• There is a long-held tradition in Australian speedway of recognising the heroes of the sport and the drivers that have paved the way for the superstars of today. One of the ways in which our champions of the past are recognised is through the establishment of special events staged in their honour as a tribute to their achievements and the lasting impact, inspiration and influence they have had on the
    sport. On Saturday, May 11 at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway, a 50-lap feature race will continue the tradition of celebrating one of Queenslands most successful Midget competitors with the staging of the Jim Holden Classic.

    The late Jim Holden, who passed away in 2016 after a battle with leukaemia, enjoyed a speedway racing career of more than 20 years and still holds the honour of being the last Queensland driver to win the Australian Midget Championship, clinching the title at the now defunct Melbourne Speedbowl in 1985. Whilst it was in Midgets that Holden achieved his greatest successes, his speedway career began aboard an altogether different type of race vehicle.

    Holden began racing speedway in Saloon Cars when they began in Brisbane back in 1964. One of hundreds who flocked to the sport, Holdens cars were not only quick but also immaculately presented and it didnt take long before he was winning races at venues such as the famous Exhibition Speedway. Away from the track, Holden proved an astute businessman, starting work as a motor mechanic before establishing a panel beating and towing operation that became a thriving business.

    In the late 1960s, Holden was afforded an opportunity to drive a supercharged Toyota-powered Midget and, despite the fact that the car was lacking somewhat compared to those he was competing against, Holden quickly developed a liking for open wheel racing and proved himself with wins in heat races and handicap events. Whilst the 1970s brought continued success in Saloon Cars, including a win in the Queensland Championship during the 1976/1977 season, Holden possessed a burning desire to also be front runner in Midgets and it was when the two-time Australian Championship-winning Edmunds/VW of Ron Wanless became available that Holden knew he had found the car he needed to be competitive.

    It wasnt long after taking delivery of the car that Holden established himself as one of the category top guns, winning numerous races, including a 100-lap feature race at Archerfield in 1983. Buoyed by his success at home, Holden trekked to Darwins Northline Speedway to contest the 1983/1984 Australian Championship and came close to winning the event, only to be hampered by excessive tyre wear late in the race. Determined to make amends the following season, Holden was unstoppable in Melbourne and raced to victory, joining the likes of Wanless, Blair Shepherd and Bob Morgan as the only Queenslander drivers to have won the ultimate prize in Australian Midget competition. In fact, the 1984/1985 season proved very successful for Holden as he would also win the Queensland and Victorian championships.

    Jim Holden obviously raced to win, but he took considerable pleasure in being involved in the close competition that is synonymous with Midget racing in Australia and overseas. As such, the Jim Holden Classic seems certain to produce plenty of the wheel-to-wheel combat that Holden enjoyed so much and serves as a fitting tribute to one of Queenslands best.

    The 2017/2018 Jim Holden Classic was won by Sydneys Matt Smith and a strong contingent of interstate competitors are already confirmed for the 2018/2019 staging at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway this Saturday night (May 11), including no less than three Australian Championship winners.




    Original text by Barry Lane
    Photo courtesy of Steve Magro (photographer unknown)
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