Leyburn Heroes On & Off The Race Track

February 19,  2024

Family and friends of the Historic Leyburn Sprints this week are celebrating major achievements by two personalities closely connected with the event.

At Mount Panorama last Sunday, Warwick-born prodigy-turned-international-driving superstar Matt Campbell won one of the world’s most prestigious sports car endurance races, the Bathurst 12-Hour. Campbell won also in 2019.

And meanwhile Leyburn local Steve Kirby has been awarded for his bravery in rescuing a junior driver from a blazing race car. Accompanied by his wife Tracy, Steve received the Donald Thompson Award at the annual Motorsport Australia champions presentation gala in Melbourne.

Early in his racing career, Campbell, now 29, won the Sprints Rookie of the Year award. He last competed on the closed-street course at the wheel of an Asp single-seater in 2015, when he was already on track to becoming a Porsche rising star.

He’s now a member of the elite squad of drivers employed by the German factory. Assigned to the prestigious American Team Penske, he recently won the 24 Hours of Daytona, Florida, with three co-drivers.

At Bathurst, the Porsche 911 of Campbell and his two co-drivers overcame the challenges of an official penalty, heavy rain, race strategy and a field of the world’s best grand touring sports cars and drivers to take a famous win.

The former apprentice chippy, who cut his teeth at Morgan Park Raceway in a variety of cars including a humble Datsun, now ranks among the best professional drivers in world motorsport.

“We’re super-proud that Matt, a graduate not so long ago of our grassroots event at Leyburn, has already won the Bathurst 12-Hour and Daytona 24-Hour this year and is a Porsche factory driver,” Mrs Chant said.

Steve Kirby’s career might not have taken him as far, but the Leyburn resident and Sprints competitor and volunteer official is known widely in Queensland motor-racing circles.

He earned his Motorsport Australia award – for performing an “act of courage and selflessness under unique circumstances” – for his role in rescuing young Hyundai driver Stevie Chant from her burning Hyundai Excel at Queensland Raceway last April.

Chant’s car had rolled at the high-speed Turn One and collided with a second Hyundai as it burst into flames.

Stevie, niece of Historic Leyburn Sprints President Tricia Chant, was lucky to escape the violent crash.

“We witnessed the crash from the sidelines and there is no doubt in our mind that he saved her life, so we are forever grateful,” Tricia Chant said.

The Sprints will return for the 28th year on 17-18 August, when it will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Leyburn 1949 Australian Grand Prix.