LEIGH Van Ginneken was ready to cast aside racing formula 500s for the season.
The Warrnambool driver was months away from getting married and was shifting into a new home with his fiancee Kristie.
Spending weekends at speedways across Victoria was among his lowest priorities.
He didn’t have the time, less so the budget. Racing had taken a back seat to life.
That was August. By November, Van Ginneken was back on the track, immersing himself in the sport he loves.
From all but abandoning the season, he now has plans to chase feature success across Victoria and Tasmania.
The stark turnaround came about courtesy of Cheltenham car owner Steven Hood, who last season raced formula 500s for the first time.
The pair had never met before Hood struck car trouble at Simpson last season and Van Ginneken offered to help.
They struck up a friendship which has led to Van Ginneken driving for Hood, with both as enthusiastic as ever.
“I remember taking my car down to Leigh to put wings on it,” Hood said.
“I left it there for about a fortnight. He put the wings up and set it up for the Jack Willsher Cup.
“I got back in the car and it was completely different. He knows what he’s talking about.
“Just listening to him and working with him over the last 12 months, I thought ‘he’s not a bad young bloke, I’ll give him a go in the car’.”
Van Ginneken, 27, said he was appreciative of the offer, acknowledging it was his only chance to drive this season.
“I wouldn’t be doing it without him, that’s for sure,” he said.
“Everyone has stepped up a notch motor-wise and with their presentation and transportation.
“Me and Kristie, we both race. We said we’d sell up and build a house. But I picked up a ride, so I’m doing that.”
Their adventures on the track started with the Premier Speedway day show in November.
Van Ginneken tagged the wall in the final and flipped the car, but the meeting brought the team together.
Rain washed out Victorian Stampede Series meetings at Portland and Avalon and he missed Simpson due to a wedding.
But he is among nominations for the Jack Willsher Cup at Premier Speedway on Saturday night, having already triumphed in 2007.
Van Ginneken said posting a solid result in the cup, which has attracted 49 cars, was high on his priority list.
“We’re just after a good result, pretty much, coming up to Speedweek,” he said.
“Speedweek, my aim is to make every A main and finish top-five in the points.
“After that we have the Victorian title on January 18 at Simpson, hoping for another top-five finish there.
“Then we’re heading to Tassie for two weeks. We’re going for the Tassie title and two memorial races as well.”