Racing a Formula 500 speedway beast for the first time could be a daunting experience, but young Mount Gambier racer Ryan Harry (pictured) showed no fear and made a name for himself on dirt ovals around the state.
The 19-year-old made his debut in the Formula 500 South Australia series and took the field by storm by finishing third in the championship with the most successful rookie campaign in many years.
As a result of compiling 792 points, Harry was rewarded with the coveted Rookie of the Year award at the Formula 500 SA presentations at the National Motor Museum at Birdwood recently.
Harry said the great debut season to receive the special award is the biggest highlight of his short and promising career.
“Definitely the biggest achievement so far,” he said.
“I was not expecting to achieve much or be up there straight away this year, especially with everything up in the air with COVID, so it was good to get some results and gain confidence.
“I am very glad and happy with how it happened.” The success of consistently running up the front and finishing 477 points ahead of the other rookie in the field were not things Harry anticipated during the seven-round 2020-21 season.
“I was only expecting to learn about the car and the tracks I had not been to before,” he said.
“So I just wanted to do laps, get some seat time and find out how the car handled.” Harry’s speedway journey started in the Junior Sedans category where he raced a Datsun Sunny for four years before taking a break from the driver’s seat during the 2019-20 season to assess what the next step of his career would be.
The Limestone Coast youngster took the jump towards the sprintcar-like Formula 500’s and it paid off handsomely.
Harry admitted it took some time to get his senses around the speed and noise of the machine during the opening rounds.
“I was a bit rusty and it took me a few rounds to get used to the car,” he said.
“The biggest thing was just how much quicker the cars were than the junior sedans and they were much louder.
“You can tweak the setup very easily and change the whole car, so you always need to do little adjustments at a time.
“But the more laps we did, the more confidence I found in the car.” Harry takes a hands-on approach to his racing and is always keen to get on the tools to fix or adjust his race car.
He is the centrepiece of a small-family team consisting of his mum, dad, brother, girlfriend and grandparents.
Harry also owns the car and said the family’s all-in approach, plus his consistent efforts on the track put the #54 at the pointy end of the field.
“It is just a small-family team with each member chipping in where they can to support me and get the car on the track,” he said.
“I sort out all of the parts I need and things to change on my car.
“We were still setting up the car in the first few rounds, but by the end of the season we had a pretty good car and got some good results at Waikerie and Murray Bridge.
“It was all about consistency, collecting points and finish as many races as I could.” At the halfway mark of the season, Harry sat in seventh position, but climbed up the leaderboard so far only three-time champion Brendan Zadow and runner-up Corey Jones were ahead of him when the chequered flag fell.
The Waikerie meeting was the highlight where he converted a third-place grid slot into a runner-up feature finish.
The countdown is already on until the green flag of the 2021-22 season.
Racing will begin at the end of September at Murray Bridge, while Mount Gambier’s Borderline Speedway enjoys a double dose of action.
The fourth round of the F500SA championship arrives on Saturday, November 27, while the Victorian Series also pays a visit in the new year.
“Hopefully the borders open up so we get more than just South Australian cars,” he said.
“My car is pretty much ready to go and hopefully we can go bigger and better than last year.”