This weekend saw the 2017 QBE Insurance Festival of Speed kick off at Sydney Motorsport Park. Formally known as the Barry Sheene Festival of Speed, 2017 marked the 14th year of the world-class historic motorcycle race in Australia. The event itself however is much more than just a motorcycle race. With the passing of Barry Sheene in 2003, the annual meeting was born out of the recognition of Barry’s achievements as well as his love of motorcycling. The event is a celebration of his life, as well as the fun, friendships and on-track rivalries that took place.
This year’s event included some of Australia’s best restored vintage bikes, providing a platform for the owners and riders to showcase and celebrate European GP motorcycle racing from a forgone era. Over 400 classic race bikes were entered across the weekend’s 50+ events, where both local and international racers fought for class honours and a place on the grid for the much anticipated tribute race, the Barry Sheene Top 50 finale. Riders and notable guests included Giacomo Agostini (15 time 350cc & 500cc GP World Champion), Piero Laverda, John McGuinness (23-time Isle of Man TT winner), Gianfranco Bonera, Pierfrancesco Chili, Jeremy McWilliams, Maria Costello (MBE), Steve Parrish, Troy Bayliss, Graeme Crosby, Kevin Magee and Chris Vermeulen.
Other highlights of the International Festival of Speed included the ever-popular spectator parade laps, trade and motorcycle club stands, show and shine competition and swap meet. Both casual fans and dedicated enthusiasts were treated to some great racing across the weekend, many taking the chance to walk the pit lane and interact with the bike owners and mechanics. True devotees were able to examine the bikes up close, and reminisce of years gone by.
It was a sensational race meet overall, and the atmosphere and sportsmanship shown today was a true testament to the late, great Barry Sheene.