FIRE UP: The Newcastle City Titles Wheelchair Grand Prix event will feature approximately five races each day on a purpose-built track.
Wheelchair Grand Prix (WGP) racing comes to the Hunter with the staging of the inaugural Newcastle City Titles over the two-day Hunter Disability Expo.
The brainchild of competitive go-kart racer and disability sector worker Chris Quinlan, WGP gives people with disabilities the chance to achieve a dream once thought unreachable –a career in motor sport.
ACTION PACKED: Competitors will race in Open and Restricted classes where the focus is all about driving ability, responsiveness and turning ability.
“WGP displays the abilities of those who are in power-drive wheelchairs, allowing them to reach their full potential,” Mr Quinlan said.
“Our goal is to have everyone in the broader community exposed to the skills and abilities of those involved, whilst catering to a market of anyone interested in motorsport.”
Racing over the two days will feature a purpose-built track,live timing, prize money, and trophies for winners and a full production crew filming the action for distribution across free-to-air platforms.
“Like any section of the community, there are hardcore racing fans in chairs,” Mr Quinlan said.
“WGP is providing an outlet for a new wave of people interested in a fun, adrenaline-pumping sport that is non-gender, ability or demographic specific.
“Interestingly there are a lot ofgirls involved.”
Competitors race in Restricted and Open Class categories.
“Most factory chairs have a default top speed of 10kmh,which is the criteria for Restricted racers,” Mr Quinlan said.
“If you enter that category, you know you’re not going to get beaten for speed.
“But nearly everyone modifies their chairs, or own dedicated sports chairs, which are the quickest, and compete in the Open section.
“But it’s not all about speed. Results suggest driving ability, responsiveness and turning speed are just as important.”
Worldview Productions, which created TV shows likeTemporary Australians and Snap Happy,as seen on Seven HD and 1HD, will film the racesin entirety with the view to distribution across free-to-air TV platforms.
Home-grown WGP racersSteve Shadlow and Rodney Baxter will be pitting their skills over the two days, but Mr Quinlan is inviting anyone with a government-funded chair to register online and compete.
“Steve and Rodney, who is our current WGP series leader, are best mates off the track, but bitter rivals on the track.
“To get involved all you have to do is register on our link and then come on down. You generally start at the back in your first race.
“There will be driver briefings before each race and we encourage anyone to do a practice session beforehand.”
Like any motorsports arena, thepit lane at WGP comes alive on race day.
“Final pit lane preparations are full ofparents and carers, ipads –it lookslike something out of F1,” Mr Quinlan said. “It means a lot to participants to be involved and makes them feel like superstars.”
There will be opportunitiesfor able-bodiedpeople in the general public to have a go in a chair in between races.
WGP kicked off in 2012 in Whalan, Sydney and this yearis holding events in every major metropolitcan city across the country. Plans are afoot to expand overseas.
“Where ever Quickie Wheelchairs are sold, we intend to hold events, and that includes around the world,” Mr Quinlan said.
“It’s awesome to be involved with guys and motorsports. The interest is definitely there and the demand is huge.”
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