Brent Halliday (BK)

How did you get involved in speedway?

I was twelve when I started competing in Albany. My dad was into cars and motorbikes so it was a natural progression to get into speedway. It was great for the social aspect as there was not a lot to do in Albany at that age. I really looked forward to the weekend — working with the old man in the shed, getting the car ready, learning the mechanics and being part of an extended family. Also, you were driving a vehicle and going fast (although not as fast as you thought).

One of the best things about speedway is that you drive in a controlled environment, so when you’re on the road you have no urge to hoon or go fast. You get that out of the way on the track.

My dad bought my first car, and I bought my daughter Alyssa’s first car. At that age you don’t have much money. In those days it was Minis we raced. In the junior speedway everything goes through phases. Today they are using Hyundais. Alyssa has a Charade.

How fast were you going as a junior?

The juniors probably only travel at 70kms max which is not that speedy. Even the bigger cars don’t go that fast. You are in a contained area so there are limitations. I raced till I was about 17, and then I thought I would get another car. Dad said, “You’re on your own now and you will have to buy it yourself”. I stopped racing as I couldn’t afford it. Money and girls got in the way, and life got busy in other directions.

So why did you come to Broome and stay?

I wanted to get out of Albany — every time I went to go camping, it was raining. I like the outdoors so I decided to travel around Australia in a bus. In Broome, my girlfriend at the time bought me a birthday present — a ride in Woggy Minshull’s sprint car which totally freaked me out. That started my relationship with the Minshull’s. I pit-crewed for Woggy for quite a few years and then I had the opportunity to drive his big V8 super sedan. I did a lot of travel around the state with Woggy and his racing car.

How did you get involved in racing at the Broome Speedway?

I was the first one to bring a Pace Car to Broome Speedway. It sets the pace for the cars and was a way of getting involved. I’d already been a volunteer for about ten years. I was doing that before I could actually afford to get my own race car. I was pit-crewing on Woggy’s super sedan and one night he said, “Why don’t you hop in and have a drive?” At the time, Sandy Baker was doing my books and she was the lap scorer in the tower. At the end of the night, she said, “You drove that thing alright. Why don’t we buy one and go halves?”

I have now been a committee member for 20 years, and last year they honoured me with life membership.

How safe is this sport?

Our safety gear is our suite — helmet, gloves and underwear. We get tightly strapped in and get very hot. Last week, I was wringing my balaclava out and drying it under the fan, hoping it would dry a bit before the next race. We did an Australian Title last year and I flipped my Modlite 8 or 9 times. I escaped without a bruise or a scratch. The safety aspect of the sport is second to none. It’s a very safe sport, although it might not look like it.

What fuel do you use?

We use petrol and only hold a small amount of fuel as we are not travelling far. This minimises risk. The super sedans run on methanol and some have been modified to run on fuel. When they catch on fire, it is quite dangerous. With a methanol fire you cannot see the flame, so someone rolling on the ground after a crash may actually be on fire.

How fit do you need to be?

Getting ready for a big event, I train by doing push-ups, arm exercises and weights every morning, and I eat well. I take it very seriously to be physically and mentally fit. The spectator just sees you sitting in a car, but if you see me get out of the car after a race I will be wringing wet.

Are all the speedways tracks the same size?

The speedway tracks vary in size. Port Hedland is bigger than our track and it depends on how the dirt has been prepared on the night. We have a dry slick track so you don’t get much traction. You adjust your speed when it is rough and heavy to get traction which means you get a lot more speed. In Tasmania, there are large tracks where the speed might get up to 120–130kph. In Broome, we get up to around 90–100kph. It doesn’t sound that fast, but it is when you are driving in a limited space.

There are also go-carts which are great fun for the kids. We have adults that race them too. You have to start somewhere and go-carts are the grassroots. They get you in because they are cheap and fun.

Tell me about this Modlites Division

Celeste, my wife, and I are the founders of a new division in Western Australia — the Modlites. We wanted to find a division that was fast and affordable, and easy to work on. The name Modlite is short for modified lite. The Modlites that we run use a race bike engine that is designed to do 300kph. They have the same power-to-rate ratio as a V8 super sedan.

We knew they were big in the United States so we bought the first one. They had started to race them in Queensland and I went over to have a look. Everyone who drove one wanted to buy it. We became the Australian distributor for Leeder chassis, and have now imported more than 20 cars from the US and sent them all over Australia.

Leeder invited us to race in America in Tennessee and prepared a car for us. We were on a new track, had no practice, and we went out there and flogged them. We now take it in turns where I go over to the US and then they come to South Australia. It’s my turn to return to the US but it may be a while before I get there. The beauty about this class is that it is international. You can go anywhere and be driving exactly the same car.

Your daughter, Alyssa, races. How did that happen?

You are allowed to race Junior Quarter Midgets when you are five-years-old. Alyssa wanted to race, but she didn’t want to race in front of anybody. At the time, I was a bit disappointed as we have the race shop here and were forever fitting out other people’s kids. Both daughters were not interested so we didn’t teach them how to drive. We just put all thoughts aside about them racing. Anyway, at the beginning of this year Alyssa said she would like to race. I turned around and said, “You can’t even drive”. “Oh, it can’t be that hard”, she said. It was a learning curve, and Alyssa now drives a Charade in the junior class. She interacts with people and has a whole new network of kids in Kununurra and Derby. It has been a wonderful growth for Alyssa and opened up a window of opportunity.

Celeste Halliday

Celeste, when did you start racing?

I started getting on the track ten years ago in the demolition derby. It was really just crash and bash. I was a volunteer and part of a pit-crew at Broome Speedway and didn’t have a lot of time to race. Going into the demo derby was fun. BK helped me get my cars ready and, as it was only once a year, it didn’t take up a lot of time. In my first derby, I was the last car standing. In another two, I was ‘the most damaged received’. That’s like a badge of honour. Now I race my Modlite — the SheHulk.

You now race in the Modlite Division

In 2014, we imported the first Modlite into WA and I was in the background helping to grow the division. The SheHulk came across from America. It was green and called The Hulk. At a practice meet in 2019, I jumped in to give it a drive and fell in love with the sport. I drove most of the 2020/2021 COVID seasons, although they were short seasons. I’m planning on continuing as the third year is important in a racing career. We have Alyssa racing too, so we are all doing a bit of a juggling act.

Are you the only woman racing?

There are a lot of women in speedway. It has always been a male-dominated sport but now there are so many girls starting in juniors. In our Modlite division in WA, we only have two females racing and so race with the guys. We’re working on building the numbers up. Derby has a lot of female drivers of all ages. Five years ago, it was not common to have women in the senior divisions and now at least half the participants are female.

What is it about racing that got you hooked?

I love the freedom when I am out on the track. It’s hard to explain. I have a busy life. I am a mother and have a full-time job, but on the track you forget about all that. When I first started racing, I was a little scared. I am quite claustrophobic so I still race with my visor up a little bit. You also have to be strapped in tight, so I have overcome a few fears as well.

What period of time is the Speedway season?

The season is from April to October, and big meets like Shinju and Demolition Derby finish the season. We do go away to race. Alyssa and I have been to Kununurra and BK pit-crewed for us. We also go to Port Hedland and Derby so the season is quite full-on.

There is a grid draw at every meet for each division where the first three races are drawn out of a hat. The last feature race is dependent on how you have gone in the previous races.

Alyssa Halliday

I drive my Charade in the Junior Class as I am twelve-years-old and only started racing in 2021. When I was five, Dad bought me a car so I could race in the Junior Quarter Midget but I didn’t want to race in front of anybody at the time.

At the end of the 2021 season, I received the award for Best Presented Car. It was dedicated to Steve Mills, a dear friend of our family who passed away. I came third overall in my class. I was pretty happy and so were Mum and Dad. I’m looking forward to 2022.