Newton's Playground

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Newton's Playground

Bathurst, Australia

Bathurst is the oldest inland settlement in Australia, and lies about three hours from Sydney, on the edge of the Outback. The town has a population of about 30K and a few stoplights (that aren't on the main highway.)

The towns biggest claims to fame include a gold rush in the 1850's,

Australia's only complete Tyrannosaurus. But probably the biggest claim is home of Mount Panorama and the Bathurst 1000 motor race.

Mount Panorama is a real race race course,

Thursday, March 7

Since it is winter time in Seattle, and I hadn't ridden since last November I tried to set up a practice session with some of the local riders. A few other people wanted to ride, and we went to a hill about an hour from the race course. We got there a bit late, and a few guys had already taken one run. As we started suiting up, the standup guys took a second run. A few minutes later we saw a cop go by. Sure enough the riders came back up,

It was a good area, and little used road, although there was some construction going on further down the road. The road was pretty good, but there was tall grass in the corner so it was hard to see in the corners. I'm a little hesitant on the open road, so ended up taking it easy. But it was nice to get back on the road.

 After getting several runs in we headed back to Bathurst.

Our riders meeting start at 6, so I took off up the course. I wanted to spend some time walking it. With a 7am start on Friday, this would be my last chance. The first interesting this I noticed was the chicane almost immediately after the start! It should make the start interesting. The dipper looked like it might be fun, and the elbow was quite interesting. Right before the elbow was a fairly steep drop. Before the race an aerial photo was sent out, and it made the elbow look easy. Well turns out it is almost a hairpin.

The Riders meeting was held at the Oxford Pub.

It was a typical riders meeting, with a discussion of the schedule, which is pretty tight. We also were given a wristband, which said we listened to the safety speech. After the meeting was over a shuttle was run up to the campground, near the race course.  I was staying at a hotel and pub in town. So I stayed at the bar for a bit before skating home.

Friday, March 8

Both practice and qualifying as well as slalom would be run today, so it was going to be an early start. Track is supposed to open at 7:30 AM! I walked across the street, to the bakery, for breakfast before heading up to the campsite.

it would take off around the other direction on the track.

As the day wore on, it started to heat up a bit. Shade

I manage to squeeze in five practice runs in before the lunch break.

Newton's Playground is more than just a downhill race. It was a combination music festival and celebration of gravity. Luge is one of about 20 sports at the event. Most of the other sports were just going to be demos, but they included mountain biking, dirt jumping,

After lunch qualifying started. Originally we were told luge would qualify first, so we get suited up, and then standup actually went first.

but we didn't use it.

I ended up having a bad run, probably the worst run of the day for me. I hit the Elbow pretty good, but I wasn't very smooth sliding back on my board at the end of the turn and sent my board into wobbles. I lost several seconds making sure I didn't wreck. My buttboard run was perhaps my best run of the day. Unfortunately due to time constraints we only had one qualifying run. Slalom was supposed to practice and qualify from 3:30 to 6, but that was canceled. Slalom would run everything Sunday morning.

We went back to the Ox for dinner. Sometime after dinner the results were posted.

I qualified 3rd in buttboard! The bar never really got busy, so most of us decided to call it an early night. It would be a long day tomorrow.

Saturday, March 9

Things were supposed to start at 8AM, so it was another early start. Of course things didn't get started on time. While we were waiting to get underway we watched some sky divers.

I was in the second heat. I got into position, but noticed that I couldn't see the bungee, which was being held about waist high. I was on the far right, near the guy holding the bungee, so I thought I would wait until I saw it pool at his feet. The starter said "READY." I tensed up, ready to pull. I looked over at the other guys feet, waiting for "set" when I realized the two guys next to me had already left and were off the ramp! Apparently the start was "Ready" followed by up to a few second pause, or in our case immediately releasing the bungee. No "SET!" So I got a late start, but tracked down the second place rider, caught him at the Elbow, and began to pass him in the straight, when he mooched bumped me! I ended up in third by about a foot!.

I was out of the luge race, but my day wasn't over. I watched the quarterfinals start.

After the two rounds of luge were finished we broke for lunch. There were a few more people at the festival.

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to see any of the other sports. But after grabbing a quick bite to eat it was time to get ready for classic.

Classic would be the last race of the day, but the entire race would be run.

I did fine in my first heat, but just let Cam beat me in the semis. I wasn't happy with myself, so I figured I better win the consolation.  I had a decent start, but Brad pulled a nice maneuver and passed me on the inside of a turn. No big deal, he slowed too soon, and too much at the Elbow. I knew I could take the Elbow way faster, so I went in HOT, but Brad was on the outside, so I was too far on the inside. I went in too hot, too deep, and had to scrub almost all my speed to make it around the corner, letting everyone pass me! Well at least I lost this on on my own!

I was at the bottom waiting for the finals. At the bottom of the course you can only see Conrod Straight.

I see Furlong come around the turn, alone. He comes down the straight, and still no one follows. The other three must have wrecked. Furlong passed the finish line and came up the hill. I congratulated him on his win, and yet still no one else came down the hill! Finally Cam and Will rode down. As soon as Will crossed the finish line, he rolled off his luge.

Will was obviously in pain. I got to him just before the St Johns Bike Crew got there.

She had been worried that Will wouldn't want it filmed, but I assured her that generally we don't mind. I also managed to get another interview in the process!

Turns out Will was in second trying to catch Furlong, when his right elbow clipped the hay. Cam was following Will and also went into the hay. David came from behind, and I think hit one of the other guys, and broke his truck!

After a quick shower a couple of us went to go see Will in the hospital. We ran into Cam, who was waiting to leave, with a broken foot. He refused to let them cast it so he could race tomorrow. Will was having his arm casted.

The party moved from the festival site to the campground. They were supposed to have an all night big screen going, but apparently they took it down when the festival gates closed.

Sunday, March 10

The semi finals and finals would be run today, but the slalom was going to run first. Luge and standup would run after lunch. I slept in a little bit, but I wanted to watch the slalom race.

There were a lot of media on site, and NPG had set up interview sessions at 12:30 and 5:00 everyday. They tried to gather a small group of riders for a group of media to interview. I participated in the session on Sunday. I think Will stole the show,

explaining his wreck in classic. 

After lunch

The dipper doesn't look quite as interesting from this angle.  Supposedly the cars will catch air through here.

The finals in luge were Dave, Nick, Bill and Furlong.

Nick took top honors, while Furlong got his second podium of the event with a third

There were several events run that I didn't see because I was busy doing an interview, or sitting in the shade. There were a few inliners, gravity bikes, and an event called "road rash" which looked like 4 guys on road bikes. In one of the last rounds of luge, someone wrecked pretty hard.

There was one last "China Bomb" run, basically a free ride. I really enjoyed the course, so I took advantage of the run. I got back to the top of the course, and people were packing up. Lots of guys were signing autograph

The award ceremony was held on the main stage.

Standup:

Lundberg, Lau, Smith

Street Luge:

Duffield, Kelly, Mahdzan

Classic Luge:

Mahzdan, Scott, Stephenson

Inline

Cunningham, Reynolds, Herron

Giant Slalom:

Daddow, Shapiera, Spearing

Tight Slalom:

Daddow, Niscel, Carey

After the awards ceremony I got a few pictures. Duffield

After getting cleaned up it was time for for the after party. It was back to the Ox.

They kicked us out of the club at a fairly early hour. I think this worked for a lot of people, because they wanted to get up early to head home. I think I ended up hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the bar talking to a few people till the wee hours of the morning.

 

There wasn't a huge international contingent. There were just over a half dozen standup guys, with half coming from Canada! In the luge field, there were five of us!

Will from UK, Furlong from Malaysia, Damian from Switzerland, and Bill and I from the US.

The course chosen for Newton's Playground was one of the most fun courses I've ridden in a while. The pavement is the smoothest ever. The dipper was a blast, one of my favorite corners. Chicanes are always funs, so the Esses were a blast. The Elbow is very technical, and is a make or break point in the race. The only problem with the course, is the length! At only three quarters of a mile, the race is over just as you are enjoying it!

It is hard to say how the festival as a whole went. It was nice to have some nearby food vendors, but I wasn't able to watch any of the other events, and I even missed the concert.

There were four major accidents, a broken hand (and cracked vertebrae?), a broken foot, a dislocated/broken elbow and nerve/ligament damage in the elbow.