Q & A with National Junior Sedan Champion Mitchell Baker

by | Apr 11, 2020 | SSA Junior Sedans

Author- Allan Smallwood SSA Media

Geraldton’s Mitchell Baker won a thrilling SSA National Junior Sedan Title at the Make Smoking History Collie Speedway back in January in what was a memorable weekend for Speedway Sedan racing.

Speedway Sedans Australia Media Liaison Representative Allan Smallwood (Smalle) recently caught up with the National Champion to discuss his title win plus his plans for the future.

Smalle- Well Mitch we are three months on from your win in the 2019/2020 Moyle Engines & Race Parts SSA National Junior Sedan Title has what you achieved actually sunk in yet?

Mitch- I think it has only just begun to sink in! It was an awesome weekend and I think it was the best driving I’ve ever done and I’ll never forget it.

Smalle- Talk us through the weekend, you seemed to have a lot of confidence in the car from the start of the title?

Mitch- Yeah we had been to Collie for two of their local meetings before the National Title to get a good set up and to get a feel for the car as it was nearly brand new and a front wheel drive. It was a bit tricky for us to get right because it was so different to my Datsun Sunny which is rear wheel drive, there was a lot of learning to do before we went to the National and State Titles.

We had a good set up after the second time we went to Collie and we didn’t change much to the car during the National Title weekend. We ended up 5th quickest during Friday’s official practice and finished with two wins and a third after the first night of racing which put us second on points.

I also set the fastest time of the first night which was great and gave me a lot of confidence going into the final night. My last heat was the hardest starting from 10th with six cars from the top ten in points after the first night in the race with me, the aim was to just conserve the car at this point. I finished seventh which put me out of sixth in the A main, which was my first goal achieved.

Then in the A Main I made my way up to fourth on the first lap and into third after about twelve laps then I was fighting for second with Brody Day before the restart.

My second goal was to finish the race and take any opportunities when they arose and then I had the chance to get into the lead. I was excited and I knew there was only three laps left so I was concentrating on keeping my line.

When the chequered flag dropped I was so excited, my third goal was to finish in the top five and I had exceeded my goal.
Once all the celebrating was over and I watched the race again I felt bad for Brandon (Buszan) who lead most of the race then dropped back to fifth. I had to take the opportunities that came my way or someone else would have.

Mitchell Baker after winning the 2019/2020 SSA National Junior Sedan Title at the Make Smoking History Collie Speedway, Image by Blake Jones Photography

Smalle- Your family team built the Hyundai Excel just prior to the National Title, talk us through the build and the motivation in building the car.

Mitch- At the time we found out the National Title was going to be in Western Australia we had just competed in the WA Title in Albany in January 2019. I raced the Datsun in the State Title and it just wasn’t quite fast enough against the EFI cars, so we decided to build a Hyundai Excel to compete in this meeting and my last two seasons in SSA Junior Sedans.

We got a roller in early February 2019 and I pulled it apart and we ordered a roll cage from Redline Roll Cages and a wiring harness from Craig’s Wiring Loom’s and we started doing all the fabrication work to the car.

We built our first engine for the car and then got a new motor built by Moyle Race Engines just prior to the National Title. We did most of the work to the car ourselves which we are pretty proud of and it wouldn’t of happened if not for Dad and Ashley’s work in the shed.

The build took longer than we thought as Dad and Ashley competed in the SSA Production Sedans WA State Title at Ellenbrook in April 2019 and I was still racing in the Datsun. We finished the car in late August, I raced the car at home in Geraldton mainly along with those two shows at Collie and at Ellenbrook before the National Title.

Smalle- Since winning the National Title you contested a few big shows including the SSA Junior Sedans WA State Title, talk us through how that has all gone?

Mitch- We stayed in Collie after the National Title and fixed the car ready for the State Title at Narrogin. We had a good practice session on the Friday afternoon ending up 3rd quick then during the first nights racing I won a heat and had a few mid pack finishes.

We made a lot of changes to the car for the final night and ended up third in our last heat which put us out of 12th for the A main. We had problems with the gear box all weekend with oil coming out of the breather and on the first start and a re-start it would not go into third gear so I ended up finishing in 8th.

A few weeks later I competed in the JSRA Australasian Challenge at the Perth Motorplex where I finished the A Main in third place.

Smalle- Your brother Ashley has been racing in SSA Production Sedans for a couple of season along with dabbling in SSA Modified Sedans of late, what are your plans once you graduate into the senior ranks?

Mitch- My plan is to start racing Dad’s Production Sedan after Junior Sedans but I don’t know what he thinks about that! (chuckles). It would be good if I built my own car for Production Sedans so all three of us could race together. My dream car to race after Junior Sedans would be a Modified Sedan.

Smalle- Tell us about where your family started in the sport in Shark Bay with your dad racing and the influence long time competitor John Purser has had on the family race team?

Mitch- Dad (Richard) and Mum (Tash) met and lived in Shark Bay (900kms North of Perth) in the 1990’s through to 2012.

Dad met John when he first moved to Shark Bay in 1989. John was racing a Super Sedan at the time and Dad had never raced a speedway car before he met John, but had raced Motorcross in Perth from when he was 9 so he had racing in his blood.

John put Dad onto a three hundred dollar XW Ford Falcon Street Stock to race which he campaigned for a while before progressing to a Holden Torana Modified Sedan. In 1993 Dad went to work for John and Lynn at the Shark Bay Fuel & Service Centre in the workshop. Later that year John and Dad built a VC Holden Commodore Modified Sedan for the National Title that was being held at Bunbury in late January 1994.

John raced the Car at the National Title before winning the State Title a few weeks later over at Narrogin. John continued to race his Super Sedan and Modified Sedan for a couple of years after that before building a VN EFI Modified Sedan which was the first one in Western Australia. Dad was number 11 and John number 9 raced Modified Sedans all over the state for many years.

Although I was not around for most of these events we have lots of photos and videos of the cars and the racing from that time. One of the first race meetings I attended although I was a bit young to remember (3 months old) was the SSA Modified Sedan National Title at Albany in 2004. Dad’s Commodore and Johns Monaro (the first Monaro built for SSA Modified Sedans) at the time where both yellow so that’s where the bright yellow cars come from.

Ashley took dads number when he started racing Junior Sedans and when I was ready to start John had just retired from a long career in Modified Sedans so I thought it would be a good number to use. John Purser and Lynn Purser have helped our family and me a lot with our racing over the years.

Smalle- Do you plan on defending the SSA National Junior Sedan Title in Canberra next January?

Mitch- Yes, we have been planning to go to Canberra we just hope this virus goes away before then.

Smalle- How frustrating has this break from Speedway been?

Mitch- I’m starting to really miss Speedway but on the bright side I’ve been doing stuff in the shed to other cars we have and things we haven’t had time to do. I have been playing a bit more IRacing now speedway is cancelled but can’t wait to get back on the track for real!

Smalle- Who are the people you would like to thank for supporting your racing?

Mitch- Biggest thank you to my Mum and Dad without them this wouldn’t happen. My brother Ashley for letting me use his trailer and helping with my car along my other family, all my friends who have helped us.

Thanks to all my sponsors,
John and Lynn @ Western Regional Towing
Hayden @ Thomas Designs
Janice and Craig @ Stock Yard Stock Supplies
CJ and Bradley @ Craig’s Racing Wiring Looms
Mark Beaver @ Universal Wreckers
Thanks to other people that helped
Warren Bishop @ Sonic Cut
Geoff Haggy @ Williams Mufflers and Brakes
Beau Riley and Felicity Nelson
Jason and Brian @ Moyle Race Engines
Vic and the team @ TyrePower Geraldton

Thank you
Mitch Baker