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Sunshine Coast TT faces tough challenges

Sunshine Coast TT challenges event
Part of the proposed TT course (Photo Ian Beaton)

The proposed 2017 Sunshine Coast International TT will face challenges from an active local protest group and will present challenges to the international riders competing.


I rode the proposed 47.2km circuit around the Maleny region at the weekend with a group of six local riders who frequently ride these roads.

They said there was about 60-70% support for the race, but said the protesters would be vocal as they were several years ago in trying to stop a Woolworths opening in their hilltop town.

Already a Facebook protest group called Peaceful Roads Sunshine Coast has been formed to oppose the four-day event, complaining that it will increase the number of riders who visit the area throughout the year.

Despite speaking with several residents, business people, newsagents, restaurateurs, hoteliers, etc, I could not find one person who objected to the race.

Meanwhile, a petition of support for the TT event has been started and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council has a website for people to leave comments about the planned event.

SSC TT promoter David Rollins says the event will attract 16,500 spectators from around the world and inject more than $8.5 million into the local economy. However, if the protest group is right about attracting more riders all year, it will be a much bigger economic boost.

Sunshine Coast TT challenges
My SSC TT course escorts

If approved, the SSC TT is planned to be similar to the famous Isle of Man TT (IOM TT) with sanctioning by FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, the world motorcycle sport governing body) and attracting the cream of international road racers.

It will present the riders with some dangerous challenges like the IOM TT, but a little different.

Instead of stone walls, humpback bridges, phone polls and phone boxes as obstacles, the SSC TT challenges include treacherous off-camber corners, gravel spills, massive trees close to the road edge and plenty of bumps and potholes.

The course has more than 400 corners and is planned to start opposite the Maleny State High School in Bunya St on the southern side of town before weaving through a couple of suburban streets in the town’s outskirts.Sunshine Coast TT challenges

It then heads west along the sparsely populated Stanley River Rd which rollercoasters over the ridges of the Blackall Ranges presenting spectacular 360-degree views and long, sweeping corners.

Riders should reach speeds around 300km/h through this section with airborne bikes over several of the crests.

The road then twists and winds down through the forest with plenty of tight turns and little runoff.

Sunshine Coast TT challenges
Stanley River Rd forest section

At the junction with the Peachester Rd, riders will turn east through a short and bumpy forest section before hitting a straight where top speeds should be reached.

Before Peachester, they will make a sharp turn north on Bald Knob Rd which presents the most challenges as it winds through dense forest.

Sunshine Coast TT challenges
Emerging from the forest on Bald Knob Rd (Photo courtesy Ian Beaton)

The road then runs along the side of the hill heading east with gob-smacking views of the Glasshouse Mountains.

Sunshine Coast TT challenges
Glasshouse Mountains views

At the end of the road, riders will turn a sharp left on the Landsborough-Maleny Rd and climb the mountain into the cutting locals call the Icebox because it is usually several degrees cooler.

Sunshine Coast TT challenges
Emerging from the Icebox

They turn west at Mountain View Rd past The Terrace seafood restaurant which will have an excellent view of the racers. (Don’t forget to try their famous seafood chowder while you’re there!)

Sunshine Coast TT challenges
The Terrace is a great place to view and eat

The last turn is right into McCarthy Rd and back to the school.

Local rider Andy Rockliff who has been to the IOM TT three times and helped escort me over the course says it is similar because it is twisty and narrow.

“But the IOM circuit is smooth and well maintained. This is really bumpy in places,” he says.

Local resident and BMW rider Ian Beaton believes the biggest challenges for the event will be securing the closures of the Landsborough-Maleny Rd for six hours a day as it is the main access road into the town.

“There are a lot of questions to be answered but given the time frame there is plenty of time to fix any concerns,” he says.

Sunshine Coast TT challenges
Bald Knob Rd (Photo courtesy Ian Beaton)

Ian and Andy suggest the organisers follow the example of the IOM TT and get the local charity and community groups involved in catering, carparks, camping grounds, transport etc, so they can raise money.

The SSC TT organisers plan to bus spectators to the six grandstands located around the track and not allow them to roam freely as they do at the IOM TT.

(Thanks to Ian, Andy, Glenn Savage, Rod Richards, Hugh Fathers and David Pearce for taking the time to show me around the course.)

  1. From your description Mark it looks fantastic and a great opportunity to become a strong international event. I say bring it on and ignore the greenies who would want to ban anything progressive/new/interesting/tourist based/motorcycle related from going ahead.

  2. This would be good for the area and bring in cash to the local business entities. And as a PM once said.. a rising tide lifts all boats. Yes it will be inconvenient for a few days each year and yes some loons might like to race around the “course” during other times of the year. But hey, idiots do that at Mt Panorama outside of Bathurst week but the community there know that the race does bring money to the town. I thunk it would be a great thing to have.. I would go as a spectator to at least the first one.

  3. You didn’t try very hard if you couldn’t find anyone in Maleny opposing the race. So far I have not found anyone in favour of the race except for out of town motorcyclists and that is hardly surprising. This race will not go ahead because the people of Maleny will not let it. We successfully stopped a petrol station being built opposite our primary school and we have a long history of standing up and fighting for what we believe in. So if you really want a TT style race you should be encouraging Mr Rollins to focus his efforts elsewhere. Otherwise be prepared for the biggest fight of his life. We love our town and will not allow it to become a racetrack. We’ll do whatever we can to stop it.

    1. Where exactly in malaney do you live and is there accomodation nearby?
      Some of my friends from the loud pipes appreciation society are looking for a place to stay.

    2. Thanks for the heads up SSmith…in that case we best continue travelling the roads, but we shall roll straight through ‘your’ town, it’s people and small businesses and gather elsewhere for friendly faces, chatting, coffee and food. No drama mate.

      1. Our town – yes we live here 365 days a year. I am sure you call your suburb and home where you live MY SUBURB and MY HOME. I ride motorbikes, but I am also very aware that not everybody does and not everybody appreciates them. It is shame that you display the same ignorance and abuse you claim to receive. There are plenty of other ways to have fun – people that don’t ride bikes are not fun sponges or old.

        Also Maleny has over 220 tourist categories of hobbies and enthusiasts, that visit and spend money in the town and if motorsport is just one of them. If you feel you need roll on by – great we actually don’t need you.

        1. Thanks for the heads up Karen. Will be rolling through sometime soon. Won’t be stopping for a coffee or bite. Cheers.

        2. Hahaha……you almost had me convinced there KarenT.

          At any point during the weekend whenever I’m in ‘Your Town’ I see a stack of motorcyclists all stopped having a bite to eat etc. If you removed every single one of those bikes, the place would be very very empty indeed.

  4. Wow, and they have the Gaul to call supporters of the race selfish, this race is for everyone to enjoy. If they can’t let their hair down for a few days a year to host an event that will double their business, because they are too old, uptight and generally opposed to anything resembling fun, well I think it means they NEED this race to happen before they turn to stone from being so damn rigid and inflexible. Live a little, have some fun. Motorcyclists are some of the friendliest people one will ever meet so if they are concerned about the types of people it will be attracting they needn’t worry. If they are concerned about the safety of the event, maybe volunteer as a Marshall, help raising barriers, etc.

    They are fools if they think motorcyclists aren’t already aware of this area as a great place to ride, we pay taxes as well and are just as entitled to use the roads there as they are. Even if the event doesn’t go ahead I think we as the motorcycling community owe it to them to bring motorcycles to the Maleny area. Nowhere is off limits, I will ride where I damn well please and you can petition and moan all you want but you are wasting your breath.

  5. Haven’t we all forgotten that it needs approval from the “authorities” yet – good luck with that one!!!!

  6. Indeed this would be an exciting event, however I think that resistance from Maleny locals will be the least of Mr Rollins’ challenges. I’m amazed, and disappointed, that knowledgeable journalists (and road racing enthusiasts) have not asked Mr Rollins some obvious questions about the logistics of this ambitious event. Most significant being “How is he going to get the track licenced by Motorcycling Australia?” Note that MA is the Relevant Controlling Body for international events other than World Championships (ref MA’s Manual of Motorcycle Sport, and issuer of licences for road racing circuits. Even a cursory glance over the MA’s Track Guidelines – Road Racing Module would indicate that getting the proposed circuit to comply would be virtually impossible (eg minimum run-offs, track widths and verges, cambers, visibility & kerb structures to name a few).

    Mr Rollins has said that it will be “FIM sanctioned”, however the FIM has not directly sanctioned a “road” race for decades (and no, they don’t “sanction” the IoM). Moreover, there are only two FIM sanctioned tracks in Oz (PI and Eastern Creek); compare them to the proposed circuit to get a feel for FIM’s circuit requirements if it even came to that. So unless Mr Rollins can get MA to change their Track Guidelines it is remote that the event would go ahead under MA/FIM auspices.

    Then there’s a multitude of other logistical challenges…eg where are the 800 flag marshalls going to come from (yes, lots of volunteers, but approx 200 will have to be licenced). And getting Dept of Trans and Main Roads (as opposed to the local council) to close main roads. Mr Rollins has committed to “improving the mobile coverage for the area to help run the event”….when NBN have not been able to get a Development Application for new towers for nearly 2 years!

    These are not opinions but simple facts. So what looks like a potentially great event seems somewhat pie in the sky when reality hits home. So is/was it worth all the local angst it’s created?

    1. In Mr Rollings defence there may be things he is working on that have not been mentioned for various reasons and like any big job you need to start somewhere. Getting an event like this going is one of those catch 22 situations where you can’t start at the start line you have to start in the middle get to the end and go back to the start. If he started showing up asking for approvals for an event without any public support he’d be told to go away and come back later after spending millions with no guarantee of approval. At least by getting the public interested and making some noise there is some chance of success if not for the proposed race then something very similar in an equally enticing location.

    2. The way I see it Kevin, unnescessarily people reacted with angst, instead of embracing the idea. This showed me what the locals really think and which gives me a greater insight to the facade, so that next time I see them boasting about themselves and how fair and mocha late’ they are I will have tongue fairly in cheek when I roll by. So really I look at it like the reactions have all done me a favour. Visor down.

      1. Al, yes maybe Mr Rollins has some remarkable ace up his sleeve, but you’d think that anyone embarking on a project like this would do some discreet due diligence with the relevant authorities eg would MA even consider scrapping their track guidelines for this event, but he had no discussions with them (despite saying he had at one of the public meetings). Likewise the statement that RaceSafe was on board (with a photoshopped pic of at least eight vehicles when they don’t have that many), when that was not the case. And that fatalities at the IoM only occurred in “supporting events”. Or that spectators would be limited to the designated grandstands (how’s that gunna work?). Or that he hadn’t tried it before in Oz when he definitely had (Oxley Hwy, NSW). Call me a cynical old bastard, but when I see and hear this kind of thing I get deeply suspicious regardless of the initial attractiveness of the proposition.

        Jaime, don’t count all the locals as against it (I’d be first in line for a ticket if it was actually going to happen), so don’t take it out on local businesses if you’re not sure of their individual position. Maleny has a very vocal group that can raise a protest about anything, but it’s not necessarily the majority.

        1. Quite the contrary according to local guru and previous commenter SSmith. He couldn’t find not even one local supporter. A scare campaign based on fear perhaps?

          1. Well I was at the public meeting with at least 200 local attendees and when asked for a show of hands “for or against” it was probably a slight majority in favour. And there were a number of local businesses there in support the proposal. The feisty ongoing debate on the local facebook page reflects this as well, plenty off strong opinions on both sides of the debate. As I implied, protesting is in the DNA of some Maleny people, that social diversity is part of what makes living here so interesting (and being able to ride out the front gate onto those glorious roads!). But for all that, I firmly believe it’s a moot point, for the reasons I’ve already stated I’ll be amazed if it actually happens.

          2. Point taken Kevin. Keep enjoying the sights & dizzy heights up there. I’m happy just the same to go around.

          3. The way I also see it, is that collectively WE ALL have to defend our immediate areas, our land, our water, our animals, our eco systems. We all should care enough to anyway. In the grand scheme of things, I think the maintenance of a stoic image is in vain against bikes and their riders is really the least of the planets worries.

          4. Last line of my last post should read……’AS IT’S the least of the planets worries.

    3. I believe you are misinformed… when MA talk of “Road Racing” that covers Track Racing aka Short Circuit Racing as in Lakeside, Eastern Creek, etc. The guidelines for camber, run off, etc is for purpose built tracks which are used for a particular form of bike racing which they call Road Racing. This is completely different from racing on public roads and has completely different guidelines. No run off etc. That’s way it takes these riders years to master these TT style events and exactly why the promoter won’t be allowing amateurs to enter. Professionals only by invite.
      As for mobile coverage… it’s my understanding that it’ll come directly from a satellite link. The fastest available, top grade for fast response. Similar or same as used by military… not your basic NBN or mobile coverage towers

  7. I wonder if it hadn’t been running for over 100 years. and was proposed now if
    the isle of man would pass todays safetycrats And will ‘big names’ in the
    sport be attracted to a venue that offers all the dangers but none of
    the history or prestige of the isle of man

    1. If motorcycles were invented today they’d need four wheels airbags and crumplezones

  8. As I understand it the race cannot run if anyone is near or on the So-called track when they are not supposed to be. To try and guarantee that to anyone it would be necessary to create 2 walls, each around 50 km long (inside and outside the “Track”). Probably about 3 metres high and impervious to tractors. Or you could bring in the army. It won’t need to be a “Majority” It will only require 1 or more “Unreasonable Nimby’s”. The race was NEVER going to happen in Maleny. Look up Wikipedia and see how many other towns in the world are known as “Protest Towns”. Rollins is actively bringing motor cyclists into disrepute with this ploy, designed to pave the way for the invasion of Gympie or somewhere else more suitable. The sooner bikers realise that Rollins is using them, the better off we all will be. Shabby, biased, ill-informed writing like that in this article plays right into Little-Fingers (Rollins) hands…WAKE UP!!!

  9. I’m a bit disappointed that the local community would oppose this. I mean I understand not wanting big chain shops in the area. That would hurt local small businesses permanently. This tt would be a different kettle of fish entirely however.

    Big tourist money. An increase in property value. The locals may even rent out their front lawns for $20 per tent space a night. If it’s noise and inconvenience they’re worried about, surely it would be no worse than any roadworks that seem to be semi permanent in qld. A few days of the year to give the entire region a boost, hardly seems like a price to pay at all.

    Why can’t we just work with the organiser to make it as safe and as little disruption as possible. Then if the event is a big alls up, oppose its continuation?

    1. Hi Gatch, I used to be a rider. I got cured by driving Silver Top Taxi’s in Melbourne for 12 mths. Now I don’t get on the road without walls around me.I tell you this because I understand the attraction to these hills,when bikes cruise by I envy them.
      Looking on google maps its difficult to tell that Maleny is an island, it reminds me of living on Phillip Island but instead of beaches we have the edge of the hill as you can see in some of the photo’s above. There is three ways into Maleny from outside.
      If you look at the map of the proposed course you’ll see a deviation from what looks a bit like a race track. It is where the course doesn’t turn on to Mountain view Rd for a relatively straight run up tp Cairncross corner. One of my favorite roads with a couple of nice long curves and rises which would give speeding bikes some air time. Instead Rollins is sending the bikes into residential streets in the heart of Maleny with right angle bends, puppies, children , grandma’s etc. etc. Do you think he did this to endear himself to the community?The people on the bit of road he avoided would still be trapped in their house either way, they are inside the fortified island or is it “The pits” ? I ask this …instead of fixating on the joy and thrill of watching the race, take a moment to imagine your least bike loving grandparent trapped in their house by a bike race and assailed by the unholy scream of bike engines…for 8 hours per day, for 4 days. Cheers.

  10. Good old Australian nimbyism and wowserism will stop this in its tracks (excuse the cheap pun). The very idea that someone, somewhere is having fun – let alone fun with an element of danger – is unacceptable in this country. And anyway, if spectators are to be rounded up and forced into stands it’s hardly going to have the TT atmosphere is it?

  11. Ok I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it before but here i go,
    The NSW,QLD governments support F1, Super-cars (put a lot of money in) and close off the streets/roads in Sydney and Brisbane etc for F1,V8 racing (don’t sorry about the residents who live their).
    So whats the big deal!!!!!
    Shit! I know it’s the bloody sponsors and TV coverage (big money).
    Sorry but in my 68 years in Australia etc we are going down the drain, in all aspects.
    p.s.. it won’t happen, but if it does i will ride my 2001 996 Ducati around the proposed course naked (only helmet).

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