C Michalek in his Austin Healy Sprite Mk2A.
C Michalek in his Austin Healy Sprite Mk2A. Callum Dick

Hagon heads street sprints

Motorsport: As more than 80 years worth of motoring history roared past Will Hagon's booth at the Wondai Street Sprints on Saturday, the 50-year motorsport veteran looked entirely in his element.

The former ABC, Channel 7 and Sunday Telegraph pundit lived up to his billing - and his passion shone through in commentary - as the thousands of sprints- goers were treated to a lesson in motorsport.

"I genuinely like this sort of stuff,” Hagon said.

"This is free, this is genuine, and it's lovely.

"I walked around this paddock (on Friday night) and saw people enjoying it for the sheer sport - the sheer fun of it.

"Tinkering with their cars, at their level, their budget and the way they want to do it. To me, that's what it ought to be about.”

As Hagon cast his eye over the field of competitors, a smile ran across his face.

"Look at this for instance, that's a fairly cleanly presented road-going BMW and it's fifth fastest ahead of a whole pile of specialist race cars,” Hagon said.

"Truly, this takes me back. It's fun for the variety of cars and what people are trying to do with them.”

Hagon has seen and done it all since starting with Channel 7 in 1965.

He has covered 11 Bathursts, commentated at "almost every” English circuit and served as the Sunday Telegraph's motoring editor until the end of 1990.

Hagon believes the secret to his longevity is an undying passion for anything and everything motorsport - four wheels or two.

"I've been interested in a wide variety of motorsport, from bike speedway to car speedway, from rally cars to formula one and touring cars,” Hagon said.

"A lot of people hone in on a couple of areas that interest them but I'm into just about everything.

"I'm just a guy that sometimes they call on - the whole lot just gets me.”

Very few in Australian motorsport could claim to share the same industry insight as Hagon, and when asked his opinion on the current motorsport climate, he pulled no punches.

"We're in an unfortunate situation in Australia, where we have one racing category (Supercars) that is so much stronger than anything else,” Hagon said.

"Yet there's no proper series or steps to take - no logical launchpad for people to head overseas.

"Supercars is a business, and the business side of it is far bigger than the motorsport side.

"(Those in charge) are messing around with it, putting so many rules and regulations on top of it that it stops the engineers and strategists from doing what they want to do.”

Hagon said it was time those at the top of the tree remembered why the industry became so marketable in the first place.

"Truthfully, without people like (those at the Wondai Sprints) - tinkering and being clever and getting top performance out of their cars - these top levels would be (in trouble),” Hagon said.

"Because this is where it starts. The trouble is that the professionals don't really understand that, and tend not to care about it.”

Instead, the emphasis on business appears to be trickling down to the grassroots.

According to Hagon, the common path to the top of Supercars is through karting, with some spending upwards of $100,000 a year on the sport.

"It's truly frightening,” he said.

"The trouble is, if they do get into Supercars that becomes a stopping point. They just go there for a job.”

Hagon hopes young Warwick-born up-and-comer Matt Campbell can buck the recent trend and put Australian drivers back on the map in Europe.

"Young Matty Campbell won the Porsche Carrera series, and now he's on a $220,0000 scholarship to race in Europe,” Hagon said.

"He could be racing at (the world's oldest active endurance race) Le Mans in two or three years time - that's just fabulous.”

With its second year now in the rear-view, the Wondai Street Sprints remains one of the last vestiges of the "free and genuine” motoring that fostered Hagon's passion.

South Burnett

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