Here's a very long report on the meeting written by Steve in 2008 and edited for context in 2011.



Although the bike was largely unchanged from its last competition outing in 2002, I had made some refinements in the mean time.

Primary Drive: On just my second track day after buying the bike in 2003 I broke the primary chain - the transmission being something of an achilles heel in this bike's past. In spite of the fact that the belt drive had been tried and rejected by Chris in 2001, I thought it was worth another try (bear in mind this was c.2004). With the belief that overheating was a big factor, I built a rotating tensioner wheel that operated with just a light spring pressure. This configuration completed one track day and one test session without incident, so I was cautiously optimistic that it would be reliable. The very fast Phillip Island would be the acid test...

Oil Cooler: While I had the crankcases apart repairing the damage from the broken primary chain I tapped into the oil galleries and fitted an Earls oil cooler. This would not only help with general cooling of the engine, but also the reduced oil temp would hopefully help the belt drive somewhat.

Ignition: The bike had been running on a Krober electronic magneto, belt driven off the right side of the crank. While this worked ok, it had no form of rev limiter, and given the aforementioned transmission problems, I figured a limiter was an essential safety net. I fitted an Ignitech control unit, built a crank sensor to suit and mounted a small battery under the seat. Bench testing showed it all worked as hoped, although there was no opportunity for a track test. Even with the battery it still saved over 1kg in weight, some of it rotating.

Rear Wheel: The rear wheel had broken a spoke last time out and needed a few other niggles sorted out, so with time running out I had a crash course in wheel building and got it fixed up and together again - my first wire wheel rebuild. Good to go then.

Ignition Testing
Ignition Pickup
Trueing the Rear Rim

11000 750SFC - At that time owned by Chris, the 'proper' SFC was taken along for the fun - it would transpire to be a fortuitous move. 'Italian Classics Racing' stickers were applied to the fairing as it had carried during its racing days, and the megaphones reinstalled.

SFC 11085 After test riding
SFC and Replica in the Van
TrSFC and Replica in the van


WEDNESDAY - With the two SFC's finally prepared we loaded up the rental van with bikes, tools, spares and 80 litres of methanol and headed off for the 8hr drive to Phillip Island. We arrived in the evening to find that our rider Kevin McDonald had missed his flight from New Zealand and would be flying in the next morning. Cutting it fine...

THURSDAY - Thursday was reserved as a practice day, primarily for the international competitors who needed some track time. This was a welcome break as Kevin had ridden neither Phillip Island nor the Laverda, and the new ignition had only been tested on the workbench at home. Kev turned up around 10am having had to buy another one-way flight to Melbourne and then having taken a taxi from Melbourne airport to the track!! For those not familiar, that's at least a 2 hour trip - a specially arranged $200 fare. Chris and I were certainly impressed with his commitment! With the bike fueled and warmed up, Kevin hopped on. It was immediately apparent that while fit, Kev is a big burly guy and he positively dwarfed the little Laverda - our hosepower disadvantage would not be helped. :-)

Kevin headed out and did the first session, and I was a bit worried to hear the bike sounding flat and not revving out - thoughts racing through my head of all the possible problems. Kevin came in wide-eyed and slightly in awe of the bike, the track and the other riders. It was pretty quickly apparent - and Kev was happy to admit - that he would not be on the pace of the bike's previous riders, but with revised expectations we all looked forward to a weekend of progressive improvement.

Chris doing some polishing with Kev looking on
Kev prepares for the first practice
One lap before stripping the belt drive

Early in the third session, just after lunch, Kevin was starting to bring the times down by several seconds when the belt drive failed. It had only lasted a few laps under full throttle down the straight - so on the bright side I had now proven to my satisfaction that the belt drive was a pile of shite. For the first of many times that weekend the bike was laid on its side and the cover removed, revealing the mess. I had allowed for a failure and made a filter between primary case and sump, so was pretty confident that nothing had made it's way into the rest of the motor.

Belt destruction
Removing the belt debris
Replica and 'parts hack' SFC

The decision was made to rob the primary drive from the genuine SFC and try to source enough triplex chains to change them at least daily. I got going cleaning the debris from the Replica while Chris stripped the SFC. The Replica was reassembled with the sprockets and chain from the genuine SFC, and the final drive chain and gearing was adjusted to suit the different primary ratio. I'd begun to experience what a friendly and helpful community existed within pit lane, with tools and assistance being lent to anyone in need. We'd lost a lot of track time, but the bike was otherwise running well and Kev was gaining familiarity and confidence with both track and bike.

In the evening we were invited to a Team Kiwi dinner and drinks at the house rented by one of the team, a pleasant end to an eventful day.

FRIDAY - One thing had thus far been quite unusual - the weather. It was fine, warm and sunny, with not too much wind... at Phillip Island!! Having been there many times over the years it's quite unusual not to experience baking heat, gale force winds, horizontal rain, sleet, flooding, snow or bitter cold - more often than not all within an hour.

Ian Drysdale had responded to the call for help and agreed to try and locate spare chains for us first thing in the morning. Tsubaki had some industrial chain which looked to be the best thing available so Ian got four of those and started driving to meet me half way between Melbourne and the track (over an hours drive). A champion effort - thanks Ian! With chains in hand I returned to find the bike had not fired up for the next practice session - a blown fuse the silly culprit. Easily fixed, but another lost session.

I installed one of the new chains and we were ready for 2nd practice, but first time down the straight it was clear the clutch was now slipping badly. He stayed out to get some familiarity with the track but could not use full throttle- we were clearly not out of the woods just yet! Chris felt that a change of oil brand earlier on had contaminated the plates. Once again the genuine SFC (now known as the 'parts hack') was raided, and we swapped the complete clutch pack over whilst procuring some solvent to soak the Replica's clutch plates in just in case. The bike went back together again and now finally ran without incident throughout the qualifying session. We were well down the order but Kev was very much still learning the bike and the track, while still knocking a few seconds from his times each time he took to the track. The time required to sort out the bike's problems had also meant we'd not been able to work with Kev to get the bike set up better for him.

On Friday evening they conduct a welcome dinner in the hall above the pits, involving various interviews and speeches by the racing identities present. This year's drawcard was Wayne Gardner who gave a few entertaining speeches giving insights into some of the goings-on behind the scenes during his racing career.

SATURDAY - We once again awoke to wonder what parallel universe we were in - blue skies and no wind at Phillip Island four days running! In fact it would turn out to be quite hot, with several engine failures throughout the day no doubt assisted by the hot weather. In between race preparation we had to get the belt drive (with spare belt fitted) into the original SFC so Chris could ride in the parade laps on Sunday.

Genuine SFC? Attack it with a file!
Another day, another primary chain...
Brilliantly organised team Kiwi pit box

I'm not one to sugar coat things and the race results were certainly nothing to crow about. But while the times were well down on what the bike had done previously, Kev continued to knock a second or two off his personal best each time out and brought the bike home in one piece and right side up each time - greatly appreciated.
For the rest of the weekend the bike basically ran like clockwork, we put a new primary chain in after the first race on Saturday and another on Sunday morning, aside from that, methanol at around 50lt/100km and charging the total-loss battery system between races was the extent of it. Particularly impressive was the new Breganzane-Ignitech ignition system, which was completely un-tested but which did not skip a beat during the whole weekend and undoubtedly saved yet another valve-bashing engine explosion when the belt let go on Thursday.

During one of the afternoon races, one of the Post Classic Hondas broke a conrod and completely buz-sawed the right hand side off the crankcases, dumping a heap of oil onto the track approaching turn one - one of the quickest corners in Australian racing. Several bikes fell on the oil, but thankfully Kev was clear of the carnage and got through unscathed. That particular race was red-flagged.

Kev crouched down and going for it!
Impromptu Saturday night pissup.

We ended Saturday feeling really good, the bike going well and Kev getting quicker. We were finally able to look around us at what else was running at this amazing meeting. One of our pit-mates in the Kiwi garage was Peter Lodge who prepares an indecently quick Norton ES2 (pushrod 500cc Period 3) on which rider Paul Dobbs was matching the pace of Wayne Gardner and Rob Cole on their 'modern' short stroke OHC Manx/G50's respectively. But Dobbsie's pace was at the expense of engines, having brought one "quick" engine (seized on Friday), a "pretty quick" engine (gave up the ghost crossing the finish line last thing on Saturday afternoon), they were down to the "desperation" motor which was a reserve not used in three years. Later that evening back at the hotel, the group of us congregated around the covered bbq with an almighty thunderstorm throwing rain down like the great flood (finally, 'normal' Phillip Island weather!). Dobbsy was praying for continued rain on Sunday to negate his power disadvantage to the two more fancied bikes - it takes a special kind of rider to be hoping for pissing rain the next day...
< As a tragic footnote, Dobbsy lost his life while racing at the Isle of Man TT in 2010, a lovely bloke. RIP.>

SUNDAY - It was with some relief that cloudy but dry skies greeted us. Bike gremlins behind us, and the SFC already assembled and ready for the parade laps, it was just a matter of swapping out another primary chain, charging the battery and fueling the Replica before the first race. Given Kev had improved his race times by a good 20 seconds over the course of the weekend, we now had a tricky situation. Our Period 4 race was immediately followed by the International Challenge, and we needed a fuel top-up in between. Now that we weren't being lapped it meant that Kev crossed the finish line almost two minutes after the leaders. With a short gap between races, it was all we could do for Kev to continue at race pace around to Honda corner on the slow down lap, and roar into the back of the pits to allow us to fuel him up before throwing the bike on the rollers out the front and just getting him out before pit lane closed. It was excitingly frantic in the pits, and meant Kev had no chance of a breather between races.

The four races went without incident on Sunday, Kev was gradually dicing with groups of riders higher and higher up the order in the Post-Classic races. I think a mid-field finish could well have been possible in Post-Classic without the loss of track time on Thursday and Friday. Winning the Period 4 races by a country mile was the Irving-Vincent piloted by Craig McMartin. It was a brilliant display of riding and engineering, the totally redesigned and remanufactured bikes built to the absolute ragged edge of the rule book (and arguably beyond) by very talented people with lots and lots of money. They are certainly impressive machines.

In the International Challenge, McMartin's bike died and it was down to an epic battle between Wayne Gardner and Malcolm Campbell, the latter gaining the upper hand, much to Gardner's disgust no doubt. He may have retired 20 years ago, but the ego as well as the spirit of competition are still as strong as ever. Like any good racer Gardner had the excuses lined up in time for the presentation speech...

Running like clockwork, out for another race.
Team Breganzane Italian Classics Racing

All that remained was the dreaded task of packing up the pit after which we cleaned up and enjoyed a nice meal at Pino's Tratoria - the traditional eatery for every bike enthusiast who visits the 'Island. It had been a great weekend, after the troubles in practice and qualifying our consistency on Saturday and Sunday had netted us 21st outright in the International Challenge - the 4th Kiwi. We'd all had a blast and made some new friends, Kev and his Invercargill mates had been a pleasure to spend the weekend with.

A long drive home on Monday and it was all over - my fist meeting running a bike. It was exhausting, but fun! Many thanks to Chris, Kev, the Kiwi Team, Race Organisers, Marshals and everyone else associated with the weekend.