There are many types of motorsport categories. There’s Formula One, Supercars, Formula Ford, the Porsche Carrera Cup, the World Endurance Championship, Formula E – the list goes on and on. Truth be told, if something has an engine, then there is probably a competition somewhere where people are racing them.
These categories all have their thrills – after all, speed and power is a lot of fun – but there is one category that may be just a little more thrilling, and a little more, well, mad, than the others. That category is called Sprintcars.
Competition takes place on a clay oval about 440m long and in the premier class of Sprintcars, called 410, the cars hurtle around these tracks at speeds of up to 160km/h. That speed is courtesy of a vehicle that is incredibly light (less than 700kg), incredibly powerful (their 410ci engines churn out more than 850hp) and is covered in the most extraordinary bodywork that consists of enormous wings designed to keep as much of that massive engine power on the ground.
Stick 20 or more of these cars on to the small track at the same time and the results are jaw-dropping for those sitting in the stands. It’s a spectacle of speed, noise, skillful driving and a pretty sizeable dose of bravery (search ‘Sprintcar crashes’ in YouTube and you’ll see why ‘bravery’ is the right word to use).
In Queensland, the 410 championship season kicked off in September and meetings take place thoughout the year at Speedway circuits in Toowoomba and Brisbane. Amongst those aiming for the podium this year is Cody Maroske.
Cody is one of Sprintcars rising stars. The 23-year-old entered the big league last year, joining the 410 Queensland Championship about halfway through the season. And that fact is important because Cody, with just a handful of the 25-race season meetings under his belt, was named as the 2016-17 championship Rookie of the Year at the Sprintcar Queensland end-of-season presentation night.
“Last year we only took part in 13 races so being named Rookie of the Year was a big surprise,” he said. “I was having a drink of water when they called out my name and I nearly choked! I thought the Rookie of the Year would be awarded based on points scored and I didn’t think we had accumulated enough, but actually they take a broader view of performance for that award and they rated me quite highly as a driver. That was very satisfying.”
Cody’s performance was probably not a complete surprise. His father, Garry, spent many years racing the ovals himself, meaning Cody grew up watching and learning the tricks of the trade. And though he is only 23, Cody has racked up nearly a decade of racing on the tight clay circuits in the feeder speedway categories.
During that time he has been named Rookie of the Year in every class he has competed in and, in a record-breaking 2011, won three Junior Sedan titles – the NT and Queensland championships as well as the national title.
“I started racing in 2008 driving a Daihatsu Charade in the Junior Sedan class,” said Cody. “That was the entry level class for every kid between 10 and 16 and, though I was 14 then and most kids started a lot younger than that, I had quite a bit of experience. I had been driving a car around the paddock at our house, and Dad was still racing at that time so I would go along and watch and learn from him.
“I also took part in Formula 500 for two seasons from 2014. That class is the same concept as the 410 except the cars are smaller and run with bike motors.”
Moving up into the premier class means moving into a category where the racing is fast and furious, where regulations are a little more relaxed and where a certain amount of courage is required to be in the hunt for top spot.
“We get 850hp out of our KRE engine and it has a better power to weight ratio that a Formula One car,” said Cody. “Sprintcars are ridiculously light, stupidly overpowered, have lots of downforce and when you hop into them it is like nothing else!
“And you can be creative with the cars too. There is actually no rule about how much horsepower you can have. A lot of drivers have cars with 900hp and you can go to 1000 if you want. The trick is getting that power to the ground and controlling it, which is the point of the wings which create a massive amount of downforce. Racing is about keeping the car under control and using the aerodynamics and power to your advantage.
“However, on clay you don’t have much traction and that is why we see so many crashes. You have an 850hp sprintcar and you’re driving three inches from the wall. And that wall does bite.”
Cody’s day job is managing Garry Maroske Automotive, a workshop on the outskirts of Beenleigh in south-east Queensland. It’s where the sprintcar is maintained and prepped for races by a small team that includes Cody’s father.
“There are really only two people you need to keep things running on race nights – a crew chief and a tyre guy,” said Cody. “It’s important to have a good relationship with your crew chief and of course I do because that’s my dad. He’s very experienced and it’s great to have him there.”
For Garry, his son’s Rookie of the Year-winning season was a fantastic achievement and one that bodes well for this season’s full year of competition.
“His performance in his debut season last year was amazing,” he said. “In his very first race he got through to the A-Main race, which is the feature race of the round, and no one had ever done that before. For a rookie, in their debut meeting to get to the feature, was terrific. He is a very skilled driver and we work really well together.
“And I’m confident for the new season. We learned a lot from our first year and I am hoping we will do well.”
Cody, too, is feeling good about the upcoming championship season.
“I am feeling pretty confident,” he said. “In the last race of last season I finished fifth and I always thought I had top 5 potential. Now, I think, we are a top ten chance for every race and will be pushing for podiums and victories. We have a great car, running a motor that is pretty faultless, so I’m looking forward to a good season.”
For the record, at the first event of the season, Cody set the fastest qualifying time and made the A-Main event but clipped the wall during the race and was unable to finish.