The release of ‘Driven to Drive’ recently sparked my interest. As a fan of all things motorsports, and aware of just how successful Leigh Adams was as a speedway rider, it was always something I knew was going to be insightful to watch. I wanted to share this film with Mildura Weekly readers, but knew there would be someone more knowledgeable on the subject. So I asked WADE AUNGER to contribute this piece. Conveniently, in his humbleness that is typical, Wade forgot to mention he co-produced, shot and wrote the documentary. Here he gives you an insight as to what to expect from ‘Driven to Drive’. – ZOEY ANDREWS

A FILM starring Mildura speedway legend Leigh Adams is drawing international acclaim.

The documentary “Leigh Adams Driven to Drive”, which was filmed in Mildura and produced in Bendigo by Sunraysia bred producer Daniel Dea, was a last minute decision to showcase a bucket list situation.

Leigh Adams spent more than 20 years racing at the top of international speedway riding all over the world achieving individual and team honours that saw him earn a reputation as one of the sport’s greatest ever riders.

For a scrawny kid who spent his time riding around the fruit blocks of Mildura on his modest dirt bike Adams built an elite dream career that saw him travel the world competing in front of crowds of 50,000 and upwards.

“I don’t remember actually making a conscious decision to race overseas,” Leigh recalls.

“I was a kid racing down here at Olympic Park Speedway against my hero Phil Crump and that was all I thought about to begin with.

“That was enough at the time.”

For the then 16-year-old the rest of the speedway planet would soon come calling and initially in England Adams would begin forging a career as one of Australia’s best.

“It all just began happening as a sequence,” he explained.

“I started off in England and then you start branching off into other parts of the world in Europe riding individually and for teams. Suddenly you look up and you’ve added a lot of incredible places that you raced.

“At the time it was just race, race, race.

“You never gave it much more thought than that.”

As the miles added up so did the distinctions however both internationally and at home.

“I always made a point of coming home and racing,” he said.

“Many of the Aussies racing overseas were ready to come back home and take some time off but I felt like I owed the people who helped me get there, whether that was family, sponsors, fans or even the grader driver.

“And the Mildura Motorcycle Club where it all began.”

That dedication to race ‘at home’ in Australia would see Leigh collect an unprecedented 10 Australian Championship wins – a record to this day that will probably never be beaten.

Adams would always return to the cold weather in Europe each year however and build on his commitments and reputation.

He won eight “Speedway Grand Prix” rounds and was runner up in the World Championship in 2007.

In a career spanning over two decades he would go on to ride in Italy, the UK, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Denmark, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Finland, Norway, France.

“Everything is so close,” he explained.

“With the exception of some remote locations in Russia we rode in most countries are a car or short plane ride away.

“The list adds up when you look back on it though I guess.”

He was a member of the 2001 and 2002 World Team Cup winning line-up, a World Under 21 Champion and won the prestigious Golden Helmet in Czech Republic 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004.

His career in Poland in particular riding loyally for the giant Unia Leszno Club was a rock star life where he was celebrated like a God in many parts of the country.

Now forty years of age he decided it was time to retire and come home to Australia where he and wife Kylie and children Declan and Casey could see some of the country, slow down and do some travelling.

It was also the chance for Leigh to tick off a bucket list and ride in the gruelling Finke Desert Race in the Northern Territory.

History will show that life took a dramatic change in 2011 when Leigh crashed in practice and was tragically paralysed confining him to a wheelchair.

The accident changed his entire life, and also seemingly took off the table another bucket list item.

Leigh had always harboured a dream of racing a nine hundred horsepower speedway sprintcar.

“I’d wanted to drive a sprintcar since the first time I saw them,” he said.

“Their power and speed is just insane.

“The timing for me in Australia had never worked out to drive one and now being paralysed (with no real mobility in his legs) meant the idea of doing that was nearly impossible.”

A family in Bendigo had other ideas though.

Ten years after his crash at Finke, father and son Darren and Rusty Hickman reconfigured Rusty’s Sprintcar with hand controls to allow Leigh to finally take the wheel and do some laps around his local Timmis Speedway here in Mildura.

“I can’t tell you what that experience was like,” Leigh smiled.

“To finally achieve that dream.

“The Hickmans took the dis out of disability.

“They just made it happen.

“I’ll never be able to repay them for the life experience they provided.”

It was decided, only days out before the drive, to document the experience on film.

Mildura bred Bendigo based Daniel Dea was brought to co-shoot and produce a documentary from scratch.

‘Leigh Adams Driven to Drive’ is an emotional movie that covers his speedway career, his accident and subsequent rehabilitation, and him finally taking the wheel of a sprintcar on the ten year anniversary of the Finke crash.

“Looking back on it I’m so glad we filmed it,” Leigh said.

“The footage is there forever now and I’m really proud of how it came together.”

The film has been shown at two premieres so far – one in Coomealla and one in Warrnambool – and will begin to air on Fox Sports in April.

It is currently available through the Methanol Moonshine website.

Fans and critics throughout the world have embraced the film which has now enabled them to look back on Adams’ stellar international career and also get a rare insight into his rehab and life since international Speedway.

“I never understood what he’d gone through and what driving a Sprintcar really meant to him,” said Warrnambool Classic and established Aussie Sprintcar superstar Corey McCullagh.

“I have so much respect for Leigh and the Hickman family for what they did for Leigh.

“It’s a fantastic movie.”

Darren Hickman, Leigh Adams and Rusty Hickman. Photos: WADE AUNGER

Leigh with the modified sprintcar.