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Driving experience optional for a fender-bending teen

Nikita Amrein received her provisional driver's licence three weeks ago, but the 17-year-old's real driving test came yesterday in her first ever motor competition - the annual Demolition Derby at the Canberra Speedway.

It was a baptism of twisted metal and plenty of smoke for the P-plater, who had never raced a car and hadn't had a prang until her turn on the muddy speedway track.

''The first few hits were a bit scary but after that it was fun, it was just a big game of dodgem cars,'' she said of the experience.

Her mum's partner entered Amrein in the derby after she showed an interest when she saw one at the Canberra Show last year. He picked up an old Honda Civic from a wreckers, and the 17-year-old had the morning to get acquainted with it.

She had no problem with the gears, but found the conditions weren't quite what she was used to on the Canberra roads, and the old gold Civic ''didn't last very long''.

''It was a giant mud pit, sliding around, and the brakes didn't work because it was just so slippery,'' she said.


For the second year running it was Jason Byrne from Sydney who won the derby and the $1000 winner's prize.

Byrne, who goes by the racing name of ''Psycho'', won it last year in a black panel van, achieving the same feat yesterday in a purple ute he picked up for $200.

He managed to inflict plenty of punishment by reversing the tray into the engines of his competitors, getting away with relatively little damage among the twisted smoking wrecks.

''Fix the radiator and put a new bonnet on her and she'll run again,'' Byrne said.