Bangalow Bill hangs up helmet as Billycart Derby turns 20

BANGALOW always puts on a good production and at yesterday's 20th anniversary of the vintage town's Billy Cart Derby the show was certainly on for young and old.

Crowds eagerly craned their necks to catch a glimpse of mostly young riders, intent on driving their creations downhill as fast as they could go.

A highlight of the day was the final downhill run for Bangalow Bill, who has been riding in the derby for many years. Now 88 and living at a nursing home, Bill has finally outgrown billycarts - at least insofar as he is able to ride them, so this was expected to be his last race in the annual derby.

Shops open for business attracted a multitude of customers, and side streets filled with side attractions did not escape unnoticed.

But in the pit, at the top of the hill, all talk centred on design and detail, with the fathers - not the children - doing most of the talking.

Dunoon mechanic Russel Wilson was still mourning the loss of his race-proven traditional cart, wrecked in the wee hours of the morning after a night of trial testing in his fog-bound home town.

"We had our own adults-only version of the race last night," he explained. "I guess you could say this is all probably more for the fathers than for the kids."

Whian Whian father Jeremy Stewart was frantically preparing his free-form creation for a start, after getting just half an hour's sleep the night before.

"I had my third cup of coffee about 4.30am," he said - electric drill in hand and glazed look creeping across his face.

"I was going to race the 'Sea Ghost' tail first until last night when during trials we discovered it drives better backwards. Trouble is, the driver has no vision that way."

Eden Hopkins, who has a family property at St Helena, said he built his sleek creation for his children, but admitted the thrill was totally self-indulgent.

"I am so into this," said the former aircraft engineer. "There is a lot of personal pleasure in it."

In the end the Middleton family from MacLeans Ridges were the winners.

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