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Rookie Tom Hooper couldn’t have been happier with his performance in last weekend’s Australian 360 Sprintcar Championship at the Perth Motorplex, coming away with an impressive sixth-place feature-race finish.
Hooper’s two-night Australian Championship campaign began with a mixed bag of results, which saw him collect an eighth and second-place finish in his heat races, before finishing 15th in the preliminary feature race on Friday night, due to being caught up in an earlier incident which caused damage to the car. Heading into Saturday night’s competition 14th in points, the 23-year-old racer was thrilled to earn the final direct transfer position into the feature race, after finishing eighth and sixth in his remaining heat races, to line up 18th in the Australian Championship feature-race field.
Powering his way through the pack and consistently picking off his rivals throughout the 40-lap distance, Hooper had managed to steer his WX # 79 GLW Freight Management / Merredin Freightlines supported Schnee machine into sixth place by the fall of the chequered flag, becoming the highest-placed 360 Sprintcar regular in what was a stellar performance up against some of Australia’s best 410 Sprintcar drivers, such as Jamie Veal and Luke Dillon.
Photo: Mel Parker Photography
“Initially, our goal was just to qualify for the feature race, which we were just able to do, so to come home with a sixth-place finish in an Australian Championship in just our 10th show is more than I could’ve imagined,” expressed Hooper, who didn’t attend the Australian Championship practice session on Wednesday night, due to work commitments.
“It was a really fast track and we made some changes for the feature race, which ultimately gave us a great car and paid off with a great result. This result was definitely a team effort and it’s a huge confidence boost for us all.”
No stranger to speedway racing, Hooper spent three seasons in Formula 500s prior to joining 360 Sprintcars, where he was a force to reckoned with, winning a Western Australian Title, a Bunny Burrowes Memorial and two Perth Motorplex Track Championships. Purchasing a 2013 Schnee chassis from Dass Atkinson mid-way through last season, he spent the off season getting the team ready for their debut season.
Hooper, who receives a lot of support from his local town of Merredin, made his 360 Sprintcar debut at the beginning of this season and set about gaining as much experience as possible, contesting nine shows prior to the Australian Championship event, five of which were at the Perth Motorplex, allowing him to build up his knowledge of the track. During a Fast Series round at the Perth venue earlier in the season, Hooper was running third in the feature race amongst the heavy-hitters when he suffered a flat left-rear tyre; however, despite this disappointing result, the event was a large confidence booster for Hooper, who has continued to become more competitive.
Having had Australian Speedway Hall of Famer Geoff Murphy, who assisted him when he first joined Formula 500s, on his team for the past three race meetings, along with his dad, Peter, and crew member Toddy, Hooper has been able to utilise Murphy’s extensive experience in order to improve on his consistency, as evident in last weekend’s Australian Title assault.
For his final 2016-17 season outing, Hooper will return to the Perth Motorplex to contest the final Fast Series round on the Saturday night of April 22.
Hooper would like to thank the following 2016-17 season sponsors: GLW Freight Management, Merredin Freightlines, Ross’s Diesel Service, Merredin Auto Electrics & Air Conditioning, Discover the Wheatbelt Tours - Merredin, Cliff Haines Tyres & More - Merredin, Merredin Panel & Paint, Hendriks F & L R Bus Charter, Merredin Palace Chinese Restaurant, MDN Electrical Contractors, Subway - Merredin, Newton’s Home Furnishings, Trans-Plus, and Merredin French Hot Bread Shop. Special thanks: Peter (dad), Toddy, Geoff Murphy, Sharnhee (partner), along with all of the rest of his family and friends.
To find out more about Hooper and his team, LIKE them on Facebook by searching Hooper Racing Team.