Around 2000 years ago in Rome, gladiators would battle beasts and other gladiators in front of large crowds in arenas. They would be clad with armour and shields, contesting each other with spears, swords and occasionally on chariots. Gladiators would have to kill or be killed, fighting for success and as many of them were criminals, their freedom.
Gladiator fighting was outlawed in 404 AD by Emperor Honorius. It was a brutally violent sport, used as entertainment for the rich and elite. Despite the cruelty of this inhumane sport, you can certainly marvel however at those successful gladiators for their skill and bravery, particularly as many would become leaders of armies that would go to war. It's these traits that lead me to believe gladiators are around today.
They battle on dirt and clay, riding beasts with 410 cubic inch hearts. They clash with other riders for glory, whilst battling for control over their wild creatures that have a mind of their own and a tendency to rear up, twist to inconceivable angles and throw off their rider. I'm not talking about Sparticus or Emperor Commodus, I'm talking about Sprintcar drivers.
These guys and girls are some of the most underrated drivers in motorsports, and Sprintcar racing is a diamond found in rough clay.
The recipe for this modern form of gladiator fighting is every motorsport fan's dream. These winged beasts are powered by irate 6.7 litre V8's revving to 9000rpm, with the power to weight ratio similar to a Formula One car. Despite racing on tracks that are only approximately 400 metres long, they still can reach (250kph) 160mph down the short straights.
With no clutch and just a single gear, all 900 horsepower is sent straight to the rear wheels. The rear tyres themselves are staggered, meaning the outside tyre is of larger diameter than the inside tyre, which makes the Sprintcar turn left.
Inside, that direct drive runs straight between the driver's legs, as he wrestles with the larger-than-life steering wheel to keep the beast turning left and not into the concrete.
The obnoxiously large wings provide the Sprintcar with more than its own weight in downforce (680kg) whilst the higher sideboard on the left of the car helps it turn in the corners, whilst also protecting the driver in a scary rollover.
So, a methanol injected V8, strapped to a stiff chassis with a similar wheelbase to that of a classic mini, the power to weight of a F1 car, plenty of downforce and chunky staggered tyres, you have all the ingredients for one of the craziest and perfect racecars ever.
Multiply them by ten, twenty or more and throw them into a dirt clay colosseum lined with concrete and you are now watching some extremely exciting and adrenaline inducing racing.
That's why those who strap themselves into these old school inspired racing monsters are today's gladiators. They're adrenaline junkies, fighting for track position inches from others and a thick layer of concrete, lap after lap after lap at over 100km/hr.
For teams, these cars are quite easy to set up. To fully build a Sprintcar, it takes a team 5 hours and adjustments to the wings and dampening of suspension can be done easily on the fly, in between runs.
To set the grids for the shorter heat races, drivers race against the clock, demonstrating their speed and cornering ability to the spectators. Luke Dillon would go 'Quicktime!' with a 13.061 second lap.
American gladiator Chase Randall would win his heat race in dominant fashion as Grant Anderson would become wounded in a battle with Kale Quinlan.
In between the Sprintcar action, younger drivers would take to the track in their F500's. These are smaller versions of Sprintcars with 500cc engines and much smaller rear wheels, designed to train the next generation of Sprintcar drivers from a young age.
Although nowhere near as powerful, the racing is just as fierce, they look glued to the dirt, riding on rails as they shoot into the left turns.
Heavy, twisted metal contact is also just as violent. The chariot falls to the earth, as a deafening silence falls on the colosseum. Safety in motorsports have come an extremely long way, but watching a car hit the rear of another, hop and flip upside down, landing heavily on top of the concrete and flail back down to earth will always be chilling. The silence afterwards whilst waiting for the driver to get out seems to last hours, whilst in reality, the safety crews work quickly and in minutes, the driver is standing on his own two feet, saluting to the fans.
Despite the tight competition among the next generation of Sprintcar gladiators, Kobi Wright showed his speed all night, claiming the victory in the F500 final.
Back to the full sized machines and the lower finishing drivers in the heats would battle to make to the B-Main. The top two finishes in the C-Main race would advance, starting at the back of the grid in the B-Main.
To set the grid for the A-Main Sprintcar final, drivers would run qualifying laps in the bronze, silver and gold shootouts. Be one of the two fastest in the Bronze, and you'd advance to the Silver shootout. The fastest two drivers of the Silver Shootout would then head to the Gold shootout to have a shot at starting on pole position. Grant Anderson would bounce back from his crunch in the heat race to go fastest and start from pole in the A-Main in this year's Avalon round of Sprintcar Speedweek.
The B-Main saw plenty of high-speed congestion at the back of the field, whilst Brendan Quinn ran away with the victory. Daniel Peska, Chad Ely and Cody Maroske would join Quinn to transfer to the final race of the night. The grid was set, and the gladiators were ready to do battle one final time at Avalon.
They circled the track in rows of four, a salute to the fans and those who have come before. Before the off, they form back into their rows of two and with the wave of the green cloth, the colosseum erupts.
The contest would end early for some. Just as he sacrificed the lead to Luke Dillon on lap 2, Grant Anderson would run wide into the concrete, flipping over, with Jake Smith clipping the now stricken sprint car having nowhere to go. Both their adventurous nights, over.
After the restart, drivers would get into their rhythms to finish this 35-lap race. Luke Dillon would hold the lead for a while, before McFadden would chase him down. Drivers that started from the back were making their way through the field as a battle between Randall and Veal raged on.
Lapped traffic would now play a part as James McFadden would overtake Dillon for the lead as he went around a lapped car. In doing so, he squeezed Dillon into the wall. Dillon would continue but fall back out of contention for the win. Jamie Veal would then attempt to snatch the lead off McFadden but to no avail.
There was no slowing McFadden down as he would take the victory for Round 3 of SA/VIC Speedweek. Jock Goodyer would use all of the racetrack to climb up to second in the closing stages, with Jamie Veal finishing third.