Thursday, 21 September 2017

SUPER RODS

While it’s common in speedway to follow in the footsteps of family members, the Howard and Walsh clan have proved that an aptitude for speedway is quite clearly in their blood, with successful racing careers having spanned three generations.

Ken Howard

Competing in SDAV Hot Rods and Super Rods, the Melbourne, Victoria-based family has certainly experienced its share of achievements over the years, with 17 Victorian Titles and a number of other victories between the five drivers, but it was Ken Howard who commenced what would be a long and illustrious tradition over 50 years ago, winning the inaugural Victorian Title in SDAV Hot Rods at Brooklyn Speedway in 1958. This was the same year his son Chris was born.

Having inherited his father’s passion for competitive speedway racing, it was only natural for Chris to attempt to eventually make a name for himself in the same class; a goal he more than achieved. After Ken’s sudden passing in February 1974, due to suffering a heart attack at the Melbourne Speedbowl, Chris later stepped into his father’s car the following season, winning his first Victorian Title in 1984. Chris then went on to remarkably claim another eight victories, the last of which in the 1996-97 season, while also winning the prestigious Super Rod Cup in 1995 at Simpson Speedway.

Chris Howard

The tradition continued when Chris’s son Andrew Howard later stepped into SDAV Hot Rods and Super Rods, where he was quick to prove his worth, finishing runner-up to his brother Shaun Walsh in the SDAV Hot Rod Club Championship in 2005, before winning it the following season. Taking back to back wins in the Thunder Down Under Series in 2006 and 2007, as well as winning the inaugural Legends Cup, Andrew also placed runner-up, once again to Shaun, in the 2007 Super Rod Cup at Warrnambool’s Premier Speedway, before managing to go one better, piloting his SDAV Hot Rod to victory in the following season’s event.

Having also won the 2015 Col Grist Memorial at Darlington’s Mid-Western Speedway, another banner event on the Super Rod calendar, Andrew continued his success throughout the 2016-17 season, winning both the Victorian Super Rod Title, also at Mid-Western Speedway, and the Podger Memorial at Simpson Speedway, making it four wins from five of the class’s coveted events.

Andrew Howard

The only other driver in history to achieve this feat is none other than Shaun Walsh, who despite not having won the Col Grist Memorial during his career, managed to take out the Bill Campbell Memorial in 2016 at Portland’s Southern 500 Speedway. With consistency clearly being one of his fortes, Shaun was crowned both Thunder Down Under Series Champion and Club Champion in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and collected three consecutive Victorian Titles from 2005 onwards in SDAV Hot Rods, two at Rushworth Speedway and one at Bairnsdale Speedway. He also racked up six Podger Memorials in total at Simpson Speedway, two in SDAV Hot Rods in 2006 and 2007, and four in Super Rods successively from 2011 onwards.

After winning his first Super Rod Cup in 2007 in SDAV Hot Rods at Premier Speedway, Shaun also went on to win the 2012 running of the event in Super Rods, before racking up another two Victorian Titles in Super Rods in 2011 and 2015, both at Simpson Speedway. Not yet achieving victory in the elusive Col Grist Memorial, which has seen him finish runner-up on two occasions in 2013 and 2016, Shaun continues to run towards the front of the pack, also finishing runner-up in the Super Rod Cup both this season and last.

Shaun Walsh1

Not without his own career highlight, Andrew and Shaun’s brother Dean Walsh drove to victory in the Victorian SDAV Hot Rod Title at Bacchus March in the 1999-2000 season, while also finishing runner-up in the SDAV Club Championship the same season.

Despite the obvious driver talent, the Howard and Walsh family speedway tradition isn’t reserved solely for the driver’s seat. Ken’s son and Chris’s younger brother Collin Howard has been dedicated to crewing for the team across each of the three generations and continues to do so today.

With such a long-standing history in the sport and a significant amount of remarkable achievements to the Howard and Walsh family names, it’s no doubt that competitive speedway racing is something that will continue to be passed down through generations to come.

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