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O’Keeffe makes Premier debut

Jye O’Keeffe has made the jump from formula 500 to Sprintcars. JYE O’Keeffe’s big year is about to get bigger.
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The Warrnambool mechanic has mixed his daytime work with building his first sprintcar, then a truck to transport it, plus his first home.

Tonight, he makes his maiden sprintcar appearance at his home track, Allansford’s Premier Speedway.

“I’ve burnt a lot of midnight oil,” he said.

The 22-year-old is not your typical speedway driver.

He started racing in karts.

“I’d never been to the speedway before I started racing,” he said.

“It didn’t interest me.

“But one of my mates (Ash Sinclair) had a formula 500.”

He switched from karts where he was an Australasian champion to formula 500s, where he regularly tasted success.

But after a career that included two Victorian titles, an ACT and WA title, plus the state series and two Jack Willsher trophies, an opportunity to join speedway’s elite class came up.

One of his sponsors, Paul O’Shannessy of Colac, offered to purchase a sprintcar engine if he and his other sponsors could fund a car.

“I used to drive a 500 for him and he came up with the idea he would buy the motor which is half the cost,” he said.

“We just thought we would give it a go.

“I didn’t have to. It was a case of, we had the opportunity, otherwise we couldn’t have afforded to do it.”

The modest rookie estimated it took him four or five months to build the car after purchasing a Cool Chassis.

He had some help from family and friends, but being a mechanic, it’s been a big project.

Renowned crew chief Glen Beaton, who works for Warrnambool’s Jamie Veal, helped him set up the car for his first practice outing at Ballarat before his race debut at Moama earlier this month.

O’Keeffe, whose sprintcar idol is former national champion, Kerry ‘the Mad Man’ Madsen, is realistic about his entry to the class.

“They (sprintcars) are another level. They are a lot bigger, just getting used to the speed and size of the car. I’m starting from scratch really.

“It’s hard, a little frustrating, but you definitely can’t expect anything. Most people have done it for a lot longer and they are high-level professionals in speedway’s top class.”

With more than 50 drivers fighting for the prizemoney tonight, O’Keeffe knows the event is all part of the learning curve.

“None at all,” he said of tonight’s expectations. “I would absolutely love to make an A main this season. That’s all I’m aiming for.”

O’Keeffe is one of 15 south-west drivers lining up tonight. The list includes favourite Jamie Veal, Stephen Bell, Jack Lee, Quentin Tanner, Daniel Newnham, Brendan Balcombe, Tim Van Ginneken, Tim Rankin, Luke Walker, John Vogels, Jake Smith, Darren Mollenoyux, Peter Doukas and Corey McCullagh.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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