Strong emotions rose to the surface as Rob “Wacka” Stevens watched his restored classic Holden take to the speedway track 27 years after his last race.  

Wacka and his partner Jenny Lemar have run the not-for-profit Sunline Speedway, just outside Waikerie in South Australia’s Riverland, for almost 25 years, and the April meeting was one neither of them will forget in a hurry.

Leading up to the event on Saturday night, it was hoped Wacka, who started racing 60 years ago, would be able to get behind the wheel of his Holden HQ one last time.

However, the racing enthusiast’s health has declined in the past six months due to prostate cancer that has spread to his bones, leaving him mostly bedridden.

But that didn’t stop Wacka watching via livestream as his friend Darren Allen took his beloved number 88 for a spin on the weekend.

The restored Holden HQ classic super sedan hit the Sunline Speedway track on Saturday night.(Supplied: Terrysproshots Photography)

“It was great to see the car out there,” Wacka said.

“Hopefully I get to see it a few more times.”

A handy friend to have

Mr Allen began restoring the Holden to its former glory in 2022, slowly making trips from his home in Mildura and adding parts every time he visited.

“It’s been a bare chassis sitting in the paddock, and we knew that Wacka wasn’t well and he wasn’t getting any better,” he said.

“There was time to restore it back to how it was so he could see it again, and everyone else could keep seeing it for the next 50 years.

“Because I live so far away, it was hard to come over and get enough time, so we took it back home just before Christmas and spent six weeks solid to get it where it is.

“It was like having a jigsaw puzzle, but you didn’t have the picture and you were missing about 50 pieces.”

Darren Allen says it was a privilege to restore and drive the Holden classic super sedan.(Supplied: Terrysproshots Photography)

Ms Lemar said watching the restoration process had been emotional.

“They worked like troopers to get it going — there was a team of them up there … and if they needed something, they rang Wacka,” she said.

“Robbie [Wacka] spent a full day on the car [in Mildura], and he was in his glory up there helping with it.”

Jenny Lemar and Darren Allen, with a cutout of Wacka that takes pride of place at the speedway.(ABC News: Elyse Armanini)

Short but sweet speedway return

The Holden ran into some trouble halfway through Saturday’s meeting and had to retire early, but Mr Allen said it didn’t take away from being able to get behind the wheel.

“It’s a privilege, really — it’s just a pretty special thing to be able to build it and get it back out there for everyone to see,” he said.

“I hope Wacka enjoys it as much as what the rest of us do.”

An award of appreciation was recently presented to Wacka for his contribution to the speedway.(ABC News: Elyse Armanini)

The restored car was on show in February at the first Sunline meeting of the year.

“It’s excellent — it’s better now than what it was when I was racing it,” Wacka said.

Legacy to continue

Mr Allen said while the car was his to look after and continue working on, it would always be Wacka’s.

“I’m going to look after it, and hopefully it’s around in 50 years’ time and the Wacka name will still be going around,” Mr Allen said.

Rob “Wacka” Stevens in his Holden HQ Monaro during his last race in 1997.(Supplied: Paris Charles)

Thinking about his pride and joy restored for all to see long after he was gone brought a tear to Wacka’s eye.

“It’s a credit to Darren and I’m glad he had the chance to drive it,” he said.

“I’m sure he’ll look after it, and treat it with the care it deserves.”

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