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One-Eyed Racer

If there was an award for the standout performer across the AMRS’ first two rounds, one driver would be an absolute walk-up start for the accolade.

With healthy fields and close racing between evenly-matched cars, the Legend Cars Australia Series is rapidly establishing itself as a fan-favourite category. And yet, the race winner list for 2018 has just one name on it: James Burge.

With wins in all 10 races held at Winton and Mallala, Burge’s winning streak is no mean feat considering two of those races featured a full reverse-grid format, but there’s another factor that makes his accomplishments even more impressive: Burge can only see out of his left eye.

The monocular vision, caused by persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV), has affected Burge since he was 18 months old, but he hasn’t allowed it to hinder either his daily life or his racing career. Instead, it’s become symbolic of the absolute focus he has applied to his motorsport ambitions.

“Because I’ve lived with it most of my life, I’m used to it now and it doesn’t really affect me at all,” Burge said.

“The only thing I have to do is wear a glass eye sometimes, to ensure my skull grows evenly, but I don’t wear it on race weekends.”

He may have just turned 19 but Burge already has a wealth of experience – he started racing go-karts in the Junior National Heavy class when he was 12, and then progressed to sprint karts followed by a stint in the NSW Superkart Championship, winning the 125cc Rotax Light state championship in 2016.

“To race in the Superkarts, I had to obtain my circuit racing licence; I thought it might have been difficult with my vision, but in the end I passed the medical check with flying colours and it wasn’t an issue,” he said.

A season in the NSW Formula Ford Championship followed in 2017, Burge chalking up three race wins and finishing second in points. But he knew he had to progress to a national category to demonstrate his abilities.

“I don’t regret my time in Formula Ford because it taught me a lot about driving and race-craft, but we knew it would be expensive to step up to the national series and we assessed our options at the end of last year,” he explained.

“We found out about the Legend Car Series and there were a few things that made it really attractive for us.

“Firstly, it’s very affordable, and because it’s running as part of the AMRS, it’s professionally-run and has good exposure with the live streaming. I’ve been overwhelmed with people watching my races online and then messaging me afterwards.

“There’s also the prize of a drive in the US Legend Car Nationals for the series winner. There aren’t many national categories in Australia that offer a fully-funded overseas opportunity, so that was something that really appealed to us.”

Even after recording some promising times in pre-season testing, Burge is surprised with his Legend Car results so far.

“After testing, we thought we would be competitive but I certainly didn’t expect to win the first 10 races, especially against drivers like Brendan Hourigan and Mick Hebditch who have more experience in the cars,” he said.

“I was talking to Brendan at Mallala, and we were discussing driving technique for the Legend Cars – they’re very different to anything else. They have no sway bar so you set them up very stiffly, and they run hard compound tyres that don’t have a lot of grip, so you have to be very careful on the throttle.”

Burge says his racing career has been supported by a small, but dedicated team of followers.

“Mum and dad have helped a lot, and I’ve also received support from businesses like Sydney Tiger Tails, Priceless Images and Racing Car Technology.

“Obviously our focus is on continuing the strong start to the season and hopefully winning the series – if I can go over to the US, it might open some other doors for me.”

And it might just broaden the vision of the Aussie motorsport industry if this one-eyed racer succeeds in his pursuits.

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