Need for speed drives David Roberts

ROCKET: Speedster David Roberts with his methanol-fuelled 450cc dragster.  Picture: Johnathan Carroll
ROCKET: Speedster David Roberts with his methanol-fuelled 450cc dragster. Picture: Johnathan Carroll

 DAVID Roberts will not be allowed to drive a car on the road for another two years but that does not stop him travelling 140km/h every other weekend  in pursuit of a national title. 

The 14-year-old from Wallsend is leading the top class of the 10-round Junior Dragster Australia series.

Roberts was runner-up in the A-class at last weekend’s third round in Adelaide and has a 60-point lead.

He competes against drivers as old as 17 in cars which are limited to cover an eighth of a mile (201.168metres) in 7.9seconds, reaching speeds of about 140km/h.

The B-class are restricted to cover the distance in 8.5seconds (about 120km/h) and C-class 11.9 seconds (about 80km/h).

The cars are modified to stay within the standards.

Roberts was actually relegated to second in Adelaide because his methanol-fuelled 450cc, 36-horse-power car went too fast.

Roberts was introduced to the sport by his father, Brett Roberts, who competed in drag racing in the 1980s.

A year 9 student at the Wallsend Campus of Callaghan College, Roberts is now in his fourth season of racing and has no plans of slowing down.

‘‘I like the speed and I’ve always loved cars.  I like working with dad on the car as well, making sure everything goes to plan,’’ he said.

Roberts has not had an accident and his father said all cars were  fitted with   safety measures, including neck braces and five-point harnesses.

He said driving dragsters was a lot harder than it looked.

‘‘Everyone just thinks it’s easy, but it just isn’t You need to have really good reactions off the line.’’

 Dealing with wind and accelerating with the right power were also factors.

Roberts won the NSW title, raced over seven rounds, last year and is now focusing on the national series.

His state championship defence starts next month and he will be racing almost every second week across the country to chase both titles.

‘‘After I won the state title, we thought we’d like to have a go at getting the whole national championship,’’ he said.

He is off to a flying start after winning the first round in Sydney, making the semi-finals in Portland, Victoria, and the final in Adelaide.

Long-term, Roberts wants to take his racing to another gear.

‘‘The level I want to go in is probably a turbo-charged dragster when I’m older.’’

As for what his friends think of his sport, Roberts said: ‘‘They didn’t think too much of it when I wasn’t going as good ... but now I’m winning titles they do.’’