Newton's Playground 2008

Newton's Playground 2008

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,

but it is also a public road. A few homes and business reside along the road.

There is a winery in the middle of the course!

The race course goes up the hill,

and back down. Our race course started about the Panorama sign on the Skyline.

The start

leads directly into The Esses

a left right chicane. After the chicane is a right turn

heading towards The Dipper.

The Dipper is a hard, almost hairpin left, that literally drops away. After leaving the dipper, one barely has time to set up for the right.

From here there is a short straight with a shallow right

leading up to Forests Elbow. As you go through the right turn, the road drops away.

The steep road builds speed to the

tightest corner on the course, dubbed Forests Elbow.

After making it through the elbow

there is one last jog to the left before hitting Conrod Straight.

Another steep drop to the finish line.

The course in Google Maps.

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,

followed by the cops. Apparently the Australians really don't like the Canadians!

The cops talked to us for a few minutes, actually suggested some other possible roads! But they told us it would be a really good idea not to run this road again. So we went off to another road.

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.

Registration opened at noon, I pulled in around 3pm.

It was kind of quiet, so it didn't take long to register, but there were a few people waiting to get teched.

It was close to 4, when registration closed by the time I was teched, and for some strange reason it had gotten busy.

Seemed like Marcus was asking everyone to make changes, including two old hands Will

and Furlong.

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.

There was a large outdoor seating area,

were most of the riders were hanging out.

I don't know if they were really expecting us or not, but all of the riders overwhelmed the wait staff with out food orders. The meeting didn't start until most everyone had eaten.

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.

Quite a few of us were ready to go at 7:30

In the early morning, before the day starts to warm up, you could see kangaroos playing in the middle of the course.

I saw them way off in the distance, they were too far away to get a picture. The course marshals looked like

they were getting ready about 8:15. But we didn't get under way until 9:30!

At the bottom of the course we have a 24 man shuttle with a small trailer.

As soon as the shuttle was full

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

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

was at a premium,

although we did have a couple of umbrella girls.

While the road was closed there was apparently some problems with a few of the people who live and work along the road, which caused us to wait occasionally.  Plus any wreck in the Elbow caused a halt in the action to rebuild the corner. So we spent a bit of time waiting.

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,

and sky diving. Lunchtime was the first chance I got to see the reset of the venue.

Today was a practice day, and the gates weren't open to the public, so vendor row wasn't open yet.

But a couple food booths were.

It will be interesting to see what it is like when the spectators arrive. During the lunch break, they finally gave us our numbers.

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

Of course there was still very little shade.

For some dumb reason I ended up staying in my leathers. I'm not sure why as it took several hours to run standup qualifying. I probably should have walked down the course a bit, instead we just hung out in some shade.

It was finally our turn to qualify.

The starting ramp was moved to the start line,

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.

Apparently they were doing this thing callwed swooping.

As they approached for the landing, they would essentially free fall towards the ground, pulling up at the last second to land.

I guess this guy came in to kick off the event.

We got a couple of practice runs in before starting the racing. Standup raced first.

They decided to use a bungee cord to start the race.

They raced the first two rounds of standup, and then we would race the first two rounds of street luge.

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.

Also hung out with some of the girls.

And did an interview.

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

There were several vendors, a few clothing companies, a skate shop set up. One of the sponsors was Dare coffee, and their girls were out serving Iced Coffee.

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.

Will had the #1 qualifying spot, and had lane choice,

they also had lowered the bungee after I mentioned something to them. We didn't use the start ramp until the race. Apparently they were up late the night before finishing it up!

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.

Will was in a lot of pain, and he thought he broke his elbow! We tried to take his leathers off before the ambulance crew showed up, but it wasn't really working. The ambulance crew showed up, and they approached him with a pair of scissors. Will hasn't having any of that, so we managed to get him out of his leathers, although it was a bit painful for him.

They put a cardboard splint on, and carted him off to the hospital. On of the members of the TV crew  had been filming the finish, and she started to film Will being helped.

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.

It was not broken, most likely the nerve took a hit and possibly some ligament damage. After waiting at the hospital for a while, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then went back to the festival. We hoped to catch some of the music. Will and I got back when it looked like everyone else was leaving. We missed the headliners as they only play to 10PM! We ran into Cam as he was leaving the festival.

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.

This was my first time watch a slalom race, and it is very difficult to photograph. Especially with my small digital camera.

Daddow won the competition.

Marcus was doing well, but had a bad start in the semis and took out several of the cones at the start.

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 standup and luge races would run. Despite not racing today, I took a practice run. They decided to run a losers bracket for all those that lost in the quarter finals. Unfortunately they didn't tell us this in the meeting, I'm not sure if everyone who was going to race found out. Both Will and Cam raced, despite their injuries.

Will had to borrow a suit, to get it around his cast. Since I wasn't racing, I walked down the course a little bit. I wanted to watch the guys take the dipper, which was my favorite corner. Unfortunately the spectators couldn't get very close to the turn, I should have walked down on the inside.

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

for fellow riders.

The award ceremony was held on the main stage.

We had some nice trophies. The tall

ones are perpetual trophies. Winners names will be added to these trophies each year. Each person on the podium was given a chance to say a few words.


Lundberg, Lau, Smith

Street Luge:

Duffield, Kelly, Mahdzan

Classic Luge:

Mahzdan, Scott, Stephenson


Cunningham, Reynolds, Herron

Giant Slalom:

Daddow, Shapiera, Spearing

Tight Slalom:

Daddow, Niscel, Carey

After the awards ceremony I got a few pictures. Duffield


Daddow and Niscel

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

The bar closed at its normal time of 8PM, but the disco was opened up for our private party. For once the after party didn't get too wild.

It was actually a pretty mellow party, perhaps because shooters weren't allowed?

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.

Share Tweet Send

Related Articles