PROMISING sprintcar driver Rusty Hickman says a desire to forge a name for himself in a sport engrained in him since birth helped him overcome serious injuries.
A broken leg sustained in a water-skiing accident and a broken neck courtesy of a race crash have impacted the Bendigo-based teenager’s first two seasons in the sport.
But the son of former driver Darren used the hurdles as motivation to return to the track and is now finding his feet.
Hickman, 17, recorded fastest time on two of the Easter sprintcar trail nights – in Mount Gambier on Saturday night and at Warrnambool on Sunday – and started on pole in the 30-lap A-Main finale at Premier Speedway.
He said he entered the series with little expectation after an injury-riddled start to his career.
“In my first season I missed three months with a broken leg and this season I missed four months with my neck,” Hickman said.
“I hurt neck racing in Murray Bridge and turned 17 on the Monday, so I was in hospital for my birthday.
“I was in a halo brace for two months and a soft collar for a month.
“I had a week with no collar and was back in the car.”
Hickman, a second-year engine builder apprentice, said he wouldn’t let the setbacks deter him.
“I’ve waited all my life to do it,” he said.
“I’m back to 100 per cent, back into it and nothing is going to stop me.”
Hickman said a passion for speedway ran in his family – his father Darren won a race the night he was born and just made it in time for his birth.
The teenager recorded fastest time – 10.542 seconds to pip Warrnambool pair Corey McCullagh and Darren Mollenoyux – to top group four qualifying at Premier Speedway on Sunday night and start on pole in the first of his two heats.
“Everyone is fast here; it’s just so hard,” he said.
“(I didn’t know my time) but Dad was giving me the thumbs up so I knew I’d done it.”
Hickman won his first heat, holding off Mollenoyux and McCullagh.
Allansford teenager Jack Bell, an established formula 500 driver, won heat eight in just his second night in a sprintcar.
Other heat winners were South Australian Aidan Hall, who almost notched a lap record, fellow Croweater Brad Keller, Terang’s Jack Lee, Victorian Ross Jarred, who broke the 10-lap record, the experienced Steven Lines and New South Welshman Jackson Delamont.
Kim Becker, Tim Rankin, Jake Smith, Jessie Attard and Sam Wren were all involved in heat crashes.
Chad Ely won the C-Main but crashed out early in the B-Main which went the way of Shaun Dobson.