Wild days and wild nights is one way to describe this old school hop-up revival from the fifties and sixties! Thousands of eager rockers and racers converge on the small country racetrack of Newstead in Victoria, Australia keen to take in three days of rowdy music, wild race action and all night partying with sleep coming in a distant second when weighing up priorities!
This year saw the camp site widened and a new track built in anticipation of the influx of numbers allowing campers to spread out and negotiate their vehicles safely around the grounds. Perfect weather leading up to and including the festival meant no bogged van or cars except for those who chose to run the gauntlet on the only stretch of mud to be found on the grassy grounds much the delight of onlookers. Aside from the all-day drags and multitude of bands belting out their repertoire from morning till, well, the following morning, other forms of entertainment this year came in the fashion of a stunt rider taking on a burning ring of fire (although going by the smell of cooking coming from some of the campsites, others may have been doing the same!)
Party central is predominantly where the stage and tiki bars are but as the nights roll on into the morning, party central seems to be anywhere there’s a fire, some grog and a riotous bunch of campers hell bent on letting the world know they’re in their element! It only happens once a year so why sleep through it!
The new track meant faster racing due to its smoothness with a water truck on hand to dampen the dust when required. All manner of vehicles frequented the strip throughout the weekend from classic four bangers on wire wheels, Aussie sixes and Yanky eights through to purpose built speedway cars and drag machines. Not to be left out are the bikes! Everything from two strokes customized into choppers through to classic Nortons, Indians, Hogs and Speedway bikes ran the eighth mile dirt strip.
Ok, I guess I should address the elephant in the room, the rollovers. Two cars were severely damaged after losing control and rolling while racing on the strip. One accident I witness as I photographed it during its run although I had stopped shooting before its demise. This is drag racing and it is dangerous! The organisers of Chopped do their best to ensure the safety of all who attend and kudos to the medics for their speedy reaction as they are trackside throughout the event. While many in this world may wag their fingers and shake their heads at this sport, this event is run away from the general public off the public streets and all who attend and compete are well aware of the dangers of such an activity. It’s the thrill of man and machine pushing the envelope that sees many of us return year after year to such events as Chopped and other racing meccas. It’s all fine in 20/20 hindsight to say would could and should have been done but accidents will happen and I’m sure the organisers will review and address the issue for next year. Remember, we love this event for its freedom and old school style and hope to retain that atmosphere. All involved are believed to be ok.
Once again, this event tops my to-do list as it’s the best style of camping anyone into this scene could ask for. Catching up with friends, checking out all the rides; fresh builds and updated regulars, sitting round the fire, cooking a meal and chin waging or partying it up all night at the bars or doing the rounds of the camp sites of fellow rodders and rockabilly rebels. I’ll be back next year once again keen to embrace this unique event and all its independence.
Keep on cruisin!