Vintage motorcycles return for beach racing in Australia

MORE than 100 vintage motorcycles and thousands of spectators will flock to the South Australian coast next month when beach races are held for the first time since 1953.

The Levis Motorcycle Club will host a two-day classic event at Sellicks Beach on February 18 and 19 featuring competitors from every mainland Australian state.

A field of 110 motorcycles manufactured before 1963 have entered to race across five classes: under 125 cc through to 501 cc—1300 cc. Sidecar races will also be held.

The club, the oldest motorcycle club in South Australia, began beach racing in the 1920s and held annual Sellicks Beach Speed Trials in summer through to 1953. Re-enactments were held in 1986 and 1992 but regular races have not taken place on the beach for more than 60 years.

Publicity Officer Peter Hennekam said more than 2000 tickets had already been snapped up with about 4000 expected to be sold before the event. The event is free for children under 16 but people looking to attend are being urged to pre-book online as tickets will not be on sale at the gate.

Hennekam said riders ranged in age from 16 to 84 and some of the bikes entered dated back to the 1920s.
“It’ll be a spectacle that you just won’t see anywhere else,” he said. “The 84-year-old bloke is racing his 1925 Velocette and we’ve got one family where dad owns the two bikes but his son and his grandson are going to be riding them.

“People have been dragging bikes out from behind uncles’ sheds and doing them up; many of the bikes are being ridden for the first time in a number of years.”

The two-day event will feature 46 races including heats and finals. Most will be scratch races but some handicap races will also be run.

The 1.6 km (1 mile) track is the same length as the original track and takes riders 800 m down the beach before rounding a hairpin for the 800 m return journey.

The Levis Club, named after the English two-stroke motorcycle, hopes a successful event will lead to it being held every two years in the future.

Sellicks Beach is about a 45-minute drive south of the centre of the South Australian capital Adelaide. It is well suited to racing because it has a pebble foundation under the sand which gives it a solid base and prevents it from becoming boggy.

The crowd will line the beach along with hospitality tents and vans providing food and drink.
Organisers expect to move the track about three times during each day of racing as the tide goes out to provide a fresh racing surface.

Entertainment between races will include skydiving demonstrations and vintage aeroplane displays.

“There are very few beaches in the world that are as suitable as Sellicks to race on just the way the pebbles are under the sand gives you a good firm base and when the tide comes in it fixes the track up again as if we were never there,” Hennekam said. “We understand there’s a beach in New Zealand and one in the United States where they have racing and there’s a few others around but there’s none quite like this featuring historic bikes—and they’re going to be racing full throttle.”

Three generations: Doug Davis’s son Bruce and grandson Joshua will race his 1948 Machless 500 and 1925 Velocette 250 at Sellicks Beach. Picture Peter Hennekam.

Murray Williams and Carol Tune practice for the return of motorcycle racing to Sellicks Beach. Picture: Peter Hennekam.

story submitted by By Andrew Spence

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