Track Guide: Hidden Valley, Darwin, NT

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Hidden Valley was something new for the Taxi’s in 1998. When the bikes were slotted into the programme for 1999 as one of our 2+4 events with the Touring Cars it sounded pretty cool, with this really long straight and obviously for me, a chance to have a look at Darwin for the first time… Words: Andrew Pitt.

Hidden Valley in Darwin, NT One of the most challenging little circuits in the country…
Hidden Valley in Darwin, NT is one of the most challenging little circuits in the country…

I only ever went up there once to race and that was with Doyley and the Team Kawasaki Australia boys. Robbie Phillis and young Pete went ahead about a week earlier. The stories of that road trip from Pete about life in a truck with Phillis for a week, is in itself entirely for another issue. I suppose it was just about the equivalent of today’s flyaway races in the world championship. It was probably our only really hot summer type race as the Aussie Championship is run through the winter months.


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Flying up on the Wednesday and checking into a nice resort style holiday spot made you feel like you were away on a summer holiday somewhere with a few trips out to the racetrack thrown in. I do remember flying in over the coastline and beaches and seeing a few big old crocs soaking up the sun on the water’s edge. That was definitely somewhat of a surprise.

You can expect it to be bloody hot at the track. Temperatures will often exceed 40 degrees Celsius in summer...
You can expect it to be bloody hot at the track. Temperatures will often exceed 40 degrees Celsius in summer…

I learnt another pretty valuable lesson in punctuality up north in 1999 and that was when Peter Doyle says the team car leaves the hotel at 0800 then that is exactly when it leaves. I strolled down into reception about 0805 with everyone sat in the car waiting for me and Doyley simply said this is your one chance and the next time you’ll be getting a taxi. Scott Breedin explained to me that Marty Craggill had been left at the hotel a few times the year before and therefore had to get himself a taxi to the circuit. It had the desired effect because I was never late again.

Onto the circuit now. I found it probably due to lack of use but more likely having all the cars running around on it always made the 2+4 events a bit greasy. With the front straight at Darwin 1.2km long it gave you a nice little rest but also meant it allowed Craig Connell and Stevo Martin on the factory Ducatis to really stretch their legs. I had everything possible tucked in trying to stay in the slipstream especially of Craig. We were tapped out in sixth on the approach to turn 1.



Turn 01
Back down through the gearbox to 2nd and there was plenty to be made up on the brakes here because it is very much a double apex turn a bit like the Southern Loop at Phillip Island but you could really get sucked in here if you tried to go up the inside of someone and risk completely missing the turn. My old mate Krusty Fergusson found that out off the start of race two when he thought he could come from 5th or 6th and out brake everyone but unfortunately instead of just running off the track or running wide he used me to stop and took us both out. Krusty came away unscathed as he mostly did but I had a broken wrist to take home with me.

Anyway the first apex was on the way in while still trail braking and letting it drift out to about the middle of the track before pulling it back to apex again on the way out then letting it run out to almost the outside kerb while grabbing 3rd and 4th in pretty quick succession all the time trying to pull the bike to the left to get the next series of corners linked together right.



Turn 02/03/04
This is all taken in 4th for me on the ZX-7R and the end part very close to the limiter where the power goes a little flat just so the bike wasn’t still accelerating through the 3 and 4 flick from right to left before grabbing the brakes and shifting quickly back to 3rd for the right handed turn 5. This all needed to be done very smoothly because braking and down shifting while changing direction quickly can get messy if you don’t keep everything together including my movements on the bike.



Turn 05
This was a pretty basic and simple corner as long as you got it setup right on the way in. I tended to run it in a little fast sometimes because my bike was a little lazy in 3rd on the way out so I was always trying to roll through it a bit quicker. During the final qualifying on Saturday I remember it had gotten really hot and the circuit had started to melt and come apart and oil had been dropped on this corner that was then covered in cement dust. So if you slithered through the cement dust OK you were then presented with some potholes and lifting black stuff at turn 6. On the out lap though of final qualifying I didn’t make it past the cement dust losing the front on the way through.



Turn 06
Having been able to pick my bike up out of the infield of turn 5 I rode it back to get it checked over only to come straight back out in a rush and get one turn further and crash at turn 6 on the melting rutty part of the circuit. This time running back or getting a lift I don’t remember to the pit lane dreading the look on the boys faces when I wanted the spare bike. Flat and slippery and back to 1st or 2nd depending on the bike you were on. A Supersport bike would be in second whereas I took it in 1st so I didn’t need to carry as much corner speed and I could pick it up on the exit and jump out of the turn short shifting up to 3rd for the next fast right turn 7.



Turn 07
This was a turn you needed to sacrifice just a little on the entry to make sure you got it back for the right hand apex and got a really good exit for the next few fast corners all linked together. If you rushed at turn 7 a little fast tipping in early or simply were too wide on the exit of 6 the exit was terrible even if you managed to not run too wide.



Turn 08 and 09
Turn 7 and 8 were almost like one big double apex turn with a constant lean angle and constant throttle from the exit of turn 7 while shifting up to 4th just as you almost touch the inside kerb through turn 8. Still flat out in 4th while flick it left on the run down to turn 10 in the middle of the track.

Turn 10
You could enter here about the middle of the track not bothering to pull it back to the right too far for the entry in really run it in fast after back shifting down to 3rd. Let it drift out a little then picking up the throttle and aiming for the apex of turn 11.



Turn 11/12/13
These three are really just points to aim for while flick it from one side to the other on the throttle. The sections like this and also exiting turn 1 are linked corners where the bike needs to really steer well on the throttle and to get this you will need some good support from the rear of the bike. You definitely don’t want it being a chopper through these sections. After hitting your turn 11 apex it was a flick right for turn 12 apex and then right again to hit the turn 13 apex before letting it run out to the edge of the track while you set yourself for turn 14 and the exit onto the all important 1.2km start finish straight.

Turn 14
Just as you are grabbing the brakes and down shifting to 2nd while passing the turn 13 apex you should only be thinking about setting yourself up for the perfect exit onto the straight to finish the lap.

Just as you are grabbing the brakes and down shifting to 2nd while passing the turn 13 apex you should only be thinking about setting yourself up for the perfect exit onto the straight to finish the lap.
Just as you are grabbing the brakes and down shifting to 2nd while passing the turn 13 apex you should only be thinking about setting yourself up for the perfect exit onto the straight to finish the lap.

I got myself caught out in a painful way being a little over eager getting on the throttle as early as possible by hanging a highside without actually crashing. The rear stepped out and I was flicked up over the top but still hanging onto the bars I can back down on the tank with my head through the screen and both legs falling on one side. I had nutted myself and luckily the pit lane starts just after the exit because that was the direction I was going in. I managed to stay on board and dribble down pit lane to the boys that grabbed the bike while I fell into a heap in pit lane. After a few minutes I got my shit together and went back out for another go. This time though, I tried to picked it up a little more and ride it like a Superbike instead of the Supersport bike.

So that was how I rode around Hidden Valley and to be honest it wasn’t one of my best weekends result wise having an almost crash on Friday and two crashes on Saturday, a 4th in race one and my third crash on Sunday in race two courtesy of Krusty. I headed back to Sydney with a broken wrist for my troubles but the silver lining was I also had the lap record from race one that was to stand for more than 10 years, mainly to do with the fact they didn’t go back there to race until recently!

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