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Article Date: 11 June 2016

For 49 years the Winternationals has been the jewel in the crown of Australian Drag Racing; the pinnacle of the racing season, and a melting pot of the most talented racers the country has to offer. Yet, perched in amongst the Modified field, a class littered with drivers with decades of experience and multiple championships to their names, is debutant racer Stephen Sadler who at just 33-years-of-age is going racing for the first time in his life, in a car he’s owned for just six months!
Sadler explains that, before today, his only real racing experience was at a Test ‘n’ Tune where he took his daily-driven car down the Willowbank blacktop for a 16-second pass! “Soon after I left for the States and did the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School and got my Comp’ and Super Gas license over there, and that’s part of a documentary I’ve been making called Dream Ignition.”
Dream Ignition follows Sadler, who lives with Cystic Fibrosis, going through the motions of getting out of the grandstand and in to the driver’s seat in an effort to stop his condition defining who he is.
Drag Racing has been a constant in the Sadler household Stephen goes on to explain, recounting watching his father crew for his uncles, which seeded his dreams of Drag Racing stardom from a young age.
“Racing is something I’ve always wanted to do, coming to the track as a kid, and as I got to about thirty I thought ‘maybe I should scratch that other itch I’ve got’ and I decided to look at going Drag Racing,” Sadler goes on to say.
Before he knew it, Sadler had a car and was in contact with the Bray family. “Team Bray have been helping me out, the car lives at their workshop… the advantage of being with Vic’ is that they can put me in contact with the people who know the business, and there’s been a whole bunch of people helping me out – Graham Frawley, Rob Harrington and of course I couldn’t have done it without my mum and dad, my family and my best mates.”
Sadler has bitten off a hell of a task with his Modified, purchased from Peter Leahy, which he pedals to 8-second quarters at 150mph. “It’s a very basic big-block, Powerglide and Strange 9-inch combination; a conservative high-8sec car with relatively low maintenance,” explains Sadler of his ride for the weekend.
“I’ve achieved what I set out to do which was get the car here and get it going… just to be driving the car was my goal, and whether or not I go any further is a bonus,” beams Sadler, humbly.
“It’s an absolute honour to have my car with the Team Bray guys. I’ve got legends in the same garages as my car and that’s a bit overwhelming at times, I think ‘wow’ to come this far in a short amount of time, so I’ve just got to make sure I don’t leave any cherries on the tree out there today!”
“I remember going to the Winternationals plenty of times as a kid, and as an adult I don’t think I’ve missed an event in the last ten years. Being local, Willowbank is my home track so it’s great to have this as my first race in front of my home crowd!” says Sadler in closing.
Modified boasts a huge 29-car field, with racing continuing over the weekend climaxing at Sunday’s finals. To catch all the 2016 City of Ipswich Winternationals action log on to www.willowbankraceway.com.au for ticketing and scheduling information, or visit http://400thunder.5stream.com/content.php?id=12620 to subscribe to the best live-stream event coverage in Australian Drag Racing.

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