Racer kicks goals

An Aussie con­quers Europe in a new com­pe­ti­tion, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

WEB­BER, Am­brose and Reed might be Aus­tralia’s top motorsport stars, but one Queens­land miner’s son is qui­etly stak­ing his claim in the in­ter­na­tional rac­ing spot­light.

John Martin, 26, this year won more races than any other driver in the Euro­pean-based Su­per­league se­ries and pock­eted more than $500,000 in prize­money.

Next year, the for­mer na­tional For­mula Ford cham­pion could be rac­ing in front of a home crowd as the in­ter­na­tional foot­ball-themed se­ries seeks to spread to an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence.

‘‘There’s been a lot of talk about com­ing to Aus­tralia, also Brazil, Abu Dhabi and an­other race in China,’’ he says.

The Su­per­league put up its hand last year to fill in for the A1GP when it failed to show for the Gold Coast ‘‘Indy’’.

‘‘They’d still re­ally like to come to Aus­tralia and are re­ally push­ing for it,’’ Martin says.

‘‘I’m in the loop a bit but they play their cards close to their chest so we won’t know un­til they are near a deal.

‘‘(Su­per­league co-founder) Robin Webb has been out here a cou­ple of times in the last cou­ple of weeks.

‘‘I’ve heard that Ade­laide and a few other places have been men­tioned. Ade­laide would be good be­cause it’s a for­mer F1 track.’’

Martin scored six pole po­si­tions and 10 podi­ums this year for his Bei­jing Guoan FC team. He won six races, in­clud­ing two su­per-fi­nals, but fin­ished ninth in the con­vo­luted points sys­tem.

‘‘ The year didn’t go quite as planned, but it was still a good one,’’ he says. ‘‘We wanted to chal­lenge for the cham­pi­onship but had a few prob­lems. But to­wards the end of the year we went re­ally well.’’

Since he ar­rived back in Aus­tralia last month the Gos­ford-born for­mer Queens­land kart­ing cham­pion has been rac­ing karts at Rock­hamp­ton and Bund­aberg ‘‘for some fun’’ and to keep his eye in, win­ning all four races.

He says he will race a full sea­son of Su­per­league next year but has not yet signed a con­tract.

‘‘Motorsport is a crazy world and things change all the time,’’ he says.

‘‘I’m still just chas­ing the F1 dream. I’d also like to be in GP2 but I don’t have the bud­get for that.

‘‘ Maybe if I make some more money out of Su­per­league I can think about GP2 or an F1 test.’’

Martin says it costs about $675,000 to race a sea­son in Su­per­league and about $2.7 mil­lion ‘‘just to turn up’’ in GP2.

‘‘And then there’s crash dam­age and things aren’t cheap to fix,’’ he says. ‘‘My prize­money this year paid for my sea­son, so ba­si­cally I raced for noth­ing. Spon­sors and my fam­ily help out with liv­ing ex­penses.

‘‘My dad (Greg) worked as a min­ing con­trac­tor at Black­wa­ter (in Cen­tral Queens­land) and he’s spent a quite a bit on my ca­reer.’’

Martin has con­grat­u­lated Perth 21-year-old Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, who has scored a con­tract with F1 team Toro Rosso as the third and re­serve driver for next sea­son, but says there are draw­backs.

The for­mer Red Bull re­serve driver will drive in the free prac­tice ses­sions on the first day of each GP, al­ter­nat­ing with reg­u­lar driv­ers Jaime Alguer­suari and Se­bas­tian Buemi. If ei­ther is in­jured or their per­for­mance is di­min­ished, Ric­cia­rdo is likely to get a drive.

‘‘That’s the way into F1 these days, not be­ing a test driver,’’ Martin says.

‘‘There’s not much test­ing in F1 these days be­cause they put a ban on it, so it makes it harder to get in.

‘‘A few years ago when Web­ber started he test-drove for sev­eral years and go lots of miles in.

‘‘But as a re­serve driver you do a lot of stand­ing around hop­ing some­one gets sick. Also, it takes you away from other com­pe­ti­tion.

‘‘You need to be rac­ing to keep your name out there and keep your race craft up as well.

‘‘You can do all the time in the gym you like but you have to go out and get match fit­ness.’’

Six wins: John Martin cel­e­brates a big year com­pet­ing in the Su­per­league in Europe.


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