1981 Coca Cola 800 Endurance Race

1981 Coca Cola 800 Endurance Race

I was currently riding for Norm Fraser Motor Cycles at Homebush. One day in September 1980 I had a phone call from Jack Davies (Manager) wanting to meet to discuss future racing committments.

At the meeting I was informed of a new Ducati due for release in the next couple of months called the “Pantah” 500cc. I am to ride it in the Coca Cola 800 endurance race to be held at Oran Park in February (1981). We talked about co-riders who would be suitable. I was informed this would be the World debut of this bike on the racing scene and the factory was also sending out a race kit for it to be developed prior to the race.

I suggested Steve Fisher as co-rider as he was fast and consistent. He also had good sponsors who would help with the publicity. They were happy with my suggestion.

The bike arrived early January, and preparations were now underway, the bike was run in over a week, so it was time for track testing.

Armed with a range of tyres and gearing we set out for a day’s testing at Oran Park. By the end of the day we were happy with dry and intermediate tyres and the suspension and gearing settings. The bike handled remarkably well over the bumpy track conditions .

Alan Moffatt was also testing during the day as well. It was great sitting down chatting and talking tyres as he was the importer for Goodyear race tyres. Alan also mentioned he had two 18 inch front Goodyear full wet weather race tyres back at his factory in Melbourne and offered to send them to me. They were the perfect tyre for wet conditions and because of the smaller rims they could be used for front and rear. So that was our wet weather choice as they were very scarce, and the long range weather forecast was for rain.

Saturday’s qualifying was in wet conditions, which was in our favour. We fitted the Goodyear wet tyres Alan Moffatt had provided. Steve went out for the first qualifying session, I did the second session. We were in the top 5, so we decided I would do the final session. I went out, first lap to settle in and second lap to pin it. Then coming on to the straight for the 3rd lap the engine blew from over revving. I coasted into the pits then saw the large hole in the crankcase. Jack quickly wheeled it away loaded into the van and headed back to the Frasers Homebush workshop. Before I left I went to the control tower to look at the qualifying times when Wayne Gardner came over and told me I had qualified on pole.

I set off to Fraser’s to tell them the good news. It was decided to pull a new standard 500cc motor from the bike in the showroom and put it in the race chassis and fit the factory pipes. We put the trader’s plate on and I rode it from Fraser’s Workshop to Oran Park to run it in.

We arrived at Oran Park, removed the trader’s plate and wheeled onto the starting line to pole position. Results were Pretty/Coleman, McCulloch/O’Brien, Roebuck/Fisher.

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