Champion effort

By: Ron Horner

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Excavators

Ron Horner shares the amazing story of the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumph in building the track for the Australian Supercross Championships, which took place inside the WIN Stadium in Wollongong

Cat 950 GC laying down dirt in the stadium

Recently I had the pleasure of being part of the Troy Bayliss Events Team who was responsible for the Australian Supercross Championships round three event, which took place inside the WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

My role was a simple one: co-ordinating with Bayliss and his team, and the track builder Protrax, to secure a sponsor to supply the earthmoving equipment to build the outdoor track inside the stadium.

Originally from New South Wales but residing in Queensland for almost 20 years had left me with only a few earthmoving related contacts back in my home state, but the ones I had were top-shelf blokes in the industry.

One of these just happened to be a bloke whom had worked for and with me some 25 years ago when he was a fitter with Caterpillar based out of Dubbo. He would service my Caterpillar fleet of equipment while I was engaged in the construction of the Northparkes Underground Block Cave-In mine back in the late ‘90s.

Cat D5K-2 dozer in action

Now, not unlike myself, Michael Geale has "bush roots" and spent a lot of time in Cobar, a prosperous mining town in western NSW where he looked after the Caterpillar branch in servicing, repairing and selling the famous brand to the various mines and mining contractors located in the town. It just happened that Geale was now the used equipment manager for WesTrac in Sydney and, once again, I needed his help.

A quick phone call and follow-up email to Scott Fellowes, WesTrac’s sales and rental manager, had me on the right track and, right on cue, the crew from WesTrac Sydney were on board in a flash.

The choice of equipment required to build this track in record time was left up to Josh Procter of ProTrax. His wish list was immediately forwarded to the WesTrac team in Sydney and consisted of two Cat 259D compact skid-steer loaders, two Cat 950 GC loaders, two Cat 320GC excavators and a Cat D5K-2 bulldozer.

A date was set to float the gear into this Wollongong CBD site (no mean feat I tell you), a couple of boxes were ticked and just like clockwork, it was done.

Placing one of 1,000 sheets of marine ply that protected the floor


All of the machinery supplied was perfectly suited for the application in building this Supercross track.

Time was of the essence as there were several issues facing the build, including difficultly accessing the CBD location, working hours and noise restrictions, the possibility of adverse weather, absolute minimal timeframes to build the track and if that wasn’t enough, previously sorted materials were deemed "non-Supercross friendly" and were condemned after the first 20 loads.

Sourcing and transporting suitable materials at this extremely late stage were thrown to a few team members and, once again, my contact list was brought out. A late-night phone call to Cleary Bros had it on board and in typical unselfish and community-orientated spirit helped us secure the materials to save the event.

Cat 320 GC excavator


The track build was held under the utmost scrutiny, with members of the public being able to view the build from outside the secured area and the interest generated by hauling 5,000 tonnes (160 truck-and-dog loads) of material through the main thoroughfare of the Wollongong CBD was at an all-time high.

Running a full day behind schedule, due to the condemned materials and the restricted hours of 7am to 10pm, meant that the boys from ProTrax had their work cut out to complete the track build in time for the 5pm Saturday opening of the event.

To protect the pristine playing surface of the stadium, 9,000 square metres of geo-fabric was laid onto the turf. This enabled the grass to breathe and protected it from the thousands of sheets of marine plywood that were laid over the top of it. This laborious task was undertaken by a local labour hire firm, which took the challenge on board and worked continuously to achieve some pretty tight deadlines prior to the materials being placed on top of the plywood.

Cat 259D compact tracked loader helping form the ramps


This is the point where the Caterpillar fleet jumped into action. As the truck-and-dog combos rolled into the WIN Stadium the Cat 259D compact tracked loaders commenced their long and arduous task of prepping the initial work platform to gain enough cover over the plywood for the larger gear to access.

In precise, robotic fashion the trucks would dump their loads, the 259s would spread and level the working platform over the plywood and once a suitable area was prepared the larger gear, namely the D5K-2 dozer and the two 950 GC loaders and 320GC excavators, would commence bulking up the base and rough shaping the pre-designed formation that would eventually resemble a professional Supercross track.

With a full two-day build program in the best of conditions in front of them there was no room for error, adverse weather conditions, machinery failure or human error to contend with … the pressure was on every man and every machine. Failing to deliver was not an option.

I contacted Geale and advised him of the pressure that had now been applied to the project and asked him for more assistance. The track build guys from ProTrax were from interstate and to arrange fuel was a relatively easy task but the long hours of continual working of the machines needed a full/part-time fitter to ensure the grease and day-to-day service checks were completed.

Once again WesTrac jumped in and supplied one of its local Wollongong-based fitters to undertake pre-start checks before works commenced each day and also during the tea break late in the day. This guaranteed no precious hours were lost in production time.

5,000 tonnes of material was required to build the Supercross track

To say there could have been a couple of sleepless nights for the co-ordinators would be an understatement as the pressure built for a timely track build. The team had to guarantee enough time to have the barriers, start/finish line, lighting, fireworks, safety teams and officials stations all completed before the Saturday evening 5pm kick off.

The Saturday afternoon track inspection was given the green light and with a few minor adjustments the last machine exited the track build at 4pm, one full hour before the event was to officially commence.

The crowds rolled in by the thousands and were treated to an awesome display of crazy riding at breakneck speeds, high jumps, tight turns and plenty of bumps, which left many of us wondering why they put their bodies through so much pain. It made me feel pretty happy to have my bum in a good Caterpillar machine any day.

As the crowd started to disperse, the ProTrax/Caterpillar crew knew that it all had to be repeated but this time in reverse … and at 9pm the clean-up began.

Team talk time


This event opened my eyes to many things about our industry both on the positive side and the not-so-positive side.

There are those who will exploit any loophole to maximise profits and exact pain on misfortunate clients who, unfortunately, have little experience in dealing with "hard-nosed" contractors.

Even when a community event such as this was planned and some unfortunate events arose, the event co-ordinators were held to ‘high-ransom’ to ensure it could eventually go ahead … albeit at great budget overruns.

Then I see the other side of our industry – those contractors that are passionate about the positive role we have to play in keeping our industry and personal profiles as high as possible, to commit to communities and to donate services, money or equipment to ensure projects can proceed.

Superbike champion Troy Bayliss

I witnessed both sides in Wollongong, but the stand out of all was the latter.

Ray Bowden from Cleary Bros of Wollongong unselfishly provided access to all of the possible avenues to source suitable materials for the track build; and answered his phone so late at night, to not only listen to our problems, but to sort them out for us.

Fulton Hogan was of enormous assistance in providing and receiving the track build material for free, enabling the project to crawl back some expenses and the community spirit displayed by Chris Taylor is acknowledged.

However, the event could not have been such a success without the generous nature of WesTrac Sydney and my old mate Michael Geale, who jumped at the chance to help out by providing a full range of excellent Caterpillar equipment and services to make this Australian Supercross event such a success.

Minimal fuss, minimal communication, maximum assistance and two professional teams working towards a common end goal – a winning combination.


Extreme Earthmoving

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