Speedway looks to young talent
Thursday, 3rd March, 2011
Racer puts son to test
By Darrin Manuel
The Broken Hill Speedway Club is crying out for new blood to make its way into the sport, and one youngster answering the call is sidecar racer Craig O'Neil.
The 16-year-old passenger or "swinger" will soon be looking to make his mark in the racing game after teaming with father and rider Kel to form the Feral Racing Team.
Craig's interest in motorsport was piqued after he bought a Yamaha 450 KXT trail bike, and from there he set about making inroads into a career on the racetrack.
Before the recent NSW Sidecar Titles Craig and Kel took to the track on their Yamaha 1000 as race officials watched on, judging Craig's abilities and gauging whether he should be granted a licence to race.
The young passenger was also being scrutinised by his race partner, who was keen to give his son a thorough test.
He passed his licence test with flying colours, and also caught the attention of onlookers with his natural style.
"I didn't take it easy on him on Saturday night but it was like a ride in the park for him," said Kel.
"A lot of people have commented from the night saying that he looked pretty good out there.
"He just loves it, he gets off the bike grinning from ear to ear."
Craig's enthusiasm is complemented by his father's significant knowledge across various styles of racing.
Kel's career also started at 16, and has included solo bike racing, motocross and over ten years in sidecars.
The duo is hoping their mix of experience and youthful exuberance can lead to big things in the racing world.
"It depends on how Craig goes with learning everything, but if we can I'd like to get a ride in the Australian titles - it's the ultimate in sidecar racing in Australia," said Kel.
"There's nothing better than having your name called and rocking onto the track as one of the top 16 riders in Australia.
"We'll give it a shot, see how Craig picks it all up, and we'll go from there."
Kel said he would spend 12 months competing with his son, before retiring and letting Craig take the handlebars for himself as rider.
The Feral Racing Team will have their first race at a meeting in Mildura in four weeks time.
But while the future looks bright for the city's newest race team, it seems the same cannot be said for speedway in general.
Kel said the local racing scene was in need of reinvigoration at all levels, including racers, volunteers and even crowd support.
"One of the biggest drawbacks of the sport is that we don't have many young kids coming through the game," he said.
"We've got one of the best tracks in Australia, and some of the best sidecar riders have come out of Broken Hill.
"It's a good sport, and really it's no more dangerous than playing football."
Mr O'Neil encouraged anyone interested in racing or volunteering to visit Darryl Guerin at 7 Day Spares, and said he hoped to see great support at the next speedway meeting in Broken Hill.
"It's great to be able to come out and race on your own track with all your own people backing you.
"It's always better to race in front a good crowd, and we'll always turn it on for them.
"So if anyone is interested in getting involved or having a watch then we'd encourage them to come along, it's a great sport."
NEW TEAM: Kel and Craig O'Neil will compete in Mildura next month.
ADRENALINE RUSH: Craig and Kel O'Neil in action before the NSW Side Titles that were recently held in the city.