Tony Saunders, Ricky Saunders and Damien Arnold are geared up for the Formula 500 at Rockhampton this weekend.
Tony Saunders, Ricky Saunders and Damien Arnold are geared up for the Formula 500 at Rockhampton this weekend. Sharyn Oneill

Legend remembered at final fling

THERE will be spectacular racing, and also nostalgia, as the Rockhampton Speedway Club hopes for a triumphant finish to a disappointing season.

There are only three divisions of racing but with a large number of nominations in each it promises to be a spectacular night.

President of the Rockhampton club, Josh Keene, hopes clear skies favour the club this week with a large chunk of the season lost through wet weather.

Main event of the night is the Queensland Titles in the Formula 500 with over 30 nominations and drivers coming from as far away as Perth and South Australia.

One reason for such a large response is respect, as the event is being held as a memorial to a legend of this division of racing, Allan Saunders.

Displaying the number one on his tiny car, Saunders got into difficulty at the Rockhampton track and crashed into the fence in front of the main grandstand.

That was 40 years ago and as a sign of respect the car, which was retired some years later in the Northern Territory, has been brought to Rockhampton and is in good working order.

On Saturday it will take to the track again, not racing, but leading the 500 out on to the track.

The memories will flood back as sharing the driving duties for the night will be Saunders' two sons, Rick and Tony.

While the numbers are high because it is a memorial event once the lights turn green and the flag drops these guys will be here to race.

The nominations read like a who's who of Formula 500 races.

Dale Shilleto will be out to defend his Queensland title while former Australian champion Daniel Harding travels from Western Australia for a tilt at the title.

Brock Hallet has won most titles and he will be there to add to his trophy count as will eight-time Queensland champion Michael Pronger and his son Mason who is also a former Queensland title-holder.

Young guns Charlie Brown and his sister Kristin will be competitive while Matthew Redpath and Marcus Kelly are not making the long journey from Tasmania just to get away from the cold weather.

Gladstone's Tony Smith, a second vice-president of the Queensland association, said it should be an amazing night of racing.

“This is an exciting class with all the cars similar in performance,” he said.

“That makes it a driver's class with everyone with a chance.

“It can either be a budget or a top dollar class.”

One thing is certain: the sounds of these little vehicles, once appropriately called Gnats, will be a massive difference from those produced by the Super Sedans on the same program.

The Formula 500 class has gained good, local corporate backing from Craig and Jane Arnold and all their crew at Arnold's Advanced Tyres.

T-shirts, hats and beer coolers will be on sale at the showgrounds to commemorate the Allan Saunders memorial.



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