Sprint Car racing in Australia is extremely popular, in fact there are over 300 registered drivers racing across the country. The number one drawcard for Australian speedways, Sprint Cars have been thrilling fans since they were first introduced back in the early 1970s.
The main speedway season in Australia runs from October through to May, although the Northern Territory, at the heart of Australia, runs in the cooler months of June through to October.
World Series Sprintcars (WSS) is the country’s only national Sprint Car series, the series is run over approximately 18 rounds from November to January, drawing huge crowds wherever they travel. Many US drivers have contested WSS, including Donny Schatz, Randy Hannagan, Danny Smith, Jason Johnson and Daryn Pittman. Daryn Pittman is the only American to have won the Championship.
Australia has several major Sprint Car events, the most prestigious being the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic held at Warrnambool’s Premier Speedway. Run since 1973, the race has a rich history and is commonly referred to as Australia’s version of the Knoxville Nationals. Australia’s best drivers also compete at The Australian Sprintcar Championship each February.
As most of the rules governing Australian Sprint Car racing have been drawn from the US, the cars are virtually identical to those raced in the US. Non-winged cars are not permitted in Australia.
Australia’s open Sprint Cars are powered by 410ci, all alloy engines. A budget minded class, running 360ci steel block engines was introduced in 2003 and is enjoying increased popularity. Sydney’s Parramatta City Raceway sparked controversy in 2003 when it decided to adopt 410ci engines. This was done to allow World of Outlaws drivers to compete at the track using their own equipment for the World of Outlaws Down Under event. In May, 2006 it was decided by the Sprintcar Control Council of Australia that from July 1, 2007, 410ci engines will be allowed in Australia.
Speedway racing in Australia is governed by the National Association of Speedway Racing (NASR). The Sprintcar Control Council of Australia (SCCA) is responsible for enforcing the rules and conduct of Sprint Car racing in Australia.
Sprint Car Crashes
Sprint Car crashes are part of what makes Sprint Car racing so exciting. Yes, the racing is breath taking, but the anticipation of big wreck keeps the crowds flocking back to speedways around the globe.
Sprint Cars are open wheeled racing cars, this along with the fact that they race sideways, side-by-side at over 150mph, can be a recipe for disaster. Racing on relatively narrow tracks, with virtually no run off, and usually surrounded by a very, very hard concrete wall and the aptly named ‘catch fence’, doesn’t leave much room for error.
Sprint Cars are designed to go fast, and they do, but that same design can be the cause of some ferocious Sprint Car crashes. The massive amount of stagger that helps Sprint Cars turn left so efficiently can cause the car to become unstable if it gets out-of-shape. Another factor is the huge amount of horsepower under the hood which can catch out even the most experienced driver. When a Sprint Car is setup right, it is dream to drive, but pick the wrong setup, it can become a monster, ready to bite at any time.
Sprint Car crashes can be extremely violent, however the safety history of Sprint Cars is relatively good. Drivers are required to wear numerous safety devices such as: fire-proof racing suits, underwear, boots, balaclavas and gloves. In most cases neck restraints are now compulsory as well as arm restraints and of course a good quality helmet. The cars themselves are designed to withstand heavy impacts which, along with the energy absorbing qualities of the top wing help to reduce the chance of injury.
There are number of common causes of Sprint Car crashes, a few of which are outlined below:
Riding a wheel
Riding a wheel can spell disaster in Sprint Car racing. The nature of the sport is wheel to wheel racing, but it is often too close for comfort. The most common version of this accident is when a driver tries a big outside move, all it takes is for the car down low to move up track, just slightly, and you have wheel to wheel contact. The front end of the car attempting the pass is usually lifted into the air, the result being one expensive repair bill.
Sprint Cars are awesome at pulling wheelstands, weighing only around 1500lbs and packing around 800hp, wheelstands are effortless, and sometimes catastrophic. When a Sprint Car pulls a wheelstand, the driver, of course, has no steering, so guess what does the steering? The stagger! So if a driver keeps his foot on the pedal and pulls a monster wheelstand the car can often turn hard on the left rear tire and flip the car or turn the car into a competitor. Click here to see a classic example of this sort of accident.
Contact with the Wall
Drive a Sprint Car too hard into a turn and you could find yourself making contact with the wall. This usually happens when a car is driven too hard into a turn and drifts up to the wall on the loose dirt that has been thrown up there by the other cars. If you hit the wall with the front end of the car it can cause the right front tire to climb the wall, and before you know it you’re upside down. If you hit the wall with the right rear tire, it can then transfer the car’s weight to the left, tipping the car over. Click here to see a car make hard contact with the wall.
Hooking a rut
Speedway tracks aren’t always nice and smooth, in fact they can be extremely rough. A track with a lot of moisture can form huge ruts and if a car isn’t setup to ride the ruts the consequence is often a huge crash. What happens is that the car hits the rut and instead of traveling over it the tire catches the rut, all of the car’s weight is then transferred to the right rear, causing it to roll. This example shows a heavy series of rolls after hooking a rut.