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Nov 23, 2012


Quadriplegic Tanya Clarke experienced the hot lap of a lifetime today at Sandown Raceway in Melbourne, as round 9 of the Shannons Nationals presented by Hi-Tec Oils commenced in perfect conditions.

Her ride was part of a big day of practice at the picturesque suburban Melbourne venue that was not without its share of dramas, with two cars badly damaged in on-track incidents.

In 1993, aged 19, Tanya was badly injured in a road accident that left her a quadriplegic – but that hasn’t stopped her from getting on with life. She’s since earned two university diplomas and also serves as an ambassador for Assistance dogs Australia.

Today she strapped into a V8 Commodore Cup racing car – driven by Automobility owner and long-time Commodore Cup racer Jeff Watters – and experienced two laps of the 3.1km Sandown circuit topping speeds of more than 210km/hr along the back straight.

Tanya is a client of Automobility, Watters’ Melbourne business that specialises in converting vehicles for use by people confined to wheelchairs.

Despite obvious nerves before the lap, Tanya was an excited convert following her ride.

“I had an amazing time,” She said.

“I thought I was going to scream ‘Oh My God’ the whole way around and be scared all the way around – but I wasn’t. I loved it. The feelings of the performance and the acceleration were things I’d never felt before.

“I’m surprised how much I enjoyed it and was laughing the whole way around.. I definitely now have a better understanding of why these guys love their racing cars so much.”

Clarke says it was inspiration from a rally-driving friend of hers – also confined to a wheelchair – that helped give her motivation to get in the passenger seat of the Commodore Cup car.

“A friend of mine, who is also in a wheelchair, raced in the Targa Tasmania a couple of times and told me about his experiences – and I can understand why he loves it.

“I didn’t know what to expect – but it was better than I thought.”

Tanya’s hot lap came in the middle of several action-packed practice sessions that kicked off what is set to be a highly competitive weekend of racing at Sandown, in the final Shannons Nationals round of the year.

Jamie MacMaster was the first to feel the force of Sandown’s unforgiving layout, rolling his Swift racing series entry at the fearsome turn 7-8 chicane – the run down the hill towards the Dandenong Road corner.

His car rolled onto its roof however MacMaster was able to climb out unaided and walk away.

Meanwhile, in the Touring Car Masters series Melbourne driver Eddie Abelnica badly damaged his stunning XB Ford Falcon Coupe’ in a substantial impact at the same point of the circuit.

Whilst Abelnica was able to walk away unaided, the car is unlikely to take any further part in this weekend’s final round of the TCM series; one that is set for a title fight between racing legends John Bowe (Ford Mustang) and Jim Richards (Ford Falcon Sprint).

Chevrolet Camaro driver Andrew Miedecke edged out Bowe in today’s three practice sessions.

Josh Hunter topped the Kumho V8 Touring Car practice today, though there was less than one-second covering him and his closest title rival, Holden driver Jim Pollicina.

Against one of the deepest Kumho series fields of the year, Hunter holds a comfortable – yet by no means safe – in the developing V8 series in another classic Holden v Ford battle.

The Australian Manufacturers Championship for Production Cars and Dial Before You Dig Australian Saloon Car Series cars also competed today ahead of the first qualifying sessions tomorrow.

Three races – one each for Saloon Cars, V8 Touring Cars and the AMC – will be held tomorrow afternoon.

To check out the full times from today, Click here (external website) and follow the links!