Feature Dale RodgersDale Rodgers October 25, 2021 (Comments off) (195)

FARR AHEAD: Three decades on top of Sprintcar racing

ROBBIE FARR is one of the greats of Australian Sprintcar racing, with titles in all the major series’ and events to his credit. DALE RODGERS profiles one of the legendary wheelmen of the dirt tracks of here and abroad.

Sprintcars are beasts. Some observers say they are the purest form of motor sport, full stop.

These winged monsters have incredible power to weight ratios, with car weight including driver of around 650kg’s and power outputs of over 900 horsepower.

Powered by a naturally aspirated, methanol-injected overhead valve V8 engines with a displacement of 410 cubic inches – around 6.7 litres – Sprintcars are capable of speeds in excess of 225kmh given various track layouts and conditions.

A full field of 24 cars greeting the crowd in the traditional 4 wide parade laps, then unleashing into a 30 lap A Main is a spectacle no race fan should ever miss.

IMAGE: Nakita Pollock

While our mates over the ditch of course have a strong Speedway heritage and South Africa also runs a similar style series, Australia is one of only a few countries outside the USA where Sprintcars thrive.

Australian Speedway drivers learnt their craft originally on showground style tracks with Midgets and later Speedcars as the headline act. Those days were dangerous and resulted in many tragedies.

The big change to the way Speedway highlighted its main category occurred in the mid 1980’s.

The World Series Sprintcars series was conceived in 1986 by Adelaide based sedan driver and promoter John Hughes.

It was to be an Australian version of the famous World of Outlaws series run in the United States since 1978: Together with major one-off titles such as the Australian Sprintcar Championship, State Championships, and the iconic Warrnambool ‘Classic’ events, Sprintcars took off Nationally. Teams travelled, prize money and sponsorship increased, and promoters jumped on board.

This era also built the stars of Australian Sprintcars: George Tatnell, Garry Rush, Max Dumesny, Brooke Tatnell, Skip Jackson, Gary Brazier, Kerry Madsen and Robbie Farr to name just a few of the very best.

Whilst some of these stars are no longer with us and some have retired, the likes of Tatnell and Farr are still thrilling the crowds both here and in the USA.

Robbie Farr is the only driver to have won an Australian Sprintcar title, an Australian 360ci title, A Word Series Sprintcar Championship, the Warrnambool Classic, and Australian Speedcar title – plus numerous President’s Cups Krikke Boys Shootouts, Kings of the Wings and a staggering forty-nine Parramatta feature wins. 

The Race Torque caught up with Robbie Farr to take a look at his stellar career and what lies ahead in the coming season.

Like so many racing stories, Robbie Farr was drawn to the sport as his father raced. For the younger Farr it was what the family did – he started Karting in a similar era to Craig Lowndes and Mark Webber but took a different route after he graduated from Karts.

“It has been a long journey. Back in the day my Dad raced Super Modified’s that then became Sprintcars in Australia,” Robbie began.

“I grew up from around 6 weeks old getting dragged around to racetracks in the back of Bronco’s and F100’s!

“My earliest racing memory was the Speedway, so it was probably a natural path for me. I did about four years in Go Karts on the bitumen which I really enjoyed. A lot of good guys came out of that era – Lowndsey, Mark Webber all were in Karts then. When I hit 15 or 16 years old, mum and dad said we could do a year of Formula Ford or maybe a couple of years of Speedway.

“Formula Ford would have been quite foreign for our family coming from a Speedway background so at that time it was a pretty easy decision to go with Sprintcars.”

Even at that time Sprintcars were 650 horsepower-plus monsters, but the young Farr relished the competition and began posting some results.

“We used to race Friday nights at Paramatta, so I was leaving school and then strapping into a 650 horsepower Sprintcar a couple of hours later. It was pretty wild times! When you look back now it was pretty crazy times bit it did not seem like that at the time.”

Now 48 years old, Farr recalls fondly the effort and dollars that his family invested in racing. He admits that he was a pretty wild kid and tore a lot of gear up so the budgets were probably stretched a long way for the family owned and run team. Farr’s brother, too, was racing but he now looks back to a time when he could settle down and really learn his craft.

A young Robbie Farr at Nyora Speedway in 1998 IMAGE: Darren Bould

The fact that he is still one of the best Sprintcar drivers in the country some thirty years on is testament to the family race team beginnings.

Farr’s first drive for a car owner, other than the family, was a Speedcar. He ran a couple of seasons in Bobby Woods Speedcar after he had injured himself. Although a short run in the category Farr became Australian Speedcar Champion in the 1997-98 season winning the title at Avalon in Victoria.

From that point he moved through a succession of teams posting success at every point. And was getting paid!

“I started to get paid to drive Sprintcars and one thing followed another,” Farr said.

“I was probably in my mid 20’s then and getting paid to drive a Sprintcar was the best thing ever!”

He raced for many of the great Sprintcar Teams of the era: EWT, O’Brien Aluminium and Krikke Motorsport, to name a few teams that carried Farr to victories around the country.

In 2004 Farr captured the Australian Sprintcar Championship. This event is a one race annual event that carries possibly the most prestige of any Australian title.

“We had won a lot of State Championships, a lot of track Championships but nothing as big as the Sprintcar title. I only went on the road properly with Krikke’s in 2003. We really stated chasing World Series with the national teams,” Farr recalled.

“We used to race Friday nights at Paramatta, so I was leaving school and then strapping into a 650 horsepower Sprintcar a couple of hours later. It was pretty wild times! When you look back now it was pretty crazy times bit it did not seem like that at the time.”

“We ran second, I think in our first year. We won around five rounds and it came down to me and American Darren Pitman for the title.

“Our first year together with Krikke’s was awesome, a lot of fun, but the next year we really struggled. We changed cars and a few things, and we thought we could do better than the previous year and it all went pear shaped. We put the old car back together and took off! You think in motor sport you can take a step forward but actually go backwards.”

Farr ran World Series Sprintcars for many years and had a number of runner up finishes, but finally cracked it for the title in 2010/11. By his own admission it was an emotional win. 

“We lost a few and came runner up five or 6 times, so by that time the 2011 WSS Title came around it was a big deal for us.” he said.

But as some of the major teams left WSS during the period after Farr’s 2011 win, his now sponsor Barry Waldron, owner of East Coast Pipeline Racing, was also buying race tracks.

Farr: King of Parramatta. IMAGE: Darren Bould

“Barry Waldron purchased Murray Bridge, Paramatta and Toowoomba so that dictated to a large degree where I would be racing. It was quite an odd situation to have a car owner that owned three race tracks. It was pretty easy to work out a calendar for the season!” Farr recalled with a smile.

He did however head to Victoria every January for the Classic: An event that regularly draws the best from every state in Australia and a handy sprinkling of USA guns enjoying the Australian summer.

“I was really proud to with the Warrnambool Classic in 2019. With our limited calendar we were sort of being looked upon as ‘three tracks’ specialists, but we had had a good lead up in the previous years. The only time we went to Warrnambool each season was for the Classic. It had never been a really good track for us, but we knew we had the package to win that year at Warrnambool.”

With Farr’s career spanning three decades and showing no signs of finishing, it was interesting to get a view on the emerging talent in Sprintcars.

“Probably through the mid 2000’s there was a bit of gap and nobody really impressed me coming through. And that is just being honest as a race fan,” Robbie said.

“But guys like James McFadden and Jamie Veal are as talented as any race driver I have competed against. But whether it is the era of Social Media or main media coverage, these guys are not getting the exposure that they perhaps deserve.”

So, as we head into a new season hopefully with fewer COVID-19 restrictions, Farr is itching to get going with his new team which was announced in mid-2020, not long after the shock withdrawal of Waldron’s East Coast Plumbing team. 

“It was really exciting to put this new deal together. I met Jason (car owner Jason Pryde) through my Drive School. A lot of the people who reached out after the East Coast deal packed up were through the Drive School,” Farr explained.

“Jason is good mates with crew chief Glen Beaton. He is one of the best going around and they got talking. Then Jason called me, and we talked about putting it all together. We were going back on the road to do World Series last year, but it all got shutdown. It is hard because Jason is based in Perth, Glen is in Melbourne and I am in Queensland. It has been pretty weird with all the border restrictions.”

IMAGE: Sphynx Photography

With some reprieve to border closures in the middle if 2021, the team took two cars to the recent Darwin series.  

“We did around 10 races in total last season and we got a few nights in at the Darwin Chariots of Fire events in August. But we are still very young in the driver – crew chief relationship. We need to do more races to get more things right and find more things wrong, but the feeling in the team is great,” he said.

“I am an old dog in the way I go about things and how I like the car and Glen has been running a lot of young kids who set the car up differently so we are working hard and getting closer to the best position.” Farr added.

Old Dog indeed! Wherever and whenever the Sprintcar Season starts in Australia this year, the JPM #14 of Robbie Farr is worth keeping tabs on.

He still had a huge passion for the sport and intends to add more titles to the resume and in turn ensure the young JPM Motorsport team emerges as a real force on the local Sprintcar scene.  

ROBBIE FARR – CAREER RESULTS

STATS

Australian Sprintcar Champion
Australian Speedcar Champion
World Series Sprintcar Champion
Australian 360 Sprintcar Champion
Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic Winner
15 x Sprintcar State Titles
2 x Speedcar State Titles
1 x SA Late Model State Title
9 x Ultimate Sprintcar Championships
5 x Presidents Cup (the most in history)
4 x Kings Challenge (equal most with Donny Schatz)
7 x Krikke Boys Shootout (most in history)
4 x King of Wings (most in history)
23 World Series Feature wins (5th in WSS history)

Parramatta

49 feature race wins at Parramatta Raceway (2nd highest in history)
6 track championships, most in history (94/95, 98/99, 00/01, 01/02, 16/17, 17/18)

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