Billy Wood will defend his National Hot Rod World Championship at the Foxhall Heath Stadium this weekend as part of the 2019 Ipswich Spedeweekend.
Wood took his first major National Hot Rod title at Spedeweekend last year when long-time race leader Glenn Bell hit mechanical problems with just a few laps to go. Wood seized the opportunity with both hands to swoop around the outside of the unfortunate Northern Irishman as he slowed to retirement.
It wasn’t all pain sailing for the eventual World Champion though who had to hold off John Christie, Rob McDonald and Chris Haird in the closing stages. Wood eventually gapped them to claim victory in a dramatic and enthralling World Final race.
Wood is excited and confident ahead of his world title defence this weekend and is fighting to retain the gold roof that he has worn with pride throughout the 2018/2019 campaign.
“It’s been quite good to be the World Champion,” said Wood. “I’d say more fan wise, the racing doesn’t make much difference – obviously with the Nationals you’re still starting in the red grade and its reverse grid so it’s not like any other formula where the World Champion is the last car off the back of the grid for every race apart from the Final.
“It’s been nice to give stuff back to the fans and to the kids because they want to come and have pictures with the car and myself. And there’s also probably been more respect from the other drivers knowing that we now have got the pace to try and win.”
Looking back at last year’s triumph, Wood admitted him, and his team went into the race with the mind-set of ‘if we’re going to win, we’re going to win.’
“We all end up putting so much pressure on ourselves, year in year out,” said Wood. “People try and make the car better and put more stuff on it, and then you end up missing the silly little bits – and that’s why people end up getting so depressed after a World Final race.
“You’ve put so much time and effort in to win, when you actually can’t win, it depresses you.
“I knew Glenn (Bell) had very, very good pace, every driver was disillusioned as they didn’t know what the tyres were going to be like so my main aim was to get the first five laps out of the way and stay clear of any damage, then I could get my head down and focus on the rest of the race.”
Aside from his World Final victory, it’s been another great season for Wood with victory in the National Championship at the Hednesford Hills Raceway last August before finishing fourth in the English points campaign this season.
Wood admitted that even though the gold is the one everyone wants to win, the victory in the National Championship meant a lot more.
Wood said: “We managed to set the fastest lap on the Friday and had some wins on the Saturday which placed us on pole on the Sunday, and from there we managed to dictate the race, winning from flag-to-flag.”
Wood faces some stern competition for the gold this weekend with the United Kingdom’s, Europe’s and South Africa’s finest Hot Rod drivers all competing to be crowned World Champion.
“All the drivers are threats,” admitted Wood. “They’ve all qualified, it is the same regular drivers who you know are in for a good shout, but it’s all about who brings their game on the day. It would be horrible to name some people in case I missed someone, but it’s never an easy race.”
The lap trials to determine the grid takes place on Saturday morning before the 75-lap World Final race on Sunday, kicking off at high noon.
You can listen to the rest of Billy Wood’s interview later this week as part of our 2019 Spedeweekend preview podcast.
By Jordan Hollands.