Running Australia’s oldest stunt team is still a major attraction.
It’s been a part of our culture for half a century, a staple at motor shows, agricultural shows and major sporting events. In its various guises, the Isuzu Team D-Max precision driving team – formerly, for 31 years, the Holden Precision Driving Team – is a yumpin’, slidin’, two-wheeling automotive institution.
All of which might also describe its limelight-shunning ringmaster, Wayne Boatwright.
Australia’s favourite stunt team celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, sort of. In 1966, the Canadian Hell Drivers paid a visit to Fishermans Bend, performing a bunch of synchronised driving stunts in new EK Holdens. This prompted Brisbane teenager Lloyd Robertson, who’d been developing an amateur stunt team with some mates, to approach local Holden dealers about forming a team to showcase the new HK Monaro.
The Holden Precision Driving Team developed rapidly, performing ever more challenging tricks within centimetres of each other. The shows enjoyed a huge following in rural areas, and whenever the country came to town, such as to the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Robertson retired in 2006 and two years later Boatwright and business partner Scott Anderson took it on. In the mid-1970s, barely into his teens, Boatwright was a star on the Sydney minibike racing scene. When a local police chief formed a minibike demonstration team using Honda XR-75s, Boatwright was its lead rider. “Yeah”, he laughs today, “I guess I’ve come full circle.”
He moved from top-level motocross and dirt circuit to karting, then Formula Fords, winning the NSW championship three times in the early 1990s. Racing a production Subaru WRX led to Boatwright and Anderson initiating the Toyo Drift Australia Series in 2005 and the subsequent CAMS-sanctioned Australian Drifting Championship.
Purchasing the precision driving business at the end of 2008, Boatwright secured Toyota as title sponsor (the ‘Hilux Heroes’), switching to Isuzu Ute in 2013. The team’s core stable of seven drivers include Jack Monkhouse, an established rally and drift driver, and precision team veterans Dave Shannon (who joined 35 years ago) and Paul Goodwin (20 years).
“We recruit by invitation only,” Boatwright says. “They obviously need to be accomplished drivers, often from a rally background because they’re familiar with the varying surfaces. But we have had some notable circuit racers.”
How busy are they? “Isuzu Utes Team D-Max does 25-30 shows a year. That ranges from capital city to small country agricultural shows, camping and caravan shows, 4WD shows to major motorsport events like the V8 Supercars at Homebush.” As well as the precision driving display, passenger rides on two wheels are increasingly popular.
A couple of years back, Boatwright introduced the Iron Summit, a portable, 100 percent incline billed as the steepest 4WD ramp in the world. “We’d had people asking us to do shows, but unless they had a major arena, we had to say no. So we developed the Isuzu Ute Iron Summit, which we can run in a space 35m by 8m.”
The team ends its weekends with some strange leftovers. “I could show you truckloads of tyres with one sidewall worn out – and the stickers still on the treads...”
Wayne Boatwright is at the wheel of Australia’s legendary precision driving team; not so often at the wheel of an Isuzu Ute stunt car. “I manage relationships, take bookings… The last time I tried driving on two wheels was about three years ago. I finally made a reasonable go of it. But I certainly wouldn’t give me a job in the show.”