At the speedway, the Late Models are known as the heftiest race cars, with exaggerated dimensions and copious amounts of horsepower available.
When you hear terms like ‘muscling a car around the track’, the meaning is literal. From G-forces in the corners to the constant steering inputs, every race is like a workout.
Enter Laura Byrnes. A dedicated and driven Junior Sedan driver, Byrnes wanted to go Late Model racing. Physical limitations rarely crop up in motorsport, but Byrnes had to acknowledge her lightly built, 150cm-tall frame wasn’t the typical specification for a Late Model driver.
“Initially my strength (was a challenge) – I am a very petite person, the size of a 12 year old,” she said.
“There are lots of minor adjustments we make to steering while racing, so having the endurance and strength to do that for 30 laps was important, alongside the importance of my body being able to withstand the forces of the car in cornering.”
Byrnes wasn’t going to be stopped. She knew she had the mental strength to match with the physical.
“(I began) working with exercise physiologists at Revolv Health with a motorsport-specific training program that has drastically increased my arm and core strength. I’ve gotten so strong now I can almost deadlift 150% of my weight.
“It’s a highlight when kids come up to compare their height with me! I’m really passionate about sharing my experience of racing and to show it doesn’t matter your size, height, weight, gender or background – if you have a dream and are dedicated, you just need to go for it.”
Byrnes has forged a path as a first generation speedway driver, inspired by trips to the Kalgoorlie Speedway when she was younger. As she turned 10, she ramped up the negotiations with her father to go racing.
“They said (at the track) they were looking to grow the Junior Sedan division and you needed to be 10 to race. I turned to my dad and said, ‘This is the sport I want to do.’ He was less certain than I was, and it took a year to convince him that I really did want to race and would remain committed to the sport. Fifteen years later I think you can say we’re both committed and the racing bug has well and truly bitten us.”
Byrnes got her start and never looked back. She received multiple awards, including the Speedway Australia Rising Star Scholarship, a University of Western Australia Sports Scholarship, and a Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Scholarship.
She increased her experience across a number of divisions, including Production Sedans (where she won a Perth Motorplex track championship), Mini Stocks, Legend Cars, Super 6 Sedans and Modified Sedans. But it was the Late Models that held her imagination.
“Late Models have always been my dream to progress into, and we’ve often got close to joining but never made the jump. In 2019 everything came together, and we became a Late Model racing team.
“Have you ever run down a hill too fast and your legs are moving too fast for your body? Driving a Late Model feels a bit like that. These are the fastest things I’ve ever driven and it took a few runs to feel settled. We’re doing an average of 100kmh around the track and the more experienced drivers are reaching 150kmh on the straights, so it’s incredible.”
Byrnes had strong early results in her Late Model career, including a second place in the Winter Series. She is now a part of the BGC Late Model/Pro Dirt Series, which heads to Perth Motorplex this Saturday night for the City of Kwinana Cup. Byrnes is currently in the top ten for the Motorplex track championship.
“It is my goal for the season to be able to finish in the top 10, so now I’m in, it would be to maintain or bump up further as there are still a few rounds left,” she said.
“Just to be in the top 10 as a rookie is awesome against all the other Late Model drivers that have been competing. It shows the hard work the team and I have been doing behind the scenes to get this right and show what we can do.”
The City of Kwinana Cup features not just BGC Late Models but also the Maddington Toyota Sprintcar Series, Pool Shop Group Speedcars, Formula 500s, Red Pepper Promotions Wingless Sprints and the spectacular Carbusters Demolition Derby. Gates open at 4.30pm this Saturday, with heats from 5pm and the feature show from 6pm.