PICTURE THE scene. You’re at a country race meeting with a stand of pine trees behind the starting line and a loud, happy crowd of farming, footballing and fishing blokes around you. Most of them seem to know each other. You’re made to feel welcome even if you can’t hold up your end of the conversation once it gets into the intricacies of baling knots. Most of the cars in the paddock are dusty utes or 4WDs, and there’s no room for passengers because they’re working vehicles, full of tools and cables and yes, baling twine; mobile workshops as much as transport. And because we’re on a working farm, there’s unidentifiable but impressive pieces of giant machinery around, the sort James Bond feeds people into. A neglected Impala rusts quietly behind a shed. But also alongside the mundane and functional looking farm machinery we’ve got motorcycles and trikes that range from the quaintly agricultural through to the specialised and highly engineered thoroughbreds.
Four hours and a million miles away in Adelaide, the Premier’s convinced that this group of people attending the Millicent Sand Drags is plotting something. They’re bikies so they must be up to something! But on this warm and sunny South East day, and with the local police benignly indifferent to our presence, we can afford to put thoughts of that nature aside and concentrate on the day’s racing.
There’s a good sized crowd here: participants of varying experience and ability alongside plenty of enthusiastic spectators, plus the usual cast, the hardcore heart of Sand Drags in SA. Bernie’s on the Big Red Machine, Chris is running a couple of the Predator bikes, and Dan’s a serious contender too. Boris is as smilingly ruthless as ever, and Matchy’s hard to beat in the quads. Bad Penny’s out in force and Trench Cutter Racing has Rick waving the flag for the locals, and Carla is blasting Peppy’s Pro Stock car (minus the body shell) up the track. Not your average country race meeting, but there should be more like this one anyway!
The track’s purpose-made on Jake’s property for the occasion, with freshly cut dirt roads weaving around the camping area and the pits. There’s a PA system that everyone reckons will be audible all around the track next year, and well elevated mercury lights from Ingersoll Rand that everyone wants for themselves. Cleverly designed into a small trailer, they’re portable, robust, easy to set up, and just four of them give enough light for the whole track. Temptingly, they only cost $3500, but they’re not easy to get outside America.
For a bike oriented event, Peppy’s Pro Stock car is possibly the biggest drawcard other than the Big Red Machine. Somehow it seems a bit blasé to call it a buggy, as most do. Nestling inside the Pro Stock frame is a 350 motor that gets something like 700—750 horsepower, with Lanco gears and a nine-inch diff. It’s loud, brutally effective, and a thing of great beauty as it rockets up the track. Carla’s given up race coordinating to become the driver, and once she’s mastered it all, you can see a long run of victories coming up.
As sand drags get more popular around the country, there are moves afoot to get a national circuit organised. This has to be a massive undertaking with so many factors to take into consideration that you can only admire the tenacity of those making the effort. An immediate hurdle is that there’s no standardisation on the length of the track, and although there are various much appreciated sponsors involved, they’re generally not companies with thousands of dollars to throw around so the budget could be a little tight. Maybe we’ll end up with a motorsport version of International Rules, the annual fixture between the Gaelic Football crew and the AFL, where the rules are an amalgamation of the two different codes, or maybe the rules of the home state will take priority. Still, when you look at what’s been achieved so far, it’s not a great stretch of imagination to think a national Sand Drags competition could become a very, very popular reality not too far off. We’re in the early stages of the development of a new sport, and that just fuels the excitement.
words & pics by Chris Randells