South Australian Speedway icon Bill Wigzell passes aged 82

Bill Wigzell charging his way to the front in 'Suddenly' (PIC: Wigzell Family Racing)

Bill Wigzell charging his way to the front in ‘Suddenly’ (PIC: Wigzell Family Racing)

Australian Speedway is in mourning after news that South Australian legend Bill Wigzell OAM passed away overnight at the age of 82.

Wigzell started his career on two wheels in the late forties before moving into the four-wheeled arena during Speedway’s halcyon days in the sixties. After being assisted by Jack Young during his two-wheeled days, his first race on four wheels was aboard a speedcar formerly piloted by Sir Jack Brabham at the invitation of Rowley Park promoter, Kym Bonython.

The South Australian drew acclaim from around the country when he linked up with Murray Bridge car dealer, Kevin Fischer and his iridescent purple machine – known as ‘Suddenly’. Pilot, Zeke Agars decided to go and develop his own car and recommended to Fischer that Wigzell took his place – as they say, the rest is history.

He struck success instantly – winning his first ever race aboard Suddenly and going on to win seven of the 14 races he entered that first year.

In an era where the cars on Australia’s dirt bullrings had the personality and almost as great a following as its driver, Suddenly was a hit right around Australia – hiking its front left wheel to the amazement of the fans.

Wigzell – known as The Wizard – and Suddenly weren’t just all about the show, he was able to lead around the star drivers of the day such as George Tatnell, Dick Briton, Steve Brazier, Garry Rush and the like. It was Tatnell on his many visits to South Australia that taught Wigzell the art of showmanship.

He won the first ever Australian Sprintcar Championship in 1970 at Morisset Speedway on the New South Wales Central Coast (over former Sydney Speedway promoter, David Lander), before embarking on one of his most remarkable stretches  – winning the Craven A Mild Filter Championship (the biggest race outside the Australian Championship) in 1972 (Brisbane Exhibition Grounds), 1973 (Claremont) and 1974 (Rowley Park).

In 1974, Wigzell won the Classic at Warrnambool – famously with his right rear alight such was the heat from the exhaust!

At one point, the powerful combination held every single lap record at Rowley Park Speedway. They won 37 feature races at the now defunct Adelaide city track – all in the era where the quickest drivers started from the back.

Such was his attachment with Rowley Park – Wigzell was one of just two racers that raced the first event in 1949 and the last in 1979.

In 1979, Bill received one of the greatest off-track honours possible – being awarded the Order of Australia medal for his services to motorsport.

He continued racing until 1986 in a Sprintcar when he retired to crew for his son, Terry. Now Bill’s grandson, Todd continues the family affair in the sport.

Over recent years, Wigzell has been a mainstay at Murray Bridge Speedway and still today, having Suddenly appear at a motorsport event draws fans of all ages.

Farewell to the Wizard, Bill Wigzell.

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