Top honours for a life of dedication

HONOURED: Bill Barrows received his induction into the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame for his tireless efforts over the years with speedway racing. Pictures: THOMAS MILES

By Trevor Jackson

THE Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last week was special for many reasons.

For one Mount Gambier resident it was a bit more special than others, with a surprise that paid tribute to his tireless work for speedway racing in Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

Bill Barrows OAM received the honour at the Melbourne Grand Prix, inducted by the legendary Dick Johnson.

It was something Barrows said he had not seen coming.

“It blew me away,” he told The Border Watch this week.

“It was the last thing I would have thought about … I didn’t even know it existed.”

Barrows said he was blown away to stand up alongside other dignitaries who have made their names in varying forms of motorsport around the country.

“You stand up there and think it is something pretty special,” he said.

“You don’t go looking for that sort of thing, but you understand the reality of it.

“The people who are in the Hall of Fame are probably more strong competitors, have won titles, where I was around that end of it when I was racing, but I have done other things too.”

The honour comes on the back of several achievements in the sport directly and since his retirement from racing.

Barrows was named South Australian driver of the year in 1978, then speedway sportsman of the year in 1980 and 1981.

He was awarded a bravery medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for the rescue of a driver from a burning car in 1991.

Barrows was inducted into the National Sprintcar Hall of Fame in Knoxville, USA for outstanding contribution to the sport in 1995.

He was named official/volunteer of the year at the Australian Speedway awards in 2018, inducted into the Australian Speedway Hall of Fame in 2019 and was awarded an OAM in the King’s Birthday Honours for service to motorsport in 2023.

Along the way Barrows was instrumental in the formation of Speedway Australia in its current form, helping to unite the Australian Saloon Car Federation and the National Association of Speedway Racing.

Of course add to that his runner-up effort in the 1981 Australian title, several South Australian and Victorian title wins and podium finishes at the Warrnambool Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic and Barrows’ competitive nature was in no doubt.

It is certainly a long list of achievements, but in what is typical of Barrows’ style, he always considers he was just a part of the movement which improved the sport.

Back in the day there was the usual in-fighting between certain groups involved in speedway racing.

Barrows helped bring those people together for the greater good of the sport and World Series Sprintcars was an off-shoot of that.

“With World Series Sprintcars, I was involved in a more minor way,” he said.

“I got all the people together to talk, attended meetings around Australia and it all came together eventually.

“What I did at a promoters conference, was suggested they get their heads together and come up with some ideas, then those guys put things together.

“If I hadn’t got off my bum they might not have done anything.

“That probably is the best thing I achieved.

“I am proud of that.”

Back in his racing days, which included Hot Rods and Super Modifieds, the forerunners of Sprintcars, Barrows was a feared competitor, but again, played his role down.

“I was having fun, I enjoyed it and I probably didn’t take it seriously enough,” he said.

“I look at some of the blokes who were totally switched onto what they were doing, but I was just having fun.

“There were a lot of nice cars back then and we tried to present ours as well as we could.”

One other part of Barrows’ life is the passion for speedway racing, which to this day has not waned.

He still prepares the Borderline Speedway racing surface with his crew and is involved wherever the need arises.

“My passion has never waned and the day it does, I will walk away,” he said.

“We just do it as good as we can.”