OLD FAITHFUL: Des Woodberry fondly remembers the first Hattah Desert Race event in 1997 when he teamed with his son Duane to win the Pony Express, and now 20 years later, the two-wheeled machine they used is still going strong. Photo: PAUL MENSCH.
BY MITCH RODD
KEVIN Martin had no idea he owned a piece of Hattah Desert Race history.
After the BP Desert Race was disbanded in 1979, the North West Victorian Motorcycle Club (NWVMCC) brought their beloved race back to life in 1997.
Local stalwart Des Woodberry and his late son, Duane ‘Shuff’s’ Woodberry, took the honours in the Pony Express event.
Over the past 20 years, Hattah has grown into a racing phenomenon.
That ’97 race was the last time Des used that particular bike, and after passing through a few sets of owners, Kevin bought it 13 years ago.
It was only days ago, however, that he found out the two-wheeled machine won the inaugural Hattah event.
“I knew Des and Duane had raced with the bike but I didn’t know it had won the ’97 race,” Kevin said.
“It still runs beautifully. The 605 Rotex motor is still one of the best going around.”
Eyeing off the bike for the first time in a few years in Kevin’s backyard, Des said it brought back memories.
“I owned it and used to sponsor ‘Shuffs’ when he rode in a number of different series,” Des said.
After a long absence of the Hattah race, the NWVMCC committee made the ’97 event a ‘Pony Express’ – a format where two riders interchange on the one bike.
Hattah attracted 54 riders, which was a launch pad to the renowned event that exists today.
“It really was almost like a club day in that first instance because there was an unknown about it,” Des recalled. “The way it was received was fantastic. From there it built up to what it is today.
“We went down and put hours into that track. We were just happy to have it up and running again as it had been a long time since the last one.”
The Woodberry’s had close competition in that race from Gavin Walker and eventual five-time Hattah winner Warren Smart.
“Whenever I was on the bike, Warren would go flying past me, but Duane was faster than Gav. It was a great day,” Des said.
Each December NWVMCC host the ‘Shuff’s’ Cup Dirt Track event in honour of Duane, who passed away in 2008. The club uses the event to fund-raise for local charities and organisations each year.
Thoughts of Duane came flooding back to Des while taking another look at the bike.
“It’s a memory I hold dear,” he said.