Memorable Moments of the Wakefield 300

It may not attract the household-name drivers or media attention of some larger endurance races, but ever since its inception in 2008, the Wakefield 300 has produced storylines on par with the nation’s most prestigious events. Whether it be heartbreaking retirements from commanding positions, come-from-behind victories or thrilling battles, this club-level endurance race has always served up a menu of tantalising tales. Here’s a selection of the best.

How to win a race without leading
A lot was made of Will Davison and Jonathon Webb’s victory in last year’s Bathurst 1000 without ever leading a lap. Davo and Jono should exchange notes with Nathan Jess and Chris Clearihan, who achieved exactly the same feat in the 2008 Wakefield 300. Jess and Clearihan crossed the line in second place, but were elevated to victory lane when fellow Future Racer drivers, Rod and Jade Barnes, were penalised post-race.

Never give up
A never-say-die attitude is paramount if you want to succeed in endurance racing, something Nathan Jess demonstrated in 2009. After the final pit-stops were complete, Jess emerged in second place but with a deficit of more than a lap to the leading Andrew Bollom/Ric Shaw Mazda RX7, the possibility of victory appeared remote. However, Jess observed some puffs of smoke from the RX7 and increased his lap speed accordingly, putting pressure on Shaw to respond. The harder Shaw pushed, the more apparent the smoke became and eventually the Mazda rotary engine cried enough. Jess took the lead just 15 laps from home and clinched back-to-back victories in the 300.

Exploiting a loophole
Testing the boundaries of the regulations is a well-known phenomenon in any professional motorsport but it happens at a grass-roots level as well. In 2010, David Raddatz realised there was no rule prohibiting driving more than one car during the race, and he cross-entered in two cars. The result? He came first in one MX5 (with Shane Otten) and second in the other (with Rob Hay). The organisers subsequently amended the event regulations to ban cross-entries.

Back from the dead
While the focus at the end of a big race is (quite rightly) thrust upon the outright winners, the division winners deserve their time in the spotlight as well. The 2011 race provided an example of a couple of drivers winning their division the hard way – Alan Moses and Richard Fricker lost a wheel from their Holden A9X Torana, but were able to implement a quick fix and return to the circuit in time to fight back to the front of their division.

The big wet
The 2012 Wakefield 300 was greeted with some of the worst weather ever seen at the nation’s spectator track – the result was almost three and a half hours of non-stop pandemonium, nine safety cars and the eventual declaring of the race 10 laps short of its scheduled distance. There were incidents aplenty, the most memorable being the synchronised BMW E30 crash at turn 1. Jake Shelley survived the diabolical conditions to take his first win alongside Michael Shaw.

Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve
Take a walk down pit lane after any endurance race, and you will invariably be greeted with a plethora of drivers who will tell you how if this had happened, or that hadn’t happened, they would have achieved a better result. In the case of the 2013 race, some of these claims were legitimate; Nathan Jess/Matthew Thomson could quite rightly claim they were disadvantaged by the timing of a Safety Car, while Andrew Macpherson/Ben Porter were charging in the closing laps, only to have their momentum checked by a mechanical glitch. Not needing any excuses were Jake Shelley/Michael Shaw, who stormed to back-to-back victories.

And then there were two
In 2014 and ‘15, so many entries were received for the Wakefield 300, organisers were forced to split the field into two grids, a “B-main” for the slower cars and the main race for the outright contenders. The B-main races provided just as much entertainment as the main show, especially in 2014 when Adam Dodd held off Dave Thomas in a single-lap dash to the line after a late-race Safety Car.

Smashing the pole curse
For its first eight years, the Wakefield 300 became infamous for never being won from pole position. A determined father-and-son team of Craig and Adam Burgess vowed to become the first drivers to defy the pole curse, and in 2016 their plans came to fruition – after a ding-dong battle with Steve/Jake Shelley for the first half of the race, the Burgesses and their Ginetta took over the front-running when the Shelleys retired and were never seriously threatened from then on, taking a comprehensive victory.