South Australian Identities in Speedway's "Hall of Fame"
In no particular order or preference
Introduced to the Racing Drivers Association of SA (RDA) by long
standing secretary Ross Schultz in 1952.
Assisted 5KA radio announcer Bill Evans as feature races were broadcast in those days and the announcer required up to the minute information.
An infield position was more appealing so he began his memorable flag-waving career as assistant to Rowley Park Clerk of Course, Ern Sconce and took over the main job in 1954/55 for some 10 years with much flair and precision.
In 1962 he was struck by a TQ, however he was not going to miss the first 50-lap Speedcar race in South Australia and watched the event from the Ambulance Centre roof with a broken kneecap. He had injected much behind the scenes effort into its special rules and was not disappointed when he witnessed American Bob Tattersall shed an inside front wheel and continued to race in a famous drive for a further 21 laps on three wheels!
He was called back by Kym Bonython to direct the first and subsequent 100-lap Speedcar Derby's and later by the group of drivers who promoted Rowley Park, headed by Kevin Fischer, as an advisor and program complier until the RDA took control of the speedway.
He flagged the final Speedcar feature at Rowley Park Speedway in 1979 and clung onto the side of ‘Suddenly’ for a few quick laps with Bill Wigzell.
Also waved the checked flag at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Adelaide (1985-95)
And this year he was awarded a medal in the Order of Australia for services to motor sport and the community.
Worked for his father’s mechanical business on the corner of Port
Road, Hindmarsh (where the Adelaide Entertainment Centre now stands)
while attending Technical College at Thebarton and built his first
Speedcar in the early 1930’s.
One of his first specials was powered by a 1000cc twin-cam Harley Davison motorcycle engine and held the 1 lap track record at Smithfield in SA at an average speed of 82kmh.
He joined the armed forces at age 26 and worked as a supervisor in the machine shop of the munitions factory at Wingfield during World War 2.
Post war he occupied his time as a Speedcar and Motorcycle machine examiner and when his father’s business failed due to the depression he started his own mechanical repair shop in Adelaide.
In 1947 he hired Bill Wigzell, aged 16, as an apprentice motor mechanic and when he was asked in 1953 by Rowley Park Promoter and racer Kym Bonython to prepare the ex-Jack Brabham Twin for racing the task fell to Wigzell.
He eventually purchased the car from Bonython with Bill Wigzell as driver for the 1954-55 season. The following year Wigzell drove the car to second place in the Victorian Speedcar Title at Tracey’s Speedway.
He moved out of Eliza street in the city to bigger premises in St. Peters where he offered a portion of the workshop to Eldrid Norman to manufacture the Norman Blower and built the yellow Special with a supercharged Peugeot engine in 1964.
With Wigzell driving the car it broke the 10-lap Rowley Park record and later that year won the 40-lap Speedcar Derby. The car went on to win many feature events and championships over the next five years including the SA Championship and Harry Neale Memorial before being sold to Joe Braendler in 1969.
Greg Anderson drove another supercharged Renault for him built in 1972 fitted to an Edmonds Chassis, until the closure of Rowley Park in 1979.
Peter Maltby then drove for him at Speedway Park for two years until the end of his career, with his final season the most successful.
Sedan ace Steve Stewart took over driving duties followed by Phil Herreen. By now the car was fitted with a Rotary engine and when noise restrictions in 1985/86 forced the engine to have a mufflers fitted it overheated the engine.
With this inductee now in his mid 70’s plans to build a supercharged BMW engine did not eventuate and Herreen leased a car from Garry Dillon.
His involvement with Australian Speedway has spanned more than 50
years, as a mechanic, sponsor, steward, technical officer, Pit
Marshall, President, Secretary, Track Manager, Risk and Insurance
Manager, General Manager and Administrator.
As a 16 year old mechanic he helped out Speedcar competitor Jeff Rodgers was on the lookout for a bright young mechanic for his speedway car.
He then began what was a great relationship with Rodgers which was then followed as a mechanic and sponsor of other greats over the next two decades, including Peter Maltby, Ron Woods, Allan Golding, Don Bennett, Kevin Fitzsimmons, Alex Rowe, Greg Anderson and many others.
By 1965 begun his own business, Auto Carburettor Services, which formed the backbone for his involvement as a sponsor and mechanic.
He first joined the South Australian Racing Driver’s Association – The “RDA’ - in November 1952.
He was the Speedcar Machine Examiner from 1959, and Secretary from 1960 to 1962, and again from 1986 to 1989.
He was President from 1977 to 1979 and Vice President from 1990 to 1992 and became a Life Member of the RDA in August 1973.
At national level, he was also heavily involved as the Secretary of the Australian Speedcar Control Council for a number of years, at a difficult time where the wing issue for speedcars threatened division in the sport.
In his role at the RDA, Peter found himself at the helm of RDA owned Speedway Park in the late 1980’s, twice promoting the venue when previous promotional deals fell over part way through the season.
The highlight of his career was undoubtedly the establishment of the Federation of Australian Speedway in 1987.
He saw the need to put an end to the ‘blanked brigade of walking through the crowd to collect money for an injured driver and forged a partnership and friendship with Colin Dawson at Marsh Insurance Brokers when the individual tracks found the going tough when securing insurance for their venues.
In 1997, he was instrumental in establishing NASR along with the then World Series Sprintcars boss, John Hughes. He then began as NASR’s Insurance Manager, continuing his work under the NASR umbrella.
In 2001 he stepped up to become General Manager of NASR, while continuing to manage the insurance schemes, prior to his professional retirement in 2002.
This legend was known as the Black Prince because of the black garb
he always wore and was one of South Australia’s greatest drivers
being tall, good looking and modest about his successes.
He started his racing career at Kilburn Speedway just after it opened in 1946/47 driving the Aub Ramsay JAP special built by Alex Rowe in 1935.
The very good finish in workmanship, handling and success of the JAP Speedcar encouraged him to purchase a faster car, the No. 4 Ford-A powered Speedcar.
During the 1948 season he was given the name Henry III, due to finishing in that position in all the championship races.
During his first appearance in Melbourne he finished 4th behind Ray Revell in the 20-lap World Derby.
Later a V8/60 was utilized until an ex Revell Holden took its place followed by another Holden, registered as #1 in 1957.
He won a staggering 52-career feature race wins.
They included the 1951 and 1957 South Australian Championships, the 1952, 55, 56, and 59 Australian Speedcar Derby and the 1957 Rick Harvey Memorial.
Neale also won the 1957 Victorian Speedcar Championship, the 1958 Brisbane ¼ mile AGP and the 30-lap World Derby and the 1956 Water Folies Championship where the trophy was a beautiful silver tray.
There were also South Australian versions of the Australian Speedcar Championship (also known as the Australasian or Jubilee Championship) Neale won in 1951 at Kilburn and 1952, 55, 56 and 59 at Rowley Park defeating such drivers as Dave Cooper, Arn Sunstrom, Ray Revell, Bob Tattersall and Jack O’Dea.
His Repco-Holden Speedcar held the Sydney Showground 3 lap track record in 1957.
His race record at Skyline Speedway in one season was 39 race starts for 36 wins and 2 minor placings. He also competed in several road races in the Special, built by Eldred Norman.
Unfortunately, like Jeff Freeman, our sport was robbed of yet another great champion midget driver, fatally killed while competing on the Claremont circuit in Perth in 1959 at he age of 39.
1959/60 he established Murray Bridge Speedway to cater for local
speedway competitors and built 10 Micro Midgets at his workshop to
lease to drivers.
In 1961/62 he built a Hot Rod to race at Rowley Park and Murray Bridge that was uncompetitive compared to the Victorian Sportsman Stockcars so he purchased a much lighter car from Bill Willis named ‘Suddenly’ and numbered 88.
After experimenting with other light weight cars he resurrected components from both and used the name and number from the Willis car, creating the famous purple beast.
The car was first driven by Kevin Fischer, then Zeke Agars and finally Bill Wigzell who won the:
1970 Australian Super Modified Championship,
1974 Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic,
3 Craven Filter Championships in 1972 (Qld), 1973 (WA) and 1974 (SA)
5 South Australian Titles from 1971 to 1976
37 Rowley Park Feature wins, with 18 out of 21 feature victories (9 in a row) during the best season and held every lap record at Rowley Park Speedway.
He bought the Rowe Renault and a special rig was built to accommodate the Speedcar and Suddenly.
In 1973 he formed a team of former speedway identities to take over the Rowley Park lease from Kym Bonython, selling it to the Racing Drivers Association of SA (RDA) a year later.
During a 1974 trip to America he purchased an Edmunds Sprintcar from Mike McCready for Wigzell to drive followed by the Bill Schaedel Maxwell Sprintcar
A new Nance Sprintcar was campaigned for Wigzell during the final Rowley Park season in 1978/79, which Bill continued to drive until his death in the early 1980s.