Paraplegic racer ready for GT3 debut at Mallala Shannons Nationals
After months of development on a hand-control system for his Porsche GT3 Cup Car, Queenslander Matt Speakman will make his national level racing debut at Mallala this weekend.
The sixth GT3 Cup Challenge season will kick-off as part of the Shannons Nationals event, which will also feature the Kumho V8 Touring Car Series, Kerrick Sports Sedan Series, Australian Saloon Car Series and Swift Racing Series.
A total of 14 Porsches have entered Round 1, with the absence of the top three in the 2012 title race – Kane Rose, Jeff Bobik and John Modystach – opening the door for new winners.
Speakman can be expected score the most attention as he steps into his unique McElrea Racing-fettled 911 some 20 years after a road accident involving a drunk driver left him a paraplegic.
“We’ve been able to tweak the hand controls to a point now where everything is working great and I am comfortable in the car,” said the 46-year-old, who has competed in state-level rallying and Improved Production racing in recent years.
“We have a new hydraulic clutch which has given me a lot more feel getting around the pits and off the start line.
“I’m hoping we’ll be competitive, but you never know these things until you get out on the track.”
Also in the GT3 Cup field this year will be experienced Porsche campaigner Peter Fitzgerald, who has not raced full-time since stepping out of the Carrera Cup at the end of the 2006 season.
Sixteen cars will take the start in the V8 Touring Cars, including local drivers Chris Smerdon, Dan Day, Michael Bartsch, Josh Kean and Ian Yeing.
The field is without opening round winner Justin Garioch, whose Ford Falcon has been put up for sale, and fellow front-runner Morgan Haber, who endured another tempestuous outing at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Meanwhile, the Clem Smith Cup will highlight the trip to Mallala for the 14 car Kerrick Sports Sedan field.
Kerry Baily will be defending the Clem Smith Cup title, awarded to the victor of Race 2 of the weekend, after having his path cleared last year by Friday mechanical failures ruling out the primary cars of key contenders Tony Ricciardello and Darren Hossack.
All three are expected to be in the thick of the action this time around, with Hossack’s Audi repaired after its recent accident in Sydney.
The Swift and Saloon Car classes have attracted fields of 11 and 24 respectively, with the former’s opening round marking the series debut of Ben Grice; the son of two-time Bathurst 1000 winner, Allan.