Guzzi 850GT versus Gilera Runner at Eastern Creek

"It's not a race."

That's what we kept telling ourselves anyway. After all, a ride day at Eastern Creek is simply about getting your bikes out on the track and enjoying the great conditions in a safe non-competitive manner. It's not a place for mates to battle it out for the honour of having the fastest bike or being the best rider. That kind of behaviour is best left to the race track....

May, 2002 - for the last year I'd had the pleasure of sharing a cubicle (really more of a corridor, but never mind that) with Tom, a mate of mine who is also a motorcyclist. In fact, his main ride at the time was a Honda GB400 that he bought off me many years previously. My only bike at the time was my 1973 Guzzi 850GT.

Now, Tom had done some serious engine work on the GB, and there's no way the Guzzi could hope to compete with it, but Tom had recently bought a wrecked Gilera Runner 180cc two stroke scooter, and was just bringing it back to roadworthy condition. And it was this that fueled the debate - which would be faster at Eastern Creek? An old, fat, but large capacity touring Guzzi, or a Gilera Runner, with its tiddly little engine, automatic gearbox (ok, CVT) and scooter dynamics?

My Guzzi, Tom and the GB.
The ride out was cold and moist,
but it turned into a nice day
We each came down on the side of out respective rides, and there was much testosterone-fueled debating during work hours over who stood the better chance. I was pretty sure no pissy little scooter was going to beat my real bike - that was for sure. Tom was likewise convinced that an ancient portly tractor-engined bucket of bolts would be no match for a light zingy two-stroke... And so, places were booked at the BEARS ride day on the 8th of June. In 'D' class - for cruisers and scooters. Ok, it was kind of a race, but it wasn't going to be a very fast one.

Preparations for the Guzzi consisted of an oil change, new spark plugs, and removing the centre stand, which has always been the first thing to start scraping on the corners, and mirrors. And filling it up with Premium Unleaded. Tom of course had more work to do, and the day at Eastern Creek was essentially his first ride on the scooter as a going concern. It was brought on a trailer by a mate of Tom's, as he'd ridden the GB out to the Creek. And when it came off the trailer, and I took it for a little ride in the car park, suddenly I was worried.... That thing could really accelerate. At least compared to the Guzzi....

We got bumped up to 'C' class, as there weren't enough really slow bikes to have a separate 'D' class. And after scrutineering and filling in forms and a lecture on safety and some hanging around, we were out on the track. The last I saw of Tom on the first session was him overtaking me on the outside of turn three or four like I was standing still. Which I kind of was. 'Twas my first time at Eastern Creek, and many years since the brief track time at Oran Park in a Stay Upright course, and I was hopeless.... So hopeless that Cath, a friend of Tom's and a Marshall at the ride got me to follow her round the track for a lap so I could see where I was supposed to be going. I think I was kind of getting in everyone's way.

Guzzi at speed
By the fifth session, I'd built up a lot more confidence and knowledge of the track. There was actually one guy on some big new bike slowing me down into the corners, but he'd always out accelerate me coming out, so I could never get past him. And I was pushing it a bit more down the straight - maybe 170km/h (which was flat out for the Guzzi). And whereas on the four previous sessions Tom had just left me in his dust very early on, I was now able to keep him close enough that I could squeak past him on the straight due to a somewhat higher top speed. Of course, he'd still shoot past me on the outside somewhere around Turn 4...

And, finally, in our last session, I managed to get past him and keep him behind me for much of the session... We'll never know quite who was the real winner though - on the final lap, Tom was just in front of me coming into turn 12 and may have taken line honours but his brakes faded away and he ran wide and off the course.

So Which Bike Won?

My suspicion is that given riders of equal ability, the Guzzi would be clearly the faster bike. I came pretty close to proving that despite Tom's clearly better riding and knowledge of the circuit. Having said that, the scooter's great acceleration off the line and the fun that Tom had punting it round the racetrack convinced me to buy a scooter myself! But that's another story.

Patrick Jordan - - 2005-03-31