57 laps… Just let that sink in for a minute and think of what that number means when it comes to the Sprintcar feature race we have scheduled for the business end of Saturday nights racing.
It’s a long distance.
Almost double the traditional 30 lap feature race we are accustomed to on the Kwinana Beach high banks.
The extra distance is going to be a challenge. It can be likened to a game of high-speed chess. If you are playing this game, do you show your hand early to try and gain an advantage? Or maybe you hold back a little bit, see what the opposition is likely to do and make the move late?
This of course is all split up with a mid-race infield pitstop where the teams will be working frantically in the ‘hot area’ to top up fuel and make the necessary adjustments.
And the reason for 57 laps would no doubt not go unnoticed by die-hard speedway fans – a number that has been raced with passion by the ‘Big Chap’, the late Noel Bradford (who passed away last year) and then by his son, the late Ian Bradford (who passed away in 1992). It is with pride that round 11 of the Maddington Toyota Sprintcar Series is part of the AMPOL Legends of Speedway Big Chap 57. And fittingly, Noel’s grandson and Ian’s son Shaun, will be piloting the familiar Bradford Racing W57 tonight, crewed by his brother Casey.
While the Bradford crew doesn’t contest a full season, they will go into this show determined to pull off an emotional win – and if they did you can be guaranteed it will be a massive celebration from this very proud and very passionate speedway family. Picking a winner for this show however will not be easy.
Kaiden Manders is the current leader in the series and he goes into this bout with one win, a couple of thirds and another couple of fourths as his best results.
Dayne Kingshott is second overall and he will be looking to make amends after crashing out on the last lap while leading the last feature race (pictured above by Peter Roebuck). The Krikke Motorsport driver has a pair of seconds and a fifth as his best results so far.
Speaking about his prospects this weekend, he said the first half will be about management, while the second half becomes a standard feature. “It will all depend on when the fuel stop is, but I guess if we can be in a decent position leading up to the red then it will be like a normal feature race,” he explained. “Fitness wise, I have been training hard since I got the call up for the drive, so if the car setup is ok it shouldn’t be an issue. I’ve been getting a lot of laps in so far this season, which helps with the race fitness as well.”
Third in the series is Callum Williamson who has three feature race wins, a third, a fourth and a fifth to his name – and to many he is the one to watch. “Our strategy will be to make it into the top six by half time, and then try to make the car a little easier to drive for the last half and try to win it from there,” he said. “The race fitness will be fine for me, it’s more about keeping the car straight and the tyres (in good condition) under us. A lot of throttle control will make the car easier to drive and I won’t wear myself out as quick.”
Fourth overall is Kris Coyle who has gone close to a win this season in the Merger Motorsport W79 – but still has some good results behind him – a third, a fourth and a pair of fifths.
Defending series champion Jason Kendrick is fifth and a little off the pace of the four front runners. He won the last show – his second of the season – and this is on the back of a second, a third and a fifth.
Sixth is Highway Harley-Davidson team driver Andrew Priolo who has also been in some strong positions but has not been able to clinch a win. His best result so far this season was a fourth – at the last show. When speaking about this weekend’s epic 57 lap event, Andrew said that it was tough to bring much of a strategy to the endurance test. He said while being at the front of the field offers obvious advantages for track position, it also allows those teams to control the pace. “I think it is very hard to make a real plan because there are so many factors that come into it,” he said. “The main focus will be to start up front and be able to have more control of the race pace and when to push and when to manage. “I think (the impact of race fitness) is very dependent on track conditions and stoppages. All that we have been able to do is push ourselves hard so we can be as prepared as possible. I am always doing boxing, running and squash all through race season so I feel that is something we are always focused on, no matter how long the race is.”
James Inglis is seventh in the points chase, with his best results so far being a second and a third, and we can’t forget one of his monster drivers during Speedweek where he nearly blitzed his international-class rivals.
Jason Pryde is ninth but his results do not reflect the effort he has put in this season, even fielding a second car over Speedweek for former national champion Robbie Farr. His best results have been a couple of sixths.
Rounding out the top 10 is comeback racer David Priolo who could quite easily have had a few wins under this belt if luck went his way. Unfortunately it didn’t and his best result so far is a fourth, but the Diamond Bay Motorsport W26 has undergone a transformation this week, changing from the traditional blue to a black livery.
Daniel Harding is another driver to watch as he is always on the pace, including at the last show where he had a commanding lead, only to crash out and watch the race unfold from the infield.
Brad Maiolo, a two-time series champion, bounced back for a solid podium result in the LJM Racing W77 at the last show – a great turnaround for the very professional outfit that had to rebuild after Brad crashed heavily in early January and spent a night under observation in hospital.
Add in AJ Nash, Trevor Reynolds, George Eaton, Trevor Jolly, Ryan Lancaster, Cameron McKenzie, Ben Butcher, Darren Mewett, Jaydee Dack, Matthew Cross and Aldo De Paoli and it is going to be game on.