Following almost four decades on the speedway scene, both as a driver and in later years as a car owner, Ross Madden has now decided to hang up his helmet and trade in his race car, bringing to an end what has been a colossal part of his adult life.
Recently announcing his plans to step away from the sport, there is much for Madden to reflect on, with his 38-year career being scattered with a great deal of change, along with plenty of ups and downs.
Following in the tyre tracks of his dad Keith, who raced Super Modifieds at tracks such as Point Lonsdale’s Calcium Park Speedway, Torquay Speedway, Brooklyn Speedway and Ballarat’s Redline Raceway throughout the 1960s and ‘70s before selling his car and stepping away from driver duties in 1977, Madden knew that he wanted to take up speedway himself; however budget constraints made it difficult for him.
Splitting the cost of a car into thirds, Madden partnered up with Phil Adams and Peter Bennett to purchase a HR Holden at the beginning of the 1980-81 season, but a crash with Madden behind the wheel during their debut season running A Grade Standard Saloons wrote the car off, causing Madden to pay Adams and Bennett out for their thirds.
Taking no time off between seasons, the 1981-82 season saw Madden return to the track in A Grade Standard Saloons, which later became Modified Productions in 1985, aboard a Holden Torana, which was fitted with the engine he had salvaged from his HR Holden.
Once again taking to the sidelines in the late 1980s for a few seasons, the Lara, Victoria-based racer, originally from Sunshine, procured what would later become his favourite car in 1991 – a brand-new VL Holden Commodore from GMH, where his friend Adams was working.
Continuing to pilot this car across Victoria and South Australia during the 1990s and 2000s, contesting state and National Titles, Madden was witness to a new generation of drivers, having raced against Max Carlin, Ian Drew, Gary Drew and Billy Rieck, who were later joined on track by their sons Mark, Nathan, Justin and Chris respectively.
Selling his beloved VL Holden Commodore in 2005 to Morris Ahearn, who went on to race it as a 3 Litre Sedan, Madden underwent another stint on the sidelines, before returning to the Modified Production Sedan class in the 2007-08 season with a VZ Holden Commodore, which he steered until early 2014 when his role in the sport changed from driver to car owner, with the late Brenton Mills, who was dating Madden’s daughter Erin, coming on the scene.
Having currently been racing Production Sedans, Mills wanted to dual-register his VL Commodore to also compete in Modified Sedans (formerly Modified Productions), so when Madden offered him the driver’s seat aboard his own car in the 2014-15 season, Mills leapt at the opportunity.
Running the car for two full seasons, Mills was extremely competitive, with his time behind the wheel highlighted by winning the Avalon Raceway Track Championship in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, a runner-up Victorian Title finish in the 2015-16 season, a top-three finish in the 2014-15 VMPA Series and a fifth-place result in the National Title at Carrick Speedway in Tasmania the same season.
Following the tragic passing of Mills at the beginning of the 2016-17 season, the car remained dormant for most of the season until the latter stages when Madden brought it back out to contest the Murray Magic at Mildura’s Timmis Speedway, with Matt Gerlach driving the car in the National Title at Murray Bridge Speedway later that season.
Originally contesting 3 Litre Sedans, Gerlach, from Horsham in Victoria, was asked to pilot the car for the entire 2017-18 season, experiencing a competitive run which saw him win the Avalon Raceway Track Championship and the overall Avalon Speedway Club aggregate point score, along with placing fourth in the overall VMPA Series point standings.
It was at the completion of the 2017-18 season that Madden decided to bring his extended career in speedway to an end, selling the car to Gerlach.
“Retiring from the sport of speedway is definitely bittersweet,” expressed the 59 year old, whose career highlights include placing fourth in two Victorian Titles, which incidentally were both at Swan Hill’s Sonic Speedway, which he described as one of his favourite tracks.
“Speedway has been such a large part of my life and while there’s certainly been no shortage of challenges, the incredible memories I’ve made far outweigh them. My passion for the sport is still very much alive, but it’s time to step away from my active involvement and get back to enjoying speedway as a spectator.
“There is an endless list of people who have made my career what it was and who have supported and assisted me along the way and I can’t thank each of them enough for all that they’ve done. Along with all of the memories, I’m taking a number of lifelong friendships away from my time in speedway.”
Madden would like to thank each of the following sponsors for their support throughout his speedway career: Octane Alley Performance (John and Allan), I&J Speedway Equipment (Ian), North Geelong Auto Electrics (Ian), and Bratt Race Engineering (Matt).
Special thanks go to Jane (wife), Erin (daughter), Rachel and Jason (daughter and son-in-law), Lauren and Paul (daughter and son-in-law), Tamara and Heath (daughter and son-in-law), Phil Adams, Ian Cousins, Max and Travis Mahney, Dennis Chambers, the late John Mee, Bob Heilbronn, and Jeff Drew and the Drew family from Avalon Raceway.
To find out more about Madden’s speedway career, visit his Facebook page at Ross Madden Motorsport.