SPEDEWORTH driver Billy Wood of Aldershot has claimed the National Hot Rods world title.

Billy, the son of Spedeworth owner and new Aldershot Town FC director Deane Wood, is based at Spedeworth’s HQ on Hollybush Lane and won a thrilling final at Ipswich’s Foxhall Stadium.

Starting fourth on the grid in his custom-built fibreglass-bodied car emblazoned with the name of Aldershot Town, Wood beat two former world champions into second and third place.

The ‘Spedeweekend’ attracts drivers from Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Germany, Belgium and South Africa, and is the biggest date in the oval racing calendar.

“It’s a nice achievement,” said a modest Billy, whose two sons, aged eight and ten, have also taken up the sport. “I’ve been trying to reach number one for 21 years and we’ve finally done it. It’s been overwhelming and we never expected it to be this big. I started when I was 11 and it’s just been a case of keep pushing and keep driving.

“Hopefully it gives a little bit of inspiration back to Aldershot. I’m very proud to represent the town, we’ve always lived in the area, and I hope it gives everyone a little lift around here.”

Wood was well placed throughout the race and took full advantage of the mechanical problems which beset other drivers in the closing stages.

“I started fourth on the grid, and that was my best ever position. It was really just about being calm and collected, and it went my way in the final few laps when the leaders started having issues.”

The keys to his success? “Keeping cool, keeping the car going well, and not making any silly mistakes,” he replied. “It’s so critical and one mistake could drop you down the grid.”

A sell-out crowd of 10,000 cheered Wood to victory in Suffolk, illustrating the pulling-power of a sport which has a long and proud history in North-East Hampshire, first at Tongham’s Aldershot Stadium and now Aldershot Raceway at Rushmoor Arena.

“It’s a big sport, very big, especially to us,” said Billy, who sees its potential beyond mere motorsport. “It’s one of the most competitive sports going, and especially in my race – there was half-a-second between all 34 drivers on the grid, it was that close. And there are people coming from all around the world to watch. It’s a sport that has to be seen and we need to encourage more people to get involved.

“For youngsters, instead of hanging around on the streets, they can go and play football or race stock cars. It gives them something to achieve.”