KATHERINE played host to V8 Supercar superstars Tim Slade and Lee Holdsworth on Tuesday last week, as the speed-fiends hopped off the Ghan and swapped their usual spot behind the wheel of a V8 for a sunny, sedate seat on a cruise through Nitmiluk Gorge.
The race car drivers boarded the Ghan at Adelaide on Sunday June 10, and despite a few delays trickling down from the derailment of a freight train near Tennant Creek just two days before, they made it to Katherine with enough time to see some sights.
They said the train, which travels at an average speed of 80km per hour, was a little slower than the pace they are used to, but makes a great way to see the countryside.
The pair – who both drive for Stone Brothers Racing – were headed for the weekend of V8 Supercar racing in Darwin, and had decided to take the slightly unconventional means of a train-trip to get up North.
Travelling with a film crew who were documenting Mr Slade and Mr Holdsworth’s northern odyssey for an episode of Weekend Sunrise, the racing champs enjoyed taking in the sights of the Territory’s landscape.
The two drivers soaked up some sun on the gorge cruise, took in the breathtaking rock formations, spotted a few freshwater crocs, and marvelled at the seven and eight-thousand year old rock paintings.
Mr Holdsworth said that travelling with a mate made the experience especially fun, and said they relished opportunities to hop off the train and take in what the Territory has to offer up-close.
They had enjoyed meeting drivers from a very different motor sport at the finish line of the Finke Desert race in Alice Springs where they stopped on Monday, and said they could relate to the long hours spent behind the whTeel for endurance driving.
While taking in the beautiful sights at Katherine Gorge, Mr Slade said spending time in this region was “an iconic Australian thing to do”.
Mr Holdsworth said the sight-seeing was a novel and enjoyable way to “tick some things off” their list of places to visit, but said they were also very much focused on the races ahead at Darwin.
The Ford drivers ranked sixth and seventh in the Supercars qualifying in Darwin on the weekend, before finishing the race on rank six (Slade) and ten (Holdsworth).
Defending champion Jamie Whincup notched his third win of the season in the 120km race at Hidden Valley and regained the championship lead from Ford's Will Davison in the process.