ROBBIE Paton would be the most popular driver in the Australian Wingless Sprints Championship if fans knew of his dedication to Premier Speedway.
The Warrnambool plumber was a spectator at the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic last month but missed part of the night one action to unblock a set of portable toilets.
The task was no problem — Paton has volunteered at the Allansford track for five years and was keen to ensure the Classic went ahead without issue.
But his behind-the-scenes work went unacknowledged by most of the record 8500 crowd which had packed the stands.
“I was sitting up in the crowd enjoying my evening when I got called down. That was on the Saturday night,” he said.
“It’s the joys of a system that hasn’t had a big crowd use it and within a matter of hours it’s running at full tilt.
“It gives a new meaning to if you can’t fix it, everyone is going to be knee-deep in it.”
Paton, 40, will swap the stands for the driver’s seat this weekend when he contests the Australian Wingless Sprints Championship at Premier Speedway.
He is one of 97 drivers who will converge on the track.
Paton rode motocross as a teenager but took up street stocks sedans in the early 1990s.
His progression to wingless sprints came about seven years ago.
He doesn’t rate himself as a leading chance to win the national title, but that’s not the reason he races anyway.
“It’s a fun thing for us. We’re not totally into the serious side of it,” he said of his crew, which also includes chief Shane Wilson and Paton’s eldest daugher Mikayla Hose.
“We treat it more of a Saturday night of entertainment that keeps you out of the pub.
“A lot of racing in this class is family-oriented.
“A lot of drivers have family that go every week and support them and work on the car.
“I think the more serious you take it, the less enjoyment you get out of it because you’re always putting pressure on yourself to win.”
Paton said he enjoyed wingless sprints, which he termed “a poor man’s sprintcar”, because it offered everyone a chance to race competitively.
“It’s a similar thrill (to sprintcars),” he said.
“It’s not as full on but it’s something you can do at a cheaper rate as far as tyres and engines go.
“It’s not as cut-throat if you don’t have the top gear.
That’s what the class is designed to promote — the more budget-oriented guys.
“You can get a motor out of a car, do a few modifications and still be reasonably competitive.”
Championship officials have split the field into two, running qualifying and heats tomorrow and Saturday.
All drivers, including about 20 from the south-west, will take part in finals on Sunday.