Champion on a mission in first look at Premier track

AUSTRALIAN champion Daniel Hartigan says he is far from favourite to add the Victorian wingless sprints title to his list of achievements at Allansford’s Premier Speedway on Saturday night.

The Perth-based New Zealander has never been to Victoria let alone seen the famous Premier Speedway circuit, but that won’t stop him chasing the crown.

“I think that’s how everyone thinks, the national champion is the one to beat. But I’m at more of a disadvantage to everyone this weekend,” the 22-year-old said.

The closest he has come to Premier Speedway is watching a couple of Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic videos.

Hartigan, who won the national title at Bunbury last month, said it had only been after that event that fellow Perth-based driver Tom Payet had talked about coming to Warrnambool. He was able to put his car in the truck bringing Payet’s machinery, clearing the way for him to make the trip across the Nullarbor. He is also relying on Payet’s advice when it comes to set-up.

Hartigan said he was flying to Melbourne late on Friday night and after landing about 11pm, is planning to drive to Warrnambool. He will then fly out at 2.30pm on Sunday.

Hartigan is adopting a realistic approach to the title.

“Even over here, I don’t expect to win. I just go out and have fun and bring the car back in one piece,” he said.

He said making the title-deciding A main was his goal but he expected tough competition with 61 cars entered.

The make-up of the field was largely a mystery to him other than Payet, defending Victorian title-holder Todd Wigzell, of South Australia, and Geelong-based Andy Hibbert.

Hartigan moved to Perth a year ago and rekindled his speedway passion when he saw the wingless sprints in action. 

He had driven juniors back in New Zealand after starting at 12 years of age. But when he reached 16 he took a break. He hit the track again when he was 18 in the litre sprints before finding himself drawn to the wingless sprints in Perth.

The affordability of the class and the tight rules ensuring an even playing field appealed to him. He bought a 2000 J&J sprintcar chassis and fitted it with a V8 Commodore power plant.

“It’s like a dream come true (winning the Australian title),” Hartigan said.

“To win it is an honour.”

Like many in speedway, Hartigan craves a sprintcar career.

“That’s the dream,” he said.

“But I could never afford one on my own.”

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