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Phillip Island celebrates half a century of magic

Phillip Island celebrates half a century of magic

Phillip Island celebrates half a century of magic

The Phillip Island circuit celebrated its 50th anniversary this weekend, half a century since the first sod of soil was turned in construction of the track at the southern tip of the Australian mainland. `The Island´ will always be remembered by MotoGP fans as the venue where Valentino Rossi clinched the last 500cc World Championship just six months ago.

The local heroes are Mick Doohan, who took victory in 1998, and Wayne Gardner, who captured his country´s imagination with a winning rides in 1989 and '90. All these moments were re-lived at an Aussie ´long lunch´ in the circuit´s pit lane on Saturday, as visitors had a rare opportunity to drive slow laps around the circuit, and to stroll through the modern Visitors Centre and its gardens.

In 1951 six businessmen formed The Philip Island Auto Racing Club (PIARC), ´to build Australia's first international grand prix circuit´, and the grand opening meeting was held in December 1956. $$$ However over the years, extensive damage to the Phillip Island track surface brought its closure for some time, and by the late 1970s racing had declined, and the land was just being farmed by its owners.

Then, in 1987, Wayne Gardner burst on to the international motorcycle scene, by winning the 500cc world championship. On the back of the euphoria surrounding that triumph, Australia scored a Grand Prix, with engineer and promoter Bob Barnard and his Barfield company arranging to run it at The Island. Half a kilometre was cut from the track, leaving it at 4.445 kilometres, as the then vast sum of A$5 million was spent upgrading it to its current-day status.

The Island then saw the Grand Prix lured away by its northern rival, Sydney´s Eastern Creek raceway for six years, but in 1997 the Grand Prix returned to its acknowledged ´home´ and has stayed put since. This season´s MotoGP race at The Island, which takes place on October 20th, promises to be an exhilarating affair after the arrival of the new 4-strokes, and reigning World Champion Rossi is sure to be going all out to repeat his epic success of last year.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2002

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