Transcript - Speed
April 3, 2005
Reporter: Charles Wooley
Producer: Richard Mortlock
CHARLES WOOLEY: This is a story about speeding and how to do it. Now I've have my share of traffic tickets, nothing dramatic, just a few kilometres over the limit when the sign seemed to be in hiding. Forty years ago, though, my dad could crack 60mph in his Morris Major, and no-one thought anything of it. These days, cars are better, and so are the roads, but speed's almost a hanging offence. In reality, we're not going much faster than the old man. Now, all this isn't to encourage reckless anarchy on our roads but simply to tell you that I've discovered that there still is one place left in Australia where you can put your foot down and let her rip.
CHARLES WOOLEY: The great salt lakes of inland Australia one of my favourite places on earth. And the thing to do is to crunch out across them, towards the middle, and when you get there, to stop, and just to listen. Do you hear that? Nothing! It's the sound of silence. What's happening is, the crystalline surface of the lake, like a snowfield, is actually dampening the sound, sucking it in and silencing everything. It makes this place the quietest spot on earth. But not today. It's autumn on Lake Gairdner and suddenly this remote salt lake in outback South Australia becomes the noisiest place on earth. And no-one's complaining.
JOHN LYNCH: There's nothing quite like the sound of a V8.
CHARLES WOOLEY: There's no place like this, is there?
GAIL PHILLIPS: Yes, the sound is just wonderful. It makes me wish I was in that car right there. It kind of gets your heart going.
JOHN LYNCH: Oh yeah, I love the noise. The noise is the power.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It's so noisy it's amazing they've kept it so quiet. They've been coming here, almost secretly, for 15 years. Hundreds of them rev heads, speed freaks. Some of the fastest people in Australia and, indeed, the world. All of them driven by the insane urge to go a bit faster than they did this time last year.
CHRIS FRASER: This is the only place in Australia that you can jump in a car and strap yourself in or jump on a bike and see how long the throttle cable is.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Chris Fraser wants to do 200mph. Speed speaks the old lingo here, but that's 322kph on this extraordinary machine a 5m-long 350 horsepower bike. I think what a lot of us don't understand when you're talking about a bike at these speeds is, there are no rehearsals. There's nowhere you can practise. Only here.
CHARLES FRASER: That's right. Once a year. Just put it together the best way you can and bring it to the salt and try it.
CHARLES WOOLEY: I first met the beast and its creators round the back of a shed at Silverton, just outside of Broken Hill. They told me its name was Oh, my God! because that's what everyone says when they first see it.
TREVOR CLARE: I don't like to say this too loud that engine's out of a Leyland P76.
CHARLES WOOLEY: A what!
TREVOR CLARE: A Leyland P76.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Don't tell anyone.
TREVOR CLARE: And we put it through an automatic transmission that came standard in the car and then through a 280ZX differential that we've tinkered with a little bit.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Should I nod wisely here?
TREVOR CLARE: Yeah, yeah, okay.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Can I try it?
TREVOR CLARE: Of course. Jump on.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Basically it was an idea dreamed up in the local pub by a bunch of old mates. Chris Fraser is the publican of the Silverton Hotel and his friend Trevor Clare is a local farmer.
CHARLES WOOLEY: How interested is the community in you cracking that 200mph?
CHRIS FRASER: The amount of publicity the bike has absorbed over the last 18 months is phenomenal, so with saying that, all the locals have thought, "God, that's unbelievable!"
CHARLES WOOLEY: The Broken Hill Races is a more traditional Australian outback display of horsepower. But even here, on the eve of the Lake Gairdner challenge, Chris and Trevor and the big bike were the main interest.
MAN: G'day, Trev. What's goin' on? Are you breaking 200 miles an hour?
CHARLES WOOLEY: It seemed that the whole town shared the crazy dream. Let me just say that this place is the pits, quite literally. This is where the pit crews have camped, where they have set up this extraordinary village in one of the driest, most remote places on earth, in the middle of nowhere. It's blindingly bright and 46 degrees Celsius, but it doesn't deter another man with a dream of speed this time on four wheels from trying to become the first Australian to break the 300mph barrier in, despite appearances, a conventionally powered vehicle.
JOHN LYNCH: This week and this remote salt lake is, to me it's the last amateur motor sport. Anybody can come here and have a go, whether they are trying to go 50mph or 150mph or 300mph.
CHARLES WOOLEY: John Lynch, from Castlemaine in Victoria, will make the attempt in this 1500 horsepower hand-built racing machine called The Belly Tanker.
JOHN LYNCH: I guess I've always wanted to go fast. That's just something that I love. Power and speed, it excites me.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It's a nine-mile track on a 120-mile lake. The middle mile of track is the measured mile. If Lynch can average over 300 miles an hour on that mile he joins the world's most exclusive car club. In this lunar landscape it's appropriate to observe that more people have been blasted into space than have achieved that land speed.
RADIO: You're going 92 - 301.729.
JOHN LYNCH: I'm so happy I could cry.
CHARLES WOOLEY: I could cry too you've made our story.
JOHN LYNCH: Thanks, mate.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Still the fastest man in Australia.
JOHN LYNCH: I guess so. Oh, it's great, it's great.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It's an impressive but an obscure achievement. John Lynch's amazing Australian victory over inertia won't even make tomorrow's papers. Yet out here on the salt it's like winning an Academy Award, especially the speech.
JOHN LYNCH: I've just got to thank me team. Most of them have been with me for the full 10 years it's taken. Without them I couldn't have done anything.
CHARLES WOOLEY: That's what they said.
JOHN LYNCH: They're right. And my wife and kids for putting up with this stupid obsession of mine.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Dawn the next day finds the Silverton bike team enjoying a hearty breakfast but not the prospect of racing. High winds arose during the night, making conditions too dangerous.
TREVOR CLARE: A tail wind or a direct head wind's not as major as a side wind, like we've got here now. Nobody's gonna run with a side wind at speed.
CHARLES WOOLEY: But more than anything, these blokes are the catering team. They are here for a good time.
TREVOR CLARE: No whipped butter, Bernie?
CHARLES WOOLEY: Oh, it's good! They bring their own produce and their own butcher and their pancakes are so famous they draw racing celebrities. It's fast, eh.
GAIL PHILLIPS: It is. It sounds sweet, it sure does.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Like America's Gail Phillips, one of the fastest women in the USA, a member of the elite 200mph club.
CHRIS FRASER: I must ask you one thing when you went 205mph what's it like at 200mph, because that's pretty much what we're trying to achieve.
GAIL PHILLIPS: I don't know what it will feel like in a motorcycle but in our Austin Healy Sprite it was like time kind of slows down and you feel like you are taking five or 10 minutes to do something that's really taking about 90 seconds.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Inspired by the compelling words of Gail Phillips, I had to do it. And to do it in a V8 supercar. The big thing is not to stall. This thing doesn't want to go slowly. The fastest production car in Australia, which, during this week of racing, clocked a record 304km/h on Lake Gairdner. Nothing is easy. Ah, sh-! And, in kilometres, mine was only a modest velocity. Now, the gear change is amazing. Though on the nation's highways enough to have me locked away forever. But I did become the fastest reporter on the lake that week and I did manage to frighten myself. I'm running out of track. 160, '65, '80, '90 ... 200! Oh, sh-! Do you ever get scared out there?
CHARLES FRASER: Oh, yeah. There wouldn't be a person here that didn't. If you don't get scared you're not humming, you're not concentrating, you're not focused on what you're doing.
CHARLES WOOLEY: And so to our main event the 5m bike. With just two days to go, they get their first practice run. And at 130mph the bike holds together and for the first time the dream is within reach. At dawn on the last day of the meet the weather is perfect and at last they get their first and only crack at the 200mph challenge. And so he roared off to his rendezvous with destiny out on that huge blinding white plain where, at 150mph, everything went wrong. What's wrong, mate?
TREVOR CLARE: F...ing transmission!
CHARLES WOOLEY: Are you disappointed?
CHRIS FRASER: Very. Very. For the helpers, for the blokes and the people that have supported us, I'm more annoyed for those people. Not for myself. I had fun. I got to ride the bike.
CHARLES WOOLEY: What about us? You've ruined our story, and we've been following you for a week.
CHRIS FRASER: Don't you make me feel terrible as it is.
CHARLES WOOLEY: It had been a week in which many dreams had been realised and many records broken. But for some the challenge still lies ahead, the need for speed yet to be attained. You've still got more than 50mph to go.
CHRIS FRASER: We can do it next year. We'll do 200mph next year.
CHARLES WOOLEY: Should I come back?
CHRIS FRASER: You bloody better.