Aussie racing legend Kevin Bartlett locked in for sprints
LEGENDARY Australian driver Kevin Bartlett and his Bathurst co-driver Colin Bond will be two of the special guests at the 2019 Leyburn Sprints.
They will be joined by a long list of celebrities in town for the 70th anniversary since the Australian Grand Prix at Leyburn in 1949.
The latest celebrity to be confirmed is Fred Gibson who will travel from Melbourne for the August 17-18 weekend.
Gibson managed a Nissan Racing Team which included drivers Jim Richards and Mark Skaife.
They won everything in the Nissan GT R four-wheel drive dubbed Godzilla which led to a change in the allowed specifications in motorsport.
Bartlett, one of Australia's most popular racing drivers of the 1960-1980s, will join his 1982 Bathurst co-driver Colin Bond, 1981 Bathurst winner John French, Queensland ace Bill Gates and several other top performers.
French is a regular at the sprints and once voted in a Federal Election in the town when the election fell on the Saturday of the Leyburn Sprints.
Now aged 79, Bartlett - or KB or Big Rev Kev, as he was known - started racing in 1958 with a Morris Minor but went on to win Australian Drivers' Championships in 1968 and 1969, the 1974 Bathurst 1000 and set the first 100 mile/hour (160 km/h) Bathurst lap in a Repco Brabham in 1967.
In his 32-year career, much of it with the Alec Mildren Racing team, Bartlett drove a range of single-seater and touring cars and contested Formula 5000 in the 1970s in several Lolas.
He earned most notoriety for his Channel Nine-sponsored Chev Camaro Z28 from 1980-1983, especially a spectacular rollover on top of Mount Panorama in 1982.
Sprints president Tricia Chant said Kevin Bartlett would be a big attraction at this year's event.
"Kevin is a true legend of Australian motor racing, as a talented and tough competitor on track and a popular personality out of the car," she said.
"That popularity has never waned and I'm sure many people will come to the sprints just for the chance to meet him."
Leyburn's special guests will be present throughout the sprints weekend to meet their many fans and celebrate the heritage of the 1949 Australian Grand Prix.
A special program will be released about where fans can meet the motor racing legends during the sprints weekend. It is expected there will be some parade laps.
One of the celebrities who will drive on the sprints course in mid August is Gates, a radio personality who was well known in Queensland driving circles, especially in the 1960s.
Gates drove in a era when Lakeside and Surfers Paradise were two of the most popular tracks in the country. Now Queensland Raceway at Willowbank and Morgan Park Raceway in Warwick are two of the most popular tracks in Queensland.
Sprints media manager Chris Nixon said Gates drove Lotus, Falcon GT and Elfin cars at the time.
While nominations haven't yet closed, Nixon expects last year's winner and lap record holder Dean Amos from Lismore to nominate again.
"He has won five sprints in succession and has a fast sophisticated car which was build in England for events like the Leyburn Sprints," Nixon said.
"Dean is involved in an automotive business in Lismore.
"He was hoping to break his own lap record last year but it didn't happen."
The usual number of sprints entries is around 210 and Nixon expects that number to be reached. Nominations close in early July.
While Warwick drivers haven't been in the overall placings down the years, there are many regulars who are class winners at a event which was Queensland Motor Sport Event of the Year in 2016.
Some of the Leyburn sprints drivers compete in Queensland Super Sprints at Morgan Park.
From the first Leyburn Sprints, no car racing is held at Morgan Park on Leyburn Sprints weekend.
Patrons heading from Warwick to Leyburn for the sprints can take different routes through Pratten or Karara. See updates on the sprints on www.warwickdailynews.com.au and in print editions of the paper.