Bring on the excitement of racing truck championships
Big trucks filling narrow space create thrills galore
OCTOBER 21 and 22 saw the return of the Giti Tire Super Truck Nationals to Winton, in Victoria’s north, for Round 3 of the Championship Series.
Steve Zammit arrived, hoping to extend his lead in the points.
Barry Butwell, 22 points behind on the board, was intent on closing the gap.
Truck racing began in Oz in 1988 at Calder Park in Melbourne.
Back then the trucks were road-going prime movers with a race seat and harness fitted and thrown onto the track. They could have had sleeper cabs and bogie drives still fitted.
Indeed some drivers raced their trucks on Sunday and drove them for work on Monday.
Frank Amoroso was one such racer.
“I go back to my younger days. I was always a hard charger on the Hume Highway many years ago but I could see the writing on the wall,” he said.
“As a kid I always wanted to be a race car driver or drive trucks. In my early days there was no money in race cars so, naturally, I went driving trucks.
“I started off with my road truck which was a Kenworth Aerodyne.
Put a roll cage on it, raced on the weekends, converted back on Sunday night and hit the road on Monday.
“After that came a Diamond Rio which I had for about 12 months and then I bought this W model which I’ve had since about 1991.
“I’m the old grandpa of the place actually. Some of the other competitors, like Steve Zammit, were in nappies when I first started racing.
“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed and I can honestly say I get just as much of a buzz now as I did 28 years ago when I first started.”
Chris Mifsud, the mechanic and co-driver of Frank’s Fate Racing, has built the engines for the team since 2000.
“It’s 14-litre big-cam Cummins, essentially what most people would know as a road engine. It’s got a different fuel pump, injectors and turbo set-up.
“We use a custom ground camshaft and stuff but that’s about it. We use a standard piston which we modify to lower compression but essentially it’s a factory Cummins. We run a compound twin Turbo set on it. It probably makes somewhere in the region of about 1500hp.
“Originally the truck was a W model Kenworth. It was raced in the first truck race, back in 1988. Originally it had a V-8 Cummins and it was driven by Alan Grice. It’s 30 years old next year.”
Barry Butwell also started racing about 25 years ago with a break along the way.
“We’re going OK but Steve Zammit’s still got it over us,” he said.
Barry’s preferred mode of
racing transport is a Mack Super Liner which has been rebuilt from the ground up.
“We use in an E7 motor with Allison transmission it’s also got a Scania rear end. It’s a bit of a mixture.
“The output is impossible to tell but we estimate between 12 and 1300 horses.”
Marcus Prillwitz races under Barry’s banner. This is Marcus’s fourth season.
“Barry got me into it. I have a workshop next to his and we like to drink beer. That’s how it came about.”
His truck was originally bits and pieces around the paddock which “we threw it together in about four months”. Another Super Liner, this runs a 892 Detroit.
“There are people who’d want to kill me for doing that, including Barry.” Marcus’s truck is one of only two manuals in the field.
Steve Zammit is the series leader and, in all likelihood, will be crowned champion.
“We had a bit of a rocky start. Barry Butwell did well at Lakefield Park. We went back to the drawing board and at the last race meeting we did OK.
“So far this week and we’ve done pole in two races. We did a couple of little changes to it and she is running really well.”
Originally the truck was a W model Kenworth. The front is original but the rest was re-bodied from a W model to a 401.
Steve was destined to race: “To be honest the old man and his mate John Scarcella, who is one of the owners of the truck, had both lost their licenses, in 1989 I think it was. Tony Parrish came down from Oran Park and said, ‘Do you want to bring some trucks down and race them?’
“Without licences, they had nothing better to do, so got the old man’s W model (which is still on the road today) and went truck racing with it.
“Back in ‘89 I was only four or five. I didn’t have a choice, it is always been in my blood to follow in the footsteps of the blokes racing before me.”
The weekend finished with Steve extending his lead over Barry.
Frank Amoroso, although well back in the rankings, had an inspired drive to win the first race on the Sunday.
With big trucks filling a narrow track, this is an exciting sport to watch. If you can get to Wakefield Park at Tirrannaville, near Goulburn, on December 2–3, be there.
Chris Mifsud and Frank Amoroso, the ‘grandpa’ of the racing drivers.
Series leader Steve Zammit.
Barry Butwell and his Mack Super Liner. .
Ready to race.
Rigs ready to race.
Marcus Prillwitz and his Super Liner which is one of two manuals in the field.
This Kenworth is primed.
Face of Ford.
And they're racing.