HE was the most inexperienced driver in the field but he finished better than last and with his car in one piece.
By those modest benchmarks, Timboon rookie Luke Walker is declaring his debut in the Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic a success. Walker, driving the V67 car leased from Simpson stalwart John Vogels, finished fourth in the second D main after starting off pole.
The result meant he missed transferring to a C main by two spots, the victim of hard-charging runs from Steven Rowell and Geoff Ensign.
But that was no concern for Walker, 18. The Classic was just the sixth race of his first season, and his first at Allansford’s Premier Speedway. “It’s a very cool experience, I’m very grateful I get to do it,” he said.
“There are a lot of big names, I’d say I’m the least experienced driver here.”
Walker, a former Cobden Technical School student who graduated in November, grew up racing go-karts and wingless sprints. His Classic debut was the latest chapter in an emerging dirt-track career. He has no plans to return to circuit racing, despite his go-karts background. “A lot of the guys I was racing go-karts against, they all went down that path, Aussie Racing Cars and that,” he said.
“That was a lot more expensive than what we could afford. We’re racing on a tough budget.
“And I’ve always grown up around (speedway). I don’t think I’ve missed a Classic since I was 10 years old.”
In those years in the stands, Vogels was the driver Walker most enjoyed watching. The rookie was rapt to be in the company of the veteran.
“I’ve been a great fan of his. It’s really great he’s helping me out.
“Last night (Saturday) he was crewing on the car. That was a great feeling,” he said.
Walker was one of a strong south-west contingent in the Classic field, with the theme of young drivers punching above their weight strong.
The pick of the efforts was Warrnambool’s Jamie Veal, who won the Australia-America Challenge Cup on Saturday and ran third in the Classic on Sunday.
Warrnambool’s Darren Mollenoyux was also impressive throughout the weekend, but ended with a did-not-finish in the A main after retiring late in the race.
Warrnambool’s Will Carroll produced an eye-catching display in finishing fifth in the first C main on Sunday, one out of the transfer positions.
Carroll also made the A main on Friday, beating home highly rated Bud Kaeding, Robbie Farr and Brad Keller in running 13th.
Mailors Flat’s Peter Doukas also impressed but raced without luck on Saturday and Sunday, crashing out on both nights.
Portland’s Adam King and Tower Hill’s Quentin Tanner both made the A main on Saturday and as far as the first B main on Sunday.
Allansford’s Jacob Smith and Timboon’s Daniel Newnham, two young drivers making headway in the sport, raced in the first D main on Sunday.
Other south-west hopes included Simpson pair Vogels, who reached the first B main, and Tim Rankin, who ran in the first C main.
Warrnambool’s Carl Ludeman was part of the second D main action in what was a frustrating Classic.
Tasmanian young gun Shaun Dobson, who drove for Warrnambool car owner Harry Droste, made the A main on Friday.
But he suffered a power steering issue while running second in the first B main on Sunday which prematurely ended his enterprising bid to win.