YOU’D swear the site had been purpose designed with the Bad Penny Social Club in mind. It’s just a few km into Victoria, exactly half way between Adelaide and Melbourne, so it’s a peaceful rural spot but easily accessible to a big slice of the population.
Sand Drags are a great equaliser. You get the full range of motorcycle oriented people—both sexes, all ages, country folk, city dwellers, those with cash and expertise, those without big dollars who compensate with guile and near faultless technique.
At the Bad Penny Sand Drags they specialise in bizarre trikes that take off like you wouldn’t believe: one of them’s powered by a 350 Chev motor. There are members of 1% clubs on V8 bikes, there’s an Unlimited category for those who missed out on running the bulls at Pamplona, and there’s a Modified Street section.
On top of the Harleys there’s one well regarded bike with a Subaru engine, and there’s a healthy sprinkling of Jap bikes and the evil little Raptors. There was even Pep’s Sprint Car that threw the dirt so high and moved so fast that the dirt didn’t hit the ground ‘til the car had gone 100m!
And although everybody shares tools, beer and advice freely, the competition itself is very, very intense. Two widely heard and quoted expressions come to mind: Put some fucking effort in! and HA Bernie’s smiling insistence on Victory or Ambulance.
You come through a couple of wide open gates and the 400 acre property unfolds before you, or at least the part you’ll be spending your time in does. It’s a gentle landscape of giant gums, the land is mainly flat and the air is so exhilaratingly fresh you can taste it. A stage built to outlast the grandchildren is in one corner next to the bar and the showers, and the Sand Drag track is a few minutes walk away, with plantation timber down beyond the end and flanking the far side.
There’s a relaxed welcome, a sense of belonging, and conversation flows easily.
Club members like Stretch, Chris, and Cat exemplify what it’s all about with an easy and totally unforced amiability while they—and all the other members—get through the hard slog of running what’s in effect a three-day show.
The whole show starts with a few quiet drinks on Friday night, moves into a run around the South East (or South West if you’re Victorian) on Saturday, accelerates into four bands on Saturday night, and culminates in the Sand Drags on Sunday. Plenty of people stay on over Sunday night as well, and the mountains of firewood stacked around the place mean that pretty much everyone who wants to could have their own personal bonfire.
The track is 120 metres long, firm and compacted, well dried by a gentle breeze following Friday’s rain. Any slow race would be comfortably won by the grader which does the essential work of maintaining a uniform surface throughout the day. And while it performs its vital role, you can only marvel at the skill of driver Garry Davies as he manoeuvres tightly around the lights to give both lanes an identical surface. Most days you can see people who can’t exert such tight control over a shopping trolley, let alone a car, so a machine this size…
Competition’s tight but friendly, with two Flag Marshalls rather than electronic time keeping. Nobody seems to dispute their decisions as it’s the nature of this sport to generally have a clear winner; there just isn’t the time to correct any mistakes or malfunctions and still go on to win.
HA Bernie and Predator Racing have been prominent on this circuit for quite some years but more challengers have put their time in and are coming to the fore now. Particularly noticeable among these are Dan Dycer from Mud ’n’ Tars, and Rick Hoffmann from Trench Cutter Racing. Rick had the advantage this time around, and with a committed support team and dedicated sponsorship, you can expect them to be picking up more trophies almost at will.
The Bad Penny Sand Drags is one of those quiet success stories that gets a little bigger each year. They haven’t always had the Sand Drags, but they’ve undoubtedly got the space, the lack of neighbours, and the expertise necessary to keep them going and maybe even expand them without detracting from the other appeals of the show. There’s no doubt at all—they have put some fucking effort in!
words & pics by Chris Randells