Roberts ready for new challenge
IT IS a completely different kind of animal.
The only thing a Formula 500 and V8 Dirt Modified have in common, according to Maryborough's Phillip Roberts, is that they're fast.
Even then, a Formula 500 can go much quicker than a trusty V8 Dirt Modified.
So, in a sport where speed is just about everything, why did Roberts swap to what is essentially a slower car?
"I'm a little bit older now so I thought I'd step up to Dirt Modifieds and try something different,” Roberts said. "It's been a real change for me, I've stepped out of a Formula 500 so I've gone from a winged car to a non-winged car.
"It's a completely different driving style, a lot more horsepower. It's good fun but a lot different.”
Roberts, a 30-plus year veteran of Formula 500s, will be one of the few local drivers in contention for the King of the Ring title at Maryborough Speedway.
While that experience in a sleeker, more nimble vehicle is handy, the contrasting style of driving means there is not any tangible benefit for Roberts, other than his knowledge of what is his home track, and the natural skill he has when he is behind the wheel.
The major differences, Roberts said, were that the Formula 500 is "short in the wheel base” which makes it "quicker to steer”.
"The Dirt Modified is a longer wheel base, a lot softer on the suspension so you have to start pre-empting what you want to do earlier,” Roberts said.
"You use more braking with the Dirt Modified as it weighs a lot more than a Formula 500.
"The Formula 500 is quick off the line, and they're faster on lap times. They're quicker than the V8, but the Dirt Modified is something different and a challenge to drive.”
Roberts has come a long way since his first Dirt Modifieds race.
"One of the first meetings I did I drove both on the same night, and I found I struggled with it as they're completely different styles,” Roberts said.
"The last couple of meetings where I've raced on Dirt Modifieds, the last meeting at Archerfield we finished fourth in the feature. It's getting used to driving the car, and how to set it up, how it changes and how it rolls on the track.”
The field is headlined by five-time national champion Tim Morse, though any driver in the small top- quality field could lay claim to the crown, which Roberts said he hoped would develop into one of the east coast's premier events.
"The King of the Ring is something we want to build into a prestigious event on the national circuit,” he said.
"We want to build it to be something special so we're hoping it becomes a blue ribbon event across the east coast.
"Hopefully (my chances are) pretty good. I've done more laps (at Maryborough) than most but not in the Dirt Modified.”
Roberts said his aim was to repeat the performance of his last appearance at Maryborough, which was the Queensland title race in April.
Victorian ace Steven Milthorpe won the title that night.
"The last time I drove at Maryborough I started 19th in the Queensland title and finished ninth so we came forward pretty well,” Roberts said.
"As long as we can do well through the heats and score some points, we'll give it a run for the money.”