Herrick doubles up in sweltering conditions
Perennial contender Darren Herrick was the big winner at the Wagga Wagga-hosted 2004 Australian Long Track Championship on November 27.
The 32-year-old West Wyalong (NSW) resident was sublime in his 'home' event -- he lives only 90 minutes drive from Wagga Wagga -- in clinching two of the seven championships on offer -- 250cc and 500cc.
The start-to-finish victory in the quarter-litre class saw Herrick retain his Australian championship, where he was joined by three other riders/teams who backed up from their 2003 successes - Anthony Davies-Harold McCahon (1100cc dirt track sidecar), Jarrod Koppe (over 450cc four-stroke) and Troy Batchelor (500cc slider).
"It was one of the tougher meetings that I've ridden in with such sweltering conditions, but I'm certainly extremely proud of the double -- it was a great way to finish off the year," said Herrick, who has now won four long track titles in three years. "I had a chance to make it three championships, but I was absolutely buggered by the time the 450cc four-stroke final came around, and I eventually finished fourth in that one.
"Still, I love competing in long track, and I think that was borne out in the results -- I had a great time.
"I also enjoyed watching Jay Springsteen in the Harley support races -- that bloke is an awesome rider."
In the 12-rider, four-lap 250cc final, Herrick defeated Luke Johnson and dual Australian dirt track champion Troy Herfoss, while Josh Waters and Ben Grabham were second and third in the 500cc decider.
Meanwhile, Johnson also just failed to retain his 125cc title, with the slider-mounted Christopher Holder emerging victorious, leaving Scott Brown in third. Minutes before, the first attempt at the 125cc final was aborted after a nasty incident at Turn One brought down half the field.
Waters, like Johnson, also finished an agonising second in another class -- this time 450cc four-stroke. Evergreen Paul Caslick, who was a dirt track champion in the 1980s before recently coming out of retirement, won the experience-versus-youth decider, leaving teenager Waters to quip that "I was about a one-year-old when you last won a national title!"
Bathurst's Ben Grabham, going for three wins in a row, was third in 450cc four-stroke, while Koppe made the long trek from Townsville a productive one by defending his over 450cc four-stroke title from Herfoss and Tim Spencer.
In the final solo class, 500cc slider, Batchelor was untroubled in making it consecutive triumphs, with his cause helped when Craig Watson's bike imploded on the start line. Watson, who finished ninth in the 2001 Long Track World Championship, went undefeated through the heats, and his frustration was clearly evident when he was forced out of the final.
That left Batchelor to make his intentions clear from the outset, with Rodney McDonald an excellent second from Jason Stewart.
Finally, West Wyalong made it a triple treat in 2004 when another pair of its residents, Davies and McCahon, whitewashed the 1100cc dirt track sidecar proceedings -- victory in all the heats and a swift incision in the final as they defeated Barry Raffin-Ernie Raffin and Aaron Murnane-Robbie Taggett.
In the support events, the major highlight was the mastery of American icon Jay Springsteen in the Harley/British Twin Challenge. Springsteen, who has won 43 AMA (American) Grand National events, was all class on his borrowed Harley, while the other support winners were Alan Jones (500cc Classic Slider); Matthew Davies (65cc 7-U9 years); Todd Kurtz (65cc 9-U13); Glenn Scott (125cc 13-U16); Nicolas Waters (85cc 9-U13); and Brodie Waters (85cc 12-U16).
125cc 1 Christopher Holder. 2 Luke Johnson 3 Scott Brown
250cc 1 Darren Herrick 2 Luke Johnson 3 Troy Herfoss
Up to 450cc four-stroke 1 Paul Caslick 2 Josh Waters 3 Ben Grabham
Over 450cc four-stroke 1 Jarrod Koppe 2 Troy Herfoss 3 Tim Spencer
500cc two-stroke 1 Darren Herrick 2 Josh Waters 3 Ben Grabham
500cc Slider 1 Troy Batchelor 2 Rodney McDonald 3 Jason Stewart
Dirt Track Sidecar 1 Anthony Davies-Harold McCahon 2 Barry Raffin-Ernie Raffin 3 Aaron Murnane-Robbie Taggett