We journeyed to the Le Minz 24 hr scooter race to follow the fortunes of Brisbane Motorcycles' Piaggio Typhoon 50 team.
Scooter Racing - 24 hrs to 50cc Glory
As one of the world's most exciting spectator sports, motorcycle racing enjoys a long tradition of daredevils defying rationality by pitting high powered machinery against momentum and gravity, often reaching speeds in excess of 300 km/hr, on exotic circuits, chasing world championship success and eternal glory.
So how do a gaggle of 50cc scooter enthusiasts riding around a Gold Coast go cart track for 24 hrs at speeds of less than 80 km/hr compare?
We journeyed to the Le Minz 24 hr scooter race to follow the fortunes of Brisbane Motorcycles' Piaggio Typhoon 50 team entry to find out.
There may be no grid girls and the prize money might be the change you don't spend on the entrance fee but we can confirm the 24hr Le Minz scooter endurance event is no joke and taken seriously by some of the biggest racing names in the country. In fact this year's event attracted over 50 teams with enthusiast and professionals alike pitching their skills to see who would out ride, out tactic or just outlast everyone else. Now in its 5th year, The Le Minz this year attracted the caliber of retired international race legends like Troy Bayliss, Jason Crump and Gary McCoy, alongside young and experienced local racers from ASBK, British super bike and no end of hair brained riding challenges which pitch man against machine. For those lacking experience, enthusiasm more than makes up for the short fall providing a recipe for some serious scooter mayhem!
Now most standard 50cc scooters are limited to 50 km per hr so entrants generally opt for the more exotic sports variants from manufacturers designed for speed with water cooling, sports suspensions and race ready tires. Not so Brett Mutton, owner of Brisbane Motorcycles, and newly appointed Vespa Piaggio dealer for the Brisbane metro area. Brett chose a different path to prove one of Piaggio's best selling everyday air cooled 50cc scooters, the Typhoon 50 could mix it with the more exotic and expensive competition even electing to run on the standard knobby tires. Brett's strong background in managing race teams and supporting young upcoming talent saw Brisbane motorcycles put together a talented team of young racers including ASBK champ, Ben Attard , Australian Supersport rider Kyle Buckley, upcoming talent Callum Barker and finally Brett's own son and British super bike rider James Mutton.
Against some racing royalty and unquestionably quicker ''stock " competition, team Brisbane Motorcycles Typhoon 50 qualified in the top 20 and the team saw an absolute flying start from James Mutton to have the team running 14th by the second lap.
Brett knows tactics play as big a part in this type of race as speed, with reliability the key so an early pit stop saw the bike come in for an extended checkup while every nut and bolt was given the once over. The initial strategy put the team as far back in the field as 30th place however the strategy paid dividends as the race progressed with a hard charging Kyle Buckley reclaiming 14th position inside of the next 2 hrs.
From here the hard yards were really earned as riders each committed to their two hour stints, continually ran 1' 37" laps, over the 80 lap sessions. Consistency and efficient pit-stops had the team maintain their top 15 position going into the evening stint.
ASBK champ Ben Attard took no prisoners as he rubbed handlebars and swapped paint to maintain position in the top running group, most with better acceleration and top end speed than the standard Typhoon. Additionally to challenging the top 10, back markers also provided less than considerate lines for Ben to negotiate.
As night closed in Brett's masterstroke to run with the standard Typhoon tires paid off. The balmy 30 degree weather subsided, lightening flashed and rain fell from 10:30pm until after midnight. Kyle Buckley was in the saddle and with all his skills on display applied his craft to see the superior handling of the Piaggio Typhoon run lap times up to 10 seconds quicker to challenge the front runners in lap speeds.
The Brisbane Motorcycles team was on edge with anticipation, could they secure a position in the top 10 runners? With Typhoons fuel usage significantly lower than originally planned and Kyle's exceptional performance pushing the team into contention of a strong finish, Brett made the decision to skip the next scheduled fuel stop and push through a mammoth 3 hr session with Kyle on a charge. With lesser riders and bikes dropping from the race, team Brisbane powered through the waking hrs and by the 20th hour sat comfortably in 11th. The team was now closing in on a top 10 position.
It's what you can't control which will bring you undone and so was the case with the Team Brisbane Piaggio Typhoon. At the 22nd hour disaster struck, Callum Barker holding his position in the field and nearing the end of his final 2hr session and negotiating a fast left was punted, no fault of his own, mid-corner by a competitor. The steering took the brunt of the very hard hit effectively rendering the scooter 'uni-directional'. Team Brisbane, watching on helplessly held their combined breath as Callum, with no capacity to steer and already committed to the apex valiantly went down. But Callum's racing instinct took over to regain enough composure to remount the Typhoon and with adrenaline pumping negotiate the infield, to bravely bring the scooter and himself into the pit garage.
Unsteady as he was, Callum stepped off to be rushed by the team to Race Safety for treatment. Meanwhile back in the pit garage the Brisbane team worked frantically to get the Typhoon back into the race, drawing on their extensive technical experience to find a way to get back out. Ultimately it was Brett, realising the situation was beyond repair, who stepped in and asked the team to reluctantly put the tools down. For Team Brisbane Motorcycles and Piaggio's Typhoon, the race was over.
After the initial disappointment subsided it soon dawned on the team what a great effort everyone had done working as a team and talk quickly switched to 2016. Everyone on the team agreed what great effort by riders and pit crew particularly Callum who despite a broken scapular and badly bruised shoulder still managed to pilot the bike back to the pits. The Typhoon 50 also showed it was more than up to the task with reliability and fuel economy giving the team a big boost.
Piaggio congratulates team Brisbane Motorcycles on their valiant effort would like to thank Brett Mutton his Pit crew and the riders who put their faith in Piaggio Typhoon 50 to take on Australia's longest scooter endurance race.
Visit Brett and the team at Brisbane Motorcycles where you can see the Piaggio Typhoon 50 and the complete Piaggio range of bikes.