By Ken Brown
The very first Sprintcar ‘King of the Wings’ was staged during the 1981-82 season (Friday March 19, 1982) at the Claremont Speedway. The 25-lap event saw the current WA titleholder “Lethal” Lee Foster rule supreme over Noel Bradford, Bill Sutherland and Des Nash.
The 1982-83 classic over 20-laps went to Bill Sutherland from Noel Bradford, Ron Krikke and Lee Foster. For the 1983-84 event, the race distance was reduced to 15-laps – the shortest ever – and it resulted in a repeat victory for Bill Sutherland over Des Nash and Ron Krikke.
A longer 30-lap event was programmed during the 1984-85 season when Lee Foster downed Eric Shier, Bob Kinnear and Alf Barbagallo. It was Lee Foster again in the 25-lap 1985-86 event over Ron Krikke, Noel Bradford and John Krikke.
The event was not held in the summer of 198687 but re-appeared the next season with sponsorship from Coca Cola – a situation that continued for many years. So the first winner to sip a coke in ‘Victory Lane’ was Allan McCarthy, after he had dispatched Steven Arrigo, Ian Bradford and Dave Thomson.
During the 1988-89 season the scheduled February 24 date was washed out and the race was tacked onto the end of the original season of April 7. Winner of the 20-lap classic was Sharon Marriott – causing the term ‘Queen of the Scene’ to be used instead of the customary ‘King of the Wings’. Following Sharon across the line were John Krikke, Ian Bradford and Ron Krikke.
In 1989-90 it was the Geraldton youngster Mark Wells who led home Shane Murphy, Ron Krikke and Lee Foster. A year later (1990-91) Shane Murphy added his name to the ‘Honour Board’ when he scored the win over Ron Krikke, Allan McCarthy and Sharon Marriott.
The tenth running of the ‘King of the Wings’ attracted a classy field to the Claremont bowl and it was the legendary Sydneysider Garry Rush who triumphed in the 1991-92 event over Mark Wells, Max Dumesny (NSW) and Jeff Leisk.
The 1992-93 event saw Mark Wells head Garry Rush, the current Australian titleholder Ron Krikke and Jeff Leisk. Ten-times Australian Sprintcar Champion Garry Rush lowered the 20lap record to 5:07.67 when he beat Mark Wells, and Ron Krikke in the 1993-94 event.
Another Sydneysider Brooke Tatnell was successful in 1994-95 as he knocked the 25-lap record down to 6:19.07 when he scored over Shane Krikke, Ryan Farrell and John Krikke.
Another washout occurred during the summer of 1995-96 – the original Friday March 22 date replaced by a Monday night show on March 25. This time it was the great Garry Rush who triumphed – joining Lee Foster as a three-times victor of the annual west coast classic.
The 1996-97 event was a very emotional affair, being held a week after the tragic deaths of Daryl and Jason Krikke in a car accident on their home to Bunbury after the Speedway. Shane Murphy took out the event from American Kenny Jacobs, Gavin Migro and Garry Rush.
In 1997-98 the weather intervened again, with the race being moved from Friday March 20 to Monday March 23. And the winner was Ron Krikke – driving the #95 Maxim ‘For the Boys’ – as he downed American Randy Hannagan, Trevor Green (SA) and Ryan Farrell.
In 1998-99 Randy Hannagan triumphed over Pino Priolo, Ryan Farrell and Ron Krikke. As part of the ‘End of an Era’ season at the historic Claremont Speedway (1999-2000) we saw the talented youngster Jamie Maiolo prove too strong for Ryan Farrell, Pino Priolo and Grant Bevan.
At the first running of the ‘King of the Wings’ here at the Perth Motorplex (2000-01) it was Robbie Farr (NSW) piloting the Monte Motorsport #15 entry who finished in front of Michael Figliomeni, current Australian titleholder Skip Jackson and Max Dumesny.
A year later we saw Michael Figliomeni in command over Aussie champ Max Dumesny, Ken Sartori and Gavin Migro. There were some very
emotional scenes in ‘victory lane’ for the 200203 event as American star Paul McMahan triumphed over Robbie Farr and Luch Monte. McMahan was piloting a Monte Motorsport entry in the race which remembered the late Michael Nanovich, a former sponsor and great mate of the entire Monte Motorsport operation.
In 2003-04 we saw the current Australian Champ Robbie Farr pilot the Shane Krikke Motorsport entry to victory over Jamie Maiolo and Luch Monte. A year later Farr repeated the victory when he drove the Titan Garages entry into “victory lane” ahead of Max Dumesny, Phil March and Jeff Leisk.
The 2005-06 edition of the prestigious event saw the likeable American Dean Jacobs take the honours ahead of Ken Sartori, Farr (back in the Krikke entry) and Cameron Gessner. The following summer it was Sydney star Kerry Madsen aboard the Jeff Leisk owned car who triumphed over American Shane Stewart, Ryan Farrell and Farr. The 2007-08 version saw Robbie Farr snare his fourth victory in the annual west coast classic when he led home Luch Monte, Kerry Madsen and Ryan Farrell.
The popular “Geraldton Jet” Mark Wells took his third victory in the annual classic during the 2008-09 season over Ryan Farrell, American Tim Shaffer and Robbie Farr. In the 2009-10 event we saw Brooke Tatnell down Kerry Madsen, Jason Johnson (USA) and Steven Lines while Jamie Maiolo led home Kerry Madsen, Ben Ellement and Ken Sartori in the 2010-11 race.
The “King” in the 2011-12 shootout was Ken Sartori, piloting the #41 Cowara Motorsport car that was later driven by Cameron Gessner. Rookie driver Lee Nash finished second ahead of David Priolo, Jason Kendrick and Mark Wells.
In the 2012-13 event we saw Ryan Farrell triumph over Jamie Maiolo, Ben Ellement, Wells and Lee Nash. A year later the “King” was Luke Dillon – the South Aussie star leading all the way over Jamie Maiolo and Brad Maiolo.
Cameron Gessner added his name to the illustrious “Honour Board” in the 2015-16 event. David Priolo suffered front end damage at the yellow, allowing Gessner to take the win with Brooke Tatnell back in third spot.
In 2016-17 Brad Maiolo rounded elder brother Jamie for the win with Ben Ellement back in third. Twelve months on we saw Brad Maiolo notch back-to-back victories in the KOW Classic – only the fourth driver to do so – when he downed Jamie Maiolo and Lee Nash.
The 2017-18 event went to Monte Motorsport team driver James McFadden over Shaun Bradford and Brad Maiolo, while last season Jamie Maiolo scored a narrow victory from Jason Kendrick and Andrew Priolo, his third in the race.
Just one former winner is in the field this weekend (Luke Dillon). Can he claim the win once again or will we see new name atop the throne?