1,000 kilometres, 2 wheels, 1 awesome time!
The Australian Classic Scooter Mille ‘the Mille’ was the brainchild of Ian Brill and Nick Townsend. Whilst ride outs are a feature of the annual Australian National Classic Scooter Rallies, they are generally short. To Ian and Nick, it seemed a waste to take scooters all the way to the rally and not see much of the surrounding area. Secondly, they wanted to encourage people to get their older, classic scooters out of the garage and back on the road.
A route of 1,000 (mille) kilometres over 2 days was decided upon – to see as much of the local area as possible and to sort the wheat from the chaff.
And so the Mille was born….
The Mille immediately precedes the Australian National Classic Scooter Rally and was first run in 2013 in New South Wales. Subsequent events have been held in South Australia (2014) and Victoria (2015). This year the event travelled to Western Australia.
How it all works
The Mille is a reliability trial, not a race. To ensure that racing doesn’t benefit participants, a handicap system favouring older, smaller-capacity machines is used and random control times are allocated (more on this later).
The Mille is a low-tech, low-key event that runs on minimum volunteers, so timekeepers and marshals are small in number or, in the case of the 2016 event, non-existent! The organisers (expanded to include ‘co-ord chicks’ Fleur James and Nicky Hussey) improvised and this year not only were photos of checkpoints required from participants (to prove they didn’t cut corners), but also photographic evidence of their finish times (via clocks in pubs at the destinations).
Facebook has also proved useful, with checkpoint photo posts not only providing evidence of task completion, but also a record of the whereabouts of participants as they navigate the route. This is important from a safety aspect – there’s patchy mobile reception in rural Australia, but a photo will upload automatically to Facebook as soon as coverage is regained.
This is the only high-tech part of the event, which takes as its cue from the reliability trials of bygone years. GPS and satnav devices, including those on mobile phones, are banned. The route is published a couple of months beforehand and participants must then decide how best to capture this manually so that they can navigate successfully around the course. Written directions and printed sections of map for tricky junctions are favourite – laminated, on clip-boards or in flip folders – but there’s been an increase in the analogue equivalent of the GPS: scrolling paper maps/ directions. Some of the latter have been the proper Dakar style items, but others have been improvised using Tupperware and plastic piping.
Safety is important and is incorporated in the route design, with tasks being scheduled not only to ensure participants don’t cut corners, but also so that they take regular breaks from riding. Lunch receipts must be shown to prove that people ate at least once during the day! Backup vehicles are also provided to get those who break down off the road and to the next town, where they can organise repairs and/or recovery.
Handicap and Results Calculation
Scoring to determine the Mille winner has had to be different from other similar events. The usual method, with points being awarded to participants reaching checkpoints within a given timeframe, wouldn’t work for the Mille with its bare-bones organisational team. Instead, a percentage handicap is used and applied to the gap between participants’ actual time to complete the route and a random control time, drawn after the conclusion of the event.
The handicap looks at a combination of frame/engine age and engine size for each vehicle and favours older, smaller-capacity machines. Any scooter built after 1982 gets no age handicap advantage and any with an engine capacity of 250cc or more no engine capacity handicap advantage.
Examples may be the best way to illustrate this:
Make and model
Vespa GS 150
1961 / 1961
Lambretta GP 200
1969 / 1984
Eibar Jet 200 / Targa Twin
1973 / 2012
Then points equal to one minute are awarded to participants for each task (photo check-in and lunch receipt shown) completed. These are used in combination with the handicap to reduce the gap between actual and control time.
After a bit of trial-and-error, the control times are now set in a two-hour range that starts a couple of hours after the longest time taken. This is another method to discourage racing and it also lets the handicap formula really work its magic to give a clear winner on handicap. The allocation of control times is done the old-fashioned way too – the times are written on scraps of paper and drawn out of a hat!
- Neville Cope and Ian Brill trialling adult diapers as a time-saving strategy on the NSW Mille (a technique that hasn’t been repeated).
- Hail/snow catching participants unprepared along the Putty Road in NSW.
- Spirited riding, swapping positions corner-by-corner, between Chris Johnson, Michael King, Dave Hampson and Rolf Graunke on the Taralga to Goulburn road in NSW.
- Participants earning extra points by taking a picture of a smiling policeman as well as of the police station at Singleton NSW.
- Doing a lap of Mount Panorama racetrack in Bathurst to start day 2 of the NSW Mille.
- The start of day 1 in SA from Mt Lofty through the Adelaide Hills – everyone seemed to find a different way through the maze of roads!
- Declan Magee crashing into a ditch, breaking his exhaust, fixing his exhaust in the ditch, then riding out of the ditch to carry on in the SA Mille…loudly.
- The Murray River cliffs in SA.
- The search for the Big Yabby in Clayton Bay, SA.
- Experiencing arguably the best riding roads in Australia on day 1 of the Victorian Mille, and surprising the police motorbike training squad along The Black Spur.
- The fog and rain on Mt Hotham in Victoria causing participants to shelter in the tunnel at the top of the mountain…only to see James Grygiel speed past with a manic grin on his face.
- Callum Robinson doing open-heart surgery on his scooter….on any/all of the Milles!
- Gnomesville in WA – surely one of the creepiest tourist attractions in the world.
- The beautiful roads around the Ferguson Valley in WA.
- The Dark Lords arriving in daylight on both days on the WA Mille, and having to reconsider their team name.
Quickest average time to complete both days: 17 hours 45 minutes (2013)
Slowest average time to complete both days: 23 hours (2015)
Largest number of participants: 32 (2013 and 2015)
Average course completion rate: 78%
Oldest machine to complete event: 1955 Maicoletta
2016 Event Results
Winner on handicap – Fleur James
Best & Fairest – Sandy Simeonides. He helped others with last-minute preparation the day before the start of the event. He replaced the piston on the side of the road when the piston ring peg came out, running the new piston in for the next 200 kms to reach Denmark on day 1. Whilst repairing his own scooter, he also gave advice and lent a brand new HT coil to Nicky Hussey when her Rally experienced difficulties.
Most Spectacular Breakdown – Sid Barton. A stone smashed his headlight lens on day 1. His front suspension broke. His front brake locked up (broken hub), causing him to make a “most impressive emergency stop”.
Line honours – Chris Johnson
Sean Heffernan – first time he’s finished the event in 4 attempts
Ron dePannone and Sid Barton for completing over 900 of the 1,000kms, before their steeds failed them.
Thanks and Acknowledgements for the 2016 Event
The Lambretta Club of Australia – event sponsors who provided public liability insurance cover and paid for the backup vehicle trailer for the event.
Andy Marsh – who lent his 4WD to tow the backup vehicle trailer.
John Foden – for being backup driver extraordinaire.