the spare extinguishers behind the wall at those points and the raised top of the fence would show where they were. The TV guys loved it as they could stick the lens of the camera through the slot, as could the still photographers, and both could remain protected behind the fence.

In another of those fateful meetings the Frickers came to see us about the Gawler Three Day Equestrian Event which was to be a World Championship in 1986 for the 150th Birthday celebrations. They came to ask about grandstands mainly, but little did either of us know what fate had in store.

One month to race day, and it is a blur of final details, placing the block in ever more difficult places and sometimes having two or three goes at placing a corner right. We arranged to have an aerial photo taken of the whole layout on race day so we knew where everything ended up after fine tuning during the event. I have no more diary entries, I am obviously out in the field all day. Our receptionist at one point wanted to put through a phone call, so I asked her who it was, what they want to talk about and how long will it take. She said “I can’t ask him that,” so I said fine I’m not taking the call. I had every man and his dog wanting to talk to me, mainly about how I was going to ensure the track would not come up.

I had another problem. Bill Crouch, my flag waving policeman, walked in and announced he had taken two weeks leave and he was all mine! I knew that if I did not find something for him to do then he would be standing talking to me all day, so I gave him a list of all the miscellaneous stuff we needed. Buckets, brooms etc for the marshals, and Bill was great sorting all that out. We had finally sorted out the support paddock. It suddenly occurred to me that the piece of Wakefield Road cut off by the track would be perfect. We could get the cars in and out quickly, and put the team trucks up on the grass under the trees. Worked fine except CAMS in the shape of Gordon Cowley came in at the last minute with a list of things he needed, and all the competitors had to be inside by 8 am before we closed the gates to the track.

The BLF were still a concern as they were having a dispute over some of their officials going to jail in Victoria and a stop work meeting was called. The shop steward told me it was OK, they were not going to go from the GP site. That worried me more as I did not want the site black banned, so I told them to go, just make sure you come back, it was a two hour meeting. The Organizer showed up and assured me they would all be back, he would make sure that the meeting did not drag on, and he was true to his word. The workers were all great and I know I would never get any of these projects done without them, so I look after them. Lindsay Burgess and I squeezed an extra block of seats in that were not on the sales plan, and no one else knew, but we made it the workers’ stand. Most of them would be on call in case of a problem anyway and I figured they had earned a seat. Mal and a few others did not quite see it that way when they inevitably found out.

It was all finally coming together, and the interesting thing for me was that all the individual contractors thought that they had the biggest piece of the job, but like John Commerford, when they finally saw it all then they understood. John was classic, we walked up the back of his pit straight grandstand, he had not been over for months, and took one look at the pit building and said “I thought I had a big job!” Thankfully for me it was all fitting and we were getting down to the really tough block areas. I knew from past experience how politicians reacted when a constituent called to complain, it is “oh I’ll see what I can do to fix that.” So I told Mal, next week is going to start to hurt the businesses and the residents, I do not want a phone call from the Premier telling me to take blocks back out. He came back later and assured me the Premier told him just keep putting them in.

We had a scare with the block though. The Friday of the week before the race Noel Lindner said let’s go somewhere quiet and have a cup of coffee. He had added up what we needed to finish the block to close the track, and he told me we were sixty short! Somewhat stunned by this piece of news I called my engineer who had so carefully calculated how many we needed, who said he would check. He called me back to say that was wrong, we should be only 30 short! It was a good job he was on the other end of the phone. Next call was to Humes, and yes they still had the moulds and yes they can make sixty more by Wednesday, they would be a bit “green” though. I told Ian Cox who gave the go ahead to make them, and Noel and I worked out the best place to put them where they were not likely to be hit. 

There was to be another scare in store for us. Someone set off a car bomb at the rear of the TAA offices on North Terrace in the city, and left a message to say we were next. More meetings with the Police and other security organizations to ask what could be damaged that would stop the race? I was pretty confident that we could fix just about anything given time, but if the damage was race morning for instance it would probably be impossible.

Despite the few crazies the interest in the race was off the charts. We had so many people walking the track on the weekends we started putting Coke vans and food outlets out there. The weekend before we must have had 20,000 people. Making it hard to get things done though. Patrick McNally turned up early in race week and we could start finalizing signage, including the winners’ rostrum. As I said, Patrick considered this the most important part of the event as it would be the photo that would go around the world. He wanted me to spend a lot of time on it for that reason, so I told him if he did not leave me alone he would not have a track to have a race and a winner on. Terry Slattery and his crew did an incredible job of painting and staging signs. It really annoyed me. Here we had been working our butts off for months to get this place ready, but it was mainly grey, and then in one week he had it looking colorful and great!

The cars finally arrived and I met Bill Gibson for the first time. Bill was handling the in and outbound freight in Australia and had experience from when Moffat and some of the other guys had gone overseas to race. We used some of the info I had brought back from Detroit about how to handle the cars and it all went fine. Glen Dix came in the week prior and swept out all the garages and generally made himself useful, and as he said, get to know the place.   

We finally arrived at Wednesday and we could close down the roads, finish the curb, line marking, and erect those stands in the roadways. Finish placing tire bundles, and the million other details that make a race. So I had all the gates closed, and would then wonder where all the people were coming from, we were not getting it done. Others in the GP office thought we should let all those visitors have a look, some of whom were being very rude about not being let in. I finally told everyone there would not be a race to watch if they did not leave us alone to finish, I still had the final track inspection to get through which was scheduled for 5 o’clock that evening. Being a street circuit it is not licensed until it is done. Now the Grand Prix Ball was scheduled for that evening and I was commanded to attend, against my better judgment. We were to host tables for the teams, who I knew were very unlikely to turn up being the night before they were on the track. In those days a new track had a session on Thursday, not simulation here to tell them how to set up the car.

At five o’clock Derek set off on his walk, and no he did not want me to come with him thank you. So I had a very nervous couple of hours waiting for him to come back, but when he did he just said “I’ll go and cable Paris you have a track license.”  It had not been perfect, but he felt comfortable talking to my guys out on the course to have the little things he saw corrected on the spot. So I could happily and tiredly go to the ball, where I announced to Mal we had a track license. He looked a bit stunned, I don’t think he had realized that we still had to go through that hurdle. My table was of course empty, I think it was to be the Lotus team, but soon a couple of derelicts wandered over with camera crews all over them, and sat down. They did not introduce themselves, but it turned out it was Barry Sheene and his buddy George Harrison, and no I did not get either autograph. It did start a friendship with Barry though.  

Thursday was pretty amazing as you can imagine. I think we had about 30,000 spectators that day, a bit different than most GP’s you watch these days when no one is there until Sunday. Burdy Martin, Clerk of Course, wanted me in Race Control for my intimate knowledge of the track and as I was handling all the maintenance crews. The group in Race Control was the best of what Australia had and it was incredible how perfectly they worked together. I guess when you all know your job and trust the other guy to do his it just works. The F1 cars were due out after lunch and we wanted our World Champion, Alan Jones, to have the honor of the first lap on his own, so we asked Bernie. In his inimitable style Bernie said that was not possible according to the rules, pit lane opened and all the cars had the same opportunity to go out, but he said “some of them might be late.” And so they were and Alan got his lap and there was not a dry eye in the house. We had waited since 1923 for this moment. I had said I would never do this again, but when Alan hit that track, I mentally said “take me I’m yours,” this is worth all the heartache sweat and tears.

Bernie approached me later and said that some of the boys, the drivers, were concerned about the run-off at the end of the main straight by the roundabout. He said we know it meets the rules, but it looks like where Clay Regazzoni broke his legs at Long Beach, could I make it longer? I said yes, I had some more blocks, but I also had a track licensed as it is, so can he get the FIA to ask me? He agreed and they did and at the end of the days racing we added more distance, which Nigel Mansell would be very grateful for the following year. Later that night, after an engineering and management debrief, I was at home watching the Channel Nine highlight show and listening to Jackie Stewart saying he loved the track, but was worried about the run-off at the end of the straight. I felt very smug as I knew it was already fixed, and when Jackie came up and thanked me the next day, “you’re the only promoter that has ever listened to me,” I did not disabuse him of that thought.

That block work was to cause me some grief the next day though. We had road sweepers booked to come in early each morning to pick up all the tire “marbles” and trash that gets caught between the blocks. I told Bruce to make sure that they cleaned up the concrete debris that came off from handling the blocks down in that run-off. We get the roads closed on time and at 8:45 am I hand the track to Burdy who then lets the first race group out, Formula Fords from memory, and forms them up on the grid in front of our Race Control. He then turns around and tells me that the marshals are reporting that I still have a street sweeper out there. I had forgotten all about them, I had presumed them long gone. I called Bruce on the radio and asked what was going on. He said they were just finishing up the run-off as I had asked. I told him just to stop and get them out of the way, hide them, I’ll pay for the day. Bruce says, “no worries, we are just finishing, we’ll send them around and out of the gate on the east side.” All this time Burdy is continuing the countdown, not cutting me any slack, and just giving me nasty looks.  I tell Bruce that no, he is not going to run them around the track as I had a field of cars sitting out here. Things were getting pretty fraught by now, me telling Bruce just bury them in an emergency gap and Bruce telling me no, he could get them out. I could see Glen Dix out of the window and we were down to about the two minute board by now. All of my team could hear what was going on of course, and someone cut in and said “paint a number on it and let it race.” That just cracked everyone up and cut the tension. The sweeper made it out the gate with seconds to spare, and I do not know to this day who that was on the radio. 

Friday passed successfully, feedback from my team and the other parts of the organization resulting in fine tuning. The lap time was a bit slower than we had calculated, the hard surface giving some traction problems. Ligier were hitting walls, but the only drama was to their cars. Saturday comes and we have around 70,000 at the track. This is getting huge. Now I told you we said the support race people had to be in before 8 am, but some of them did not believe us, so were stuck outside. Against out better judgment we agreed to open the east side gate to let them in at lunch time. 12:45 pm Burdy goes out to do a “closing” lap and make sure we are ready to start at 1 pm. Bernie is an absolute stickler for time. Burdy called back to Race Control and said that we have a car with a support race sticker on it parked in the run off at Turn Four and it is locked. I said no problem, I have a forklift just down the road and we will pick it up and dump it somewhere. Don’t worry said Burdy, “I just put my foot through the window and broke the steering lock.” We wanted that person to come back and complain so badly but they never did.

The next little drama was the celebrity race, which was in the form of a pro-am, driving Mitsubishi Cordias. The celebrities had been practicing up at AIR all week, but just before the practice on our track one of them pulled out. Mal knew I had raced and so brought a driving suit etc to Race Control and said go and get in that car. I was in a car, a turbo, which I had never driven on a track I’d never driven. You could not drive it until it was closed on Wednesday and I’d been a bit busy since then. I know I designed and built it, but it still surprised me in places, especially the corner onto the main straight which was critical for a fast time. I knew that Mitsubishi had been having trouble getting the brakes to last as they had asked for time on the track at the end of each day to test different pads out.  So off we go and I did not do too bad. Put it in the run-off in front of the Macmahon corporate platform when the brakes finally gave out, but kept it off the wall and qualified eighth, so not too shabby, especially as some of the celebrities had raced before. That turn onto the main straight really messed with your mind. To make it work I had to turn the walls left before going right, and on approach it looked like the road narrowed, but it didn’t. My imaginative side of the brain did not like this corner at all and wanted to brake, while the logical side is going “we went around here at 2,700 revs last time, let’s try 2,800.”

Sunday dawned and as always I was at the track around 6 am. I discovered I was not alone in an early start, there were thousands waiting for the gates to open. I had a bad feeling about this, when I should have been happy. We really had not anticipated this many people, and the Ombudsmen would later accuse us of selling too many tickets. It was to be one of my most stressful days of my life, and I invented a personal mantra, “5 o’clock will come, I will still be alive, and it will be over.” It was an insane day, we were the victims of our own success. Overpasses were clogged and we had to let them cross the track at times between activity, and people were tearing down signs to get a view of the track. We probably had 120,000 there that day, and the one thing you cannot make or buy at a street race is more space.

I had the celebrity race to compete in with my Pro partner Kevin Bartlett. I raced the first stint and would hand over to him for a separate race with the results decided on aggregate positions. He told me in no uncertain terms to bring him back a car with some brakes left! I started eighth and quickly got by the first three in front of me, and then ran up behind Leonard Teele, the actor, for fourth. I could not get by him, which annoyed me no end, he was an actor for goodness sake. I would draft him down the main straight to the best overtaking spot, the hairpin, but I did not want to brake too hard and incur the wrath of Kevin, so could not quite get it done. About two laps from the end Leonard used up his brakes and went straight on at a corner and I was by into fourth, not bad in equal cars. I later found out that Leonard was a serious driver, so did not feel so bad, and my Pro buddy Kevin spun it at the first corner after telling me we were looking good to win this!  

We got through the day, fixing the problems before the outside world saw them. The power went off in the tower at one point in the race and thank goodness we had a generator running to switch over automatically. The crowd down at the Stag Hotel had been drinking all morning and got out of hand during the race and I was told by Burdy he was stopping the GP if I could not get it handled. I found the Police Officer in charge at the foot of the tower stairs but had a lot of trouble making him hear, which was when I decided to soundproof the emergency base next year. He sent the SWAT team down there and the race went on. Now due to the slower lap time we were up against the two hour race limit. We kept checking which was coming first, 82 laps or two hours. It would look good and then Rosberg, who was leading, would stop for more tires, the hard surface wearing them out with wheel spin. Every time he stopped it changed the equation and we were very close to throwing the checker on lap 81 when he went by with about twenty seconds to spare. It was a crazy race with people going off all over the place. Senna was a wild man, more off the track than on and racing without a front wing at one point. The two Ligiers ran into each other at the end and one finished the race with three wheels on the car. We finished it off with an F15 fighter blasting down pit straight as Rosberg went over the line, totally unannounced, scared everyone to death.

So ended an incredible saga, well almost. Bernie said in the post race press conference we had done a terrible thing. We were stunned, but then he added that it was because no one in Europe is going to be able to match it. The crowd filled pit straight and bought anything the teams wanted to sell, it was the last race after all, and the Customs guys went crazy as it all was supposed to leave, including the worn out tires. My guys started to strip the valuable stuff like the TV’s straight away, and attacked the barrier and stands down by the market. Mal had brought me down to the start line for the start of the race so we could be seen together, and now we would do a victory lap of our own. There was a “thank you” party at the Memorial Drive tennis courts for all the volunteers and we were cheered on stage with the Premier. Then off to an unknown destination, unknown to me that is, still in our stinking uniforms, and it turned out to be the McLaren Team party at the Hilton where we were again given a rousing reception by the teams. I could get used to this.

The next morning when I was trying to get my troops to focus on how we were going to take all this apart all they wanted to talk about was how they could make it better next year; they were as crazy as I was.

To top it off we won the trophy for the “Best Organized Formula One Race” in 1985. Mal and I were celebrities. It was to be the best it was going to get.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT – SYDNEY’S GRAND PRIX AND KING KENNY

We drive from PI up to Sydney and EC where we have the IRTA test, and around 17,000 spectators turn out on a Wednesday to watch. We run it as much as anything to show we could have staged the GP here, even though a couple of things are yet to be finished like the control tower, but we could have done something for that if it was the only problem. Naturally the lovely supportive Sydney press are looking for anything negative they can find, and as I said, this was never going to be PI, and that is what the riders said. Nice track, but not PI. The headlines read “Unsafe track” even though nowhere in the story did it actually say that, and the journalist just blew it off that he did not control the headline writers, thanks a lot.

We are not yet done with PI though as we meet with the new Premier, but nothing can really be done, we are contracted to Sydney and the loan. We do have the World Superbike round by now at PI, and a round of the World Endurance Championship following the success of the Six Hour last year, and agree to package the two as a “Superprix” to be sponsored by the TAC again.  These races go OK, but I doubt we were ever going to recapture the success of the GP at PI.

Back in Sydney we are working to complete EC and make the minor changes asked for following the test day. We still have to have EC inspected by John Thomson prior to the FIM meeting in Budapest where it can be homologated for next year’s race, let’s not go through that again. John comes up on the Saturday 13th October and is satisfied that we have enough done, just some tire wall and gravel left to do. So we go to Budapest and all is well, track accepted and date confirmed for April 7th at EC. FIM introduce the idea of selling rights to the GP’s to DORNA, a Spanish entertainment company, including a series sponsor. No one can understand the problem that will cause for promoters who are trying to sell the race sponsorship. “World Superbike has a series sponsor” they say, but yes I answer, WSBK does not charge me a fee for bringing the race, which they did not in those days. Yamaha was addressing the problem of not enough 500’s on the grid, sound familiar, and are proposing to sell engines, and ROC and Harris will sell frames to make a good privateer machine.

During one boring function at the FIM meeting Trimby, Butler, two Japanese team bosses and I decide to go to the only Japanese restaurant in Budapest. The cabs are small here, so Trimby and Butler, who know where this is get in one cab, and the Japanese and I get in the other. “Follow us” they say and inevitably we get caught at a stop light and lose them. We are now in the middle of Budapest with a driver that speaks Hungarian, an Englishman and two Japanese. We proceed to drive around, passing one outdoor café three times, like some French farce, while the driver is asking all his cab mates where the Japanese restaurant is. We do eventually find it.

I am spending time at PI at the WSBK round on my return, while at EC there is a long distance touring car race, The Nisan 500, is being run, with no major dramas except Turn Nine asphalt is torn by what looks like a fuel spill. We start the serious planning for the GP including coordinating rail and bus service using Blacktown Station and special trains from around Sydney. Sydney is a huge city spread out around the main harbor and other major water obstacles like Botany Bay. People tend to live and work in one area, and my mate Bill Gibson who lives on the north shore and commutes to the airport has never been to EC in his life! It is like most big cities and I forgot about how it was in London when I lived there, you were almost tribal in where you lived and went. South of the Thames to me was “overseas” and north of Watford people lived in caves, and I certainly did not go anywhere west of the center except once a year to see my brother. So what looks like a nice big population to draw from is actually difficult to attract and we need the rail system.

Dovigo are being their usual cooperative selves and trying to organize a World Sports Car round for March, which does not make the FIM happy with our race being April 7th. Dovigo are writing direct to the FIM which makes John Thomson unhappy. Apparently Bernie agrees to a March 17th date, but it never happens, so is it all bluff? We meet with PBL about next year’s race, and the possibility of PBL buying out Barfield is raised, which suit us, and we thought would suit the ACCA to have their race owned by the largest TV Channel and Australia’s richest man, Kerry Packer.

It is the end of November, and the Motorcycle Council contacts us through Greg Hurst to discuss security arrangements for the GP. These are the everyday motorcyclists as opposed to the ACU members who are racers. As I said, the clubs were very concerned about the attitude of the NSW Police, and at avoiding problems at the event. They want to put their members on site to assist our security, in a way formalizing some of what went on at PI, self policing.  I like the idea, but insist it must be done properly, an organization structure to dovetail with our security, and the same people every day, not just turn up when you feel like it, and identifiable as part of security. We agree and a fee is to be paid to the Council for this service which lets us reduce the number of security guards we need. It actually worked extremely well and we were to have no trouble at all at the event.

The NSW Gov’t is not being so friendly these days. John Harvey is not around and they are being difficult about ticket sales guarantees. They want to see my tax return! Thanks for the vote of confidence in my integrity. Corporate sales are almost non-existent, so much for Sydney’s corporate headquarters, times are tough. We still do not have a naming rights sponsor, and things are not looking so good. We still have problems with Dovigo purporting to have the right to sell things for the GP, which is making people wary. We have decided to move the largest over track sign from PI to EC, BPM owns them after all. The over track signs at EC are proving difficult to find a cheap solution for as the wind loading is high and the spans are wide. Some people are saying the run offs are not as large as PI, but they are, if not bigger, as we built the place. It is just the concrete walls intimidate drivers, but they are mandated by the FIA. There are also reports that the “constant radius corners” make it less challenging, but I know that there are no constant radius corners, I designed it remember? Back to the signs, I am trying to install something like I saw in Hungary with a cable supported canvas sign, but it seems our engineers cannot work this out. Speaking of engineers, I return to EC from the 6 Hour at PI to find Peter Russell has taken off again, like he did at Cararra. Worse, this time he lets his teenage daughter drive a company car back to Adelaide. It is the last straw for Rod, Mick and I, and Peter goes the same way as Noel. Now there are three. I know we are actually doing Peter a favor, as I can see this is not likely to end well. Peter cannot see this and takes us to the Industrial Court for wrongful dismissal. He is a partner, what is it to do with the Industrial Court?

The Court seems to agree with him though, and in a private hearing with the Judge he tells us we have a deadline to resolve it, as he finds “pressure” usually does. We laughed as we walked out. Pressure, he does not know the meaning of the word after what we have been through. I suspect we will not be in business by the time the deadline comes around, and I am correct.

December 17th and Rod meets with the NSW Gov’t people and they agree to release ticket money, but with eight conditions, aren’t there always, and Rod says he does not like the connotations in those conditions. We actually give the Gov’t notice that if this is not sorted we will just fold Barfield up. The Director General of the Premiers Dept calls and says it will be fixed, money released, and we will work towards a lease agreement by the end of January 1991. Great, that makes me feel better.

Things are not going well with PBL. I suspect we have left them last to be paid with the thought that Channel 9 are doing better than anyone out of this. I went to the test match in Sydney with Lynton Taylor and discussed the outstanding payments and the possibility of Channel 9 buying into the event. Hunwick and company also mention the possibility of buying Barfield, seems everyone wants the GP. January 11th and Rod and I meet with Lynton and we sort out a deal which Lynton will talk to Packer about. The next day we tell the Gov’t about the possible buyout, which they are naturally pleased about, and we meet with Hunwick and Malouf later that day on a possible buy by them. We meet again the next day and start sharing balance sheet information, and then we hear back from Lynton on the 18th that they are not going to accept the offer we made on the buyout. Hunwick and Malouf meet us the next day and now it is BPM they are asking about buying out. We see no problem with that and actually draw up a heads of agreement.

Meanwhile PBL are delaying the TV ad for this year, it will be early February before it goes to air, two months before the race. 29th we meet Hunwick and Malouf again, but this time it is about signage and McNally again. They state McNally has sold Rothmans and Marlboro the signage for the race. Ken Potter denies that Marlboro has done that, but next day Hunwick shows me the fax from Marlboro to McNally. 5th February and Alan Hill from Rothmans confirms they have done a deal with McNally and tells me Marlboro has too. I tell Hunwick that this changes our deal and he had better hurry up and buy us. Hold on, news come through from Rothmans in London that they have not done a deal with McNally, yet. Ken Potter is telling Europe he wants to buy signage in Australia from us, and Alan Hill confirms his corporate facilities. All the normal meetings are going on of course to actually stage a race while all this background noise is happening. 13th and Hunwick tells me they have sold 9 suites on the pit roof, 3 signs and a corner name for $150,000! 18th February and we are still having trouble over the release of ticket money, goodness knows how we are surviving. Alan Hill tells me he does not know what to do about signage and corporate, things are coming to a head. Wednesday 20th and I meet with a marketing guy who looks after Tooheys, who are by now not part of the Bond Group. He is interested, but Dovigo have told him we only had the race for 1991.

Thursday 21st February. I have had enough of these games. If we are going down we are going down on our own turf, i.e. PI. I check with John Thomson about his attitude to running at PI this year, and of course he has no problem. It would be hard, but we could do it, better than the death of a thousand cuts going on here in Sydney. There is a meeting set up with PBL, Dovigo and us in the Dept. of Sport for 10am. I walk in and lay a draft press release on the table and tell them it will be sent out at 4pm if we do not hear that we have the clean track we need and a signed deal, and leave. The release says that due to the inability to finalize a track rental agreement this year’s Grand Prix will be held at Phillip Island. And you know, maybe that is what we should have done anyway. Can you imagine the goodwill to support us?

 PBL are sitting there with their mouths open, I had not forewarned them. It worked and I should have done it months before. By the next day we had a signed agreement. I flew to Melbourne to talk to the Tennis Center about how they could improve the way they do things and get a call from Tooheys, see them tomorrow in Sydney. It is Saturday morning, Tony Skelton has come with me and we do a deal for Tooheys to be naming rights sponsor for $400,000, as easy as that.

I leave almost immediately for the FIM meeting in Geneva where the FIM manage for the first time to aggravate all the parties to GP’s, promoters, teams, manufacturers and sponsors. The specter of a non-FIM Championship is raised again. Kenny Roberts tried it in the early eighties, and there have been mutterings for years about the need for professional management and stable contracts, but it was always only one of the parties the FIM annoyed at any one time. This time it looks like it will happen. On my return Rothmans confirm the 250cc sponsorship deal as we had at PI, amazing what a track hire agreement will do. The next day, March 7th, we hold the media launch and announce Tooheys, who do a great job despite having basically one month to arrange things. They even have a special beer can made for the event.

I go to Canberra to meet with Peter Staples, the Minister for Health about restrictions at a Federal level on tobacco sponsorship. At least he listened as to why it is impossible for international events unless an agreement is reached between those countries staging the events.

I fly to Melbourne airport to meet with Kenny Roberts and Garry Taylor from Suzuki. One is going to test at PI and the other is coming back from testing, and they want to talk about how to set up a new Championship outside the FIM. They ask me to provide an outline how it can be done, and I work on something like the CART model where the teams own the series. They are scared of Bernie though and what he would do. They have seen what he does to series that look like a threat, the World Touring Cars and World Sports Cars to name two. We were to meet later in London where they went o meet with Bernie, against my better judgment, and he obviously did enough to stall them.

Back in Sydney we give up on over track signs, but find a solution in a scaffold climbing system that we can set up so it looks like it is over the track by positioning at the rear of corners to suit the camera positions. They actually work better as we can lower the sign so it looks like it is sitting on the track behind the rider. Brian Morelli cannot shoot under those. Bill Gibson and I go up to the Japanese GP again to arrange the smooth handling of the freight and any other last minute arrangements, such as when Ueda wins the 125cc class as a wild card, a local, and his team suddenly decide to send him to Australia. No official entry, no passport, no carnet for the bike, no planes booked or accommodation, no problem.

The race is staged, we have our problems with Dovigo’s track manager who seems to forget that for this week we are in control. The transport works well, we have the biggest crowd Sydney has seen, and will be until the Olympics. The racing is good, except for one poor 250cc rider who falls off at Turn One but his bike gyroscopes and keeps going, finally hitting the wall way down by Turn Two. He complains that there were no straw bales there. I tell him the only way to guarantee that there were bakes where the bike hit was to tie them to the front of the motorcycle. He is not amused, but neither am I. The Malaysians turn up at the race, the ones we helped bid for a GP, and who this year have one. They can afford to fly down to the race, but no, unfortunately they do not have the money they owe me.

The organization runs as smooth as you could ever expect, but we cannot arrange an Australian to win. Doohan’s clutch lets him down at the start and he is back to 9th. Rainey gets away, and so does Kocinski, with Schwantz and Gardner trying to get on terms. Doohan is working his way through the field and is soon second and catching Rainey. It is like a football match again, with the grandstands going wild as Doohan passes, but it is not to be, the laps run out and Rainey wins.

The crowd was good but not good enough. The sponsorship helped, but not enough, and the corporate were again, not enough. We knew we were done. Rod, Mick and I meet with our lawyers at Sydney Airport. I am for declaring bankruptcy now and walking away, but no we have to stick together they say. Let’s see how that works out? We meet that afternoon with the Gov’t reps and they are not supporting us any longer, go and see Packer. I make the case at some point to Greiner that he should just take over Barfield. He is going to lose the money anyway as he has the guarantee with the bank, but if he controls Barfield he controls both of the tracks in Australia that can stage a GP, and guess which one he will choose. Let Barfield go to the wall and Placetac will get PI back, and guess where their first stop will be? Logic it seems never works with politicians, but I will be proved correct.

Meanwhile we are still alive, and part of ROPA, and I am invited to a meeting to discuss, among other things, a possible break away series. I stop off in London on the way and meet with Bernie. I tell him he is the only person who can take this over, which I am sure he already knows, but the teams do not trust him, so hire me and I will run it for him. Well you cannot blame me for trying. Bernie, with a straight face, says he cannot possibly be seen to assist a breakaway series from the FIM, he is a Vice President of the FIA, a sister organization. But like King Herod to the wise men, come back and tell me what ROPA are going to do. Flammini is President of ROPA by now and promotes the WSBK series, so he is clearly not going to rock the boat with the FIM. I make the case that we as promoters should work with the Teams, they are the show, and between us we can pull this off. We would have the stability we needed, a multiyear contract with a guarantee of the teams showing up. Everything we have needed in fact. Most of the other promoters are very interested, but Flammini is too cunning to let it go to a vote or anything like that, so we get nowhere. I see Bernie on the way back, but he knows time is on his side, as it proves to be and he can come in at the last minute to “rescue” the series.

May 24th and we finally get an agreement from Lynton Taylor to buy our shares in Barfield. Now all we need is ACCA agreement to the assignment. See, I told you to pay attention to those assignment clauses. Early June and David White cannot see a problem with the sale to Packer. Why would he, other than he is Victorian? We arrange to go to Melbourne to see the ACCA and of course their solicitor, Mr. Apel. June 11th we officially requested the ACCA approve the transfer of shares, which they acknowledge, and we meet at Apel’s office on the 13th. They do not say yes and they do not say no. They need Packers Group to confirm the arrangements in writing. A wise old engineer told me once, “Delay is the deadliest form of denial.” And so it was.

We actually thought this was going to happen. Packer offered me an employment contract to run the race, and I told them I thought slavery had been abolished. We set up a management committee with Channel 9 and PBL and had meetings, what fools. July 1st and the rent is due on PI and the Gov’t who are by now controlling our money, will not let us pay it. Do they understand what that will mean? I go back to Adelaide and we sit and wait, and wait, until Lynton Taylor has had enough. I guess he figures he does not want to deal with these people anymore, and pulls the plug on the deal on July 12th I am already booked to go to the next ROPA meeting in Flammini’s office in Rome, and to go to the Motorcycle GP at Paul Ricard with Bill Gibson and David Eckart. I have the QANTAS airfare so why not. Maybe I can find someone to give me a job while I’m there.

The ROPA meeting is a non-event, an air traffic controllers strike means most promoters cannot get there. Maurizio says we will go to lunch in Fiumicino, the port down the autostrada. We climb in his 5 series BMW, me in the front and Carla his lovely secretary in the back. Unusually for those days he has a car phone, in fact he has two. We are driving down the autostrada at a large rate of knots, he is talking on one phone, steering with his knee and writing notes on a pad. I am a little stressed when Carla leans over and whispers in my ear, “we’re in real trouble when the other phone rings.” The real trouble is while I am here Lynton Taylor has applied for Barfield to be wound up, which of course it will be.   

I survive and go on to Bandol where we are staying. It is the time when Christopher Skase is trying to be extradited from Spain for fraud charges, and the boys are all joking that here I am in the South of France having just gone bankrupt and the TV crews will be here any minute. We go to eat down a small alley in a real French Café, no English menus here, and no Maitre de to help, so we all just order one of the first courses without knowing what they were. The table next to us gets delivered a wicker basket of raw vegetables and we crack up laughing, what idiot would order that! Well Bill did actually as that was then also delivered to us. It was a bit of light relief before going home to an uncertain future. No one offered me a job, so Sydney here I come.

The Sierra was the first to go, to be followed soon after by the Brock, despite there being only one payment left which my wife offered to pay, but no thanks we want the car. Di had her teaching job so it seemed sensible to stay in Sydney, and I approached Graham Wragg about a temporary job until something else came along. He said he did not need a project manager or an engineer, but he did need a foreman. I am not proud, that will do. So I get the Company Ute to drive and a subdivision to build. They tell me they bid the price too cheap and there is not enough time, but good luck. It is a new challenge. It is one thing to roll up to a job, tell the foreman what you want done and then leave, it is much harder to be there first in the morning, brief the workers who’s doing what today and make sure they have all the material and survey they need to do it. I take great pride in the fact I completed that job on time and under budget, we made money. That earned me a Holden Commodore and a promotion to Project Manager.  

That was not the end of BPM and the creditors though. I do not know to this day if BPM was wound up, as far as I know we just stopped. We had to let the staff go of course, but most went on to bigger and better things with what they had learned. I do not recall any recriminations from them, they all knew how hard we had tried to make this work. We as Directors had signed personal guarantees, and in Australia a Company affords little protection to the Directors. So we had to face the prospect of personal bankruptcy which my partners proceeded to work at avoiding, so much for sticking together. In the end I was the only one to go into bankruptcy, Rod and Mike negotiated a settlement, and Noel and Peter were long gone. It was as if it was my name on the door and I was the one to be made to pay. It would get quite nasty, but that comes later. I am just trying to survive at the moment.

I am applying for positions, I do not actually like building subdivisions, and driving around Sydney all day gets old very quickly. Being a PM means I have a number of sites to manage, and they are spread out all over the outskirts, down as far as Picton and over to Menai and Kurnell. I do not know if I am seen as a liability by potential employers with my history or they just think building racetracks is not real engineering, so my experience is not current, pretty stupid. Maybe I am just too old by now, getting a job over 40 in Australia is tough. So time passes, Bernie takes over Motorcycle Grand Prix racing with Two Wheel Sports, he is just happy to be able to help. Mick and I get a consulting job with the Melbourne Tennis Center to come and look at how the Australian Open is run and suggest improvements. A nice diversion.

And then Kenny calls me in mid November. Come over for a week and let’s see if we can work out how to promote motorcycle racing in the US better. We go up to the ranch in Hickman and various people come and talk to us from the sport and the media, and we later go down to his house in Carmel where he declares he thinks he wants me to come and work for him, even though we have decided there is nothing to be done in America and he should look at Spain, where he already has a house. His Manager, Garry Howard has been warning Kenny that sooner or later someone is going to sue him after an accident at the training camp at the ranch, and he needs to go somewhere less litigious.

I return to Australia, but it has been a fun diversion again, and at least someone remembers me from the sport. And so ends 1991. But what has happened to the Motorcycle GP I hear you ask. Well as Bernie now controls it he can sell it to the highest bidder, and thanks to Greiner’s stupidity there are of course two tracks that can bid for it, which makes Bernie the only winner out of this mess, how does he do it? NSW has to win this or their politicians are going to look right idiots, and they do, and have the ACU of NSW run it for them. They cannot make money either so in the end the Gov’t is paying for it until the now conservative Gov’t in Victoria under Geoff Kennett buys the race back and the Victorian Gov’t now pays for it to be run at the Island. Where was Geoff Kennett when I needed him?

Dovigo? They basically gave the track back to the Gov’t as they could not make money, and it is now leased to the ARDC, the Australian Racing Drivers Club.

I continue to build subdivisions in Sydney while my wife Di is consulting lawyers about retaining her half of the house the bank is now wanting to take, remember, the one they only wanted signed up as a good faith gesture. There are precedents for this on the basis she signed under duress and with no private legal representation, which is all true. Di is eventually going to win this argument and keeps half of what the house brings at sale less the mortgage, which is about $50,000, better than nothing.

March 26th and the ABC does its 7:30 Report interview about the arrangements for the GP in Sydney and tell me about the Dovigo contract predating ours. I am still being asked to go and speak about the GP and Eastern Creek, so I am not quite forgotten, and when the GP comes around again I have a pass and catch up with a lot of friends, including King Kenny. A couple of weeks later Kenny calls, “what are you doing?” “Standing in a field in Sydney.” “Do you want to come to Spain?” “I will if you send a ticket.” So I am off to Spain to meet Kenny in Jerez during the Spanish GP at the beginning of May. I left with two suitcases of clothes, not knowing if I was going for the race or the rest of my life.

I roll up at the track in Jerez and catch up with my friends at IRTA to get a pass, and meet Kenny in the paddock. He takes me off to a meeting in the DORNA bus about staging the USGP in 1993, and introduces me, “you all know Bob, I just hired him.” Err, can we talk about this? I am telling Kenny he does not want to promote the GP, look what just happened to me, but he is determined and although it takes all year, that is what we will do. Laguna Seca, SCRAMP, has run the GP from ’88 thru ‘91and were voted the worst race of the year or close to each time. They dropped out this year as Bernie upped the fee, and Kenny wants to rent the track and have me promote it as he is tired of being beaten up by the other teams for how bad the USGP is. It is payback for the stick Kenny gave them over the European tracks when he first went over there. Kenny never said it in this fashion, but I knew my brief was to develop motorcycle racing to a level and status that it enjoyed in Europe and Australia. Kenny and the other champions were unknown in their home towns, whereas Kenny got in a cab in Sydney and the driver knew who he was!

In the meantime we spend the weekend at the Spanish GP, with the show downtown Saturday night of guys doing wheelies on main street being as exciting as the race, twenty thousand watching and not a cop in sight. Sunday we expect the usual 250,000 crowd and with only one road in we enter around 5 am and leave around midnight, but who cares with that many spectators. I am told to get myself to Sitges, a small seaside village south of Barcelona, where Kenny shared a house with Wayne Rainey. The team was based in Holland, but we only saw them at the track. I book in a hotel recommended by Paul Butler, but the Barcelona Dragons, an NFL Europe team are based there and sleep is difficult. Chuck Aksland, Kenny’s team manager, and I share an apartment in Villanova just south of Sitges and not quite so nice. We start to take Spanish lessons, but miss so many going to races that we gave up, and just learned as we went along. Not that I went to all the races, my role here was to work with Jaime Algersauri, the owner of Solo Moto and race promoter in Spain to reestablish the National Motorcycle Championship and set up a training camp on a commercial basis.

On the Tuesday after I arrived Kenny, Garry Howard his Manager, and I turn up at Solo Moto for a meeting, which at the time Garry and I had no idea what it was about, and after ten minutes Kenny announces that he has a tee time and will leave us to it. I am to find out this is common with Kenny, not one for meetings. So Garry and I are totally winging it, and spend the day listening through an interpreter to impassioned speeches about how great this is going to be. We get nowhere and I learn that “mañana” does not mean tomorrow, it just means not today. In the end there is a basic problem that neither of these guys wants to give up control so 50/50 does not work, and neither does 49/51 whichever way you slice and dice it. Kenny is rightly concerned that something with his name on it is done to the right standard.

So, when not at the GP’s I am looking for sites to build a training camp, which Dennis Noyes helps me with enormously, but does not get done while I am in Spain, but Dennis and I make the first approach to the Barcelona Circuit where the camp will eventually be established. Marlboro are keen to have a private place to stage races, especially flat track, so they can invite spectators and still advertise cigarettes, they can see that public events are going to be barred to them. Kenny supports the new Championship which we work with the manufacturers on to come up with 125cc and 250cc two stroke classes that would showcase the ability of young riders from all over the world. A sort of “finishing school” using Spain’s five GP tracks and equal equipment, no works bikes, steel brakes and no trick tires. We did not write a lot of rules, Bernie always says no rules are best, then no one can argue about the rule. We knew who had works bikes, and if they turned up they would be told to take them away. Same with tires, the Dunlop and Michelin guys worked with us to prevent the GP tires being used. Kenny wanted to run several teams to develop riders, and part of my job was to try and raise sponsorship in Spain, not easy when you do not speak the language well enough. The Championship does start in ’93 with Jaime promoting it, and it is a big success.

In Sitges the team frequents a local’s bar, El Tros, run by a family, Mum and Dad, two sisters and two brothers, Mark and Xavi. It opens at 6 am and closes at 3 am, and it is a local’s bar, not a tourist bar. They like me as I will eat the local dishes, and very good they are too, I still cook some of them. They take me under their wing, especially the youngest, Mark, who leads me astray. I find that when in Spain you have to live like they do. Work starts around 10 am, lunch is 1 pm or so, and is a serious meal, breakfast being a cup of coffee, and then a little sleep and back to work at 4pm. Finish around 8-9 pm, go home and go out for a “promenade” with the family and meet and great your friends. Home around 10 pm and eat dinner around 11 pm, then to the bar for a couple of hours. If you are in the mood then a disco until about 7 am. What you must understand is that unless you cook it, dinner is not served until 10:30 or so, and the disco is not open until 2 am.

Let me tell you some food stories. I walked into the bar one evening to be told that Mark had prepared a special dinner for us both. He had gone to the fish market early and bought the seafood, and gone to the hills to pick juniper to boil it in. He had prepared a special sauce to dip it in, and thank goodness he had. There were two places set side by side for us two, so how could I refuse? The shellfish looked like spiny snails, and looked even worse when you pulled them out of the shell, but again how could I refuse? If you closed your eyes and dipped it into the sauce it actually tasted fine, and that’s how I got through it.

Talking of special sauce, Kenny used to like a restaurant up in the hills behind Sitges called the “Carnivore.” Guess what it served, meat, and a lot of it. The steaks were 1 kilo, 2.2 lbs, and the “secret sauce” was excellent. They also served a 2 kilo steak, it looked like a Sunday roast, and Kenny used to relish surprising people by changing their order to this and see their faces when it turned up. We had an English couple who looked after the house and at Christmas Kenny took them up there for a treat and ordered the large steak for the man who thought he’d died and gone to heaven, ate the lot!

The there were the food fights. When the team won we would all go out to celebrate, and at Barcelona I had the job to go out and book the restaurant just outside the circuit. When we arrived we basically took over half of it as we were the biggest team at the time, probably about 45 guys. Kenny and Wayne sat in the middle on one side and about halfway through the meal Wayne starts throwing food down the end, starts the fight and then leaves! I am thankfully sitting in the middle opposite them so it is all going past me end to end. I am waiting for the owner to go ballistic, but he just brings in screens to close off our area from the “normal” patrons, I guess he has seen this before. Of course we pay to clean up the mess as we leave. 

So some nights Mark and I go into Barcelona where he is known at all the discos and clubs, or he finds a house of ill repute. The Spanish girls do not come across much. He takes me to Barcelona soccer with the “mad boys” as they call them, up in the nose bleed section, but the real fans. Later I go with Sete Gibernau’s father. Sete is a lovely young man who is desperately trying to get a ride on Kenny’s Spanish Championship team, and is helping me with interpreting. Sete is the grandson of Paco Bulto of Bultaco fame, and I actually meet him when Sete takes me down to look at his property as possible site for the camp. Paco loves this idea, he can set his chair in the center and watch all day, but it is too far south of Sitges. Sete’s father is minor aristocracy and a BS merchant, so when he tells me his father is a Vice President of Barcelona FC, and built the Neu Camp, the stadium, I take it with a grain of salt. He tells me the family has seats but no one goes, and I must come sometime. So, when he says do you want to come tonight, I say OK, and we meet at his house. Now Barcelona is the densest city in Europe, driving around, especially to a 150,000 capacity football match is not easy. We go to pick up his father who toddles out on his sticks, and we set off to the ground. We keep getting waived through police checkpoints, so I am starting to think Dad might be important. We arrive at the street the ground is in and get waived past. We arrive at the main gate and get waived in. We park about ten feet from the main door and Dad toddles off through the Directors Entrance, he is a VP of the Club, and we get shown to the best seats in the house at the rear of the Directors Box. For once Sete’s Father was not BS’ing and I felt very small.

But back to the team, who are struggling. Honda has invented the “big bang” motor, which sounds dreadful but somehow has great traction and just drives away from Wayne and John out of corners. It takes half the season to work out what they have done, and then we cannot copy it, the Yamaha crank case will not stand the strain. Kenny and I have had discussions before about the state of GP racing and the role of the manufacturers. Yamaha see racing as an R&D exercise with a limited budget. They are supplying an F1 engine to Jordan which keeps exploding, and we question the wisdom of spending all that money and are told it comes from the marketing budget, which has much more money. We point out that an engine blowing up is not good marketing, but winning World Championships is. That is the problem, we are winning, so why should Yamaha spend money improving the bike? Wayne is riding the wheels off it, literally sometimes like in Germany, to try and stay with Doohan, and if it were not for the development done by people like Bud Aksland we would be nowhere. In the end this will bite Wayne once too often, but till then we talk of an F1 type structure where teams build their own bikes, with or without manufacturers. Wayne is to win the Championship again in ’92, but only because Doohan has his crash at Assen and nearly loses his foot.

These discussions prompt Kenny to pursue his own machine with Proton sponsorship, but it is hard to beat the Japanese factories mores the pity. I see the demise of motorcycle racing when manufacturers want to race what they sell on the street, such as 600cc four strokes, and not what the public want to watch. If F1 did this we would be watching Toyota Camrys racing Chevy Malibus.

When I do go to races I get roped in to do the Marlboro TV interviews which I quite enjoy, and so do the riders. Because I am living with them basically I know some background that I can use to ask sensible questions, and when I visit the World Superbike in Jarama I get the job there of interviewing the winners. Good fun.

All this time Kenny still has his heart set on running the USGP, so we have meetings through the year with Dorna, who are involved even though Bernie’s Two Wheel Motorsport has the commercial rights. Dorna would eventually buy those rights from Bernie, who made money yet again. It gets down to September and we have a sort of deal with Bernie/Dorna, so we go to the CART race at Laguna and start a negotiation on renting the track. We have a basic agreement and Kenny leaves me to finalize it, including the problem of the track’s major sponsor, Toyota. Now Laguna is allowed five “noisy” events a year, but only had four at that time. So Toyota had a deal for signage and official sponsor rights to those events. Our arrangement with Dorna required that we provide them with a large number of billboard sites, but we could keep a naming sponsor, who would also want a number of billboards. Now, there are only so many you can fit in so I needed some back from Toyota, including the winners rostrum etc. Now I think this is a no brainer. Toyota has paid for four events, and we are giving them world wide exposure for a fifth which they have for free, provided I get some relief on their terms of contract with SCRAMP. So I call Les Unger, Toyota’s motorsport man in LA, and give him the spiel. He promptly says “I guess we do not have a race then” and hangs up!  Suits me, I am happy in Spain, not really wanting to come to the US, I have seen what happens to people here on all those cop shows and movies.

Garry Howard calls me and berates me that I do not know how to talk to US businessmen. Well I guess I don’t. I think the deal is over, but no, come back to the US, put on your best suit and come with Kenny and Garry to meet Les in LA, and keep my mouth shut and learn. Kenny is in a suit for once, and he and Garry talk to Les for over an hour, about everything except the GP. As we leave Les says, “I’ll send you a fax.” Outside I ask what he is sending a fax about, as we did not discuss anything? The fax arrives, it is worse than where we started. So back to Spain, that’s over again. But no, two weeks later, go back to Les on my own, sort out a deal. So much for showing me how to do business. Les and I go through his wish list, like 50 passes to the media center. I explain that as an international event Dorna controls those, but if he gives me the names and employers of those 50 journalists I am sure I can get them in. Oh they are not journalists, they are my staff, says Les. Why does your staff want media passes I ask? Because last time it was the only place to get a cup of coffee and watch the race on TV, says Les. So if I set up a tent with coffee and CCTV that would do? Certainly says Les. And so we work through his wish list and do a deal. So confirm to Dorna we have a track, and we have penciled in a date so we can finalize a deal. Now we should let the American Motorcycle Association know before it gets public. We think they will be pleased to have the GP back. By good fortune it turns out they are having their National Convention in LA at the same time, and we make a time to meet Ed Youngblood later that evening, but I am to go on my own to tell them the good news.

Ed meets me with their new marketing guy who is not at all happy to hear my news, especially the date, which is to be two weeks after their national race at Sears Point, which they have just negotiated to put on the calendar. He keeps saying they will not approve it, and I am very politely trying to tell him he can do nothing about it, until finally Ed chimes in to tell him the good news that we do not need AMA’s blessing. That is true, and what’s more I do not actually want it as I have heard horror stories about how they run their races, so I am planning to bring Ross Martin over from Australia to run the race. So we have a GP to organize, but first it is back to Spain for the “Superprestigio,” an end of season non-championship race staged by Jaime Algersauri at Jarama which all the top 125 & 250cc riders attend. Kenny Jnr. has been racing in the US in 250cc, and is to have his first taste of racing overseas. Colin Edwards is also there, as is Sete on a very poor machine. Sandy Rainey, Wayne’s Dad is running the bike, and some of the team are here with the team bus. 

Kenny gives Jnr. the speech, “we are not here to win, we are here to ride better.” I was pretty amazed at this as Kenny is the most competitive man, but I was to understand later what he meant. If you just go out to win you are going to be disappointed more times than not. Tiger Woods loses more than he wins, in baseball if you hit the ball 25% of the time you are doing well, which means you miss 75% of the time. Warren Willing told me that riders who do not win do one of two things. They get depressed and stop trying, or they “override” the bike and crash. What Kenny was saying was that if you go out and ride better each time as your goal, then you will win. An excellent philosophy for us all.

Kenny Jnr. qualified about 16th from memory, and the race was actually three races during the day, but each time you started where you qualified, not where you finished the previous race. Well Jnr. improved each race and finally ended up eighth and we all celebrated that achievement, which prompted Sandy Rainey to observe how unusual it was for us to celebrate eighth. In the lobby of this nice hotel was obviously a high priced hooker, and we sent Sandy down to ask the price and if she would do a discount for a group, but we could not afford it. 

And so back to the US to start on the USGP.I go up to the ranch in Hickman near Modesto where Kenny has his home and his training camp. We are supposed to be discussing the GP, hopefully giving me some “riding instructions.” Now Kenny and the boys race on a small TT course, no not the Isle of Man, and American TT, a small dirt oval with a loop and jump in the infield. They race 100cc Honda farm bikes which started out stock, but of course they cannot help themselves and “improve” them. Kenny is going one better and building his own from scratch in his workshop, so I am not actually getting anywhere on the GP. Friday comes and Warren Willing invites me to go out to dinner where he gives me some advice. Just start.

So I leave and go back to Monterey to set up an office in the paddock at Laguna which will be home for the next year, and hire a secretary to run it. One key piece I need to resolve is my visa. I am on a business visa, but need a work visa, so Garry Howard arranges me to meet an immigration attorney and we start the process, which in the end is only completed when I leave! In the meantime I cannot actually get paid, so I have a credit card and expense everything. Not the best feeling in the world, but I am not in a position to choose. In the end I pay for my own visa, $5,000, which I find a bit rich since Kenny wanted me to come in the first place, and Garry Howard will not even let me take it out pre-tax when we finally get the OK to pay me.

I arrange for Bill Crouch to come on board to assist me, I need at least one other person who knows what we are trying to do here. We split the task in two, I will look after the marketing and promotion and Bill will manage the operations. We start being approached by people and companies that want to be involved, and Robert Jackson, and Englishmen now based in LA and with ties to the manufacturers comes up to Hickman to meet us. Kenny is not sure of Robert so we meet him for breakfast down at the local diner, and when we think he could be useful we take him back to the ranch. Robert and I are sitting in the kitchen discussing his possible role when a procession of American riders walk through one after another. Wayne Rainey, John Kocinski, Eddie Lawson, Randy Mamola, all at the camp to train, and each says Hi Bob on the way through. Robert is beside himself but contains himself for a while until someone else famous walks through and he bursts out “how many more world champions are there here!”  It was probably an enthusiast’s heaven up at Kenny’s in its hay day.

Robert goes on to manage the trade show for us and does a great job, very successful and I have some great letters from vendors. “I did not see much of the race, people kept forcing money on me!” I rearranged the layout of the Laguna Seca infield, using the nice lawn area that had been left empty previously with all the vendors being crammed in around the paddock. I wanted that space for team parking, and anyway wanted to develop a concept where if people wanted to do something else rather than watch what was on the track they could go to this area and get food and entertainment, merchandise, and look at motorcycles. I had to drag everyone kicking and screaming to do it, especially the motorcycle manufacturers who were previously spread out all over the track, so if you wanted to look at machines you had to walk 5 miles. Strange that now all the events follow this pattern.

Talking of manufacturers, Robert also took me around to the big four who are all based in LA. None of them wanted to put any money in, and to put it in perspective, Honda NA spent about $35,000 with us when Honda Australia spent $80,000 a year, go figure. Suzuki did not see why they should get involved at all, Schwantz rode for the Japanese Suzuki team after all! Same with Kawasaki, they said they did not race GP. I said then they could not lose could they, which they liked the idea of, so came in with a display. In the end they all came including BMW, and even Suzuki, who actually got it in the end and spent the most. BMW took a cab ride into darkest New Jersey to talk to, and then I was stuck as there were no local cabs and the offices were emptying on a very cold and snowy evening. I finally found someone to take pity on me, but it was a very expensive cab ride each way. Contrast the attitude now with the USGP’s at Laguna and Indy. Where were they when Kenny needed help? Yamaha was Kenny’s machine, but even they did little to help. I guess Kenny ran the Japanese team?

Robert also introduced us to a couple of young guys, Don and Dale, DD, who ran a creative agency to do the advertising and promotion. We needed a logo and to start producing a corporate image. Bernie issues a style manual for his events, so even our letterhead was proscribed for us, but we still needed to produce posters and ads. We met them in LA and I liked them, but in the meantime Ken Vreeke had made contact to see what he could do to help out, for a fee of course. Ken also had an agency and did a lot of work for Honda, the big boys on the block. I liked both groups, so to decide on who to use I set them the task of producing creative while I went home for Christmas to Australia. They both did great work and had it all spread out in the Laguna Media Center when I returned. They each had excellent pieces, so I finally took them both on to do pieces that I thought they were best at. Ken’s logo initially looked too simplistic, but I quickly realized that was its strength, and lent itself to all the situations we would need, from business cards to billboards and to merchandise.  I liked DDs’ poster so went with them for that side, and Ken was also strong on the editorial side having worked for magazines and knowing all the players.

So I had the nucleus of a team on the marketing and promotion, and would bring in Isabella Maderang to take on promotions for the event. Unfortunately I was landed with Paul, a recent marketing graduate and friend of Tad’s to “help” me with the sponsorship and other marketing. Tad was ex Phillip Morris and was working with the team on sponsorship. I do not know what they teach at marketing school, but it did not provide Paul with even the basic knowledge to write a proposal. Sponsorship was to prove impossible to find. ’93 was not a good time in the economy and we were trying to sell to American Companies an international event with little interest in the US. Even those like Budweiser who had sponsored a bike for Randy in Europe, via the Spanish importer, were not interested. The budgets were overseas too. Phillip Morris, Marlboro, who sponsored Kenny’s team out of Europe, were not able to help. The tobacco companies had an agreement with the US Gov’t that they would limit their advertising to one sports series, and Marlboro had CART and Penske, who needed Kenny?

Selling tickets and camping would start traditionally at Laguna on January 1st, so I had to sort out prices early. This is how I met my third, last and best wife, Alexandria, Xan, or Madame X as she was to become. Xan was the Ticketing Manager for Laguna, so I naturally asked her advice about pricing, where our buyers would come from, and how to reach them. Xan thought I was a genius, no other promoter had ever asked her anything about the customer, but why not, I was a new boy here. She is a very smart lady, and I fell in love with her mind before her body. One of the decisions involved the camping which was a problem similar to Bathurst, the Sherriff turned up Saturday evening with the SWAT team and a riot started. The County took most of the money for the camping anyway, Laguna is in a County Park, and there are not that many spaces, so I doubled the price. The usual campers said they were not coming which suited me fine, they were the problem. We sold the campsites anyway to people who would not have come because of the trouble makers. At the event the Sherriff turned up as usual, despite my asking him not to, but they went home as there was no trouble and they were bored.

So early 1993, we start the campaign with a stand at the San Francisco Motorcycle Show in company with Laguna. I also attend the motorsport journalists annual dinner, we are going to promote this beyond the motorcycle world, and actually would get better coverage in magazines like Road and Track than your average motorcycle mag which is geared to touring. I met the Chief Medical man for Laguna, Dr. Dan Delgado, who is a road trauma specialist out of Fresno and perfect for the job, but does not understand his role is managing doctors and paramedics, not treating patients. We take him to Australia to show him how it is run elsewhere in the world, and he then gets it and does a great job for us. We need to improve all the medical side, especially the medical center, which is basically non-existent. By the commitment to improve it we get help from all sides, Art Ting, probably one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the world, brings his team down for the race, free of charge. Philips bring an MRI machine in a truck, so we go from no facility to probably the best, even if it is in two trailers. We will continue to have issues with the ambulance service that has the County contract and is associated with a Director of SCRAMP, Jim Lacalamita, who we are to have a lot of problems with. Even though we hire ambulances from them they cannot guarantee that they will not be called away to attend and accident on the highway, so we instigate fast cars around the track like F1, which can transport most riders other than possible spinal problems.

Bill meantime is addressing problems like the traffic and parking, always a problem at Laguna. There are four roads in, pretty good for a track, but they do not open them all every day, so they change the way you go in, and they send you out a different way as I found out to my cost at the CART race, I had no idea where I was. We asked why they did not open all the roads each day, I am a great believer in “programming” people, and we were told that as three went through Fort Ord, the major Army Base, then they could not open them weekdays. Now Laguna was originally built on Army land, and once the Army got fed up with it they sliced the land off and gave it to the County to run. Never being one to take a silly answer for granted I asked the Army if we could use the roads. Of course they said. When I asked why Laguna did not know that they said that Laguna had never asked! I suspect SCRAMP did not want to pay for people to man the gates. I say “pay” but as I said SCRAMP is a charity and they use the volunteers from their member organizations and pay them an hourly rate for their time. The rate is the profit for the year divided by the number of hours volunteers have put in. The volunteers only do a couple of hours each and are not really interested in what goes on, as I was to find out.

So we had the access sorted and Bill went to work with SCRAMP devising a system of color coding the parking lots and signing directions to them so that people came, and went, in a logical way. One main parking area is “the swale” which is inside the track over the one vehicle bridge, and which is the only way to the paddock. SCRAMP gives so many passes out for this they can have a traffic jam on a Thursday morning, but they like the swale full so it looks like there is a big crowd on TV. For one CART race the swale was supposed to be for teams, media, corporate, but on Saturday it was full, so they produced a flyer to put under the wiper of all those cars parked without the correct sticker. How did they get there you ask? I told you about volunteers. Did the flyer say you are illegally parked and do not park here again. Hell no, it said if you are not in here by 7am Sunday you will not get in, so you guessed it, it was full again Sunday!

SCRAMP would eventually ask me for twice as many parking passes as they had parking attendants. Yes I had learned from Bernie to control the passes. They actually asked me for “all access passes”, and when I asked them why they needed them, they could just park in the lot they were manning, I was told they had to get to the BBQ. When I asked what BBQ I was told the BBQ for the volunteers that was held at noon on Sunday at the rear of the paddock, which was why they needed the all access pass. I politely told SCRAMP that I did not know what they were doing at noon on Sunday, but I was running the 250cc GP. I also said that if each of their parking volunteers could drive two cars in I would gladly give them two passes. SCRAMP did not like me. The system worked very well, the Marlboro sponsor man, Leo Degraffenried, called from his hotel a half an hour after the last event to tell us how easy it was to get out.

Bill was working on the race officials too. We had Ross and Dr. Dan, and would bring in the AMA Tech Inspector, Meryl Van Der Slice, but for the bulk of the manpower we were talking to the local SCCA, the car guys, and USARM, Jan Bash?, a local motorcycle flag group, who we eventually used, and glad that we did. Race operations ran very well with no major hiccups as I recall. The AMA came to me, Ed Youngblood, to ask if they could sanction the race and I agreed, having their logo on our poster gave us some additional authority and it cost us nothing. I took the opportunity to do something that has not been done before or since to my knowledge, and that was to point out to the AMA that the FIM Sporting Code restricted a country with an FIM GP from calling any other race a “Grand Prix.” Almost anything is called a GP in the US, so the public do not see the value in going to the real thing. I had it stopped for one year anyway in motorcycle racing.

It was always the promotion side that was going to be difficult, but Kenny was in this for the long haul we had a nine year contract for the race and for the lease of the track, and Kenny figured it would be four or five years to break even, but in the meantime building the sport. Dorna had an office in LA that mainly looked after signage at NBA games. We expected them to help us out on the major sponsorship side, but in the end they were Americans too and did not get the motorcycle bit. During the trip to the Australian GP I was approached by Serge Rosset of ROC about signage at the GP for a sponsor of his, who he would not name. I told Serge that the only signage I had to sell would go with the naming rights. He said OK, send me a package for that, which I did for around $300,000, pretty cheap. Serge said that looked good and we would do a deal later in the season. I felt OK with that as there was little else on the horizon. As we got closer to the event I started to press him for the name as I needed it for the signage production, program, and other promotional items. Serge told me it was an oil company. Great, I knew he had relations with Mobil in the past so assumed that was who it was. About a month to go and I really, really need to have artwork. OK says Serge, but his sponsor is just sorting things out with the State Department. Big alarm bells going off, we had just fought the first Gulf War. It is not Iraq, I ask? No, it is Libya says Serge. Now France has had dealings with Libya for years so he could not see the problem, but can you imagine a Libyan State Oil Company sponsoring the US Motorcycle GP in 1993? Grid girls in yashmaks, milk on the podium, and the Libyan suicide squad doing parachute drops at the start. Kenny asks if anyone will know, we need the money. Yes I tell him, the media will know, we do not take the money. No major sponsor. Where was Red Bull?

Merchandise was another potential income stream for us, and I could not talk Kenny out of producing our own instead of just licensing others. I think it was a quality control issue, but you can do that with licensing by approving samples. At least I talked him out of actually making items like T-shirts ourselves with off season farmers. We split the merchandise between Ken and the D’s, with Ken procuring the high end stuff like Letterman Jackets and Chambray shirts, and the D’s doing the t-shirts, primarily with the posters on them as I have found that sells well. I say posters as we had two. Bernie has one specified of course, so that is the official one we printed just for the event, and the D’s produced a good one that we used all year. The problem always with buying your own merchandise is what to buy and how much of what size? There are industry standards for size and sex for t-shirts, but things like the letterman jackets were expensive, $125 each, so Kenny said don’t buy too many. We sold out the first day at $250 each and Kenny walked around all weekend beating himself up that he told me not to buy too many. Chambray shirts all sold, and we had to reprint t-shirts over Saturday night, so things sold well, just not all of them. It was the small $2-3 stuff we thought people would buy to take back as gifts that did not sell, and we ended up giving that away at trade shows later. We also did mail order with a fulfillment house, but I don’t know that was a success, cost too much to run the fulfillment. We also gave away too much to family and friends. I was also told to buy US made merchandise as Americans would not buy it otherwise, what happened to that in the last decade?

One key issue was the appearance of the place, it had to look professional and world class. Laguna at that time had no garages, so we had to use tents set up in the paddock, there was not enough room in the typical US pit lane and hot pits set up. I say tents, but we would use the European aluminium frame structures for the garages, media center and corporate set ups. We had to find a company large enough to have all this, and Robert Jackson and I went down to the Rose Bowl where the Superbowl was being played that year to look at what was there and who had it. We followed up with the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, I was getting a tour of America’s major events. We found the right guys out of LA and I laid out what I wanted, which included all the garages being the same size tents. One it was then the same for everyone, and two it would look great from the air. I obviously did not explain that properly as when they went up they were all different sizes, and the project manager could not work out why I was not happy, we had the same square footage? After the race and he had seen the aerial shots he understood.

Kenny also wanted corporate boxes along the pits like a European circuit. Now Laguna had something like this that they rented from the Long Beach GP, but it was seating only with patrons dining on the ground behind them, did not make much sense to me. Laguna also had three events in a four week period, the Historics in late August, us in early September followed by the CART race, each with corporate and all different set ups. I tried to talk them into using our set up and split the cost, but no, they had to have their usual, so it was a big job to set up and take down. We designed a scaffold platform down what would be the “hot pits” the area behind pit lane behind a low wall, American racing does not like teams out in pit lane, but the bikes are not an issue, there are usually no pit stops. Then on top of this we erected some beautiful frame tents that the company had, looked great and worked well. We sent the plans to the Fire Marshal for approval, which we received, but when we started erecting them he turned up in a great rush one day. He was doing an inspection on a house on a hill overlooking the track and saw what was going up. It was all per the plan we said, but he said “yes, but it did not look that big on the plan.” He spent two days going over it before deciding we knew what we were doing and OK’d it.

These boxes were not an easy sell though, nothing new ever is. Dunlop bought one because they were Kenny’s tire supplier, and when we went to photograph people eating in them for next year’s promotion we found the tire changers. Of course after the race they said that now they understand and would have two next year and bring their main dealers, but there was to be no next year. We did sell most of them, but the deserved better use and have never been set up again.

Laguna actually looked great with these corporate tents, the trade show, Honda Island, and the overall “dressing.” Dan Gurney drove the pace car for us and he said that when he drove over the hill into the track he did not recognize it it looked so good. Dan and his guys from All American Racers were all bike fans, but they did not ride up from LA, put the bikes in the team truck and drove up.

To improve the event even more we had to tackle the catering. Previously the teams had the local Chinese restaurant providing food in the paddock, and all you could get up by the corkscrew were boiled hot dogs. Why, because there is no power up there. Have you not heard of a generator I asked? Laguna used all small local food providers and said that was because there was no one big enough in the US to do it all! Now there are a couple in Australia so I knew that had to be wrong. Luckily I was introduced to Rudi, as Swiss caterer living in San Francisco. When he first came to see us I offered him instant coffee and he nearly died. He was the importer for Saeco Italian coffee machines, “I’ll send you one,” he said, and he did and I have been hooked ever since. Rudi knew exactly what the teams wanted and gave it to them, and also did a great job on the general spectators. Coffee carts first thing in the morning, Oktoberfest Tent in the trade show area etc. Kenny did not like the fried squid usually served up, but the crowd love it so we had to keep it, but we wanted to bring in some of the fast food chains, which we did and McDonalds later ran the main food outlet at Laguna for many years. Interesting how my ideas are totally foreign at first and then become the norm after I’ve gone.

Now Kenny was involved in a lot of this, but only made brief appearances and I had to grab him when I could to give the OK to things like the logo. The person who really took an interest was Wayne Rainey. Wayne had a house overlooking the track and when he was home he would come down and spend hours going over what we were doing, he was very much a part of this event, which made the end even more poignant. Pushing motorcycle racing at the GP level to the media was a vital part of what we were about. We set up a fax machine to distribute results from races sent by the team directly to the sports editor of the 100 largest newspapers in the US, and sent copies of Motocourse to the top 30. Kenny arranged to stage a test at Laguna prior to the season, instead of in Australia, so we could expose the machinery to the US media. We invited the usual motorcycle press, plus the car guys, and the general media in the local area, including LA and San Fran. We did the usual thing of dedicating a time so the team were not interrupted more than that time, and promised the press total access. We ended up with more media than Nigel Mansell had received a week or so earlier during his CART testing. Kenny and Wayne were totally blown away. How did we do it? Well Ken Vreeke had great credentials, but we gave them a hands on look at a GP bike, and the journo’s could not believe the amount of electronics on them even at that time. We were to receive the whole back page of the LA Times Sports section twice during the lead up to the GP, unheard of. Michael McCaffrey, our US freight importer, called me all excited from San Fran one day to tell me we had six column inches in the Chronicle. So I looked and they were tucked away inside and thought so what. “So what,” he said, “you do not understand, they have never published anything about motorcycle racing before!”

Having articles or even ads in the motorcycle magazines was much harder. They are closed for an issue so far in advance of publishing date we were lucky to get any exposure at all. I still do not understand that when Solo Moto in Spain is printed the next day after a GP with stories and results. Much against Garry Howards advice we ran a sweepstakes competition for a trip to the GP, but it turned into just the usual people who enter sweepstakes who neither knew nor cared about the GP, Garry was right, and it was just a pain to run. 

One of the problems I had to address is that Monterey is a convention city with conferences and events on all the time from the Pebble Beach Pro-Am to the Jazz Festival, so we were just something else going on, and several miles out of town and a million miles out of mind. I needed to make the locals aware that it was happening and how important it was, if only for the business it brought. I approached the Chamber of Commerce who told me they would rather not have the bikes, too much trouble. I left them a copy of the Economic Impact report from Phillip Island, and next time I went I received a much better reception, funny about that. $44m makes a lot of friends. We joined the Chamber and went to the mixers, and held one at the track with SCRAMP. Rudi did the catering, we gave rides around the track, showed the race from PI, and for many it was their first time out there, a big hit. Kenny had a show bike made up for us out of pieces from last year’s machines which we took to dealers, shows and other races. It worked great as no one can usually get that close to one. I had a couple of volunteers helping out, Larry Spector and Herod Lowery. They convinced me to let them take it down to the Paso Robles Mid State Fair. The Fair goes for two weeks and has 250,000 people go through it, but it is so small a town I thought, wrongly, this was just the same people going each day, so why go for two weeks? I went down on the Friday and was blown away. The Fair was huge, stages full of the best country singers and people from all over California. I agreed to pay for a hotel room for them for another couple of nights, and planned to be there for two weeks next year.

And how were Xan and I getting along I hear you ask? Well one night before my wife came over Bill and I took Xan and a friend out to Cibo’s for a drink and I managed to surprise Xan for once in her life. Thankfully Bill and Xan’s roommate were discreet. We managed to keep our affair secret even after Di came, I had a lot of speaking engagements, and Xan will not let me go to a Lions meeting now. Scott Atherton was running Laguna by now and felt Xan was a little too close to the GP office, but he did not realize how close. He never could work out how the towel rack in the men’s room at his office got bent, and why it disappeared when Xan left. We have it as a trophy.

Ken Vreeke and I hatched a plan to produce the event program as the forerunner to a quarterly magazine on GP Motorcycle Racing. We were to produce two versions, one with the Bernie cover and one as GP Quarterly, and perfect bound so we could put a hard cover on about 200 of them that we had Kenny sign to give away as promotion tools for next year. The quality of the program in respect of the standard of the articles, quality of the photos and the paper we sued has not been equaled in my opinion. We asked the top photographers for their best shots for as photo gallery, and they were excellent, but when they saw what we did they said, “next year we give you the really good stuff.” Next year, what high hopes we had for what we could build on this base we were putting down. Convincing advertisers was not easy, but I had people the day after the event wanting to book for ’94.  

And so the year progressed. Mick Doohan was riding with a broken leg and a thumb brake, but still giving us a run for our money. Wayne was setting up to win his fourth Championship on the trot and with Laguna being almost the last race it looked like he could wrap it up here. What a prospect. My volunteer, Big Chris, flew himself to Laguna to work for us for two weeks, what a guy. Things were all going well, despite SCRAMP hating my guts. I had the temerity to suggest that since this was our event and we were paying them for the track the Directors might like to take just eight free tickets each instead of the twelve they usually receive. What an insult! Then the world fell apart. Kenny calls from Italy, Misano, to say Wayne has fallen and broken his back, paraplegic and lucky to be alive. Who cares about the race? I just wanted to walk away, but Kenny said that if I did that Wayne would come and kick my arse. So we went on, but the seal was set, nothing could change the atmosphere that hung over it.

That week was just a joy, thanks to SCRAMP. I had suggested that I needed to put aerials on the closed circuit TV’s, especially for the timing results, but was told that it was not necessary, the track was cabled for TV. Just one small snippet of information missing there. The cable went into the outside broadcast truck and then was distributed from there, and when did the outside broadcast truck arrive? Saturday afternoon. First practice Friday I have a media tent full of outraged press and Dick Lee, SCRAMP President cannot understand the problem. Then my friend Lacalamita who controls the phones around the track does not understand that teams want a phone to work from the time they arrive on Tuesday, not just Sunday. They tell me that they had not seen anybody get reamed that bad and survived. But we go on, and the event is a success. I tell the media we have 50,000 there race day, and they tell me that we have many more than that, but Xan tells me we sold 17,000 tickets. Thanks SCRAMP and your volunteers. Doohan falls off at the corkscrew and breaks his collarbone, now he can get his leg fixed by Dr. Ting, John Kocinski wins the race for Cagiva, and Kevin Schwantz wins the Championship. The live TV decides that they only have one feed, so when America goes to an ad the world takes a break and the cameramen give them shots of the sky and the landscape, thanks guys. Lots of irate viewers around the world, and a Dorna staff at Laguna. It is just one of several problems that crop up, along with the usual whining about how “someone else’s sign is getting better coverage than mine.” Sitting in the event office gives you a jaundiced view of what’s happening, people keep coming in or calling with problems to fix, so when you finally go out and someone says “isn’t it going well” you want to ask them if they are mad. Truth is to the average Joe it is going well, that is the trick, to make sure the public do not see the problems, fix them first.

I lose a lot of Kenny’s money, more than he expected, and much more than I did. He has never chided me for it, on the contrary Chuck told me I did exactly what he wanted. Kenny is no mood to talk about next year, he and Wayne were very close and the accident has affected him deeply. I have no instructions and must just wait. During the build up to the event Robert Jackson asked me how I was doing as I had no “goal posts.” It’s true I had no stated objectives, but I thought I knew what Kenny wanted and how I should go about it. The economy did not help, we were promoting a sport that had a small following in the US, and trying new things, so I think what we achieved was very good in retrospect. Most if not all of the ideas have been copied and used since.

Two weeks after the event I meet with SCRAMP’s Board who proceed to tell me it was the worst weekend of their life, “you changed everything.” Not quite, I kept Jesus the toilet contractor, he was great. The rest? Laguna was voted the worst race or close to each year, why wouldn’t I change everything? SCRAMP say they are now not sure they want to do it again. Neither is Garry Howard or Kenny. Mind you we did not receive the final accounts from SCRAMP until late November, how does it take that long. When I ran Road Atlanta later our accounts guy Michael had the figures for Dan Murphy before the AMA event was over. Dorna USA reappears and there are discussions about moving the race to Mid-Ohio, but Kenny and I are convinced Laguna is the only track acceptable.    

We receive many nice congratulatory letters from ordinary fans, trade show participants, and sponsors like Suzuki, “the best week’s press we ever had.” The Monterey Hotels Assn says they were the winners at the event, and that is probably true. But my checkered flag has dropped. Kenny does what he usually does with team people and stops paying them at the end of the year, a rude shock and one that will cause a rift. I hang on in Monterey, not much to go home for, and wait. 1994 and Dorna is to run the GP this year, but no one wants my advice it seems. One morning when I know Kenny has a meeting about the GP he asks me to breakfast, so I think at last I will have a say, but no, he just wants me to run someone to the airport. I am asked for an interview by a motorcycle magazine in which I express my disappointment at some of this which I probably should not have aired, but I am not good at saying nothing, and saying it to Kenny is not easy.

I get the call to come to Spain, which actually lets me obtain my H1 visa as you have to be outside the US to get it. Kenny is talking to Phillip Morris Europe, PM, about a flat track series in stadiums around the world, the first in Jerez during the GP. If I can sort out how to do it and get PM to agree to pay for it, again as a way of getting around tobacco advertising bans, then I have a job. So off to Lausanne to meet with PM and “blue sky” where this could go. Kenny actually has Sparky building the motorcycles, we have booked rooms in Jerez and have guys like Jay Springsteen lined up to ride. The wheels fall off before we even start. The Mayor of Jerez that controls the stadium is not keen, and the article comes out in the US. Kenny is not impressed and has Chuck call me to check if I really said those things, which I did, so that is the end of the collaboration, but not the friendship.

It just happens that Di is coming to Spain for a couple of weeks holiday, so we take it anyway. Not the best trip and it gets worse when I tell her late one night about Xan. Leaving Xan in the US was a very hard thing to do, but I know she knew we would get back together, and in the back of my mind I probably did too, but for now I was going back to Australia to “do the right thing” by Di and my creditors, who were there and waiting. My partners, you know the ones who thought we should stick together had all done deals, so now it was just me.

CHAPTER SEVEN – AFTER THE LORD MAYOR’S SHOW

This is a great old English expression that relates to the once a year parade through the City of London with big crowds and lots of horses. Right behind the parade come the men picking up the trash and the you-know-what. That is how the next few days felt. We had to clean up the track, but we also had to clean up our act and add up the cost. The traffic jam made big news of course and our marketing people were already worried about the effect on next year’s sales, no one cared why the traffic had been held up. They did not seem to care about it though as we sold $250,000 of tickets for the 1990 race the day after this one. There was an advance booking form in the program and lots of people took advantage of it. Not that it did us any good, our friends at BASS refused to release the money, and by the time they would we did not want to take it as the sponsors were by then saying the teams were not coming back.

The TV ratings were exceptional, so Channel 9 were very happy, they knew they had a great product here. PBL were not so happy as we owed them a bunch of money, the price of success. To be fair they never stopped working for us and were very patient, until in the end they lost patience with the ACCA, but that was two years of struggle away yet. John Cain was to describe me as a great entrepreneur but a bad businessman. He would be correct, no businessman would have taken this on, and he would have quit much earlier. We had met with the Minster of Sport, who along with the Premier had written letters of congratulations with assurances that things will be smoother from now on, and we had let them know that we would need some assistance if we were to get through the next few months until sponsorship and ticket income kicked in.

Noel and Rod were out beating the bushes for some finance to cover the capital works, but 1989 was like we are today in 2010, there was a recession and no one was lending anyone anything. We thought that Elders might come up with it, and as they were associated with Carlton United Brewery perhaps if we had Fosters as a sponsor that might have worked out. As it was, no. Our friends down on the Island continued their “help.” It seems that the income from the GP was great, just do not give us the noise the rest of the year. The Planner Joshi came up with the section in the zoning for the track that did not specifically allow testing, so told us we could not book time for teams to test. We noticed it did allow “Time Trials” which were defined as a vehicle being timed around the track, and changed our booking forms to nominate time trials and not testing. He also took exception to us clearing some of the native bushes around the hay barn, and started legal action against us. This was a clump of shrubbery around a fallen down shed with brambles growing through, and fortunately we had the photos to prove it, but it all took time and money, and was a distraction we did not need. The Islanders were annoyed when I later said we had not received much support, but most of them had no idea what we were being subjected to.

The EPA then stepped in with a noise limit. At that time in Australia, and it may still be the same, there was a very stupid basis for limiting noise on race tracks. It was 5dba above the background noise at the nearest structure. So when we built Eastern Creek next to a Freeway 80dba was fine, but here in rural PI the background was 45dba, trees rustling level. It is crazy, you cannot ask car or motorcycle owners to change their exhaust system for every track they go to. Mind you, the houses had been built ten years after the track, but since when did that stop anyone complaining? The locals asked us to let them know when we had “quiet” weekends when a road based car club, BMW for instance, would be at the track, so they could arrange to have friends down and sit outside. No problem, we published a schedule in the local paper a month or so in advance. Within six months it became “how dare you tell us when we can have a quiet weekend!”

Back to our money woes. Goodsports, the clothing company from Adelaide, had made our officials shirts for us, and a great job they did too. They had been bought out by the Adelaide GP Office, taking everything in-house remember? So when the bill was not paid guess who was first through the door with a wind-up notice? David Eckart arranged a lunch for Mal and I at Ayers House on May 1, where Mal offered to buy the event. I should have said yes, but we had fought too long to give up now, and although he was offering to have us run it, I knew from past experience how that was going to end up. Perhaps I should have let him have it, and he could fight the Victorian Government, who I’m sure would have been delighted to have a South Australian Government entity running a race in Victoria.

We definitely felt we were fighting the Victorian Government, attacks seemed to come from all sides and various Departments. Our “friends” at the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation had not been amused by the success of the tobacco promotion called the Motorcycle Grand Prix, and were back talking to us about obtaining a “paint out situation.” They quoted West Germany as an example, but when I went there later with Kenny there were girls giving away cigarettes at the gate, and if you’ve been there it is almost compulsory to smoke in Germany. They were inciting us to break our contracts with Rothmans and Marlboro, for which they would compensate us financially, but it was the sponsorship on the motorcycles that were the real issue as neither we nor they could influence that. I pointed out that under the sporting regulations there was nothing that gave me the power to prevent tobacco advertising on the motorcycle. Their letter of May 18th spells this all out, and the last paragraph is telling.

“The Foundation and other health promotion agencies would also provide a strong lobby for the Grand Prix at a State Government level. The State Government would also be pleased to have the Grand Prix working in co-operation with government policy on tobacco free sport.” Message received loud and clear, just nothing I can do about it.

In mid-May I went to London and met with Andrew Marriott and his CSS partners, and went over to Dijon for the World Sportscar Round to promote the track as a winter testing venue and to look at the opportunity for a race at the Island. I met Max Mosely while he was running the Aston Martin team, and we were successful in having Toyota book two weeks of track time for early 1990. I travelled on to Hockenheim for the motorcycle GP to remind people we were around, and to catch up on all the latest politics. Moves were afoot even then to put the sport on a more professional basis and get away from the whims of the CCR. One suggestion by that group to solve the problem of first corner crashes was to go back to push starts! That would be safer, not. People may have thought I was just holidaying, spending my creditors’ money, but I had the QANTAS sponsorship airfares and it was a lot of hard, necessary work.

While all this is happening Bill O’Gorman has invited me to Sydney to meet his Father-in Law, Laurie O’Neil, of the Southern Quarries O’Neils. Small world. He has some land out at Eastern Creek, an area of mainly horse agistment and with most of the surrounding land owned by the Government. It was sort of a green space about half way out in the suburbs. Laurie was a car guy and wanted to build a decent track out there, so we put a plan and budget together and started talking to a noise consultant. It did not get very far before events overtook it. One of his friends was Rod Hunwick who was a Suzuki dealer and an up-market car dealer. Rod had brought in two Cosworth RS Sierras, the only two in Australia on the road. They were the hot race and rally car, and Rod offered me one, Laurie had bought the other. Not cheap but an exceptional car. The Brock was getting a bit tired of all the cross-country trips, and had actually broken a valve spring on my last trip to the Island, so I wanted to retire it. Noel said we could lease the Cosworth, and I took it. Probably should not have in the circumstances, and I suspect that Noel was smart enough to keep each of the partners happy by giving us “toys.” I met Chris Hall and Colin in Melbourne after picking it up, and I know they were not impressed, but they were both actually getting paid much more than me, so why not indulge myself. I suspect that both of these guys were close to the Camerons and not happy with them being ousted, but also were not aware of all the circumstances and did not have their money on the line.

June comes and there is another letter from the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, my friend Nigel Grey, following a meeting about tobacco sponsorship. He obviously knew what the Government had in mind with new regulations as he walks me through the statutes about TV advertising and tobacco, and states “Regulations have been drafted to limit the exposure i.e. in terms of both size and time. In due course they will be processed and will apply to all sponsored events in the State of Victoria.

I think it’s fair to summarize this by saying that the amount of recognition permissible to tobacco advertisers will be extremely limited and that it will be accompanied by suitable health warnings. The effect of these regulations will certainly be to limit the attractiveness of sporting sponsorship to the tobacco industry.” Only in Australia, and if they do not come here we will just watch it on TV from China, was my response.

The letter goes on to threaten what will happen if we do not cooperate. “The Government has established a policy, strongly supported by the Premier, under which no Government support will be available for events which involve tobacco sponsorship. Given that major events such as the Grand Prix require government facilitation, and that the processes by which the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation achieves this are rapidly improving, this issue is certainly an important one for you to ponder in the long term.” Do I need to paint you a picture? Roll over on tobacco or else. Even if I did it still leaves the problem of signage on the motorcycles, which in the end is the real problem. The actual regulations come into effect on July 18th.

In the meantime, we have been talking with the Department of Sport about helping us with BASS and they set up meetings with the Department of Management and Budget, DMB, about a guarantee for BASS so that they will release ticket money, as was done in 1988. DMB keep setting higher and higher goals for us to achieve to satisfy them and at one point agreed that we could probably never provide what they needed. One condition was to obtain the landowner’s consent for this arrangement, goodness knows what it had to do with them, but when the asking price for the signature reached $280,000 and included an increase in rent for this “world class circuit” to $800,000 a year, we stopped negotiating. One of the last requirements was for the ACCA to provide a guarantee! This is all from a State that has just received an economic boost of $44 million by its own research.

I had taken another trip overseas, this time to Spa for the motorcycle GP, and to Paul Ricard for the F1 GP. It was a part holiday as we drove between the races having a couple of days sightseeing. In Spa Bernie, who was promoting that race, told me he was not staying but needed to talk to me in Paul Ricard. We get to Marseille and I call Bernie who says come and see me. “You’re in the bus in the paddock?” I ask. Yes. “I need a paddock pass.” “They are very hard to get,” Bernie says. He is the man who controls them, he has a drawer full. I wait, and he finally says, “I’ll see if I can leave one at the gate.” Thanks Bernie, I’m glad he wants to see me. I still sit and wait the whole event in the ante-room in the bus, along with many others, until he decides I am the next person who is important person there. It did not matter that you had sat there a week or five minutes, you were it. “You have to go and tell the Qld Government that they cannot stage a CART race, it is illegal.” CART was a National series and should not leave America is what Bernie was saying, but I told him that he needed to understand the Qld Govt., if it is illegal it is positively attractive them. “Offer them a Sportscar race” he says. Fine Bernie, I am to go and tell the Qld Govt. what they cannot do and offer them a Sportscar race, with what brief from the FIA?          

Now what were the ACCA doing all this time? They had set up the permanent office in Melbourne and hired Henry Daigle to run it as the full time Secretary. All with our money. John Thomson, David White and Henry had accompanied us to meetings with the Government to support our case. Then when we missed an installment and a payment to Jeff Sayle for his ride at the GP, did they say never mind, we understand, thanks for taking our sport from basically nowhere to one of the five biggest events in Australia and put us on the FIM map. Hell no, they gave us notice of breach of contract and thirty days to remedy it!

And what was Noel doing. Well he and Christine were divorced and he was due to marry his office girlfriend on September 2nd.  Due to our financial problems we had done a deal with the bank to extend our overdraft by s few hundred thousand dollars, but they wanted our houses, those of us that had them, signed up as collateral. Now we go the standard line, “We are not in the real estate business, we do not want your house, it is just a sign of good faith.” Good faith was sadly lacking on their part a couple of years later when they foreclosed. But it gets better. What does Noel do with the money? He goes and buys a couple of blocks of land for he and his new wife to build a house on. This is the last straw and the other four of us vote him out. Fleetline wound up.

Somewhere around this time I sell the Elfin FJ to provide some income, and would later sell the Morgan for the same reason.

So we arrive in August, and the tobacco companies have had time to read and digest the new regulations and now understand that a “paint out” would be the result just as the Health Promotion Foundation, VHPF, wanted. IRTA advised me that the teams would not be competing at Phillip Island in 1990 on that basis. Now we certainly could not sell tickets even if we had been able. The VHPF were willing to guarantee ticket sales to BASS if we took their sponsorship. How could you guarantee sales when there is even a suspicion that the performer is not coming?

One of the key things here is the size of the Australian market for both motorcycles and cigarettes, and the sponsors were in no mood to set a precedent that would be used elsewhere, as the VHPF were already doing incorrectly with Germany. At the end of August the ACU of Victoria, David White, issued a press release that recognized that the event could be moved to another State, or lost to Australia altogether due to the Government’s actions in regard to tobacco.

I was at a loss to know where to go on this, damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I am sitting at my desk in Adelaide and a journalist who I do not recall the name of calls and suggests that I talk to Mike Ahern, Premier of Queensland. Now truthfully, I had never contemplated moving the race and did not call the Premier, but the journalist obviously called for me because I am at home Saturday morning 2nd September when Ahern calls. Cain never called me once. “Come and see me right away.” My memory says that this was in the middle of the pilots’ strike in Australia, and Mick Porter and I jumped his SUV and we drove to Brisbane.

Monday morning we walk into an ambush in the Premier’s office, he has the press there and is announcing how he is going to bring the GP to Qld! We spend three days looking at possible sites to either rebuild a track, like Lakeside, or finish one being built like Darlington, or look at a completely new site. This did not bother us, we had built tracks quickly before. None of these really worked, and we were now getting messages that the sport was not happy with Qld, nothing about not moving, just Qld ACU was not strong on officials and workers. Bond Brewing were not keen despite owning the XXXX brand. “Motorcycle racing is too up market for XXXX.” What had we done? The tobacco sponsors were not keen either and would prefer NSW who were already becoming interested. It seems every State had woken up to the opportunity, even the Northern Territory called and I had to politely tell them not on your life. Qld had a Special Events Corporation who were already the ones working on the CART race, and the offer was to set up a joint venture with Barfield that would see our debts cleared and a fee for running the race paid to BPM. Sweet deal for us, but not sure about track and no one else wanted to go to Qld, so we did not.

September 5th and Premier Cain is being asked questions in Parliament about possibly losing this golden goose. After a rambling recount of how good the event was, our financial problems, the economic benefit, and the new tobacco regulations he closes with these memorable statements. “When the Tobacco Bill was introduced, the government signaled that exemptions would need to be made for some international and interstate events. The cricket was one notable event that required consideration. The government believes the grand prix should be one of the events that should be examined. No one should underestimate the government’s determination to ensure that the grand prix becomes an annual event. We will ensure that that does occur.” Famous last words. As we found with John Cain a straight yes or no was impossible. Look at the statement “believes the grand prix should be one of the events that should be examined.” Should be, could be, would be, never was. This was how the dealings with Mr. Cain would go forward. To show how determined he was the “official” noise notice was served on the track the very next day.

Mick and I drove back to Melbourne where a meeting with the Deputy Premier, Steve Crabbe, had been arranged. As we were walking to the meeting Tony Sernack is on my phone telling me they want it sorted out, but I tell him he should stop hassling me, “it is only his stinking money, this is my reputation, which is much more valuable.” Tony suggests we end the conversation there. When we met Crabbe he told us there was no conspiracy against us by the various Departments, he laughed and said that they were not organized well enough to coordinate a conspiracy. The next morning we met with officials of Sport and Rec, DMB, ACCA and advisers from Cain and Crabbe. In one hour DMB’s list of requirements for guaranteeing the BASS money was reduced to three easy items – event insurance that we would have anyway, a monthly accounting, and early advice of any problems. Now wasn’t that easy? We still did not receive any cash advances, but we then met with Cain and Rob Jolley, the Treasurer, who basically said they knew nothing of all these problems, despite Sport and Rec saying they must know, and we can sort them out, including the tobacco sponsorship for the riders and the necessity of having bill boards to support that sponsorship. They did promise to look at the problems with the EPA, Liquor Licensing, and Planning.  Cain was to say later that we keep introducing new demands, but they were laid out in his letter to us following this meeting.

We drove back to Adelaide in the mistaken belief that Mondays Victorian Cabinet meeting would result in a workable arrangement, but they just gave John Cain the authority to fix it and we waited for a letter. In the meantime, we fixed the ticket launch for 14th September. PBL had not been sitting around and had the TV commercial and poster for 1990 all ready to go. Wednesday 13th comes and no letter, until after repeated calls we get a fax at 6pm. When it arrives it is the normal “be assured we will do anything we can to help” with an attachment with specifics, the only “specific” being the Treasurers guarantee to BASS. How absurd, you are guaranteeing a race where the performers say they are not coming, that is fraud is it not? Of course, Cain said they were bluffing, but I told him I was happy if he wanted to call their bluff with his money, but not with mine.  

The rest of it is an agreement to “discuss” tobacco exemptions, noise limits, and planning, with the information we should apply sooner rather than later. So we could no more sell tickets now than before. Rod Wallbridge wrote back to Cain on the 14th, basically saying we thought we did discuss all these items on the 8th and set out our requirements to resolve this and gave him a deadline of 5pm that day. I was actually in Sydney that day, courtesy of the Phillip Morris private jet, to talk to John Harvey, Premier of NSW Nick Greiner’s right-hand man about moving the race to Sydney. Cain’s response is an unsigned draft that now exempts the riders and teams but will only talk later about signage. Noise is no change, and Planning and Liquor are still to be discussed, but he reiterates “my government’s strong support for the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island,” but not necessarily run by us.

I realize now that I handled this all wrong. I had forgotten the Bus Depot issue back in my Highways times. We were trying to argue logically, where we should have done what politicians understand and motivated 100,000 emotional motorcyclists to clog the streets of Melbourne. I’m sure between the ACUV and Damien Codognotto we could have done it. As they say, “when you are up to your arse in alligators.”

Now I am sure that by now you think I am an activist in the pay of the tobacco companies. Nothing could be further from the truth, I have never smoked, I hate the stuff and would ban it completely if I had my way, but you cannot ban it in isolation as Victoria were trying to do. I was a pragmatist and told Nigel Grey that I thought it would go away soon enough in the rest of the world, but we were too small to make a difference. I also had a problem with the way the “Health” foundations treated us. They did not care one bit about us as people, what we were going through, I guess they saw us a part of the “evil empire.” I know it served their purpose, but people like Alan Hill from Rothmans and Ken Potter from Marlboro did care, and helped us survive.

Back in Melbourne that evening we met with John Thomson, David White and Henry Daigle and briefed them and exchanged information. On Friday 15th we all met with Rec and Sport and the EPA who agreed to monitor this summer’s testing before invoking the noise regulation, and we worked through a letter to the Premier to clarify what he exactly meant in respect of signage for the event. We talked to the tobacco representatives who agreed to maintain the same level of signage, but with only the brand name, no artwork. This letter was taken to the Premier at 4pm, but we were advised the Cain could not be found. OK, we’re off to NSW. Suddenly they find him, his staff made some minor changes, but after some more prevarication Cain says he will not sign it, the billboards had to have the health warnings as 25% of the billboard. I guess he had the health lobby all over him.

We are done so return to Sydney to finalize arrangements with NSW, which included the site out at Eastern Creek that we had looked at before, except it was to be on the Government land closer to the freeway. Bill O’Gorman and CSS were involved, and a consortium put together to own the track. I think that was because I had told Harvey that I had a track in PI and did not want another, even if the government were guaranteeing the money. That was a bad decision as the consortium, which came to be Dovigo, was made up of Laurie O’Neil, Rod Hunwick, Craig Malouf, another son-in-law of Laurie’s and an attorney, and Sir Jack Brabham. The government took over Laurie O’Neils piece of dirt down the road and used it as his collateral. But they are not involved yet.

Mike Trimby calls for IRTA to say Brazil wants to change their date for the GP in 1990 to April, would we move to September 30 or October 7th. Bathurst was on the 30th, so we agreed to the October 7th date as it would give us time to build Eastern Creek. Not that anyone wanted that to be the name, but it just stuck. We write officially to John Thomson on the 16th to request that he write to the FIM and ask for a change of date and venue for the GP. After a lot of discussion between themselves they agree and the terms are received on the 19th in a letter from Henry Daigle requesting some guarantees form the NSW Government and more money. We had as part of our deal with the NSW Govt. obtained an agreement that BPM was to be engaged to design and build the track, so we could be sure it was built to the right standard and finished on time. We could then assure the ACCA of those two important points. Just as important for us was a promise of financial aid to Barfield in the way of Government guaranteed loans. These turned out to be at outrageous interest rates, but that was Australia in 1989. It was actually like throwing a drowning man an anchor, but we were relieved at the time.

Monday 18th though we hear that John Thomson and David White are flying up to see the site and meet with Harvey, and the ACU of NSW representatives, Robert McMurtrie the Secretary, and Ian Palmer. During the ensuing discussions back at the Parkroyal John Thomson told me I had his 100% support. I was doomed.

 We stayed in Sydney all that week working on details, which were not moving as fast as we would like, and when Premier Cain’s man came back to us with an offer of some cash flow, and formalizing the signage offer, but keeping the 25% health warning. Premier Cain asked for the weekend to finalize his offer, and we went back to Adelaide to wait. We received a fax from IRTA on Monday 25th stating that the proposal from Victoria was not acceptable to the team sponsors and then had to consider the three offers BPM/Barfield actually had from Victoria, NSW and Qld. In reviewing these I was reminded of the problems we had at Sanctuary Cove trying to sell tickets when the media said the performer was not coming. The Qld deal was the best for BPM financially as they would share the risk, and who was going to come looking for us to be paid with a Government involved. Victoria just got us back to where we were in 1989 with no financial support and a bad signage deal and teams threatening not to come. Easy decision really as NSW was promising a new circuit, financial support in loans, no interference with commercial deals such as tobacco sponsorship, a large population and corporate base, a place sponsors wanted to be, and a thriving motorcycle organization. We advised ACCA on the 26th to pursue our change of venue and date request, and told Victoria we were done. John Thomson was however with Mr. Apel consulting them about the assignment of the rights from BPM to Barfield. Why now when that was done last August 1988? Apel had raised it as an issue during the notice of breach of contract back in July, but we had the documents to prove it. It had no practical effect other than as a smokescreen or delaying tactic as BPM controlled Barfield 100% now.  

September 25th Thomson had written to Nick Greiner asking for answers to what were actually statements. The letter states that before a recommendation could be sent to the FIM the following aspects need to be resolved.

Meanwhile Henry Daigle writes to Rothmans HRC and asks for comments on Trimby’s letter. A day later the Victorian Minister for Sport writes to Trimby saying we have their full support and he has been misled. He goes on to talk about the tobacco regulations and says that the changes “can hardly come as a surprise to the Companies!” Seeing as how they were a surprise to his Department I cannot see how the Companies would have known. There is no new offer in the letter, health warnings are still required on the billboards, but he assures Trimby that Bond Brewing, PBL and the residents of PI all want the event to stay! I know for a fact that PBL did not want us to give in on tobacco, they had Benson & Hedges sponsoring the cricket. He then goes on to badmouth NSW, the track will not be as good, as if he had anything to do with PI.

He was correct of course, we were on a hiding to nothing over the track. It did not matter how good Eastern Creek would be, it never would be PI, and no one knew that better than I.

Mike Trimby faxes straight back with a very polite “thanks very much, we know what has been going on and so do the sponsors, so we will support Mr. Barnard.”

September 28th, we obtain the commission from the NSW Premier to design and construct the Eastern Creek circuit. Now I should mention that there were two parallel paths going with the NSW Government. One was the contract to build the track, the other to bring the event to Sydney. This second agreement, the initial correspondence I cannot find, hung considerably on our ability to obtain a “clean track” which means one devoid of existing commercial arrangements such as signage and sponsorship. We had our existing contracts to bring with us, and it would be impossible to fit in with anything the circuit might sell for the rest of the year. This was to be the major stumbling block with the eventual consortium, Dovigo, as when it came to agreeing a contract for the rent of the track for the GP Dovigo insisted that there was no such requirement and they could sell both signage and sponsorship. I learned much later during an ABC television interview that through the Freedom of Information Act, Dovigo’s contract with the Government did indeed say that, and that agreement predated ours, which we did not believe could have been the case. Malice or incompetence, you decide.

To facilitate the movement of the GP to Sydney by keeping Barfield afloat the NSW Government arranged for loan through the State Bank of NSW. To suit their political ends they passed the loan through CSS (Australia), Bill O’Gorman and co. The Government guaranteed the loan. The first installment of that loan came on 29th September, and Rod and I immediately paid the pressing bills from the ’89 event. Basically what we needed was the money to cover the capital cost, $5m, which was to be the full amount.

On that same day John Harvey, on behalf of the Premier, provides the “answers” to the ACCA letter. On this basis, a circular letter is sent to the ACCA Councilors recommending that the FIM be requested to change the venue and date of the 1990 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

October 5th, a fateful day, the Sydney Motor Show at Darling Harbour, and Nick Greiner has arranged a press conference, including Bond Brewing, so much for staying in PI, to announce the Grand Prix moving to Sydney in 1990. We are driving to the announcement and receive a call from our Adelaide office. There is a fax from Apel telling us we have no right under the contract to move from PI, and if we do not provide a written undertaking to promote the event on PI by 5pm then the contract with the ACCA is cancelled. So, cancel the press conference? I know from past experience that they can say they cancel the contract, but a court will actually decide. We are too far in now anyway. So we go ahead and at 5pm on the dot came the next fax cancelling the contract. It actually accuses us of “repudiating the contract,” which I guess gets around the 30-day remedy of breach clause. Not a good evening.

All is not lost, the ACU of NSW has some say in this. The ACCA only acts on behalf of its’ members, and NSW points out that John Thomson is acting without consulting them or the other States, so please refrain from further statements until the councilors have their say. This does not stop Apel issuing a press release, on ACCA letterhead saying we have no right to decide where to stage the race. Seeing as how we are paying for this and ACCA is not risking a cent than I would think we have every right. Unfortunately, our QC does not agree. I will not bore you with all the legal stuff, suffice it to say that as we had never contemplated running the GP anywhere but PI the contract does not address ever running it elsewhere. The only reference to PI is that we would ensure the track was ready for the GP, but the law is an ass as we know, and as it did not say you could or could not move it, the law will presume it was not meant to move! We had not consulted a QC before as we had no reason to believe that the ACCA was going to object, I had Thomson’s 100% support remember?

As an interesting side note a poll in Victoria found 62% thought John Cain to be in the wrong over tobacco and the GP. As I said, we should have mobilized that opposition.

The ACU of NSW follows up their letter of Oct 5th with another on the 6th, detailing at length their views on the situation, which mainly support Barfield but overall is concerned about the future of the GP, and asks for the Councilors to be fully briefed on the situation. On the same day the wonderful Victorian Minister of Sport is offering to pay the legal fees for the ACCA, and has written to the CCR Members declaring the “unequivocal support” for the GP to be staged in Victoria. Not quite “unequivocal,” it is dependent on the sponsors agreeing to health warnings. Given what happened with the ISDE when the FIM saw dissention the last thing we needed was the Victorian Government to get into the plot, and the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria issued a statement condemning the Government’s handling of the matter and jeopardizing the race for Australia.

All this is going on while we start to lay out the track and put the documents together to go to the FIM congress in Maastricht, Holland, on the 22nd October, where the date and venue will be decided. John Thomson is busy on other matters. On the 9th October, a summons is issued in the Supreme Court of Victoria against BPM, Barfield, and Bob Barnard personally. It goes back over any and every breach they can think of, including the rights not being assigned, which has nothing to do with anything. It goes over the non-payment of quarterly dues which by now have been paid, our “repudiation” etc.etc. in good legal fashion.

The Sponsors Association wrote to Trimby on October 9th reiterating that they are fully aware of the Victorian Governments stance on exemptions for tobacco, and find them “inadequate and hence our position on non-attendance.” Presumably in response to the ACU of NSW suing the ACCA, God bless them, for acting unconstitutionally, a meeting of all ACCA Councilors is called for the 12th in the offices of Mr. Apel. How convenient. They decide who can attend, and John Harvey representing the Premier of NSW is not allowed. I am allowed in to address the meeting, which takes all day, but excluded from the discussions. Having heard my side of the problems with Victoria the Councilors vote to allow me to move the race to NSW, “peace in our time.” The photos of John Thomson and I on the office steps holding an in-promptu press conference are classic body language. The lips said we are settled, the bodies said I hate your guts. And it was far from settled, as in classic political maneuvering a committee was appointed to work out the details of the settlement, most councilors had to go back home to work. See where this going? Lose the battle, win the war.

Apel makes sure negotiations go on, and on, and change. The Councilors are concerned that the committee is not doing what they thought, and Apel sends a nice “shut up” fax to them. Who is running this Council and on whose behalf? Remember who recommended them to the ACCA, the Government. The “peace” was to be settled by each party dropping the legal action and a revised contract being drawn up. I spent over five hours in Apel’s office on the 13th, without an agreement, in fact they wanted an agreement for only the next two years, impossible. On the Monday 16th, remember Maastricht is the 22nd, we wrote to all the Councilors pointing out these delaying tactics and a usurping of the decisions they had made on the Thursday. We did receive a draft agreement from Apel that day which contained a number of unacceptable clauses. These included a payment to the ACCA of $100,000 by next Friday 20th. It had several odd clauses about how the future location of the race was to be decided, and it also asked for personal guarantees from two people who were no longer involved with Barfield and reserved the right to add more conditions. There were too many clauses to go in to, so we wrote to the councilors again setting out the problems with the agreement. By the 19th our solicitors had still not had a response to our problems with their draft, and so we again wrote to the councilors, our only avenue to move things forward, and suggested that they have Thomson and co. sign a letter that says we agree to agree, we will go to Maastricht and ask for the date and venue change, really only a date change as Australia can just nominate the venue, and sort it out later if the FIM agrees. Dangerous I know but we were desperate. On this basis we receive an agreement from Apel for the ACCA to go to the FIM and ask for the new date. 

On 20th October dear old John Cain sticks his nose in again and writes direct to Joe Zegward. According to Mr. Cain he had met every condition we had asked for. He goes on to cast doubt that we can build the track, especially during winter. He has a short memory, we built PI from March to December with very limited funds, through winter. Here we had all summer and all winter and the Government’s check book. He pledges his total support for staging the event, fat lot of good that did us in 1989.

So off to Maastricht, at our expense of course, and the NSW Minister for Sport, Bob Rowland Smith and his Head of Department, John Stathers, come with us just to leave the FIM in no doubt of the full Government support for us. Just as in Victoria the Minister was a football man, Rowland Smith was a horse man, and not much else really mattered, other than being elected of course. We have plans of the track and photos of the Greenfield site, literally. CCR Board Members are under no illusion that this track does not exist and will not exist until next year. They vote to change the date to September and the venue written in the calendar approved and issued by the Assembly later that week is Eastern Creek. Sydney actually as I do not think we officially had a name yet.     

Back home to find that land the Government said they were going to give us and purchase from private owners they are now going to change. They will divert a section of Horsley Road and we can have the swamp on the other side, and skirt around the junk yard on the hill. Now I was never totally happy with the original layout of the pit area, and the last corner, but those that saw the original said they liked it. Apparently Wayne Rainey was to complain to the team sports psychologist that it was not as good as Phillip Island, and he asked Wayne if he thought I’d forgotten how to design tracks. Wayne thought that over and then agreed, I could only work with what I had been given.

Now do not get me wrong, Eastern Creek is a fine track and some drivers and riders prefer it. If I had built it first then everyone would have been happy, but as I said, after the Lord Mayor’s Show.

November comes and Capel Court Investment Bank is putting together the deal with National Mutual Royal Bank for the full amount of the NSW government backed loan, $5.5m. This as with all legal and bank deals takes forever, there is always one more piece of paper, one more guarantee. We meet with the Surveyors we are going to use, Peter Lean of LL&H, and they introduce us to Western Earthmoving, Wal and Graham Wragg. This is not a Government project, it is private, we just do not have any owners yet, but we do not have to go through the Gov’t tender system. Nor do we go through Planning and Zoning in the normal way, it is Gov’t land, and they will speed up the approvals. We use the noise consultant, Challis, who we met during the O’Neil days, who produces a thick volume of noise predictions that means we have to build a 50-ft. high noise mound around the SW corner. Peter Russell comes over, Mick Porter is already there, and we agree on the basics for the design, separate pedestrian and vehicle tunnels, main grandstand, two story pit building, and there is to be a drag strip built in. Mick and I put together a budget about 10 pm one night in the motel where we are staying, and it comes to $20m in round numbers. This is to become a fixed price as all these guesstimates are fated to do, and it does not matter what the consortium want to add or problems occur this is it, so when it finally costs about $24m I am happy, but of course the Government are not.

Eastern Creek is to become a major political problem for the Gov’t with the opposition using their friends in the press to attack them at every opportunity. What starts as a great project gets mired down in politics, Gov’t spending the people’s money. Does not matter about the success of Adelaide or Phillip Island to bring economic benefits, it’s just wrong. Years later when the Gov’t spent the same amount on a new drag strip nearby I do not recall any problems, but then that was probably the opposition now in power. More recently a plan has been put together to reconstruct it, make it run the other direction and spend the same again, for what? There is no Motorcycle GP to warrant it now.        

We start removing the dividing fences and clearing but have to wait on environment and planning’s approval, and an anthropological survey to clear the site. I had laid out the new track on a large-scale aerial photo and taken a grader to walk with me to put a groove in the ground for the centerline. The surveyors then picked that up, and that is how Eastern Creek was designed. Gerry Marshall, the American CCR Member, arrives for an initial inspection on the 8th of November and is happy with what he sees, and reports “that a reasonably completed race track” could be built by March 16, six months before the race. I’m not sure when this inspection was organized, but now I know why. On the 9th Joe Zegward, Chairman of the CCR that approved the date change and why, writes that “an homologation (license) of a circuit can only come into force as from 1st January of the year following the first inspection.” He goes on to say that on that basis the track must be ready for inspection on December 31st. He will be nice enough to arrange that inspection for us. So two weeks after approving the change Joe now says it cannot be done, who do you think arranged that? The 9th is a big day as we now have a draft agreement from Apel and our solicitors. I won’t bore you with the details, but the assignment rears its head again, ACCA wants to limit us to assigning only to a company associated with ourselves, they must think highly of us, or if not that then the ACCA is to have the right of first refusal. Someone there must think that this is a goldmine.

10th November we are organizing the site office and phones, site is being cleared and we are finalizing the design of the vehicle tunnel and working on pit layout. We are conducting soil surveys and talking to Emoleum, the contact from PI is now State Manager in NSW, some good luck at last. Next day Rod Wallbridge tells me we have a final arrangement with the NSW Government and we can sign documents next week. The weekend is the World Superbike round at Oran Park and I meet John Thomson and give him the critical path schedule for the work on EC. All is good. Monday the 13th and John is writing to the President of the FIM, Nicholas Schmidt, about “unofficial” advice that Brazil wants to move from their April date to September 16, 1990, the Sydney date. Why is John writing to Schmidt and not Zegward? As John points out the date was awarded to Australia “after democratic debate.” He assures Schmidt everything is going fine with the EC construction and plans are well advanced for staging the race. Please do not change the date.

BPM Directors agree the NSW loan conditions and sign the agreements for the loan and the ticket guarantees. A problem arises with the guarantee given to the Bank by the NSW Tourism Commission, the Department the Gov’t is using, and it does not have a large enough budget. John Harvey says he will fix it. We have a lot of visitors including Peter Clifford, Yamaha, The Premier’s Office, and Julian Butler already working on camp sites for 1990. We meet with the electricity provider to discuss how we plan to route the track around their transmission lines and give them access to the line and how to accommodate the medical helicopters flying near them.  The 15th and CAMS are on site, this has to be an F1 standard track as well as a GP motorcycle track. The consortium does not expect to land an F1 GP, but are looking for a World Sportscar race. The track would eventually stage A1GP, which is a tier below F1. The Bank does not like John Harvey’s fix for the Tourism problem. Rider Hunt, Quantity Surveyors come up with a cost estimate of $35m and hysteria breaks out in the Premier’s Office. I have to go into the Office on the 16th and we agree it is still feasible for $20m. John Harvey assures us the loan will be sorted out today. Still no news on the consortium to own the track. Brian Burman who owns Coffey and Partners, the soils engineers, is a front runner at the moment. We send CAMS copies of the final layout and Chris Hall has developed the speed profile and calculated the run off required, including developing a formula for motorcycles along the lines of the FIA which are in excess of the distances the FIM specify.

Friday 17th and Premiers office tells us that the consortium is agreed and they are working out the details, and that we should get the green light to start moving dirt next week. Brian Burman wants to discuss the track hire we would pay to stage the Grand Prix, he is looking for $1m and we believe $500,000 is all we can pay. Saturday is Wayne Gardner’s wedding to Donna and all of Wollongong turns out, it is a great day. Sunday the FIM faxes the ACCA to advise that Hans Bahmer will be inspecting EC on December 29th. Brazil has by now formally asked for the September 16th date and the calendar is to be discussed at the FIM Management Council in January. I write to John stressing the damage this uncertainty is doing, and that we have planned to start selling tickets on January 8th, so the Management Meeting is too late to sort this out. I point out that if rules can be “relaxed” for Brazil, then they can be relaxed for us too.

Monday 20th and Greiner is still trying to fix the bank problem. We put together a seating plan for PBL and Mojo is working on an artist’s impression for the promotion. The Road Traffic Authority, RTA, start on building the new section of Horsley Road around the track site. 21st and now the Government will now pay the $5m directly, whatever that means, and we have to negotiate our fee for the track construction with the consortium. We meet with the consortium on the 22nd and it is O’Neil, Hunwick, Malouf and Brabham, not Brian Burman, and we go over our understanding of the arrangements. Everything seems OK and they are keen to get going. Then Tony Sernack calls to tell me that Bond Brewing are not going ahead with the sponsorship for the race. In the end this has more to do with Bond going bankrupt early in 1990 than moving to Sydney where they owned the major brewery, Tooheys. It just gets better and better.

Thursday 23rd and we meet then consortium on site, and after some discussion with Sir Jack about why the pits are on the inside they declare themselves happy with the design and confirm our appointment as the construction managers. We meet with Western Earthmovers to agree their contract which is on a schedule of rates basis, i.e. they are paid for each item as measured once finally built as we know this will change as we go along. We have a long night with the lawyers and at 10pm we finally have documents we can sign to close the deal with the NSW Gov’t. Monday 27th and we expect the approval to start, but it is delayed. Tuesday 28th and we learn that the consortium is to be called Dovigo, another shelf company, and the track is to be called Sydney’s Eastern Park Raceway. Good luck selling that. At 2pm we finally get the call from the Premiers Office that we can start, and there is equipment lined up ready to go. We are off.

Peter has been working with a Sydney company, The McNamara Group, who have a grandstand design that they have built at three or four rugby football grounds, and we sign a letter of intent with them to build a 4,000-seat covered stand opposite the pits and at the end of the drag strip. It turns out that spectators at a drag strip do not care to see who wins, just who starts, go figure? The only down side to the day is the motorcycle magazines have the Bond pulling out story.

John Gilbert comes to site. John is to watch over us on behalf of the consortium. The trick is John lives in San Francisco and will fly over every two weeks to see how we are doing. The next trick is John knows nothing about race tracks, but is a good guy and is quite happy we know what we are doing. He thinks this is all a great joke and enjoys the holiday, and we continue to be great friends. When I comment on some of the silly things Dovigo want to do John just tells me to think of the fee for fixing it. Our engineers LLH are working on drainage, which is to be a major problem and expense. The site is a bowl, which good for spectators, but not run off. To make matters worse we are building a huge “dam” across the outlet in the form of the noise mound.

In the midst of all this my man Bill Crouch who is managing PI runs the 6 Hour race for Superbikes. I drove down Saturday afternoon and drove back to Sydney Sunday night December 3rd. What is Di my wife doing during all this? John Harvey has fixed her up with a teaching job in Blacktown and we have an apartment now in Sydney. I should mention that it has rained a fair bit up to now, and this is only to get worse. Wednesday December 5th, I fly to Melbourne for the Australian Sports Awards which unbeknown to me Suzie Burford has entered us for. I am sharing a table with John Thomson and we are soon on stage sharing the acceptance for the “Best Organized and Presented Sporting Event in Australia in 1989” for the motorcycle GP. I went home with the trophy which I still proudly display. Back on site in Sydney the next day and Sandra Redfern presents herself at the site office, much as Suzie Burford did, and asks if we need a secretary. Yes we did, and it was one of my better decisions. Sandra and her family were not only great workers, daughter Sam has gone on to work for Aston Martin and the V8Supercars, but great friends.

Rain is slowing down work on site, all earthmoving so hard to keep going. No work on the 6th or 7th but we continue to set out run off areas and we restart on the 8th. We open discussion with the NSW Police as there is considerable concern among motorcyclists about staging the race in NSW given the police attitude which is seen as harassment. The Bathurst “riot” plays on everyone’s’ mind and we want to arrange a situation like Victoria where there is no police presence on site. The officers we spoke to were very responsive and aware of the problem. They would go out of their way to welcome motorcyclists from interstate who were making noises about staying away, including arranging escorts from the border.

CAMS are making noises that “Europe,” the FIA, does not like the fast first corner, they want to slow it down, and have a typical tight corner and an accident waiting to happen as we see too often. I stand my ground and tell them they can put in a chicane when they run at the track. I prefer a fast corner off the end of the straight, and a run to the next corner which can be the tight overtaking spot, it gives drivers a chance to sort themselves out off the grid. John Thomson is on site again with John Stathers from the Dept. of Sport and seems happy with progress. It is raining again. Mitch Arai of Arai helmets comes to site and is very impressed with what he sees. We let the contract for the pile foundations for the pit building and grandstand. We finally agree our fee for the design and construction, which includes LLH, of $1.5m. This will keep BPM solvent for the year.

December 14th and we meet with the Bradshaw Group about how to build a 50 feet high noise mound which requires about 1 million cubic yards of something. This eventually becomes a hard fill site, i.e. concrete and brick etc., which in Sydney is hard to dispose of and a fee is charged to dump it, so we can offset the cost. We still have to excavate dirt to cover it and finish it in time, but it becomes a large spectator viewing area, especially to watch those starts of the drag races. The drag strip itself is an extension of the main straight with the ¼ mile all in the run-off area. That keeps most of the nasty tire compound they use off the race track. Horsley Road is finally diverted around the site and we can close the old road which ran through where the pit building now stands.

December 19th and David White is on site and we are discussing officials for the1990 race. We have started preparing subgrade in areas and we start taking delivery of the stone for the first pavement layer on the 21st. We bring in an engineer to design the sewer system; this track is to have real toilets. December 22nd and we sign the deal with Dovigo for the track construction and I leave to drive back to Adelaide for Christmas. The car is racking up some miles as I drive back on the 26th and I am back on site the 27th, Hans Bahmer is due but is not on the plane. We let the grandstand contract to McNamara, it comes in under budget.

Bahmer is finally on site the 31st from 9am till 12:30pm. The track is there to see but is obviously just earthworks in most areas, the run offs are all laid out but there are no walls, and the pit building site and pit lane are pegged out, but again not yet built. Mr. Bahmer’s report states that the “track is now exact and clear perceptible.” The surface will be laid by 16th March (six months as with PI) and the first race scheduled for July, which we actually did run. He is going to recommend to Mr. Zegward an inspection in March, not February, and tells us Zegward is not now sure of recommending the date change that Brazil wanted. All seems good news.

Work continues on the track, and bids are out for the pit building. The vehicle tunnel is a metal plate structure that will accommodate two lanes here, and the hole for it is being dug for it to lead into the rear of the paddock. A separate pedestrian tunnel built out of a concrete box culvert will connect the grandstand to the pit building under pit straight.  Storms overnight disrupt work again on the 8th, and through the 10th. Brazil has accepted September 30th date, and I presume we launched ticket sales on the 9th as scheduled. Christine comes up on the 11th, yes she is still working for us and is starting on accommodation for 1990’s race. Friday the 12th, and there is a fax from Henry Daigle with a fax attached from Zegward advising us that the Management Council is meeting on the 13-14th, and would we like the Australian GP to be at Phillip Island on September 16th, or voluntarily withdraw from this year’s calendar? How nice. Henry says in his covering fax for me to stay calm, he is talking to Ed Youngblood etc. and it will all get sorted. Henry responds to Zegward that EC is ahead of schedule and no we will not voluntarily withdraw thank you. The 13th I meet with Hunwick to start discussions on the basis for an agreement for us to hire the track for the GP, discussions that were to go on for over a year. Saturday and Sunday it is raining again, and Monday Warren Willing calls with the news that the Australian GP is not on this year’s race calendar. We receive the official fax from the FIM, Bahmer’s track inspection not adequate so no homologation of EC for 1990. It went on to say we were not alone in this and the Spanish and French GP’s had similar problems. It nicely gives the ACCA until the 22nd to nominate a track that is homologated if you want the race in 1990, and I wonder which one that is?

Did the FIM have their own agenda in all this? During this whole saga it was like fighting a war in a fog, you knew bullets were coming at you, but where from and by whom I had no idea. Who was it possible to trust? John Thomson and David White flew up to Sydney that evening and certainly made all the right noises about supporting Sydney. The Gov’t is not very happy as you can imagine and wants work accelerated to complete by the February 15th date. Vaasan, the new FIM President is involved, why? He tells us that no change in the decision is possible, even though he understands the problems with PI. He suggests we take a sabbatical for 1990, but no one is buying that solution. We agree to try and delay the FIM until we have enough done on the track. Honda through their sponsors Rothmans tell us they are very unhappy with the FIM decision, and Ken Potter says do not worry, it will be fixed. It seems Zegward, like some others in this story, has acted unilaterally, and the CCR members have not been consulted. In fact, Gerry Marshall is to write later that he was disturbed by the Management Councils decision, and goes on to point out that everyone in Maastricht knew of the situation with PI and EC, and were willing to “stretch the deadlines” to accommodate the ACCA request for a date change and the race in Sydney. He assures us that nothing occurred behind closed doors to conflict with that. Maybe not behind the closed doors he was at, but clearly Zegward had a plan judging by his letter just two weeks after Maastricht.

The evening of the 16th David White is floating the idea of going back to PI, and we meet again the next morning with the Gov’t where I tell them in no uncertain terms that PI is not an option. Now this gets confusing, as on Friday 19th Henry Daigle writes to the FIM and tells them the Council has resolved to run the GP at Phillip Island. He also writes to me to say that notwithstanding we still do not have a new agreement, the Council has requested Barfield to run the race at PI on the 16th September. Response please by January 22nd. Now I should point out that September in Sydney is very pleasant, the summer is the wet season as we were finding out. PI on the other hand is miserable, as the riders and spectators found out in 2010, and at the end of the winter all available parking areas are going to be saturated. So, even if the tobacco problems went away, running the race in September is commercial suicide. The ACCA issue a press release to the fact that the Council “held a meeting this morning,” this is the 19th, when no meeting occurred to my knowledge, and decided to stage the 1990 at Phillip Island, “as per the direction of the FIM.” The FIM immediately issue their own press release confirming the race at PI, “a majority decision of the ACCA Councilors.” Made in the best interest of the sport. I have in my diary that we met with the ACCA councilors on the Sunday morning the 21st at the Parkroyal in Parramatta. Had they been in Sydney three days without one of them letting me know, not possible I think. At the meeting I show them a letter from the sponsors association, which describes the management Council decision as a “big shock.” It seems that Vaasan called Nick Greiner earlier in the week to discuss not staging the race in 1990, a solution the sponsors oppose. They state that exceptions have been given in the past and go on to say “Of course under no circumstances should it be accepted that the race goes back to PI, because the majority of the sponsors will be effected very seriously by the new restrictions on advertising. And after all, the FIM already agreed that the Australian GP could be held at EC.” The sponsors were due to meet with Vaasan on the Monday to “try to convince the President that it is absolutely imperative for our sport to safeguard the few good events we have on our calendar.” I have no notes of that meeting, but it had to have resolved to appeal the Management Councils Decision. So much for the ACCA councilors voting.

Tuesday the 23rd, Placetac forcibly took possession of the PI track overnight. I wonder what prompted that? Their excuse was that we had breached the lease, but a judge was to give us back possession that same day. Work continued flat out on EC, with the concrete wall contractor starting on site. Westerns were placing the top and bottom courses of pavement, and the pedestrian tunnel was going in and the vehicle tunnel had the first roof section installed. Monday 29th and Emoleum is priming sections of the track and on 31st started laying the bottom course of asphalt.

While this is going on The Victorian Minister for Sport has written to John Thomson, following up a letter of the 18th. They are concerned about Australia losing the event, but who caused all this? He goes on that he has been talking to Mr. Zegward who “has information which conclusively shows that the principal teams, sponsors, and riders will attend a GP at PI.” If he has then why does he not share that information with the ACCA or us? So let us all get together and start to discuss arrangements for 1990 at PI. January 25th and John Thomson is meeting with Apel to decide whether to proceed with their legal action against us or defer it for another month? John recommends to Councilors to defer it.

 Friday 2nd February and a cyclone is coming, rain stops play on the circuit and we are deluged all weekend. I am at home Sunday morning and at about 10am Henry Daigle calls and says I must come to Melbourne. I tell him I’m going nowhere and why do I need to? A very important person is there in Melbourne to talk to me who has just flown in from overseas, totally unannounced, but somehow all the ACCA Councilors just happen to be in a meeting there. No Henry cannot tell me who it is, so I say sorry, not wasting my time jumping on a plane to Melbourne. It is Vaasan, he has flown to Australia to tell the ACCA to withdraw the appeal, and no one knew he was coming? And why did he come? Was he so concerned about losing the Australian GP? As I said, not much of this makes sense even now.

So the councilors decide to withdraw the appeal. They issue a press release which says Mr. Vaasan has given them a written assurance that if they do and run the race at PI, then Australia will have a race in 1991. How can he do that under these great rules they keep quoting us have to be upheld? Henry Daigle writes on the 7th, officially telling us of Vaasan’s surprise visit, and that their solicitors will have a contract to us “within a week.” We have been waiting on this for two months and now it can be done within a week! We capitulate, there is no more we can do. We either not stage the race which would mean losing it for good, or run it at PI. To add to our woes we had 12 inches of rain at EC that last weekend, we could have raced boats out there. In the midst of this John Corsmit, the FIA inspector turns up with CAMS and is OK with the track except for a couple of minor tweaks. Tenders closed for the pit building construction.

It rains all week so nothing is done. I meet with David White at the airport to discuss the new contract and arrangements for making PI work this year. David calls me on the 15th to say he is no longer negotiating our contract, in his words “he has been stitched up.” By whom I wonder? I to this day am not sure who’s side David was on in all this, but maybe he was just on Victoria’s side with no malice to me, who knows. He certainly has not suffered from it and has just been elected as a VP of the FIM.

Back at EC we are backfilling the vehicle tunnel and still laying asphalt. The piles for the grandstand and the pit building are continuing. Rod Wallbridge has gone to Melbourne to meet with Tom Hogg of Cain’s Office about the GP at the Island, but does not get much joy, other than support as last year with services, and possible VHPF money to replace the tobacco signage. It is still raining in Sydney, but somehow we continue, Emoleum is planning to start the top course on March 12th, and it will be a continuous three-day operation with multiple pavers, so the 16th would be achieved.

Wednesday 28th I leave for the FIM meeting in Geneva where the deed is done and PI reinstated on the calendar for 1990, but EC has a date in April for 1991. Vaasan meets me and completely insults my professionalism. He warns me not to run a bad race just to show that I was right! I tell him, more politely than I want to, that I would never do that, it is my reputation at stake here.      

While I am away The Victorian Minister of Sport again writes to Henry Daigle offering to help “resolve the current uncertainties surrounding the conduct of the 1990 GP AND BEYOND!” His solution is to suggest “that the ACCA acts decisively and promptly on the issue of appointing a promoter.” This suggestion is based upon the fact that the new contract has not been resolved and signed, and I wonder why when Apel was their chosen lawyer. He goes further to suggest that if the ACCA were to appoint a new promoter then the contract should be for more than one year and preferably at PI.

It gets worse. He goes on to offer the ACCA financial support if they so act, and ensure that “all planning permits and licenses are expedited.” They will even find them a major sponsor. He addresses the concerns the ACCA might have about the availability of the PI track to a new promoter, advising the ACCA to get legal advice on our situation with Placetac over the lease, and assuring them that whatever the outcome of that “the track will be available for use for the 1990 GP.” And how can he do that if he is not colluding with Placetac to break our contract. How low will these people stoop to destroy us?

Back in Sydney it is still raining. Work has begun on the PI race, and this time the liquor license is going to be approved in 4 weeks time I am told by the caterer. We meet with the NSW Gov’t about the 1990 race at PI, not much they can do but obviously a major political problem, and for us we just have to keep paying the interest on the loan. We are also talking to QANTAS about air travel for the teams and the equipment that will be coming from Europe this time, not Japan. The Hungarian GP is two weeks before ours. PBL does not want to do anything with PI until the ACCA contract is signed, you know the one that would be completed within a week. There is still a race to run at EC though as we have an ACU of NSW championship round booked for July and we meet with them to start planning for it. The show must go on. Alan Jones comes to look at EC, the driver not the rugby coach, and tells me I need more right-angled corners. I told him the last time I looked cars do not go around corners in a right angle. Warren Willing comes and looks and is very happy with it.

I go up to the Japanese GP and meet with Trimby about the freight for this year. The teams will deliver it to Frankfurt and we will fly from there. I see Vaasan again and he reaffirms that the race in 1991 will be in Sydney. On my return I try stirring up Rod to get the contract signed with ACCA.  The NSW has been a problem with this, objecting to some of the wording, but they agree to drop them and Rod has told the ACCA we will not pay legal costs. I advise John Thomson on Friday 30th that it is unreasonable to expect us to pay the ACCA $70,000 by Monday as we have had no cash flow for nine months. He did agree on that and said he will talk to the “others.” It seems the ACCA has more ethics than the Victorian Gov’t and are negotiating for us to continue as promoter. April 4th the ACCA revised contract is signed, but it is still raining.

We prepare for ticket sales for PI. Mojo has a new poster, which is great, and a new TV ad which is not, seems to emphasize the grunge factor of camping in the dirt. Anyway, we are not in a mood to argue. I went home to Adelaide for Easter and then back to Melbourne as we have a round of the ACCA Championship at PI. Rod has negotiated the same deal with the Victorian Gov’t as was offered, i.e. a guarantee for ticket sales to BASS, but nicely also guarantee the ACCA so they can take over the promotion “if Barfield is unable to stage the event for any reason.” The teams and riders etc. can display their tobacco sponsorship, but the signage conditions still apply.  The Sponsors Association confirms that their members will not be taking signage at the GP on that basis, but a sort of truce is drawn in the expectation of Sydney in ’91, and the threat of the teams not coming is dropped. We still have the problem of staging a race at the wrong time of year, and as one motorcycle magazine put it, “if you bring a car onto PI you will be as popular as a Russian submarine in New York harbor.” Sells a lot of tickets that does.

In Sydney, we have finally backfilled the vehicle tunnel and paved the last piece of the bottom layer of asphalt. The structural steel is going up on the pit building and it is the end of April. Trimby comes to inspect how we are going and offers to stage an IRTA official test at EC the Wednesday after the PI Grand Prix, and we all think that is a great idea. We need to cover the cost of freight and accommodation, but we can sell tickets and Marlboro will sponsor it. “Take a Peek at Eastern Creek” is on. Top course of paving starts on May 9th, a month late due to the weather, and it is completed on the 12th. We now have a track and they move into pit lane and the paddock. The Victorian Treasury and BASS are stalling on ticket sales and they finally go on sale on the 17th May.

The first signs of problems with Dovigo, apart from not agreeing a contract to rent the track, is when they bring their caterer to look over the place, and he seems to think he will do the food and beverage for the GP. We raise the issue of a “clean track” with the Gov’t people. Dovigo are confusing potential sponsors by telling them that Dovigo had the right to sell signage and sponsorship to the event. As we later found out their contract with the Gov’t did give them, that right, but we thought they were just being difficult. This led to very bad relations and an inevitable showdown. In the meantime you cannot sell a car if two people say they own it, buyers are a bit wary of that, and sponsorship is no different. The economy was still way down so it was hard enough anyway, but this made it impossible. So much for being in the corporate heart of Australia. I involve John Gilbert to try and resolve this issue, but with no more success than before.

On the bright side ticket sales are going well. I have not committed to so many grandstands this year, and we release blocks of seats as they are sold out. Vic Health Promotion, VHPF, are still positive about replacing the tobacco signage with something else, we have suggested that anti-tobacco signs are not very tactful in the circumstances.

Construction of the grandstand is held up by building approvals. Even though this stand design has been built several times before, for football, the fact that it is on a racetrack causes the Council to worry about fire. The last grandstand fire I know of is Bradford Football stadium in England, but that does not deter these gentlemen. The stand itself is concrete and steel, so it will not burn, but there are all those cars out there with petrol in them. The Council actually is happy with it, just not happy to have to approve it, so the solution is to go to the Planning Court, where we are all sure it will be OK’d, so the Court will then be responsible. The best laid plans. The Judge asks for all sorts of information, like “what is the probability of more than F1 car crashing in to stand at the start of a race with a west wind blowing.” I am not making this up. Nil was my answer, we will not have F1 cars on this track. I could have gone on about safety fuel cells etc. The end result is we have to build $500,000 of stairs on the rear of a $2m stand.

End of May comes and we still do not have any answers from Dovigo or the Gov’t on the track hire.  John Gilbert finally calls, but it is not god news. John Stathers from Dept. of Sport tells me to do a deal with Dovigo and then go back to the Gov’t to tell them how it affects us. You can see how that will work out. Craig Malouf comes out and denies a “clean track” was part of the original discussion. How could it not be? Without that assurance we would have had to broken all our existing contracts and lost that revenue. We continue to meet, but it actually gets worse the more we talk, they now want a % of the gate. June 11th, we have the ACU of NSW out for a familiarization day. There are the usual complaints but overall positive.

The dispute with Placetac which led to the aborted repossession of PI track is due to go to court, but Placetac want to negotiate a settlement. Rod and our lawyer come to Sydney on the 21st June and met with Dovigo, and we go over the situation at PI and the EC rights. June 22nd and Alan Grice is on track in a “Search for a Champion” 5-day test session. Work continues on the grandstand now the building approval has been sorted, the pit building, race control, scrutineering and the medical center, and the Dovigo office which is a two-story high-end brick building, not in the budget. Sewer, phone, power all going in and bathrooms being built. July 22nd and we stage the Shell Oils Round, not pretty but the track is done and safe.

We continue to meet with Hunwick and Malouf. They tell us they have sold the signage and sponsorship to Patrick McNally, but we can have the signage money back but half of the sponsorship has to go to Patrick! They’ve stopped asking for a % of the gate, and say that agreement is still possible on catering, merchandise and corporate. Thanks a lot. I met on the 23rd with Stathers and Harvey, but John Harvey seems to be losing his influence. Greiner is probably not pleased he got him into this mess. We keep PBL in the loop, but they are stuck until it is resolved.

Wednesday 25th July and we meet with the Victorian Traffic Accident Commission, TAC, the third-party insurer, who have been given the signage that Rothmans had with the 250cc sponsorship as part of the VHPF covering the loss from tobacco. I do not know where these people were during the last GP, but when they start to ask about TV figures and demographics they start to get very excited, and ask us what the naming rights would cost. Now TAC are running a major campaign against drink driving, under the slogan “Drink and Drive, Bloody Idiot.” That is how we ran the “Bloody Idiot” Grand Prix as some journalists still call it. They pay us $750,000 for the rights, not the same as Bond, but considering the timing it will do us.

Monday 30th and Craig Malouf makes us an offer we cannot understand. He confirmed they had done a deal with Patrick, although I do not believe that was ever contracted, and they would give us some of the money that was actually all ours in the first place. Friday 3rd and we still do not have a written offer from Dovigo, and John Stathers finally agrees to get involved. John Harvey assures us our “problem” will be fixed. Stathers has told Malouf to get us the written offer and then we can respond to it formally. We send the response on August 9th, and there is a major sit down on the 13th and we offer $750,000 to buy out the McNally rights, if they existed, and they come back with $1m which we agreed. All month I am going back and forth between the Island and EC, making last minute arrangements for the Grand Prix and the Test Day. Then off to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix to do what we did in Japan, deal with last minute freight, travel, and accommodation issues with the teams and media.

I travel with Bill Gibson, who has his son David who is a student already there, and his other son Peter and Serge from his staff so they can go to Frankfurt to pack the freight. It is again the bright spot of the year. First up Bill and I are trying to find the hotel. We found the street which fronts the Danube, but no hotel. We ask a passer-by who waves his arm over the river wall, and down there is a boat, a floating hotel! Hungary had just come out of years of communist rule and was very cheap. We go to eat in an outdoor restaurant on the promenade where we can watch the girls go by. The Maître de sees a bunch of westerners and basically throws the party at the best table out to make way for us. We have trouble with the menu, who wouldn’t, and he mimes “leave it to me.” He serves up a great meal with wine for about $12 each, and David, who is studying to be an accountant wants to argue he is ripping us off, he has been here a week and knows. We beat him up and happily pay the man. Now we have an Avis rental car, which is not like any Avis you have seen, filthy dirty and hubcap missing, and David wants a team building effort to wash it. Scrub that idea. Then there is the trip to the castle, which is on top off the cliff. I nearly get us all killed, pull out of tee junction with a car bearing down from the left and I have it in second gear not first up a steep incline. Change and lose time or just pray. I chose the latter, but the boys in the back of the car had very big eyes as the car went past them. When we parked there was the Hungarian in his brown dust coat parking us. We decided on the group photo, so I gesture to the attendant with the camera for him to take it for us, and he promptly stands with the rest of the guys. I just had to take it. The race was great, Mick Doohan’s first GP win and Gardner breaks his scaphoid bone in his wrist.  

I return to a cold and wet PI, in fact in the lead up to the race I go through all my clothes as they are getting so wet and muddy. Di has stayed in Sydney teaching, something she tends to do, but Gwen who worked for Rod has come down to help at the race and saves me by doing my washing. Channel 9 are having trouble placing their cherry pickers for the cameras, it is so wet the moment their wheels go off the track they sink. No problem says the Army, we have a tank retrieval vehicle that can pick it up and move it, except the tank retrieval needs retrieving about 100 feet outside the paddock. Channel 9 gives up and builds a scaffold. We have a grader tidying up the paths and it is bogged to the axles at the pinch point in the fence down by Turn One, and will stay there for about two months until it dries out enough to dig it out. In the meantime, during the event we get the OK for spectators to climb over the spectator fence and walk around that spot and climb back over. What fun this is.

It actually can get worse. At dinner in the local Italian Restaurant on the Sunday evening prior to the race weekend there is a noisy group outside expressing how they feel about me taking the race away. One comes inside and on the pretext of using the bathroom pours a Coke over me. My good friends from the security hustle him away, but it is just the start. There are all sorts of threats, and when I leave the track and during the event I have two “minders” following me around. Not a very nice feeling. I do not know how people live like that.

The Wednesday comes around and the Charity Ball is on again. I have a poster signed by all the place getters at the ’89 race which goes for $1000 at the auction. I am the only one of the team on site and there is no plane this year, just a limo for me. A lovely lady decides she will come back with me to the Island and we enjoy a pleasant couple of hours ride home with thankfully a discreet driver.

The crowd this year is nothing like ’89, but is still good for a GP, around 70,000 Sunday, but it is miserable. Thankfully Goodsports has made us some great jackets for the event which I still treasure. It has Doohan on the front from the cover of the program, and the artwork from the poster on the back, all embroidered. Saturday comes and the new Premier of Victoria, yes John Cain has been deposed by one of his own party, “mother Russia,” Carolyn Hirsch, has been invited I guess by the TAC, I had not invited the Premier, look what happened last time. But Carolyn is a different animal altogether, more politically astute and pragmatic. She not only enjoys the race, but recognizes both the value to the State, and more importantly, that most of the crowd are probably her voters. She is good company too, and when Carolyn asks if she can come back tomorrow I of course invite her to my box.

Saturday evening and the concert is on, but we have not organized it this year, an outside promoter did and sold tickets to anyone. He has a good crowd, but mostly from outside the race fans, and they proceed to cause trouble and trash the town. Next morning the race fans go and clean up unasked just to let the town folks know this was not them. Great fans.

Sunday comes and Carolyn is talking to me about what it would take to keep the race at the Island. This is a different Premier, but unfortunately more ethical than her Minister of Sport, for when I tell her I have a contract with NSW and if she will pay the legal fees I am happy to stay. Despite Victoria paying the ACCA legal; fees you recall, and inciting the ACCA to break the contract, Carolyn says she cannot be seen doing that. But come and see her after the race. Gardner causes me grief as he gets a ride in a Blackhawk during the 250cc warm up and asks for a low level pass down the main straight to wave to the fans and nearly blows the riders off the track with the downdraft. Trimby and Co. are beside themselves and as the Promoter it is my fault. I had to get the head guy from the Army in to placate them.

The races are great. Rainey has already sewn up the 500cc title, but the 125cc and 250cc are on the line. Erv Kanemoto tells me it “was the best days racing he had ever seen.” Three guys can win the 125cc, and Capirossi and his Italian mates decide he is going to win, so they gang up on Spaan and Waldmann, who is hit at the start and breaks his gear lever off, one down one to go. Spaan is boxed in as Capirossi gets away, and becomes so frustrated he leans over and punches one of the Italians in the helmet halfway down the main straight! Caught by Channel 9 of course. Capirossi wins and takes the Championship.

The 250cc is between Kocinski and Cardus, and John leads from the start. Carlos is so mad he rides his bike back into pit lane before the end and throws it down before stopping nearly running over his lovely wife. Kocinski wins the Championship. The 500cc race is a rerun of ’89 except this year Doohan is in the mix and is looking to take over the team leadership from Wayne following his first win at the last race. Wayne has the broken scaphoid, and early on has a moment and breaks the fairing on one side, so it is hanging down. Schwantz has kept it upright this year, at least at the start, and it is another amazing race. It looks all over for Wayne with a handful of laps to go, and you can see Wayne saying, “I’m not ready to move over yet” and blows by Doohan on the straight to take the lead. Doohan has his legs going every which way to keep the bike upright. Wayne wins in a repeat of last year and the now traditional track invasion follows.

No champagne on the rostrum for me this year, but not quite the same dread of the next day as I think we actually made some money on this one, mainly by spending less, and there was the prospect of bigger and better things in Sydney. As the PBL slogan said, “Getting Serious.” But the interest clock was still running on our loan.

CHAPTER SIX – PHILLIP ISLAND AND THE OZ GP

BPM became a one event company. After all the approaches after the F1 GP and the events of 1987, we were to be obsessed with the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, AMGP. The calls about other events stopped too, did others see us rival promoters now, or just too engaged on the AMGP and PI to be able to work on anything else? It was the downfall of BPM that when the AMGP stopped with Barfield, BPM stopped too, there having been no other cash flow to keep it going.

But that was all in the future, right now what mattered was securing the Holy Grail, our own grand prix. Di and I arrived back in Melbourne on Tuesday January 19th and we went straight into discussions, Rod Wallbridge and Chris Hall having come over from Adelaide also to attend. We met the Camerons in the afternoon and basically set out a deal. I should explain that they consisted of Fergus, the young brother and the driven one, Donald, and their sister who was married to Ian. They each had their own farm on the island and also owned some nice other pieces. They were still trying to buy out their partners in Placetac, the company that owned the circuit property, but were not to be successful in this. Placetac was a partnership between the majority shareholder, Dr. Peter Henderson, an eminent eye surgeon, the Cameron family, and a Mr. Hill. In any event we agreed terms that we thought would be acceptable for the lease of the property. We had found a shelf company, Barfield, to be the vehicle that would hold the loan for the cost of upgrading the track and stage the GP as the means to repay it. Barfield would disperse the profit to BPM and the Camerons as equal shareholders and be basically a non-profit company. The Camerons would maintain and run the track on a day-to-day basis for a fee, and BPM would manage the GP and other major events, obviously also for a fee.

So we had a deal on the property provided the Camerons could obtain the lease, which seemed almost certain. Now we had to win the race. I should explain that in 1988 the FIM did things very differently to today. There was no company managing the commercial rights, and it all went through the Road Race Commission, CCR, of the FIM, headed by Luigi Brenni and with Joe Zegward as his Deputy. The FIM inspected circuits and we requested an inspection for Phillip Island although we knew it was not going to pass at this stage. It would at least let the FIM have a look at the layout and give us a list of things that had to be done to obtain a license. Joe was selected to do the inspection and we had to pay for his time and travel of course, but several other tracks took advantage of him coming so we split the cost. In Victoria both Sandown and Calder, Bob Jane’s track, how convenient, were to be inspected, and I think he went to Oran Park in Sydney.

Then the ACCA had to apply for a Grand Prix date, not the promoter. The FIM only dealt with their National bodies. That application had to be in before the February FIM meeting in Geneva the year prior to when the race was requested. The CCR voted on the applications and a provisional calendar was published. The race was only official after the October General Assembly meeting approved it. So you had a few chances to be approved and then not approved, as we found out with the ISDE. This went on each year, so there was no guarantee that even if we got a race in 1989 we would have it the next year. It was subject to the whim of the sixteen men sitting around that table, and the politics of who votes for whom. It is well to note here that not one of these men on the CCR has a dollar invested in the sport, but here they are making decisions that are life and death to some companies. They have spent their time in meetings and politicking to be elected. Not the best basis on which to launch a multi-million dollar upgrade as the man from Yugoslavia was to find out. This uncertainty haunted us whenever we tried to find a basis for funding this event. We felt comfortable that with Gardner, Magee, Doohan and Beatty all potential champions for years to come, and our confidence that Phillip Island would be a world class track, now proven to be correct, and our ability to stage an event such as they had never seen before, would ensure our continuity. As events have proved we were correct in that belief as the race has been held every year since.

To make matters worse the TV rights were sold by each promoter separately, so if Channel Nine wanted the whole season, as they obviously would, they had to talk to each race individually and bid for it. This led to the crazy situation in 1988 that SBS covered some races and Channel Nine others, not good for building an audience. 

Now we heard on the grapevine that John Thomson wanted to submit an application without nominating the track, I suspect so he could do a switch for his mate at Calder. I strongly suspected that would not be acceptable to the Road Race Commission, we needed to get our act together. So that Tuesday night we arranged with David White and Darryl Hiddle, the two Victorian Councilors, to meet with John and pressure him into a decision. We told John outright that if he went to the FIM without selecting us we were out. The ACCA procedures were as arcane as the FIM, and a vote at a regular meeting is usually required, but that meeting was not going to happen in time, so we convinced John to use their method for urgent business which was a “rotary letter.” ACU of Victoria would draft the letter to all the other State Councilors requesting the vote, and another letter nominating Phillip Island. That letter went out on the 21st January supported by a letter from Mike Trimby of IRTA, the representative of the Grand Prix Teams.

The next day we went down to the Island with Robbie Phillis, one of top National riders, Bruce Newton from Motor Cycle News, MCN, and a representative from the ANZ Bank’s Cowes Branch, Cowes being the main town on the Island. We showed everyone around the circuit and explained our proposed improvements. We had a Melbourne draftsman draw up plans for what we proposed to take to Geneva if we were nominated. At this time, we estimated that we would spend around $2m on the track, mainly on the resurface, access tunnel, and pit building. From our experience we planned to use temporary facilities for everything else as no other event during the year could warrant permanent ones.

Thursday we met with our friends from Emoleum and decided to use two coats of asphalt over the existing spray seal pavement rather than go with a whole new pavement. Friday saw us talking to CAMS about reopening the track, and they said we can have everything except a Touring Car Round, they were running a closed shop on that at the time where you had to get all the other promoters within 200 kms to agree to you having a race, good luck with that.

Saturday we met the local MP who said he would approach the Deputy Premier for us, and we were trying to work out what we wanted from the Victorian Government. After my experience with Adelaide as little as possible was my view, but that was naïve as an event this size cannot help but be political. We decided we would not ask for money, but we would like an official invite from the Premier, John Cain, to the FIM, and a promise of support for the event in terms of police and other Government services. We put together a submission that we gave to Bob Hogg, the Premier’s adviser that laid out the anticipated economic benefits to the State, which were actually way lower than what was to eventuate. I also made it abundantly clear that most of the Grand Prix Teams were sponsored by tobacco companies, and that we would almost certainly have a beer sponsor for the race. I knew the Victorian Premier’s views on tobacco and wanted it out on the table from the start. On that basis Hogg obtained the letter we wanted from the Premier. We had already talked to VicTour and the Department of Sport, and the Police.

We got word on the 29th that the Western Australian Government were interested in the GP and willing to put up a bunch of money, the Western Australian delegate was wavering, but the NSW delegate liked what we sent him, so he wasn’t just going to support his home State for the race. Monday 1st February David White told us there were six votes for us and one against so far, looking good. Then Tuesday the shoe dropped. I went to Traralgon to meet Jim Coffey, the ANZ Bank Regional Manager who told me to go get the race, he would back us. The story was a bit different now we were actually asking, he needed security, ask the Government. Well as with all banks if I had the security I would not need the loan.  Down on the Island things were going OK with the lease agreement, so that was something.

Wednesday the third and John Thomson starts playing games as he is to do throughout this saga. The 7th vote we need to clinch it is not yet in and John is going back to wanting the executive to meet rather than the letter vote. Finally at 8 pm the vital vote for us is in from Tasmania and the honorary secretary, Allan Wallis says he will push John to move now. Friday I talk with Ian Spangler from Sport and get the first indication on what is to come with tobacco. Ian tells me that sponsorship is not a problem, Victorian Health Promotion i.e. the anti-tobacco lobby, could provide the “total” sponsorship. In the meantime, my buddy John Kroeger is telling me that the Government is going to announce support for the GP to be at Sandown!

Meanwhile John T has called us to say Victoria has the vote and will ask ACUV which track, which will be PI of course. John is moving finally and wants to meet on the contract details, schedule for track work, and arrange a press conference for next week. Our Australian Minister for Tourism is offering to help with the Victorian Premier, and Tony Skelton is talking to PBL about marketing the race. Things are moving fast. We book the hotel in Geneva, and the Hyatt for the press conference in Melbourne. My friend Dr. David Vissenga, the Chief Medical Officer for the Adelaide Grand Prix, agrees to do the same for us at the Island so we can make sure we have the best medical services. Our not so friendly bank manager is making less positive noises though.

Wednesday 10th we stage the ACUV press conference to announce the selection of Phillip Island for the bid. We fly to Sydney and meet with PBL who want us to make sure they have the bike GPs in ’88, price around $7-10,000 per race. We discuss the expected crowd and Tony thinks 60,000 at a ticket price half of the car GP, and they suggest an all-inclusive marketing deal for 35% of the revenue. We did not finalize a deal, but we did get a letter from Channel Nine that they would cover the race as it was part of our responsibility to provide a broadcast signal free of charge.                

The next few days saw a lot of radio and print interviews about our plans, and people were even talking to us about producing the program, amazing what a big event will attract rather than have to go to them. We had more discussions to agree a contract basis with the ACCA which largely focused on two areas. We were concerned that the ACCA was run without a permanent office and staff, Alan Wallis being an honorary Secretary, and as good as Alan was, we needed someone available to talk to the FIM as we could not do it directly. So we offered a fee to establish an office and a staff. Secondly, I knew our success would depend upon young Australian riders having an opportunity to develop and to win GP’s, so we promised to support a rider each year to race at the Oz GP and go to Europe. Now this may sound all self-serving, and it was, but it would help the sport, and I knew what we were going to do for the sport would be worth immeasurably more. I’m sure that once John and the boys saw the results they believed that we should be paying them more, but they did not have to risk a dime to put this on.

Sunday saw the track inspection by Joe Zegward. He went to Sandown and Calder in the morning and came down to the Island mid-afternoon. Now Gardner and the Honda team had been testing at Calder, who knows why there, except we were not open yet. Anyway, they had Sunday off so the Michelin tire guys decided to drive down to look at PI as they had heard about our bid for a GP. Three very Gallic gentlemen drive in while we are waiting for Joe, and ask if they can drive around for a look. Of course, go ahead, and after a couple of trips they stop next to us and get out. “This is a very fast track” they say, “have the FIM seen this track?” No, I say, we are waiting for the inspector now. “They are very old men at the FIM.” Nothing more said, get in the car and drive away. Message understood, the FIM will never agree to this track, it is too fast!

There was a cast of thousands at the inspection when Joe finally arrived. John Thomson, David White, Alan Wallis, Wig Willoughby, Arthur Blizzard from NSW, Barry Smith, and Rod Troutbeck from CAMS. It seems the FIM were not such old men as Joe’s only suggestions apart from the obvious was to move pit entry to before the last corner and the start line back to the flat section on pit straight. During the inspection Bob Jane’s helicopter flew around, which annoyed Joe no end, one up to us. We all had dinner and Joe went off to look at Oran Park in Sydney which was to host a World Superbike race.  

First test passed I think. There were many more to come. Fergus was asking for proof of financial ability to do the upgrades to the track for the lease negotiations and I’m sure that came from Dr. Henderson, he was paranoid about us tearing up the concrete pieces and not be able to put them back. He was afraid he would be left without a race track, but what he did not realize was he did not have one now. Anyway we did not feel inclined to give them that, and beside we had wrongly expected the Camerons to put their land up as collateral. The ACCA also wanted a schedule for the upgrades so they could monitor progress, and some guarantees. Everyone wanted us to guarantee everything so we were the only ones taking a risk. It is a good job we did as this would never have happened. That is why PI had sat there so long as a sheep farm.

Tuesday 16th and David White mentions the “A” word for the first time, Isaac Apel, a lawyer that Sport and Recreation have recommended to John Thomson to work on the contract. Remember, we do not even have a race yet and they are lining up to screw us, as David puts it. I’m sure Mr. Apel was working in the best interests of his client as he saw it, but approached his work with the opinion we must be a bunch of crooks from what I saw. He obviously thought someone else promoting the GP would be better for his client. Anyway John agreed to the draft contract and proposed a meeting with Apel to draw up a letter of intent to be in place if the FIM granted Australia a race. The next day we hear from Don Powney at Sport and Rec that John is still paying games, but John finally tells Bob Hogg that PI has been selected.

Thursday we still do not have anything from Apel, but we are arranging for Honda to lend us Wayne Gardner’s Championship winning bike for a Bicentennial Parade down Cowes Main Street at the invitation of the Island Council. It was totally wild to be allowed to just drive out of Honda’s Melbourne Headquarters with this priceless bike, and the float was a huge success. Everyone on the Island had GP Fever, if only it had lasted. Friday I was up in Bundaberg meeting with the Federal Member of Parliament about resort sites and possible funding for a 4000 acre beachfront parcel south of town. Back in Melbourne our solicitor was trying to get Apel to produce something, even a “Heads of Agreement” before we left for Geneva. Planes were booked for us and David White, with John prophetically going his own way. The Australian Consul was arranging a cocktail party on the Friday evening in Geneva to support the bid and the revised video and presentation package had been finalized.

Sunday 21st and John Thomson is promising to give me the letter of intent when we get to Geneva, nice one John. SBS is talking to me about TV for this year and for the GP. Amazing, usually you have to beg to get TV interested. Monday we fly to Sydney with the latest plans, tapes, proposals, and Tuesday 23rd we flew to Geneva. True to his word John gives me a letter confirming that the ACCA had agreed to contract with us should the FIM grant us a GP, but left the door open for changes to the agreement as it had to be ratified by the full Council, and the solicitors for the Council, interesting that last line. Who is working for who here? It also asks us to prepare a submission to the FIM when we had already left, fortunately with the submission.

We met up with John and David on the Friday, and Colin Young had arrived the day before. We had brief meetings with Mr. Brenni and Joe Zegward at the hotel and the reception was that evening where we showed the video we were to present to the Road Race Commission, CCR, the next day. The actual vote was on Sunday, a nervous time. The Members each produce a list of the tracks they are voting for out of all the applicants and the Secretary reads them out one by one, so you are trying to keep count as they go. We are allowed to watch, but other than the presentation, not speak. The vote is in, we have a Grand Prix! Poor old Yugoslavia is lying on the conference table crying and slashing his wrists, “but I did all the work you asked me to do on the circuit, and now I do not have a race!” We wanted to dance around the room, but had to keep some decorum.

We meet with Mr. Brenni after to go over the plans and he wishes us well. He is a Swiss Engineer so I think he empathized with us and loved the circuit. He was not well and was to be replaced by Joe Zegward, which was not a good move for us. We met Steve McLaughlin who wanted to talk about moving the World Superbike round to PI in ’89, but we told him to see us later. We went off to celebrate with very expensive champagne at the Hilton with Paul Butler of Kenny Roberts Team and IRTA who wanted to book the track for testing and could we find them a good hotel. We were on the way.

Monday Di and I went off to London for a couple of days R&R. Noel and Chris Hall went over to Melbourne from Adelaide where Noel met with the Victorian Economic Development people who declined any support or guarantees, so off to see the ANZ again. John Thomson flew straight home and was trying to get Sport and Rec to put on a press conference, presumably before we were back. The head of ABC Sport called me in the middle of the night in London to tell me they wanted the TV rights so do not sell them until we talk to them. Again amazing, if you go for the biggest risk then they will come to you. Tuesday I met with Andrew Marriott from CSS about a proposal for marketing the Grand Prix. David White went off to Rugby and we had drinks with the Victorian Agent General in London, a good day all round. I tried talking to Bernie about the GP while I was there, but only got as far as Herbie Blasch and promised to send him information. Thursday we met the Victorian Tourist people about packages to the GP, and did an interview with Mike Doodson. Friday I caught up with my brother Tony, and Sunday headed home.

Back in Melbourne the assault started. Don Breedon started making noises about me not designing Adelaide, and other circuits were making noises about the lack of accommodation on the Island. We arranged an office in St Kilda Road for the GP thinking that most people would not want to drive the two hours down to the Island, but closed it after six months as everyone wanted to go see the track and “kick the dirt.” These were in a suite rented by the Camerons lawyer, Peter Rawlings who was working on the lease documents and also with Apel on the ACCA contract. This was probably a mistake to use Peter, but relations with the Camerons were good in those early days.

Our draftsman, Geoff Lannigan, was organizing final survey of the track and drawings to follow. We started booking toilets and talking to potential sponsors. Fergus said Henderson was OK with starting work on site. Winter was coming and we had to have a track to inspect six months prior to the race, so September. We had selected a local earthmover, Peter Blomb, to do the work on the track, and had a “spun on site” tunnel, large enough for haulers to go through one way, purchased from a Humes subsidiary. This was around 5 meters in diameter and “spun” from strips of metal into about twenty-foot lengths and stored ready to go in.

We meet with Fergus and their accountant, Mike Cusack, about an “unsupported” guarantee by the Cameron family. Whatever that means? That meant renegotiating the roles of BPM and them, but I do not see what difference that really made. Thursday we started in earnest, set out the new pit entry and located where the entry tunnel was going to go. We removed the guard rail and drained the dam at Turn one, but Fergus was still trying to get Henderson’s Ok to start moving dirt and to open up the bad sections of the track to see what needed to be done to fix.

The concerns about access to the Island started with the Road Traffic Authority, RTA, and we met with the Dept. of Sport to bring them up to date on progress and agreed that they would be our point of contact for the other Govt. Departments. We followed that with a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with the ACCA and their lawyer which seemed to go well. Mr. Apel was to produce another draft, and John Thomson is already looking to increase the fees after year five.

Wednesday 16th we met Emoleum on site and they agreed to put an on-site plant for the top layer of asphalt to ensure the quality of the surface which would be the same mix as we used on Dequetteville Terrace the second year of the Adelaide GP. The first equipment arrived on site to start earthworks which would be approved by Henderson tomorrow. Thursday arrives and we start earthworks, meet the local airport operator, and tell Apel enough was enough as far as fees go. A big day.

We had set up shop in an office in the old control tower. This was a real control tower from Fishermans Bend airport in Melbourne and had been taken to pieces by the club and moved to the Island after the airport closed. It was in a bad way, infested by starlings, and clad with asbestos sheet, but the steel frame was great and would be moved and rebuilt to suit the new start/finish. It was not only cheaper, but historic, as was the whole Island with its long history with racing both cars and motorcycles. I could see that being a great marketing opportunity. When asked about why Phillip Island, there is only a two-lane bridge, I answer that the Isle of Man is the most famous motorcycle race, and that has no bridge at all.

We were attracting a lot of political attention with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition calling Donald Cameron for an update, and David White is reporting a strong groundswell of support in the sport. Damien Codognotto who is very active in the local motorcycle community calls to offer his assistance and a meeting with the Metropolitan Transport Commission. Monday 21st the sheep finally leave. The EPA arrive the next day with Don Powney from Dept. Sport, the Island Council Planners, Joshi and Pirout, who pointed out that the track predated the Planning Act, and were mainly interested in what we were doing around the track with signage and barrier walls. No one mentions noise restrictions or problems with planning and zoning.

One of the key things for me was to open up the track so spectators could walk all the way around without having to double back at a dead end as existed now. So we applied for and received approval to clear some of the small trees and bushes around the circuit and in key run off areas, and built paths over the top of the dams that ringed the bottom end of the track above the cliff. The Lukey family still owned the land on the west side of the track, including the museum, and would not let us move the perimeter fence back at a bad pinch point inside Turn one, but we managed to squeeze a narrow walk way through anyway.   

Thursday 24th March and Channel Nine/PBL Marketing come to PI in the form of Jim Fitzmaurice and my old pal Tony Skelton, who proceeds to take photos leaning out of the car window as we drive through Cowes. When I ask him why he says, “so I can show people how much glass there was before the motorcyclists turned up.” Nice one Tony. Unfortunately he was not alone in that view of the event. There would be a “riot” at the Bathurst motorcycle races this year that we felt, and research proved, was caused by the NSW Police attitude and actions, and made sure that we talked to the Victorian Police early about planning for the event. Now in Victoria you had to pay for Police presence, so we told them we would handle security on site, you look after the traffic. They were excellent, Brendon Bannon especially, and this cooperation made all the difference to the success of the event from this point of view.

Anyway Jim and Tony say they are here to do a deal for Channel Nine TV coverage tied to marketing by PBL on a different basis than originally offered. Basically it would be a flat fee with a % kicking in over an agreed amount. The problem was that fee increased the more successful we were, so in the end we felt we were working for PBL, but you could argue the support they and Channel Nine gave us earned that money. Channel Seven was also sniffing around, but we knew these guys and what they could do, so we agreed to agree. Colin had talked to Melbourne brewer Fosters about sponsorship, and they said they were interested but tell us when the TV deal is done. I should point out here that by now Kerry packer had “sold” Channel Nine to Allan Bond, who owned Bond Brewing out of Perth.

Meantime Peter Russell and Christine were down on the Island. Christine started to talk to the local hotels, such as there was, and asking everyone to let us control the bookings as they were all going to be full anyway, and that way we could be sure the teams, officials, press and workers were at least accommodated. There were very few hotel beds, but the saving of us was the holiday homes on the island which could all be rented and we worked with a local agent to fill these. Christine did an amazing job with this and rental cars, and almost anything else the teams needed, which seemed to change by the minute right up to the event.

The one thing that does not seem to be moving is the ACCA contract, and oh yes, the money to do this. So far BPM is using the money earned from Sanctuary Cove to start this off while we still try and negotiate a deal with the ANZ. John Thomson promises to chase up Apel. We do not have the luxury of time to wait on either.

 Humes have started making the tunnel sections and Blomb’s boys are moving dirt widening the track out to forty feet. Drainage pipes are going in at Turn One and the dam is being filled with excess dirt. We have demolished the concrete water tanks at Turn Two, Southern Loop, the bull pens’ at the last turn and realigned the Honda Corner, Turn Four, and MG. Turn Four went up to the dam wall before turning and not only was there no run off but the water leaking under the dam caused the track to break up, so I shortened it, tightened it, and realigned the connection to Siberia. This I did with Peter Blomb on the grader setting it out in the field. MG was so steep and so tight Warren Willing had warned me that the 500’s would have no clutch left if it stayed that way.  I had experience with bottoming out the Elfin at that corner, so we raised it and eased the radius at the same time.

It is now the end of March, and the noise issue raises its head, but nothing specific. We meet with the Police, Transport, Tourism, and it all goes well. We outline our program for the event with the main 500 race as the middle of the three races and a concert to spread out the traffic leaving the site. We discuss ferries which are now deregulated so we can use private boats to work between Cowes and the mainland where there is a train terminus. Peter Blomb has started placing crushed rock in the widening strips and has moved a lot of dirt. We ask Henderson if we can remove the concrete patches and are refused. Noel, Rod Wallbridge, Fergus, Mike Cusack, and I go to Traralgon to meet with Jim Coffey, the ANZ Bank man, who is also the Camerons banker. We present the loan application and Jim says that looks OK and we should know in three weeks.

David Austin from Fosters comes to see us, as do Hartwell Motorcycle Club who wants the first race meeting this October. Jim Fitzmaurice has faxed the heads of agreement for the marketing and TV for the event, and Colin still has Channel 7 interested, but Noel and I want PBL and Nine, so meet with them as a courtesy. Colin having worked for 7 naturally wants them to have the TV. Colin and Chris Hall have just returned from the Japanese Grand Prix and report a good reaction to the news about Australia and PI. The rain has held off so far and work is going well. We finally receive Apel’s redraft of the ACCA contract and we have no major problems with it, but one of the clauses he slipped in about assigning the rights in future would turn around and bite us, but who ever thought about selling the rights?

I drive up to Bathurst for the Motorcycle races and brief the ACU NSW Councilors, the press, and riders on progress. Ken Potter from Marlboro tells me he has approval for money for next year’s GP. The news gets even better when I return to Melbourne as I meet with David Austin again and tell him it will be either 7 or 9 covering the race and we agree a number starting at $1m would be the naming rights sponsorship value. This is better than we expected and just maybe we should have taken it.

April 6 and Joshi tells us the tree removal request has gone to the Regional Planning Office, these guys are really helping, and Don Powney calls to tell me everything progressing well from their end and that there was no news from the EPA. Good news? But we did receive a signed copy of the PBL deal, we were in business.  We arranged for me to do an interview on Wide World of Sport on Saturday. We still did not have an offer from Channel 7 so we called them and the ABC to tell them the news about Channel 9. We also informed John Thomson and David White of the good news, and Ian Spengler of the Dept. of Sport, who told us the EPA did not have a problem with the GP. Oh good, that was nice to know, but there was no comment on the rest of the year. David White came down to the Island and we started to discuss officials we would need, especially the Clerk of Course who would need and FIM license. We chose Ross Martin who had less experience than some but a better attitude and he suited me just fine.

Christine was working on trying to solve the hotel problem by talking to cruise lines to be moored at Cowes, but nothing ever came of this after a lot of talking. Kawasaki booked a corporate stand, our first although we have had a few other enquiries.

Henderson is playing hard ball on the concrete and wants a personal guarantee from Fergus, a bond for the cost of rebuilding which seems to double up on the guarantee, and the quotes from Blomb and Emoleum for repaving. Emoleum were scheduled to start paving in May, so this was becoming a serious delay.

We started laying out the stands with our friends from ASS. Now stands are both good and bad. They allow more people to see and we can charge more for the seat than just general admission, but it costs us to have them put up, and if we do not sell them then we lose that money. We anticipate a similar crowd to the F1 GP, but totally misunderstood the motorcycle audience, which Tony Skelton was to describe as the most knowledgeable he had ever dealt with. If they bought a seat it was because they had a specific angle they were trying to see, and would request a change of seat if not quite correct. They also were not very interested in watching the pits, unlike most motor racing on four wheels, and would actually prefer to walk around to look from different vantage points, so at least I got that piece correct. The bottom line was we put too many seats in, and not all the right place. The first event is a learning curve, as long as you get the chance to build on it.

Bill O’Gorman of the Adelaide GP fame raised his head again as he was now working with CSS, and we met with Bill and Andrew Marriott to discuss possible areas we could collaborate on now we had gone with PBL on the marketing. Andrew was to run the media center for us and MC the winners’ rostrum and press conferences, and very well he did it too. In Sydney on the 14th to give a talk to IBM, and then meet the PBL team the next day to start planning for the event. It seems Mal had been sounding off to them that we were broke, not far from the truth, and the Victorian Government did not want the race on PI, which was partly true as we knew that was Tourism’s opinion. All our team was there for the meeting, and I formalized a deal with Colin Young to work for us on the event for a % of gross revenue, to replace the retainer he had been getting of $1000 a week. That was all I was paying myself which was less than everyone else was getting, my reward would come in the value of BPM, or so I thought.

Reading my diary, I realize that I have not been fair to Tony Cochrane. I thought he had not approached us about other opportunities, but I have a note about promoting the Harlem Globetrotters next tour. No mention of Sinatra though, and I left Noel to talk to Tony.

Back on site and Peter Blomb has started to dig the large trench across the main straight to install the tunnel. Strangely Henderson does not seem concerned by this.

This is followed by the craziest plane flight I ever did. We were members of the Road Race Owners and Promoters Assn, ROPA, and there was a meeting arranged in Schipol Airport, Amsterdam, to discuss the sale of TV rights and Colin and I had to be there to protect our interests, but could not afford the time to leave early and stay overnight, so we took the QANTAS flight to London and booked the same flight later that day to return. The booking clerk thought there had to be a mistake, but that was right. We went first class as the only way to do this, expensive and before we had the QANTAS sponsorship, but we felt it necessary, we had just done a deal with Channel 9 after all. Of course, the flight into London was late, we missed the connection to Amsterdam and arrived as the meeting was ending! Still, we met with the President of ROPA and got to hear what was going on, which was still all the circuits selling their own.

When I returned we had at last had the approval to knock down the trees, and John Thomson was taking the final contract to Adelaide for the annual ACCA conference. The signed copy is April 23rd, we had been working two months on an “agreement.” David Austin was now waiting on a proposal on the naming rights from us, which would be PBL. Blomb was working on the pit building pad and track work was going OK, but we still had concrete patches.

A sad occasion interrupted us. John Commerford had passed away suddenly and we attended his funeral. The business was to continue and is still providing seats around Australia and around the world. Equally sad was the news that ANZ had said no. We met with Fergus and Mike Cusack that evening to discuss our options with potentially ESANDA being one, or else going back to Jim Coffey and asking him for the maximum he could approve, just over $1m, and manage the rest from cash flow. Not the best option, but the only one by now. We were absolutely convinced that the event was going to be a success and that we only needed to show the banks that and we would be OK.

More bad news followed when we met with the EPA. They wanted an assessment of noise levels for other than the GP, and said they intended adopting the NSW guidelines. Finally some good news, the ANZ Traralgon will lend up to $850,000 which will get us through the next three months. Honda also called and said they wanted to help and would be down next week.

Peter Russell had been busy designing the pit building and now had the tender documents ready to go, and the tunnel was just about excavated. So started May with a meeting in Melbourne with PBL and Mojo re the event logo, poster, and sponsors. Mojo pulled the usual trick of only showing us two logos, one of which was awful and they knew we would pick the one they liked. Lunchtime we had our monthly meeting with the Victorian Government Departments at which we started talking about promotions in the City during GP week, and a Civic Reception on the Wednesday evening. 5th May we started to place the tunnel and by the 9th it was all in and backfill well underway. Peter Blomb was having a problem with Humes over the backfill and they were threatening not to warranty the tunnel unless he sued some ridiculous amount of crushed rock around it. I wrote a very rude letter to them and got a very nice reply that basically said” Oh Bob, it is you, sorry we had not realized, we thought it was just some idiot promoter.” Problem solved.

 I had gone home to Adelaide for the weekend and we had a meeting of BPM before returning to discuss a possible round of the World Superbike. When I got back to the Island I found that Emoleum were getting cold feet, they wanted a letter from the bank guaranteeing the funds before they would start. To make life better I had Don Breedon talking to The Bulletin and threatening court action over the Adelaide track design. I directed The Bulletin to CAMS, Public Works, and Doug Kneebone to get the true story. I still have the plans that went to the FIA for approval, and they are Macmahon/PPK, not Don Breedon.

Tuesday 10th and our “partners” the Camerons are backing off further from providing any funding, but want to retain equity. We continue to search for other equity partners or sources of funding.   Honda came up with a deal to take the naming rights of Turn Four, hence Honda Corner, with a billboard for three years and they paid us it all up front, about $250,000 which really helped. This would compare very badly to what pittance Honda USA would offer for Kenny’s GP at Laguna Seca later. We were laying a new water main into the property and would add to the power available, but sewer was too far away and the main not large enough when we got there, so we would have to rely on Rex Monahan’s pump outs.

The ACCA Management meeting was held at the Island on the 13th and they were impressed by what they saw. We finalized the program for the meeting and the officials.  I would bring in the pit lane crew from the Adelaide F1 race as the motorcycles rarely had to deal with that. We also discussed races prior to the GP to shake down the arrangements. I moved into the house on this day and yes it was a Friday. We finally received permission to tear the concrete out at Turn 10, MG, on the basis it would be replaced immediately. The track had a bad seepage problem here, which was why the concrete had been used, so we had to over-excavate and replace and install some drainage, but it went back OK to the revised profile. Peter Blomb gave us his second progress claim for the month of April which Fergus paid, so the Camerons were putting some money in.

The 17th and Tony Skelton tells me he is working on a major sponsorship, and also talking to QANTAS, JAL, Marlboro, and Honda. We had Ansett Air Freight call about sponsoring a support race, so the news was not all bad. The bids were in for the pit building and a local builder, Wal Purvis, was selected and would start the end of May and take 15 weeks. Our buddy Rex Monahan was not only providing toilets but arranging a supply of old tires for us. I knew we could not afford to install guard rail or a concrete wall as the barrier, except in special situations, and had designed the run off to be excavated to provide an earth bank of the required height. We would use tires to form the usual tire barriers, but also to act as a retaining wall, which was an accepted design. Rex would supply over 20,000 tires. Warren Willing came down to inspect the track and was very happy with it. We discussed the need for an Australian GP Team, as we would many times later, but could never pull it together. The Emoleum asphalt plant also arrived on site, so we were one step closer. We finalized ticket and corporate prices with PBL, including suites on pit roof using aluminium frame tents bolted down to the concrete slab roof that Peter had designed for live load, i.e. people standing and watching. We had our usual fight with the fire authorities about fire rating on the pit building, but won out OK.

The end of May sees the tunnel in and covered, and the arrangements started with Michael O’Berg from Sanctuary Cove concert to put it together with Jimmy Barnes as the main act. This was to be the Saturday evening concert with the Sunday concert with lesser acts just to hold some of the crowd. We restricted ticket sales to GP ticket holders as we did not want more traffic problems, and we wanted to hold people at the track and campsites rather than try and get a drink at the only pub on the Island in Cowes. The campsites were being put together by entrepreneurs who had done deals with the surrounding farmers to set up properly furnished grounds with showers and toilets, food, entertainment, and beer. The last thing we all wanted was 50,000 drunken fans wandering around the Island Saturday evening. The camp sites did well, and we were very grateful to have them as we had enough to do and they were solving the accommodation problem for us. Among the organizers were Damien Codognotto, and Lew Martin of photography fame. Between the camp sites and our parking, the local farmers were to do very nicely out of us, and led to the “Woodstock” of GP’s tag for 1989 that is still used today.

We were getting heavy rain as winter set in, and the soil on the Island is very poor being volcanic in origin. Construction was to suffer, but we battled our way through it and Emoleum started to set up the asphalt plant, and it looked like we were obtaining a loan to cover that cost. The ticket sales were scheduled for 9th August, with our TV ad going to air the week prior, and what a great ad it was. PBL also said they were progressing well with the naming rights. 

 We started discussions on the transport arrangements for the bikes to and from the event, which is how I got to know Lee Moselle from Laguna Seca. Japan was the race preceding ours by two weeks, and they would cover the cost from Europe to Japan, and Japan to Australia, and we would pay for Australia to the US, and Lee from the US to Europe. We were both glad to have Japan on board. The problem for Lee and I was that the US date was only one week after ours, but it seemed OK as they would gain a day going over the date line. Famous last words. I had brought in my buddy from Adelaide, Bill Gibson, to arrange the handling of the freight and customs from our inbound airport, and the forwarding to the US. This was a great choice not only because Bill and his sons are the best in the business, but we were to have some of the best times during this whole saga when we went overseas to races.

June started with good and bad news. Humes wanted to be paid for their tunnel, not unreasonably, seeing as how it was now in the ground, but Sandringham M/C Club approached us about staging the Swann Insurance Round at the Island in December, which was an International race and would be the perfect shakedown for us and the officials. John Smailes also called to book the track for a Toyota event in October. No problem, track will be paved well before then, won’t it? Michelin booked track time in the New Year for testing, and wanted a presence at the event, all good news. Finance was still a problem as the anticipated funds did not appear, but still, the pit building finally started. Something else to pay for. Temperature and weather were now becoming a major issue for paving, and time was critical. Emoleum were making noises about taking the plant away and we were struggling to find a way to make them comfortable about being paid but Henderson finally gave the OK to pull out the remaining concrete patches.

The whole TV arrangement became confused about this point after Colin was at the Austrian GP to shoot footage for the TV ad. Trimby from IRTA not happy about some of the things he heard, presumably from Colin and had to placate him. The good news was that Channel Nine aired their first motorcycle GP and Gardner won! Motomedia was somehow going to be involved with TV rights in future, but there was not enough detail on how that was going to work for us to offer an opinion. Our deal with PBL/Channel 9 involved them having the rights to our race, which seems to have been the problem, and would be almost to the time of the race. Life was getting more complicated, if that were possible. We had started discussion with the ACCA about assigning our contract as BPM with them to Barfield. John Thomson saw no problem, but of course our friend Mr. Apel would find lots of problems with it a year later.

At last some really good news. PBL had a deal from Swan Brewery, Bond’s Brewery, for three years at $1.5m a year. What a surprise. Fosters had come in with a sliding scale of sponsorship staring at around $1m, but we needed the cash now, and it would keep it all in the “family.” I wonder what would have been the outcome if we had gone with Fosters and used their muscle with the Victorian Government, but I guess we will never know. I do know they were very unhappy, and later in the pit lane in Adelaide I walked up to Peter Bartels, CEO of Carlton Brewing, who as talking to Alan Jones, by now pit lane reporter for Channel 9, and Peter laid into me about us making a very big mistake etc. etc. Poor Alan did not know what he had witnessed and took a few steps back, and I beat a hasty retreat. Not a good enemy to have had I think.

Part of the deal with Swan was a big up-front payment of about $250,000, money we needed badly, but it would not be released until the revised logo and other advertising matters were resolved, and have you tried getting a committee to agree on the design of a logo? This was a frustrating time. Emoleum actually started asphalting some patches in the track, but Swan continued to want to go over little details such as what happens if the FIM take the race away, and who do we invite to the announcement? We did get a check from Honda though for their three-year deal, which included them supplying cars and motorcycles for the event. PBL complained that they had an “exclusive” deal on selling such things, but we were in no mood for this and told them “exclusive” did not mean we could not sell what were our own rights.

We were into sorting out the catering arrangements for the crowd and the corporate and saying no to the logo again much to the annoyance of PBL, but we liked the poster. Friday 8th and Swan turn up at the track with Tony Skelton. Tony Sernack was the Swan head guy for the GP and told PBL in no uncertain terms to pull their finger out and give him some good assortment of logos to look at and he wanted the deal done next week in Sydney, so did we! He wanted the launch to be in Melbourne and not Sydney, which made sense, why not rub Fosters nose in it. Bond Brewing owned the “Young and Jacksons” Hotel right in the heart of Melbourne and wanted it there. I took them around the track, which still had work going on to fix the patches were the concrete had come out, and we looked at potential signage sites and where to put their hospitality. When we had completed a slow lap with lots of stops they asked if we could do a lap quicker. Silly people, of course we could, this was the Brock. About half way around a very fast lap I noticed Tony Skelton who had heart problems hanging on for grim death, and Tony Sernack saying “I did not mean quite this fast.”

We were also planning what to do with the control tower. We had a new concrete base constructed, and stripped all the cladding off it and cleaned out the starlings, what a mess. The only way to move it without taking it to piece was to use two cranes and pick it up and walk it up the track, something that made me very nervous given the state of the track, the wet weather, and the lightness of the pavement. It went OK though after some “trimming” of the front veranda with a chain saw to balance the structure out, and some deep breaths while the cranes moved and set up. This tower was to be rebuilt for about $60,000 and although a bit small it worked and was a lot cheaper than the half million the Eastern Creek tower was to cost!

July 12th and I am Sydney with PBL and Swan to finally agree a logo and sign the contract, which we did at 5pm that afternoon as far as the logo was concerned, but they would string out the contract longer, now asking for FIM approval for them to have the naming rights. What else are they going to want? While in Sydney I met with QANTAS about shipping the freight and the people, but they were having trouble grasping the size of this event.  

Peter Russell and I started discussing our options for installing over track signage structures. Part of the Swan package is one at the start line and one other structure, and we want others for the support race sponsors as well, but we have a wide track and it is not easy to build these given the wind in the area coming off the ocean. These would be a big issue for My Joshi and the planners. We could not leave them up as they were visible from outside the track, yes even from the ocean. We managed to get the start/finish to be permanent as it had the start lights on it. So much for the support from the Island. The only actual other signage that could stay up were a couple of signs that already existed that faced the main road.

Swan finally signed the contract on July 18th and we signed it the next day. The deal was done in BPM’s name as we were the signatory to the ACCA contract which had yet to be assigned to Barfield, which made the Camerons very unhappy. At the same time, we were actually working on developing a small hotel in the paddock above Turn One. We received planning permission very easily, much easier than the poor guy with the ice cream cart who was before us in the meeting. We had started discussions with operators, but all this came to nothing after the fall out with the Camerons. It is interesting that the new owners of the track are now planning to do what we had in mind for the track twenty years ago. We did agree a lease for the Lukey Museum though and worked to find better exhibits for it, including Gregg Hansford’s Kawasaki. Greg was a great guy and a real help to us during this time, how sad he was to die at the Island in a saloon car race.

On the 18th Emoleum removed the plant from site as they needed it for another project, but a week later informed us it would be back on September 1st. This is cutting things fine.

More bad news, the State Bank refused us a loan, and John Thomson called to tell us Adrian Veys, the track inspector would be here the last two weeks of September. Then on the 22nd the ANZ finally agreed to a $150,000 overdraft facility and a $500,000 loan facility. We also moved on an idea to bring in minor shareholders for $50,000 packages, and had a meeting with interested parties on the 26th. We had met with the Department of Immigration about smoothing the way for the entrants to obtain a visa to Australia, not always the easiest thing to do as my wife Xan found out.

We were still trying to get the ACCA to approve the assignment of the contract to Barfield, and this would go on through August with their solicitors, aka Apel, conducting company searches and requiring all kinds of assurances and agreements that Barfield will perform as well as the know BPM would have. In the end Apel still disputed it had been done, as you will see later.   

Thursday 28th we launch the Swan sponsorship in Chloe’s bar on the first floor of Young and Jacksons. Honda lend us Gardner’s bike again, and somehow Bill Crouch manhandles it up a small twisting staircase on his own as there is no room for anyone else to get beside him. The bike is vertical as it goes up the stairs, the only way up. There is a great video to the sound of Jimmy Barnes’ “Driving Wheels” and the launch goes great. The next day Di and I, Christine, Colin, and Dr. David Vissenga left for England and the British Grand Prix at Donnington.

This was a promotional tour for the race with the teams, giving them information and discussing their travel and accommodation needs. We were outfitted by David Eckart from Goodsports, an Adelaide company that specialized in team and event merchandise and wanted to sell at our GP obviously. David made shirts and jackets with our logo so we looked professional and people would know who we were, and we all wore them except Colin Young. That told a story right there. We also went to see how one of the best grand prix operated and learned a lot from it, and earned some respect and goodwill with the teams because I do not think anyone had done this before.

We met with Mike Trimby from IRTA and sorted out some details for the event timetable, and agreed the freight for adding the 125cc class to the event. We talked through using QANTAS and that the teams would all book their own tickets rather than us getting in the middle of that with QANTAS nominating agents around Europe. We met with Jaap Timmer from ROPA and sorted out the Channel 9 deal and Motomedia in which Bernie was involved. We met with Bernie on the way home and showed him the circuit, discussed Motomedia and the possibility of staging a World Sportscar round at some stage. He also passed on the Mal had been badmouthing us to him, but said he was not listening. I also met with Wayne Gardner’s manager, Harris Barnett about Wayne possibly being involved through a shareholding, which did not eventuate, but also doing some promotion for us which he did do, and for Swan and their beer commercials. Very dapper he looked too.

On the way back I stopped off in Singapore and met with Pico Exhibits who were involved in events throughout Asia, and were interested in pursuing the Singapore F1 GP again. Andrew Marriott and CSS had arranged the meeting and were involved in a bid to construct a track, but again nothing eventuated.

When I arrived home, I found all was not well on that front. Noel was not happy about the relationship between his wife Christine and Fergus Cameron, a widower, or presumed so. We had learned by now that Fergus was involved with another woman, unbelievably named Beth Barnard, no relation, who had been found murdered in September 1986, and his wife had disappeared that same night. The details are in the book, “Phillip Island Murder” by Vikki Petraitis, and were later the subject of TV documentary. We were in business with someone who potentially was a murderer. This “relationship” was to become a serious problem and Board meetings with them present a real joy. Noel would wait outside a restaurant where they were dining, and when they came out drive his car into theirs. Things were coming to a head. He and Fergus had a sort out at the house one night and Noel taped it, unbeknownst to Fergus, and played it back to me. At one point Fergus threatened to tell him something that would blow this whole thing wide open, and I’m sure it was about my previous relationship with Christine. He never did use that information though I am sure Christine had told him. I never understood what Christine saw in Fergus. It was totally against everything she had seemed or wanted. The farmhouse was far from a palace, Fergus had two sons, and I never saw her as a farmer’s wife, but they are still together so it was for real. Christine carried on her work with us and the event, and assured me that she was still loyal as far as the business went, and perhaps foolishly I believed her. I did hold my breath at times though.

On a better note the ACCA were happy with progress and the potential finished product, little did they know how close to the wind we were sailing. We met with the Island newspaper and agreed on a special daily edition during the event, which was a great hit. I saw recently that Red Bull claimed that they had started this for F1, but it was done at our event long before. The Phillip Island Council set up a committee, don’t they always, to “coordinate” the grand prix. Then on the 24th we launched ticket sales with a promotion in Melbourne in Burke Street Mall. At last some real cash flow, ticket sales topped $750,000 by 11 am, but we did what a promoter should not, and started spending it on the capital works. I should add some detail here about how tickets were sold in Australia. You could sell your own like we did for Sanctuary Cove, but it was more usual to use an agency like BASS or Ticketek. Ticketek was a Sydney based organization, part of the Packer group, but BASS was a Government owned agency in Victoria. So the Government had their hands in the pie again and could control our cash flow, or stop it all together. In 1989 the State Treasurer guaranteed BASS against us defaulting on the event, which was their fear after a few promoters had done it, so we were being released the money on a weekly basis.

Our first non-race use of the circuit came when it was booked for a triathlon. We had the large dam in the center and they could ride and run the track, probably the only triathlon where spectators could see the whole race. Did not wear out the track either. I also had a group of veteran cyclists who wanted to rent the track, and I immediately presumed that the veteran referred to old motorcycles, but no, they were old cyclists that did not like to race on the road anymore.

Fergus calls me to tell me Noel is writing checks beyond the overdraft limit, which Noel says is true, but due to not depositing a check, but I was having my doubts about Noel, he had some sharp practices, and I was to find out was having an affair with one of the ladies in our office, so who was he to complain about Fergus?

It is September and the asphalt plant is not here, delayed until the 9th. Peter Blomb was busy finishing off grading runoff areas, and tire walls were being built. Roof was on the pits, and handrail going around.

I picked up Tony Skelton on the 9th and we went to meet the Victorian Health Promotion Council aka the anti-tobacco lobby. They had approached us early on about buying up the sponsorship and were not thrilled that PBL had not even talked to them. Why should we, they would just frighten all the other sponsors. I wrote in my diary that it was “not a major reaction.” More like a delayed reaction as they would get us in the end. Victoria was in the grip of a very socialist regime at that time, and timing is everything. When John Cain was deposed by a woman as Premier, from his own Labor party, her nickname was “Mother Russia,” so you get the picture, but that was later and she should have deposed John sooner as you will see.

Asphalt plant still not here on the 12th, and we have the first coordinating meeting with the Council, whoopee. Plant arrives the 14th and we are pushing Emoleum to start as we are losing credibility, and possibly the Toyota car launch. Sunday 18th we run a trail mix from the asphalt plant. We started laying at the exit of the Southern Loop on Tuesday, and the paver promptly went through the pavement in a wet patch. I closed my eyes, told them to just keep putting asphalt through it until it walked its way out, which it did and that has never given us a problem since. It is not going quick enough though, so they work extended hours and speed up the plant. At least the track base course is going down, something people have been trying to make happen for years without success. Paving continued, guard rail was going in at Turn Three, tires being set and the builder is cleaning up pit lane. The control tower is being finished, and Honda turn up to inspect the track, the GP Team, and book it for February 9-17th. Track days are filling up.    

Wednesday 28th and it is FIM track inspection day. The asphalt is not quite closed up, but it is enough. Adrian Veys is here with Kevin Magee as the riders’ representative. They want a gravel trap added to the exit of the Southern Loop, and a better bathroom in the pits for 1990, otherwise all OK, and John Thomson to confirm the top layer of asphalt has been laid by the time of the FIM General Assembly Meeting in Rio in October. We had made that hurdle. 

The next day Emoleum started on the top course of pavement. We were going to have a racetrack. A few of the usual hiccups with plant breaking down and Emoleum wanting payment as they went stretched this out and Toyota were very concerned, as was I, I was getting on a plane to Rio and needed the top course finished. 5th October we boarded a plane to Rio for some of the scariest days I have ever spent anywhere. We had made a video of the paved track for the CCR to watch, but of course Brazilian TV had its own version of PAL and it would not work. Still I was able to report the top surface completed, which John Thomson confirmed, so the race date was confirmed by the assembly. We were also backing John Thomson to be elected to a seat on the CCR and had Trimby and IRTA join us in that. What fools we were thinking he would be grateful or helpful. We met with Trimby about finalizing travel arrangements, and how the riders could avoid having tax withheld by the Australian Government on their start and prize money. Noel called to reassure me that Toyota was OK as the track was finished, but it had only been finished at the very last minute and late at night, and we had problems with that corner from then on as even the road cars tore the surface it was so green. John Smailes was very complimentary about how we deliver on our promises, and actually I have only ever missed one deadline, but we will come to that.

The week passed with the calendar being confirmed, the Motomedia contract still undecided, Joe Zegward being elected President of the Road Race Commission, and John Thomson joining him on that body. We also met with the World Superbike, WSBK, organizers to put a contract together for a race at PI if Oran Park could not be homologated. We were also part of the discussions about establishing a “Pacific Championship” along the lines of the European Championships being run, which the FIM were agreeable to, and would include Japan, USA, Australia, and New Zealand for a start. Nothing came of this and the cost of travel was probably prohibitive anyway. You cannot drive around the Pacific in a van.

On the way home, we came back via San Francisco at the request of the Victorian Dept. of Sport to check out a potential event for them and give an opinion if it was worth their while bidding for it. We were on good terms with them in those days. While there I took the opportunity to go down to Monterey to Laguna Seca to meet Lee Moselle and look at the facility.

I arrived back in Australia to find the Adelaide GP Office trying to repossess the GP Plate they had given me for the Brock. Lovely people. Fortunately, I knew the head of the DMV in Adelaide and he basically told them go take a hike. How petty can you be?

Suzie Burford gave me an update on the non-race activities. This being our first race we were going all out to make it an event just as Adelaide had been. We had a charity ball in Melbourne Wednesday night after the civic reception, promotions in Melbourne malls, and a major shopping center promotion at a mall halfway down to the Island that won the best promotion in Australia that year. Suzie was all over this stuff, banners in streets except for Cowes, and a large aluminium frame tent, the “star,” on site that would feature fashion shows, dinners, and discos every night. Very adventurous and probably unnecessary, but this was the start of a long-term project and we wanted to show Australia and the world of motorcycling what could be done. We had the Army doing displays for us as it seems the Air Force deemed us to lowly to put on a show like they had done in Adelaide. A fly past of trainers was the best we could get, while the army brought their Pilatus spotter plane that could land inside the track, and the Blackhawk helicopters, their latest toys. Oh yes, and a lot of tanks that they built a mobile bridge to bring over the track and proceeded to put on a show in the infield and in and out of the dam! The army had a great time, and signed up a lot of recruits.

The negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone over the TV rights sales were progressing and Jim Fitzmaurice was dealing with Bernie’s man at FOCA TV, Christian Voght, who was supposed to come down to the Island but cried off at the last minute. The Adelaide Entertainment Center suddenly reared its head again with the SA Government wanting to talk with us, but that did not go anywhere, again.  I went to Adelaide to talk to them and to attend the F1 GP, the race where I met Peter Bartels, but where I also met Bernie and Jim Fitzmaurice to sort out the TV rights for PI, and also talk about sportscars again. I also met with Patrick McNally who offered to buy all the signage rights to the motorcycle GP, but I had a naming rights sponsor with signage rights already, and I had dealt with Patrick in Adelaide and did not fancy having to deal with him again. Patrick told me after the event that he was glad he had not bought the rights as it was so hard to fit signs in camera shot at the track, we will have to move the walls closer! Let me know how you get on with that and the riders Patrick.

Everyone wanted to get on board with us now. Michael Gudinski wanted to promote the Barnes concert, Coke, Rothmans, Arai, Dunlop, 5DN radio, DONPRA Hire, Marlboro and others were all talking sponsorship, signage, and corporate seats. We had created a monster, and the bigger it got the more it cost to stage. Our $2m budget for building the track was long gone, and it would eventually cost around $5m, still ridiculously cheap for a world class track.

Saturday 19th November saw the first motorcycle race meeting staged by the Hartwell Club. They ran it like a circus, kids running around pit lane, BBQ’s in the garages etc. At the end of the day they were standing around having a beer and congratulating themselves on a good meeting. I walked up and told them what I thought in no uncertain terms, which they took offence to. “It’s only a club race.” Really, and are the 250cc’s going any slower down the main straight? Can people not die at a club meeting? The riders are practicing their skills to join the GP ranks, the club needs to do the same in respect of how you run events. “Where is the switch in your head that you turn when you walk into a GP to do it differently” I asked? With that they got huffy and took their bat and ball home, “do not expect us to help with the Grand Prix.” It all ended well though, as after the GP Hartwell came back after the GP and said, “now we understand.”

On the domestic front the relations with the Camerons was hitting an all-time low. We had designed the over track signs and needed to have them manufactured. When it came to signing off on the cost the Camerons refused, which was pretty crazy seeing as how they were happy to take the money for the signage they would carry, so how did they propose to hang the sign?  So BPM signed the contract and arranged a lease deal for them to the grand prix. This was getting ugly. In a similar vein, it seems the Deputy Premier Steve Crabbe was trying to take the responsibility for the GP away from Sport to his own Department. Politics. It’s true the Minister of Sport, Neil Tresize was a lightweight, and ex-footballer I believe, and that was the only thing he really cared about. During the race he sat in my suite listening to it on his radio.

In fact, the problems created by the Government and Island Council continued. No, we could not have temporary helipads; they had to go through the normal Planning procedures for a permanent one. The Department of Planning inspected the circuit and determined we did not have enough gate width for fire exits. They were using the rules for an indoor venue of course, and I suggested that with 300 acres and only a chain link fence fire exits were unlikely to present a problem. Then there was the requirement in December to erect a six-foot-tall fence around the whole track between the spectators and the barrier. When I asked who came up with this I was told the building inspector. When I asked his qualifications for inspecting race tracks, especially one approved by the international controlling body, they got all shirty and said they did not think that was a fair question.  Well I did not think it fair to make us spend a bunch of money for nothing and spoil the view for the crowd, and in all these sort of silly things only a direct approach to the relevant Minister had them revoked. So much for helping us, but 1990 would be better we were told.  

The first of the over track signs arrived on November 25th and went up at the start line in time for the Swann Insurance Race meeting on December 4th. This went off OK for a major race on an almost finished race track. We took the opportunity to have various organizing meetings with the sport and the Council to complete details for the GP itself. I had been contacted prior to the race by Yoong Yin Fah from Malaysia about helping Shah Allam obtaining a Motorcycle Grand Prix, a project we were to collaborate on with Andrew Marriott and CSS, and one we succeeded in doing but which we were never paid for. I went up to Malaysia for a couple of days for an initial inspection of the track and meetings with Yin Fah. All seemed good and Andrew was happy with the arrangements. We were both fools, carried away with the chance of managing another GP.

On the 14th I was in Sydney with my old mate Bill O’Gorman looking at Darling Harbour to see if we could stage a street race for World Sportscars around the Entertainment Center. Would never have worked, but worth the try, and now they have a street race around the Olympic site. Sydney only had Oran Park, a figure eight track with no run off, and Amaroo in an old quarry with even less, so Bill was always looking to see if a new track could be built for World Class races. I spent Christmas back in Adelaide and all seemed well for BPM and its subsidiary companies, but “seemed” is the operative word. BPM were not having Board Meetings in the usual sense and I was way too busy on site to get into the book keeping, I had an accountant as a partner, didn’t I? It became obvious he was leaving way too much to Noel, which included us suddenly owning 1500ha of Queensland south of Bundaberg. The piece we had looked at turned out to be owned by an American who would sell it on owner financing. All looked good though, the Qld Government in the form of their Tourism people were all for it, and wanted something right there at the south end of the Barrier Reef. Our planners did a great job of laying this out as a resort/housing in the vein of Sanctuary Cove, but as a three star rather than a five-star project. We were moving to rezone and obtain all the environmental approvals, but the way we had planned it using the McHarg methods this was seen as no problem.

And so started 1989. If I thought 1988 had been difficult I had no idea how bad 1989 was to be. Colin Young was still on about his fee and he would earn twice what I was paying myself. How stupid can I be? We were presented a new product by ASS to use for the corporate suites on the pit roof. These were a great product built around shipping containers that when assembled looked and felt just like a permanent suite, and had roof top viewing, so we cancelled the tents and hired these. This gave my structural engineer and partner Peter a big dilemma. He had designed the roof for a live load, a spread load of people, not containers that had all their load on four corners. The solution was so obvious to me I said nothing and left him to it, only to find the garages below blocked by steel props. When I suggested that not likely to be an acceptable solution he said he needed to transfer the load from the roof slab down to the floor slab to take the point load. I asked him why he had not timbered the concrete deck to spread the load before it reached the roof slab he said he had not thought of that and walked around for a few days muttering to himself how he could not have done that. It seemed too obvious, as I said, for me to tell him before.   

I was back up in Malaysia in the middle of January meeting with Government Ministers, air lines and TV, and putting together a bid document for both Government support and for the FIM.   

Teams were starting to come down for pre-season testing which gave us a boost in promotions as all the comments were positive, and there were reasons for TV crews to come down each week. The teams were cooperative as we set up a time for all the media to come in and leave once finished, so they were not bothered all week. Bill Crouch was great at looking after the teams and all their little wants. We even had a Formula 3000 car come down from Japan, the Dome, driven by Ross Cheever, Eddie’s brother, which is still the fastest car around PI as far as I know. I asked Ross for some tips, especially how to get through turns 8&9, and he said, “don’t ask me, I’m still trying to work out turn 7.” I did not feel so bad after that. Swan were doing a wonderful job of assisting with the promotion of the event, with a special brochure, “Phillip Island Fever,” going out every couple of weeks on who was testing, quotes, how to get to the race, and other good information.

Not so helpful was the Victorian Liquor Commission. Now a liquor license was not in place for the track on a permanent basis, we obtained one for each event, no problem. Then in mid-January the Commission changed the rules. Leased property had to obtain the written permission of the landowner to be granted a license. I knew immediately what that meant, and so did Henderson, a license to extort more money. The Commission did not understand my dismay at this news, “it’s only because the owner might have objections on religious grounds” they said. Right, just you wait and see. I have a beer sponsor who is already asking about the license. That signature would cost me $100,000, down from an asking price of $150,000, and given just two weeks before the event. They caused all sorts of issues about the sale of alcohol on site and in the camp sites and Cowes. The Police had to step in at the concert to change the rules to avoid a riot.

Remember BASS? Four weeks prior to the race they stopped providing us the ticket sales money, no reason given. It was only because we had a contract that said they had to provide it that we had the cash flow resumed. Shades of things to come. John Cain originally declined my invitation to attend the race, but at the last minute changed his mind, and against the advice of his minders presented the Rothmans Trophy, how about that for a two-faced politician?  

Matters with the Camerons had come to a head, and votes at the Board were tied up three apiece. Fergus was Chairman of Barfield and I was the CEO, but I was advised by my accountant partner that the Chairman had a casting vote, which many companies have in their articles. So we scheduled a shareholders’ meeting, there being a number of small shareholders who had taken packages, to request a vote to remove Fergus as Chairman and install one of the BPM Partners. It was a very ugly meeting as you can imagine, very personal attacks being made, and I am sure the shareholders wondered what they had gotten into. There was no choice for them really, they had to support us, the Camerons were not going to run this race. So we won the vote, only to find the Articles of Association for Barfield did not provide for a casting vote! Nice one my legal eagles. I was so annoyed and depressed by the whole experience that for one of the few times in my life I could not sleep that night. I decided I’d had enough, and sat and wrote a nasty letter to each of them on whatever side, and then the sun came up and I said, “screw it, they are not going to beat me.” I tore all the letters up and got on with running the Grand Prix.     

The situation was impossible and we both looked for ways to resolve it. Fergus offered to take on the track and rent it to us for the Grand Prix each year, but I did not feel comfortable not controlling the track and not knowing its condition when we turned up each year. Beside we all hated and mistrusted each other by now, so there seemed no way out but to buy their shares in Barfield. This cost us about $600,000 from memory and was the last thing I wanted to spend money on, but at least we would be in control, and we had years to make it back. It was pretty stupid really, all we did was to cut loose the Camerons to go off with Peter Henderson and work against us to get the track and the race, with the connivance of others I am sure.

At the end of February, I went off to Geneva to the FIM meeting again, this time to make sure were on the calendar for 1990, which we achieved OK, and to help put the case for the Malaysians, which failed this year but was to succeed and they still have the race.

Back in Australia I met with both Rothmans and Marlboro about buying billboards at the event and quoted a price of $25,000 apiece, which I knew was half what they paid in Adelaide. They said they could buy them cheaper overseas, so I said well, go and buy them overseas. I knew that if I sold them cheap this year, despite my need for cash, then I would never get the price up again. Watch what Bernie does, if he cannot get what he wants he will put a name up that no one knows, but it fills the space and shows someone what they can have next year. I’m glad I stuck to my guns as both came back and bought them, Rothmans buying the 250cc sponsorship with that sign package, and Marlboro bought six boards. We never did sell the over track sign at turn three so we put the Island Tourist slogan on it, and wouldn’t you know it, it received more air time than any of them. You can try and guess what the TV Director is going to do with the cameras, and he will tell you, but once the weekend starts it will change. Somehow Brian Morelli managed to locate a camera to shoot the bikes coming down Lukey Heights to MG and miss a 150 feet long sign!

It is early March now and we are still having “coordination meetings” with the Council and the Government Departments. QANTAS have come on board with sponsorship in the form of an amount of free air travel, and will put a TIAS line on site at the GP to help with the outbound bookings for the teams. Bill Gibson and I fly up to Japan for their GP to make sure the freight gets handled smoothly and Bill knows what is coming in for Customs, and I can sort out any last minute arrangements, which turn out to be what seems every team changing all their travel, hire car and hotel reservations. Bill and I arrive at Suzuki on Wednesday, and the track is owned by Honda and is in a huge amusement park, with several hotels, restaurants, bowling alley and carnival rides. There is a package for me of invitations to dinners and functions, tickets for free meals, which are very expensive, and some Japanese goodies. As they say at Halloween, “Bill got a rock.” He wasn’t fussed though, and we set off to see the track. We kept passing people as we walked through the park who told us it was “good you are here as there is a queue outside your office.” “We do not have an office.” “Oh yes you do,” and we did. The organizers had set up a transportable with desk, phones, fax right down to the white out and erasers, a lounge suite and gas fire with coffee table. Oh, and the name on the door. Next door is the JAL Airlines freight office, so Bill goes off to introduce himself and present them with a Gibson Freight polo shirt. They look at the name and his name. “You are son of owner?” “No, I am the owner,” says Bill. “Oh, you Founder!” That is very big deal in Japan.

Next day they present Bill with a Samurai helmet in a glass case. “Give up” I say, “on that scale of escalation there is nothing you can give that man.” Friday comes and Fred Suginuma, Head of the Japanese Motorcycle Federation tugs my sleeve, “Bobsan, big problem. We did not realize Mr. Gibson Founder. We did not invite him to parties.” What were they to do, big loss of face, and to make it worse if they asked him now Bill would know he was not asked before, and if they did not ask him they would still lose face. I told Fred “don’t worry, Bill’s an Australian surfer, he’s relaxed about all this, ask him and he’ll be fine.” So they ask him to the remaining events, which was a big mistake on their part.

One of the funniest parts of the trip was to see Bill, who speaks good English and nothing else, sitting at the coffee table with a Spanish Team trying to explain to the Japanese freight guy what they wanted. After about three go rounds of this I had to leave it was so funny. Later when the teams were packing up after the race we were going through the garages doing similar facilitation when we got to Erv Kanemoto's pit box. Now Erv is a very tall Japanese-American, so we thought this will be a cinch, and we make a motion for Erv to take over and talk to JAL. Erv turns to us and says are you nuts, I am a (whatever) generation American, I can’t speak Japanese. Back to arm waving.

Before all this fun though was the Saturday night special dinner for forty important guests, including myself and now Bill. There are 4 or 5 big round tables, and around the walls of the room are bamboo huts representing street stalls with Tempura, sashimi, and other delicacies for an appetizer. Mr. Suzuki, who is the Head of Suzuka, which is owned by Honda, are you following this, explains we are to Kobe Beef for main course. He tells us you only have Kobe Beef once in a lifetime as it is so expensive. Now breakfast was $60, and a dinner around $120 normally, so who knows what “expensive” was? So they serve us a piece each, about quarter of an inch thick and about six to eight inches long, and it is spectacular. You can cut it with a fork. So my mate Bill leans over and says, “I wouldn’t mind another piece of that.” I am kicking him under the table, do not ask. But he does anyway. Well Mr. Suzuki I’m sure wanted the floor to open up and swallow him, or Bill, not sure which. Of course he could not refuse, but neither could he give Bill another piece and not offer everyone in the room another piece. In the end, he just gave up and they brought out platters of it and I think I had four lifetimes and Bill five.

On the way home we meet Mr. Kreisky of “Havoc” video fame at Nagoya Airport. He is an interesting character, amusing for an hour, but no more. We drags us out of the line for booking in and just goes to an unmanned station and calls someone over to attend to us. Now he and his cameramen do not want to book their cameras into luggage, so they are carrying them. We walk on an All Nippon Airways 737 and Kreisky stands in the aisle facing a plane load of Japanese and says, “the first one to mention the bridge over the river Kwai gets thrown off!” You see what I mean? Now this plane has no lockers above the seats, only a shelf. A cameraman puts his camera up there, and is told by the stewardess that is not allowed. He tries unsuccessfully to fit it under the seat. In desperation, he puts it in the seat, does up the seat belt around it, climbs into the luggage shelf and says, “now are you satisfied?” Of course she was not. How we did not get thrown off I do not know, but a German rider who had broken his leg that weekend got on with his crutches, so we all cracked up because we knew what problems he was going to have.

So back to reality, just over a week to go and teams are arriving. The excitement is amazing and ticket sales continue to be great. A French journalist asks me when he sees all the grandstands how many people I expected for the race. I tell him 80,000, and he tells me that is impossible, the record for the French GP is only 70,000 or so. Suit yourself I tell him, I’ve sold 64,000 tickets to date. There are all the last-minute surprises, like the deal with the liquor license, and Bernie, who had the deal to sell all the TV rights by now, trying to get a rights fee out of Channel 9. I knew the details of his deal with the FIM and went back to them to tell Bernie he could not do that, which lead to a late-night phone call from a very irate Bernie, threatening to sell the broadcast to Channel 7, but I was pretty sure 7 would not want it by now and we won, and Bernie probably has not forgiven me since. The Building Inspector turns up on the day before the race and wants to open all the fire hydrants in the paddock to make sure they work. I tell him if he is going to fight a fire in the pits with water let me know so I can run the other way. Then there was the truck load of Michelin tires that turned up late one night when there was only Bill and I there, and they are just stacked on a flat bed. So we start to unload them one at a time, when a couple of the marshals who are camping next door and have been out to dinner are silly enough to wander by. They start to help and around midnight say to me “we shouldn’t be doing this, we are only volunteers.” I replied, “At midnight there are only volunteers.”   

Wednesday finally arrives. We have booked a thirty-seat plane to take us and the dignitaries up to Melbourne for the reception and ball. Halfway to Melbourne we go through a horrendous storm, really frightening in that small plane. We get to Melbourne where the storm has gone through and it is bright sunshine. We are running late and there is an accident on the Tullamarine Freeway. We finally arrive at the civic reception as people are walking out, so straight to the ball, which is great. Big turnout as it is a charity ball in honor of a local hospital, all of Melbourne society is there. Kenny Roberts cannot believe I have got all these people to a motorcycle ball! Wayne Gardner rides the main act into the ballroom, which is on the first floor, and brings the house down. The young female singer has legs that go all the way up and she is riding pillion. Back to Island late and find out about the carnage the storm did. Especially to our security team whose camp site is under water and they have to move into some hall in the middle of the night.

Thursday morning dawns, the first day of racing, and the traffic coming out of the camp ground at the bottom of the side road where the teams were trying to get in was crazy. I take charge at directing traffic, which placates the teams and we will sort it out tomorrow. Where were they all going anyway? It is like people asking for a pass out about five minutes after the gates open, go figure, but they do it. Actually, Trimby and co were in a car with Kel Curruthers, an Australian World Champion, who tells them he bets they will find me at the end of the road sorting it out, and he was right. The morning was a mess due to the late arrival of the security following their late nigh camp adventures. I do not recall that the day got any better. PBL were asking when they could expect a check for their part of the income, and I could not tell them. We had a huge crowd for a first day, around 30,000, and although I do not recall specifics and I was too busy to write notes, I know it was not fun. The rain had softened the parking lots, and Swan’s coaches were getting bogged would be one of them. I do know that come Friday morning I did not want to leave the house. I did not want another day like that, but leave I did, and walked out into a different world. No overnight storms, no traffic jams, everyone doing their job and the world was good again. Around 50,000 this day, and who said that they could not get here.

People had caught the train and ferry to Cowes and were walking the five miles from Cowes.  Others came and camped or rented a holiday house, and stayed, so we did not need to have 80-100,000 come on race day, most of them were here. The racing was good, Channel 9 were happy, and Swan were happy. I and my partners were probably the only ones not happy as we knew we had used the ticket money to pull this off and needed a white knight to come to our rescue once it was over. But surely when they see this success that would not be a problem?

Saturday and first live TV, we were to have ten hours by the end. GP Qualifying, and the Superbike and sidecar support races were sensational. Saturday night was the fashion show and dinner in the “Star” tent, black tie, the Island had never seen this. Glen Shorrock the main act and Suzie did great with the leather fashions. The concert was in full swing, and the whole Island was rocking. We had no trouble of any kind. The motorcycle “clubs” had agreed to not where their colors, and were on their best behavior and self-policing. The Police were doing their part. When the only pub on the Island inevitably overflowed out on to the pavement the Police did nothing, and when they overflowed on the road, they closed it. Trouble makers we heard were passed to each end to be put over the barricade to the waiting police van. Common sense prevailed, no one was raped or murdered, and despite a population with one policeman normally had been invaded by 70,000 on Saturday with more to come.

Sunday dawned cloudy and cool, but no rain. Gardner was not on pole, but we could not have everything. Wayne had said already just how much it would mean if he won it, and he is not Mr. 110% for nothing. The 250cc race is first up, but I do not see much of it as I am entertaining the Premier in my suite for lunch. We go down to the grid for the 500cc race and the crowd is enormous. The police estimate 105,000 and they are standing on toilet blocks and fence posts to get a view. They have cut holes in fences and tried to sneak in overnight where my sleepless security crew has been using the searchlight on the army tanks to discover them. The race is spectacular and still talked about today. Four guys going for it and Channel 9 coverage is amazing, capturing every detail. It is like going to a football match as first Rainey is in front, then Gardner, Sarron, and so it goes on. You can tell who is leading by the fans. I am on top of my box enjoying the race, Gardner’s Father cannot watch, the Swan gofer is worrying about the coaches to get home so I tell a doctor friend to check his pulse as he must be dead if he is not excited by the race.

Gardner wins, the fairy story come true, the crowd rushes on to the track Donna, Wayne’s girlfriend does famous run up the track to meet him. The scenes on the winners’ rostrum are spectacular, half the crowd is on the track below, including Mal Hemmerling totally unknown to me that he is there. John Cain gets booed as he gets up, probably did not do my cause much good, and Bill Widerberg from Swan presents their trophy. Unusually I am called up and accept the plaudits of the crowd, and the champagne dumped on me by Gardner et al. It is a crowning moment, a great achievement, and I savor it for a few seconds, knowing that when I walk off it will all start, how are we going to pay for this?

Trimby and Co. are beside themselves as they cannot see how we can get the crowd off the track. But my last words are to ask the crowd to leave as we have a race to run, and they melt away fast.

I do not see the 125cc race either as we are in the media center for the rider’s interviews. It is all good, Cain promises things will be better, and Bill Widerberg calls out from the back “we’re with you Bob.” “It has exceeded their wildest expectations” Bill is to say, so just maybe this will work out.

Sunday night we are relaxing in the suite, Bill Gibson has the trucks being loaded in pit lane, we have to get them to Melbourne to catch the plane to San Francisco. Unbeknown to us a policeman has been killed by a motorist coming on to the Island, and the road off is shut down for hours while they investigate. The early ones who left got home OK. Others were not so lucky, including Bill’s trucks, and it took ten hours to get off the Island.

Next morning we find that we have knocked the football off the back page of the daily paper, impossible in this football crazy town. They have run a special edition of the paper with a four-page wrap around about the race and print and sell 600,000 copies. The TV wants to do interviews about how well behaved the crowd were, and how much the locals liked it. Perhaps we can survive, but we had not counted on the forces that had watched the success and now wanted it for themselves.