Motorbikes back at Barbagallo Raceway despite safety concerns

Motorbikes will be going round Barbagallo Raceway this Friday.
Motorbikes will be going round Barbagallo Raceway this Friday.

MOTORCYCLES will return to Barbagallo Raceway this Friday, despite the track still falling short of safety requirements for motorbike racing outlined in a 2016 State Government report.

Motorcycle activity was suspended at the Wanneroo circuit in November 2016 following the death of 21-year-old Chris Adley, which came seven months after 28-year-old Daniel Chadbund was killed while racing on the track.

Mr Adley was the sixth motorcyclist to die at Barbagallo in 16 years.

In June 2016, the State Government commissioned a report into motorbike safety at Barbagallo, carried out by engineer Chris Hall, which identified several high and extreme risk areas for motorbike racing.

As a result of the report and in the wake of Mr Adley’s death, the State Government wrote to Barbagallo’s operators, the WA Sporting Car Club (WASCC), asking it to cease motorcycle activity.

But on Friday the bikes will be back.

The track will host an invitation only ‘ride day’, and while the activity is not competitive and there will be no lap timing, it is still predicted riders will reach speeds in excess of 220km/h.

Motorcycle activity at Barbagallo used to fall under the jurisdiction of peak body Motorcycling Australia (MA), but Friday’s track day will be run by Queensland company Track Action.

The CEO of MA, Peter Doyle, said his organisation could not sanction activities as Barbagallo until all the deficiencies identified in the Government report had been fixed.

“There’s one major area where we were told they weren’t prepared to do anything,” Mr Doyle said.

“It was the turn three area, which was the highest risk area identified in the Government report.

“We were told they wouldn’t be making changes to that area to move the wall.

“We have written information from the State Government recommending no motorbike activity until that area has been rectified and the area’s not rectified.

“If somebody gets killed there, someone’s going to jail.”

Turn three was one which had been identified as having extreme risk for motorcycle racing, requiring “realignment of the barrier or of the circuit”.

Other areas of extreme risk were turn six and turn seven, due to run-off deficiencies, while run-off deficiencies at turns one and five were considered high risk.

WASCC general manager Andrew Stachewicz agreed all the report’s recommendations had not been met in full, but said improvements made to the track brought it up to “an eight or nine out of 10”.

“Since the Hall report we’ve spent about $250,000 modifying this track,” Mr Stachewicz said.

“The (ride day) operator will put in crash barriers at turn one, turn two, turn three, turn five and turn seven, and we’ve improved run-off at turn six.

“For racing, I would prefer turn three be realigned but turn three is recognised as one of the most benign areas for incidents on the entire track.”

John Tetley, the CEO of Track Action, said his organisation would not conduct racing at Barbagallo until they knew more about the track but were comfortable staging a ride day.

“The difference between a ride day and a race day is the mental attitude of the rider,” Mr Tetley said.

“In the event that someone is riding dangerously we just pull them off the track and send them home.

“We don’t want idiots and we will not allow idiots to participate.”

Mr Tetley said his organisation had also invested “about $80,000 in safety furniture” for the event.

“We’ve got a device called a crash cushion, it just takes the sting out of concrete walls big time,” he said.

“It’s an assembly of a bag and it’s full of empty plastic bottles, and it’s got a facing on it to help distribute the forces. They’re four-litre water bottles.

“It’s a deceleration mechanism, it works much like an air fence, but it has some advantages over that.”

The crash cushions are not approved by the FIM, motorcycle racing’s international governing body, or Motorcycling Australia.