WARRNAMBOOL driver Jye O’Keeffe is hoping a drought-breaking win in the Victorian formula 500 title is the start of a sustained run of success.
The 21-year-old clinched consecutive state titles with a tight victory over Warrnambool’s Grant Stansfield and Purnim’s Dion Bellman at Darlington’s Mid-Western Speedway on Sunday night.
O’Keeffe, who had publicly spoken about a frustrating season on the eve of the two-night title, celebrated with a series of doughnuts after finishing the 30-lap feature.
“It was more relief,” O’Keeffe said of his emotions.
“It (a win) has been a burden on my back all year. It’s great to finally have the car sorted and comfortable.”
O’Keeffe, who opted to drive for Perth-based truck driver Jason Ryan this season, had struggled in a new Eagle chassis, contesting 15 features before Sunday night’s triumph.
He told The Standard on Friday he felt his crew was close to finding the right car set-up.
He was right. He won a heat on both Saturday and Sunday nights and started the feature from pole. While he was never headed, he said he was under pressure.
“There were a few anxious moments,” he said. “I could hear him (Stansfield).”
He said in lapped traffic Stansfield closed the gap.
It’s always good to win something twice. I’ve won the Jack Willsher twice and now the Victorian title,” O’Keeffe said.
“You always want to win every race you go in but it’s good to do it. It showed we are still fast and can still win. We just had to get the car sorted. It’s come at the right end of the season.”
O’Keeffe, who is eyeing a move to sprintcars if he can land a drive, said he hoped two Victorian titles in the highly-competitive formula 500s would thrust his name before team owners.
“It’s a good thing for people to look at and see, winning a state title twice. It stands out more than winning just a regular race.”
He said he had no timeline for a move to sprintcars.
“When the time is right, hopefully it happens.”
The mechanic said he was looking forward to the Tasmanian title on Saturday week and then the Australian title at Easter, also on the Apple Isle.
“It’s a big confidence boost and good for everyone — the car owner, sponsors and crew. It’s coming together at the right time of the year.”