Super Trucks back in action
LIKE a number of other sports in Australia, motor racing is followed by people from all walks of life across the country and for sheer visual and aural impact, the sight and sound of the trucks duking it out in the 2019 Australian Super Truck Nationals is pretty hard to top.
This year the Super Truck Nationals are being run across four rounds, with two each at Winton in northeast Victoria and Wakefield Park in NSW, and with the sport in a rebuilding phase truck racing will be a force to be reckoned with in coming years.
Australian National Truck Racing Organisation president Charlie Zammit not only had a hand in one of the racing teams but gave a background to the sport and its plans for the future.
"We had our first race in 1988 at Calder Park and we haven't missed a year yet,” he said.
"Our profile went down a bit when Oran Park Raceway closed down but we have been building the profile back up again - we are in the third year of a five-year plan and we have it to the stage where everyone is happy with what's happening.”
A variety of trucks are represented across three categories (Race Truck/ Super Truck/Light Truck), all with a mix of engine and driveline packages, with all trucks having being built up specifically for taking to the track.
But at the heart of the matter the componentry, while modified for the track, is the same as what can be found in road-going trucks.
"We run to a set of regulations, which get modified every now and then, but basically the gear is all standard,” Charlie said.
With modifications made under the bonnet to turbos and the like, trucks are not wanting for horsepower, which translates to a lot of noise out the exhaust and speed on the track, with the majority of engines in the Race Truck and Super Truck categories around 1400-1500hp and the Isuzus in the Light Truck category around 650hp.
Teams vying for the 2019 championship include Charlie's SRZ Racing (he being the "Z” in SRZ) with their Kenworth, Tringali Racing, which runs a Detroit-powered International Transtar, and MLC Racing, which fields trucks for father-and-son racers Robbie and Lachlan Fern.
Across each race weekend there is no shortage of track action, with a couple of formats that see points awarded to drivers and trucks.
"We run the same format - practice and qualifying and then two team races,” Charlie said.
"Each truck can have two different drivers, with the points going to the truck.
"It's a format where people interested in coming into our sport can see what it's about.
"We also have a championship race on the Saturday and three more on the Sunday - we have mixed it up a bit and it's a format that has worked quite well.”
Walking around the pits on a race weekend, it is refreshing to see the somewhat relaxed environment when compared to a V8 Supercars meeting and ANTRO is keen to build the appeal of the sport to families as a great day out.
"Our way of looking at things is if the kids are happy, then the parents are happy and we cater for the kids - any of the teams will put a kid in their truck in the pits for photos and so forth,” Charlie said.
This also extends to attractions such as driver signings and jumping castles, which give families a range of things to see and do alongside catching the track action.
With the third round of the series coming up at Winton in mid-September, the competitor base is expanding, with a couple of new trucks expected to take to the tight and twisty layout that sees the trucks average 135km/h around the short 2.9km circuit.
"With the short straights we can't quite crack 160km/h but we are closing in on it,” Charlie said.
"At Wakefield Park we can get to 160km/h on the longer straights but you could think that Winton was built for truck racing as you can see all of the track from the one spot.”
Charlie reckons the sport is well placed as new trucks and competitors come on board and with a television deal with Speedweek on SBS, things are looking good for the future.
"Corporate support is starting to come in now andthe track action is a good format for us,” he said.
"We now have different round sponsors and the good media coverage has been working well for us.”
Check out the action for yourself across the weekend of September 14-15 at Winton Motor Raceway, twohours north of Melbourne just off the Hume Highway.