(Extra reporting and photos by Paul Joshua)
The Lions TT will be back again next year, according to the organisers.
The organisers are proclaiming the event and the corresponding Kyogle Motorcycle Festival and Casino Sprints a success.
Despite three reported crashes on the Lions Rd on the Queensland/NSW border, one of which stopped the recreational ride early on the second day, they say the event was popular with riders and the local community and they hope to make it an annual event.
The first day of the inaugural Lions TT got off to a positive start on Saturday with 152 riders participating in the recreational ride on a closed 17km portion of the Lions Rd from the Queensland to Ripple Creek in NSW. The atmosphere was friendly and excited and there was an obvious, but not intrusive, police presence on both sides of the border.
Queensland Police officer in charge, Senior Sergeant Scott Lacey, said he was pretty relaxed about the event and just wanted everyone to arrive safely. However, some riders complained that police were being heavy handed with petty fines such as not coming to a full stop at a stop sign and clipping a double line in Rathdowney.
More than 1000 people also attended the nearby Kyogle motorcycle festival and about 50 headed further south to Casino for the untimed solo sprints on the airport runway.
There were two crashes on the Lions TT on the Saturday with minor injuries and a spectator crashed on the Mt Lindesay Highway. However, a more serious crash early on the second day halted the TT event.
According to eyewitnesses, the second rider in the first group of five crashed through a barbed write fence and suffered a suspected broken leg. A NSW ambulance attended and the recreational ride was shut down for several hours while NSW police investigated.
Riders poised to participate decided to go home or continue to Kyogle and Casino rather than waiting. The TT was eventually shut down a few hours later and the road was reopened to two-way traffic.
Riders said the attraction of the ride for which they paid $99 a day or $179 for the weekend, was that there was no other traffic on the road. Most said they would like the event to return next year and some even said they would not even seek reimbursement for the closed Sunday event. No official statement by the organisers has yet been made about reimbursements.
Locals we talked to said they supported the event which would give a much-needed boost to the local economy. One farmer whose cattle property sits on the Queensland portion of the route, said he had invited mates to come down and watch the bikes go by.
The original Lions TT course was planned to be 42km from near Rathdowney to Ripple Ck, but an application to Queensland Mains Roads that was passed on to police for their assessment was rejected. The TT was amended at the 11th hour to run from the border only over the NSW part of the course.
Snr Sgt Lacey said if the organisers wanted to stage the event next year in Queensland, they would have to address “numerous safety concerns”. “After Main Roads got the application three weeks ago, we had a car and bike go over the road and look at it. We deemed it unsafe. They even came across a cow standing in the middle of one of the bridges.”
He says there was not a lot of consultation with local property owners, but farmers we spoke to said they had received newsletters from the organisers since June.
Snr Sgt Lacey also said the application to close the road gave them little
“They are talking about doing it again next year and there is a range of factors that need to be addressed but a lot of time to work through the issues. Working with two state transport departments and police departments complicates the matter further.”
The event attracted a wide range of riders and bikes with some even transporting their bikes on trailers from as far as South Australia to participate.