Gravity racing comes to Australia's iconic mountain

Australia's Mount Panorama motor racing circuit will host bikes for the first time next year as part of the Newton's Playground gravity racing and music festival, March 7-9 2008. The festival at the legendary Mt Panorama venue in Bathurst, New South Wales, will include mountain bike dual slalom, jumping, and a trials demo, plus an invitation-only road downhill event, along the lines of the Red Bull Road Rage, according to Craig Flynn, president of the Central Tablelands Mountain Bike Club which is organising the cycling events.

Riders testing the road course on regular cross-country mountain bikes had already exceeded 100km/h, according to Flynn. "Invited riders will be able to use any bikes they like," he said, which should see speeds break well into three figures on Mount Panorama's notoriously treacherous descent.

Newton's Playground will also host street luge, downhill skateboarding, gravity bikes, in-line speed skating and freestyle skateboard sliding events. That should attract an 'extreme sports' audience and, "open up mountain biking to a bunch of people who have never taken any notice".

There's also the chance of some rivalry between gravity disciplines. Events like the street luge and gravity bike racing (which uses low-slung bikes without pedals) will be part of a World Cup event under the International Gravity Sports Association (IGSA). "Some of those corners look pretty nasty and I'm told to expect 125km/hr+ down Conrod Straight on board the street luge," said Marcus Rietema, president of the IGSA. An informal contest to see who's fastest between bike riders and gravity racers could be on the cards.

One draw for mountain bikers who fancy taking part is that entries will be in effect reduced-price tickets to the whole event. Spectator entry costs AUD80 per day, but race entries will be AUD50/day or AUD80 for the weekend.

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