Laverty brothers star in Kings of Wannerroo

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Adrian Mettam, President of the Motorcycle Racing Club of Western Australia, was a man with a lot on his mind last weekend.

Adrian had convinced the Club that they had to go ‘International’ to boost their Kings of Wanneroo motorcycle road race meeting at the Barbagallo circuit on the outskirts of Perth.

As a result, every penny in the MRCWA’s bank account was released (a total of over £40,000) to recruit a group of riders from Britain and Ireland to enhance the grid of the Club’s main event on November 9.

A posse of top BSB and road racers including Karl Harris, Michael and John Laverty, Ian Lowry, Adrian Coates, Cameron Donald, Bruce Anstey, Ryan Farquhar and multiple Irish champion Mike Swann arrived in Perth via Hong Kong last week to compete in the Production Superbike Kings of Wanneroo three leg race.

Local sponsors and dealerships provided each rider with what was basically a Superstock machine on slicks. The local competition included Australian Superbike champion Glenn Allerton and Western Australian champion Ben Stronach.

For the UK-based riders this was a holiday race at the end of a long, hard season but for Adrian Mettam and the MRCWA members this was a chance to put their race back on the map.  Five years ago the body that runs bike racing in Australia, Motorcycling Australia, awarded the organisation of the Australian road race championship to a private promoter.

As a result the Perth club lost their status because of the difficulty and costs involved in travelling across the huge southern hemisphere continent.  All of the other championship circuits are in the eastern part of the country and to put it into some kind of perspective to travel from Sydney to Perth is the same distance as travelling from Belfast to Cairo.

And if you have ever bemoaned the travelling involved in covering a BSB season spare a thought for Ray Asnett, a Perth native who raced the Australian 600cc championship on a Suzuki GSX-R in 2007.

With all eight rounds in the East, Ray had to drive over 40 hours non-stop with a fellow driver to get to each event, covering over 5000 miles per meeting!

Little wonder then that Ray was one of the Club members who supported their President’s initiative and like many members he put his money where his mouth was.

“Some of us who race were asked if were buying a new bike for next season and if we were we have been encouraged to buy it now and lend it to the visitors to race!” Ray said. 

The MRCWA have gone to extraordinary lengths to host this year’s event. “Motorcycling Australia have ignored our pleas to come back here and so we have decided to stage an event of our own,” explained Adrian, a former racer himself.

“It is a huge risk but this is still the wild West and we do things differently here!”

The crowds that attend the Kings of Wanneroo meeting at Baragallo have fallen away in recent years to less than 2000.  For the club to break even this year they needed a gate of over 4000 and they hoped that the ‘International tag’ would be a big draw.

The UK boys, on an all expenses paid trip, were delighted to lend their support. “We love riding bikes and its great to be asked to come here.  We are loving it,” was Relentless Suzuki BSB star Michael Laverty’s verdict. “We will all be back next year if we are asked.”

“It’s awesome to see so many familiar faces in my backyard,” was Aussie TT star Cameron Donald’s view.  “I think that they are all enjoying themselves too.”

Australian Superbike champion Glenn Allerton seconded that opinion.  “It is good to meet guys that I have only seen on DVDs and to race against them on even equipment.”

Allerton dominated the first leg, winning on the Allect Racing Honda from a re-start after Karl Harris (R1 Yamaha) and Gary Staring (R1 Yamaha) collided on the first bend. 

North West 200 Ducati runner John Laverty was the best of the UK contingent in runner up.  John was riding a Honda for local dealership Rick Gill after the local Ducati dealership failed to produce a mount for him.

As a British Superstock runner John seemed to adapt more quickly to the standard trim machinery than most of his compatriots and he won leg two from Allerton to set up a head to head in the third decisive leg.

Karl Harris (Yamaha) who had had to sit out the second leg after his first race crash got the holeshot but a fast charging Allerton (Honda) moved into the lead on the fifth lap.  John Laverty (Honda) closed him down towards the end but the Aussie held on to win overall.

“It was really good fun, these guys are a really sporting bunch of riders. It was good for me to gauge myself against them and maybe the contacts I have made this week will help me get to UK soon too.” Allerton said afterwards.

John Laverty was delighted with his performance.

“I had no idea what to expect coming here and it was great to win one.  Glenn said that nobody had out-braked him all year on the last lap of a race and I did it twice in the second race so that will do for me,” he laughed.

John’s brother Michael, having his last race in Relentless Suzuki colours, scored his third third spot of the day to complete the Kings of Wanneroo podium.

As everyone left the circuit on Sunday evening after a spectacular day’s racing that also included Clubman’s, Supersport and Sidecar races as well the Superbike events, Adrian and his club officials were busy counting the Aussie dollars to see if their big gamble paid off. 

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Stephen Davison

By Stephen Davison

Biographer of John McGuinness & road racing's foremost writer & photographer