Current New Zealand Sprintcar champion Jamie Duff will once again be a regular on flights from Christchurch to Auckland as he returns to WXC Speedway – Western Springs for another season with the ‘Winged Warriors’.
As father Steve Duff explains, racing at The Springs is the logical step in moving up the Sprintcar ranks for his son.
“If you want to be fast in a race car you have to race the fast guys all the time and all the fast guys are at Western Springs. It’s a very demanding wee track that’s never consistent in the way it’s prepared, it’s different every week so if you win at Western Springs, you can almost certainly go anywhere and win. It’s the toughest track in New Zealand with the toughest drivers, and if you want to be good you can’t hide from that stuff.”
Although the Duff team set-up stays in Auckland, there is still a massive logistical effort to move the team from one Island to the other on a fairly regular basis over the course of the summer.
“It’s tough. You can’t book your airfares too far ahead because you’d like to go up there on Saturday morning but if you’ve had an accident the previous weekend then you’ve gotta get a couple of guys up there Friday morning to work on it, plus rental cars, hotels or motels, there’s certainly a bit in it. We’re pretty committed to speedway, it gets up there in cost but we’re passionate about it so we do it.”
For the 2015/16 season, the Duff team have fairly clear goals both at WXC Speedway – Western Springs and abroad.
“There were a couple of nasty journalists that made it sound like he fluked the New Zealand champs, I don’t believe that, I don’t think that some of the faster guys think that either. So for this season, we’ve just got to back it up, to get on the podium at the title race would back that up quite nicely.”
“We’ve won a lot of races at The Springs, we’ve come second to Donny Schatz at one of the international meetings passing Sammy Swindell on the last lap and done a lot of good, good races but we’ve never won a feature race there. We’re the New Zealand champs and we haven’t won a feature race at Western Springs, so we’d like to do that. That will tick quite a big box.”
For the first time, Jamie enters the season not as a young up and comer, but as the man to beat with the 1NZ on the tail tank, something that Steve thinks will help push him towards that elusive WXC Speedway – Western Springs feature win.
“I think bit by bit you learn how to win races and some of it is a mental thing too. You get to the point where you are fast enough, your gear is good enough and your set-ups are good enough and you end up with a driver who has a couple of drivers he doesn’t think he’s better than or his heads not in the right space, bit by bit you solve those problems. Jamie’s 25 now and I think that is where we are getting to, getting good and that’s just because we’ve been doing it a lot. Bit by bit we’re just putting the package together.”
Like several of the top Midget drivers, Duff chose to keep his hand in over the off-season with a short tour of the USA, which combined a strong learning curve with some impressive results.
“We went and did seven meetings in ten days, starting up in Scadgit and through Oregon. He did alright, five nights in a row there were 30-odd cars and he qualified in the time trials in the top three every night. We had a bit of trouble getting used to the tracks in the features because they had so much banking but we got there. On the last night we were fifth, passing fourth with third right in front of us and got taken out. But I tell you what, if we went back and did it again, we learned so much I think we’d be right on the money.”