Racing legends and slick new track promise sideways action at Leyburn Sprints
Ford V8 legend Dick Johnson and Dakar Rally star Bruce Garland, two of Australian motorsport’s most colourful personalities, won’t race straight for the chequered when they contest the annual historic Leyburn Sprints on the Queensland Darling Downs next month – they’re bound to go sideways!
Three-time Bathurst winner Johnson will take time out from running his pace-setting V8 Supercar team to drive a Ford Falcon GT HO powered by a thundering American NASCAR racing truck engine at the 21-22 August event.
Garland, who finished an incredible 11th outright aboard an Isuzu ute in the 2009 Dakar desert raid in South America, has entered his “other car”, a classic rally 1979 Ford Escort RS2000.
Johnson, wrestling with a 700 horsepower engine and small tyres, and Garland the irrepressible showman should provide spectators with plenty of entertainment as they power-slide their cars around a freshly-surfaced, one-kilometre street course.
“The track will be the best we’ve had in 15 years and provide plenty of scope for Dick and Bruce to demonstrate why they have been among Australia’s most skilled drivers for decades,” Organising Committee President Ann Collins said.
“They’re not only great drivers but also great personalities and they’re bound to be popular with the Leyburn Sprints crowd.”
The six-turn track, which starts near Shane Webcke’s historic Royal Hotel, races past residents’ front yards and finishes near the primary school, was re-surfaced this week with smooth hot-mix bitumen in a $100,000 support deal provided by Boral Asphalt and the Southern Downs Regional Council.
With stone damage to valuable classic cars no longer a risk, entries are expected to increase and lap times set to tumble this year.
Providing a track surface acceptable to more competitors will help consolidate the Sprints’ future, as will another deal to supply concrete safety barriers, expected to save organisers thousands of dollars.
One hundred concrete barriers have been donated to the event by RoadTek, the commercial construction arm of the Main Roads Department, and are being delivered to Leyburn from this week..
Most will remain permanently in position, saving substantial annual hire, delivery, removal and storage costs.
While a slick new surface and permanent safety barriers will improve the racing spectacle, off-track attractions will add more value for Leyburn Sprints visitors.
The attractions will include market stalls, Show ‘n’ Shine competitions on Saturday and Sunday, a Saturday display by the HSV Club and a vintage speedcar display and demonstration on Sunday.
Now in its 15th year, the Leyburn Sprints celebrates the running of the 1949 Australian Grand Prix on a nearby ex-wartime airstrip.
Organisers this year expect up to 210 racing, sports and touring cars, invited on the basis of their historic provenance or appeal, to race against the clock in front of more than 7000 spectators.
Applications to run at Leyburn will be accepted until 27 July.
The not-for-profit event is community-run and proceeds are used to help local organisations and projects.