Richard Stevens reflects on breakthough Westernats win

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When Richard Stevens took out the Westernationals Super Street victory as part of round eight of the 2019/2020 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series, it marked his first national event victory in more than 20 years of trying.

Shot at the 49th Annual Westernationals at the Perth Motorplex. Photo by Phil Luyer, High Octane Photos.

Now, the current Perth Motorplex Super Street Champion and Driver of the Year is looking forward to a return to racing not only with his current Feral Racing ‘FERALSV’ HSV VT Clubsport R8 but also with his recently purchased VZ SS Thunder Commodore Ute.

“The Westernationals was a great event. It is one I look forward to every year as it is always well planned by Ray Treasure, his team and ANDRA,” Stevens said.

“This year it was also great to have the added excitement of Top Fuelers for the first time in a few years. Combined with the good weather, it made for big crowds and a great atmosphere. I especially love how the day starts off quiet and every time you win a round and return for the next one the crowd is bigger and more excited. It is great to see the fans waving and cheering in the stands.

“We had 40 entries show up for this year’s Westernats Super Street field – it was exciting and daunting at the same time, knowing I would have to win six races to take the event victory, especially as with everyone racing so well these days there are never any easy wins.

“Even so, I was feeling pretty confident about doing well as the car had been performing really nicely all year and this showed in qualifying with consistent passes and great reaction times.

“When it comes to racing, I always concentrate on trying to win my first race and then I consider every win after that a bonus.

“I had a fairly easy win in the first round, but in the second I came up against Steph Gullotto who is probably my favourite person to race against as we always have such close races and we have developed a bit of a friendly rivalry.

“This race was no different and with us both having similar reaction times we ended up crossing the finishing line together but I was lucky enough to get the green win light after running 0.003 over my dial-in and Steph broke out by 0.001.

“The third round was certainly an interesting one. I was up against Zac Giles and had just gone into full stage when a red light came on. I knew I had not yet broken the beams, so I stayed in stage until the officials could check to see I had not broken the beams and eventually it was decided I would be allowed to rerun the pass, which I won.

“The fourth round was a fairly easy win with my opponent red lighting, and then it was onto the semi-finals where I was lucky enough to have a solo pass. After a bit of discussion with my crew we decided to do a full-on pass to figure out the dial-in for the finals.

“This almost become a costly mistake as I nearly broke into the ‘tens’ which would have seen me disqualified for running out of class, but luckily, I did not.

“Heading into the final I was pretty confident. I was up against Joel Trotman who I had beaten three times already this season but even so I knew I was in for a close and exciting race as he is a very consistent drag racer.

“In the end he jumped the gun and red lighted against me which I saw early in the race so there was some pretty excited words coming from me as I drove down the track!

“I have to admit the first thing I did as soon as I pulled over after the race was call my Mum and tell her I won – she has been a great supporter of my racing since I first started.

“After that it was back to the pits to celebrate with my Feral Racing crew and team mates – there was a lot to celebrate as it was my first national event win after 20-odd years of trying so we were all very excited.”

Stevens’ victory is not the only stand-out moment from the season either.

“There are so many favourite moments when I look back on the year,” he said.

“Seeing side by side passes by the Top Fuelers at the Westernationals thanks to Phil Lamattina and Peter Xiberras was really great, as was the excitement and super close action delivered by the Top Doorslammers. Seeing some of the lesser known names winning races, John Zappia running some awesome numbers and Daniel Gregorini improving with every pass was fantastic,” said the Maddington (WA) racer.

“I am also loving seeing the growth of the Outlaw Radial class with so many fast and different cars coming through like the McClure Torana which was awarded the Crow Cams Best Engineered award at the Westernats.

“On a personal level, winning three events in the Perth Motorplex Track Championship, including the Westernationals, and taking out the WA Super Street Championship and overall Track Championship points and being awarded as the Motorplex’s Driver of the Year – the first Super Street racer to do so – have been key highlights. Delivering a perfect light in the quarter finals of a track championship event against Kristy Wroe also rates high up there.”

Stevens has been racing in Super Street since 1997, with just a four year break away after his red HSV VT Clubsport was stolen in 2008 shortly after taking out the runner-up honours at the Westernationals that year.

“I was introduced to drag racing by a group who would go to Ravenswood International Raceway for Street Meets and race their cars, and I would also go and watch some of them compete at ANDRA-sanctioned events. Quite a few of those guys still come down and crew for me and still race at the Motorplex too,” Stevens explained.

“I first started racing at Street Meets in 1995 and then when I was able to build a car fast enough, I moved to Super Street in 1997.

“What actually got me hooked on drag racing was coming second in my very first Street Meet aboard my LX Torana SS Hatch with a manual six-cylinder.

“I was a Ford boy until my XD Falcon was stolen – it seems like a common theme that happens to me! I had seen a Torana LX SS Hatch and fallen in love with it, so with the insurance money I bought myself a Torana LX SS Hatch which I built with the help of a few mates – it didn’t take me long to want to go faster so soon the worked 202 was replaced with a Holden 308 which I ran with until 2006. Since then I have been racing HSV VT Clubsports, but I still love my hatches and I have one tucked away in the corner of the shed.

“There are quite a few things I love about Super Street racing but the first and foremost would have to be the people you meet and the friendships you build. Everyone is there to help each other out in times of need but when you get on the racetrack, it is game on.

“I also love that Super Street is always competitive with large fields, I don’t think I have raced in a field of less than 30 this season, and there are so many different types of cars.

“It doesn’t matter what you are racing or how fast you are, the racing is a level playing field due to dial-ins. You need to get your dial-in and reaction times on the money to win and it seems there are no easy wins anymore, it is so competitive.

“I also love the fact I can drive my car to the track, empty the boot and back seat, change the rear tyres and be ready to race; then just pack everything up at the end of the day to drive home.”

So, what is next for Richard Stevens?

“During the enforced downtime I haven’t done any upgrades to my current car as it is exactly where I want it – a street car without a roll cage that is able to run into the tens, even though we don’t allow it too,” Stevens explained.

“At the same time, I have always promised myself that once I won a track championship, I would move onwards and upwards.

“To that end, I have purchased a VZ SS Thunder Commodore Ute with a roll cage which I am building to race in the pointy end of Super Street. I will also be turning it up for some Radial racing. We are still working out the details of the driveline and so on, but I am hoping to have it ready for the 2021/2022 season which is very exciting.”

After such a successful season and with some exciting times ahead, it is unsurprising that Stevens has plenty of people he wishes to thank.

“FERALSV would not be the super consistent and reliable car it is without sponsors Ed and Bruno Tassone from Active Automotives for everything motor and tuning related, Josh Romeo from LSX Powertrain for the Gearbox and Diff, Simon Travaglini from AllFast Torque Converters for the hi-stalls, Denis Yap from Matilda Marketing for uniforms and accessories and especially John Szabo from Longroof Speed Shack for everything to do with the car – without him I would not be racing,” he said.

“I also want to thank Summit Racing Equipment for really stepping up when the sportsman series needed it; as well as the Perth Motorplex, ANDRA and the officials, the WADRA committee and especially Ray Treasure for all of his work at the track as well as for all of the times he has helped me out on a personal level.

“Thanks must also go to all of the people that have crewed for me and helped out across the last few seasons: Kevin Ashman, John and Theresa Szabo, Chelsea Simm, Connor Rogers, Marie Dineley and Melissa Sole.

“20-odd years ago I started racing under the team name Feral Racing and I have been lucky to have the opportunity to work with a lot of skilled crew and team mates that have helped me along the way, there is no doubt I wouldn’t have been as successful as I have been without their ongoing help.

“A special thanks should go to my Feral Racing crew and team mates: Kevin Ashman, John and Theresa Szabo, Chelsea Simm, Connor Rogers, Marie Dineley, Melissa Sole, Erin Kosovich and Michael, Maggie, Josh and Phoebe North.

“Finally, I want to recognise all of my mates who have helped me out at one time or another over the last 25 years and especially my mum Kaye and my dad John who have always supported me in one way or another over the entire time I have raced.”

To view the current points tally for the 2019/2020 Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series, please click here.
The ANDRA Grand Final is currently postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. ANDRA hopes to host the event later this year on dates to be confirmed. For more information, visit www.andra.com.au

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