There is no bigger name in Tasmanian speedway history than Les Redpath! Totally Speedway’s Daniel Powell caught up with the living legend himself to talk to him about the past, the present and the future.
How did you get involved in speedway?
I started when speedway was just getting off the ground in Tasmania. The year was 1964 and it was ex-pat New Zealander Bill Haycock that started importing some TQs (Editor, which are these days known as Formula 500s) into the country and he managed to bring some over to Tasmania. We started off doing a number of demonstration runs at places like the Davenport Showground and Smithton Showground and it all progressed from there. Soon after we had gained enough interest a track was built at Latrobe.
Then what happened?
I had run a couple of years with one of Bill Haycock’s TQs before I had the desire to start building my own. I spent close to six years in the TQ class where I had won an Australian Title and four Tasmanian Titles. In the early 1970s, I had the opportunity to run a Sprintcar for Bill Smith, the father of Tony Smith, and we ran together up until about 1981. When Tony started up, I was left without a Sprintcar ride and I then took up a new challenge after I had purchased a Super Sedan. I spent a couple of seasons there before I stepped away from competing altogether. In 1985, I returned to Sprintcars with my own team and then raced regularly throughout Tasmania and on the mainland up until my retirement in 1994.
What was your speedway highlight?
I loved it! I wouldn’t change a thing about how my career panned out. In terms of results, the standouts were my seven Tasmanian Sprintcar Titles, winning the Marlboro Grand Prix in the late 1980s in the Sprintcar and my South Pacific Classic win in the Sprintcar. Another standout result was my second-place finish to NSW-based driver Peter Crick in the Marlboro Grand Prix for Super Sedans in the early 1980s.
What was your lowlight in speedway?
I’d have to say the 1976 Australian Sprintcar Championship at Latrobe Speedway. I was running for Bill Smith at the time and we had a six-cylinder valiant engine car that we ran up against all the mainland stars in their V8 engines and we had qualified strongly for the feature race. On the second lap of the feature race, I had suffered a flat tyre and was unable to replace the tyre due to chief steward Gary Winterbottom’s decision. A lap later, both Steve Brazier and Garry Rush suffered flat tyres and they were able to replace their tyres. Winterbottom then said to our team that we could change our tyre, but by then it was too late and we had already lost a lap.
Why did you get out of speedway competition?
Leading up to my seventh Tasmanian Sprintcar Title win in 1994, I had been suffering from engine dramas and I wasn’t really considered a contender. I think it was meant to be, as I blitzed them that night and won easily. To be honest, I just made it across the finish line, as the car got hot towards the end of the feature race. When I crossed the finish line, I pulled the car, as the engine was on its last legs. I ended up doing the victory lap with the chequered flag on foot. It was a big rush of adrenalin and I don’t think it had been done before. I decided then that it was time to step aside, as I was 50 years of age at the time and I wanted to spend more time with my sons, Adrian and Jason, as they were coming up through the Formula 500 ranks.
What are you doing these days?
I don’t have too much to do with speedway much, aside from going along to the track a few times a season to check out what’s going on. My two boys, Adrian and Jason, don’t need my assistance too much these days, but they do tend to give me a call when they are in need of my experience.