Last Saturday night’s NSW Compact Speedcar Title at Nowra Speedway was certainly a memorable and emotion-charged one for Mark Heaton, who claimed what was a fitting victory, which he dedicated to a family member who had passed away just prior to the event.
Despite Heaton and his team feeling prepared for the NSW Title in terms of car setup, nothing could prepare them for the passing of Charlie, the father of Heaton’s wife Joanne, on the Tuesday leading into the event.
Photo: Maximum Action Photography
Making the decision to go ahead with their plan to contest the title, winning was far from Heaton’s mind; however, it was clear that Charlie was looking down on the team, with Heaton earning a front-row feature-race start by virtue of a strong qualifying performance.
Opting to start from pole position alongside fellow front-row started Dan Biner, despite knowing that the pole line was not the fastest option, Heaton was happy to settle into second behind Biner in the opening stages of the 25-lap race, biding his time until he would be able to execute a passing move for the lead.
With confidence in the car underneath him, Heaton’s chance came around 10 laps in when Biner made a slight error into turn two, allowing Heaton to pounce, getting the run on the back straight and taking control of the lead. From there, it was all smooth sailing for Heaton, who navigated the lapped traffic with ease, before comfortably greeting the chequered flag in first place.
“It was a hard week for the entire family and a very emotional race, but what made it so special was being able to dedicate the win to Charlie,” expressed the 45-year-old, who immediately drove to Joanne following the race to tell her that the win was for her dad.
“We really weren’t expecting much heading into the NSW Title and we obviously had other things on our minds, so to win in the fashion that we did is quite special for the whole team and something we certainly won’t forget in a hurry.”
Commencing his speedway career in Speedway Karts in the mid-1990s, Heaton then went on to build a Microsprint, which he raced for a couple of seasons, before stepping away from the sport for the next two decades to focus on family and work commitments.
Making his return to speedway as a crew chief for a number of teams, Heaton eventually returned to the driver’s seat in the Legend Cars class, where he displayed consistent competitiveness, until deciding to make the move into Compact Speedcars prior to the beginning of last season when assisting fellow racer Jason Essai with setup.
Photo: Maximum Action Photography
Enjoying a very strong debut season in 2016-17, the Oakdale, NSW-based racer came away with a number of highlights, including winning the NSW Club Championship, the overall A grade point score, placing third in the NSW Title, fifth in the Australian Title, and reaching the podium in nearly every contested race meeting.
Updating to a Kawasaki-powered Stealth chassis this season, which he believes reacts much quicker during races, Heaton, who continues to give guidance and help to a lot of his fellow drivers in order to ensure that he’s racing them at their best, has tasted victory numerous times this season, as well as recently coming home fourth in the Victorian Title from the rear of the field, after completing only one heat due to having to replace a fuel line on his engine.
Looking forward to completing the rest of the 2017-18 season schedule, Heaton’s next appearance will be on the Saturday night of March 17 when he will return to Nowra Speedway for the 10th NSW Club Championship round.
Heaton is proudly supported by the following 2017-18 season sponsors: Custom Cars, Jam Signs and Embroidery, Budget Battery Service, Xtreme Auto Parts - Canberra, Craft Differentials, Jay’s Brush Fencing, and Aeroflow - Canberra. Special thanks go to his wife Joanne, Kevin, Morgan, his dad Pat, and his three sons: Robert, Adam and Leo.