Eat my dust - Hayes wins Australian title
By TONY WHITE
COUTTS Crossing speedway driver Geoff Hayes won the Australian street stockers title at Wagga International Speedway last weekend, but the career high did not come without some 'fender bending' drama.
During the 20-lap final, Hayes had the misfortune to lock horns with a determined local driver who 'tried to put me over the fence', Hayes said.
"I don't think he liked me passing him twice," Hayes said of the race incident which almost derailed his dream.
"Apart from two corners when I got shoved back to second, I led from start to finish."
The 36-year-old took up motor racing nine years ago and has registered a series of wins including the New South Wales street stockers title for the past two years.
But Hayes said winning the Australian title at his first attempt was extremely satisfying.
"It (the Australian title) is the ultimate, I'm really happy," he said.
"You get to carry the Australian number one painted on your car."
Hayes races a VP Commodore with a six-cylinder V6 engine.
The car is the same vehicle that carried him to back-to-back NSW titles.
"It's called 'Dunny Door'," Hayes said.
"Yeah, there is a story behind the name but we'll just leave it at that."
The round trip to Wagga was a 26-hour marathon with fellow driver Matt Egan and pit crew helper and friend, Craig Murray.
"I got about two hours sleep," Hayes said.
"But it's all worth it."
Hayes qualified number one for the final, a position he said proved significant.
"It's good in the top spot, you can set your own pace and the pace for the race," he said.
"The dirt track is 590 metres and the final was scheduled for 30 laps but they reduced it to 20."
Accidents are part and parcel of tight, competitive motor racing. However, the final had just the one stoppage.
"You wouldn't believe it, it was with one lap to go so we had to line up again and complete two laps," he said.
"It was great to see the chequered flag."
Street stockers carry no mirrors but Hayes was quick to point out challengers have their own unique way of letting the lead driver know where they are.
"You usually know when they are close behind because they give you a nudge in the rear," he said.
Hayes' car still bears the scars of war from last weekend's racing, and a repair bill is imminent. Going racing isn't cheap ? Hayes car is valued at around $5000 ? and monetary rewards in his class barely cover expenses.
"You've got to work on a budget," he said.
"I got $500 for winning in Wagga but the whole weekend probably cost $700.
"I try and do as many local (Grafton) rounds as I can and probably average about six away meetings a year.
"Fortunately my wife is very supportive and encourages me."
Hayes, a delivery truck driver, and wife Paula have a six-month-old son, Brenden.