DES Woolstencroft doesn’t fit the traditional idea of a formula 500 driver.
Not that he minds. The Warrnambool driver is simply grateful he’s still racing at age 55.
Woolstencroft is in the midst of his debut season in formula 500s, five years after calling time on a decorated drag racing career.
The three-time Australian super gas champion has traded the bitumen for the clay after rediscovering a passion for driving.
His entry into the class hasn’t been easy — mechanical failures have meant he’s yet to finish every heat at a meeting.
And his rivals are often three decades his junior, using formula 500s as a stepping stone to sprintcars.
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve never been a speedway fan. I’ve never been into getting dirty,” Woolstencroft said.
“But I like it. I didn’t know whether at my age it’d turn me off, but I’m quite comfortable in the car and the speeds are no worries.”
Woolstencroft is one of 28 drivers who will begin their formula 500 speedweek campaigns at Mount Gambier’s Borderline Speedway tonight.
The series continues at Hamilton’s Western Speedway tomorrow night, before hitting Allansford’s Premier Speedway on New Year’s Day.
Reigning Australian champion Jess Moulden and runner-up James Aranyosi are among the early favourites for the seven-round series.
Woolstencroft is using it to improve his driving skills in his V30 car, a machine formerly owned by class driver Matthew Coates, which has an RTS chassis.
He has received crew help from another formula 500 veteran, Ken Willsher, and Willsher’s son Brett.
“By the end of next year I should be mid-pack, if not at the top of that mid-pack, as long as I don’t have any scary moments,” Woolstencroft said.
“There have been a fair few rookies this year and I’ve known when to get out and there have been a couple of kids go on their lid.
“But who’s to say that couldn’t have been me?”
Woolstencroft said he felt welcomed in formula 500 ranks, despite being one of the older drivers.
He said a trial run at Laang this week had unearthed a blocked fuel injection nozzle, which was the “gremlin” which had plagued his debut season to date.
“At the moment I’m trying to stay out of everyone’s way,” he said.
“As soon as that green flag drops, she’s on.”