Tim Tetrick has long been one of North America's top harness racing drivers. Now he is ready to take on the world.
A native of Illinois who now lives in Runnemede, N.J., Tetrick will represent the U.S. in the World Driving Championship in Australia. The competition, which brings together 10 drivers from around the world for a 20-race series at six different tracks, begins Saturday at Tabcorp Park Menangle in New South Wales.
The 33-year-old Tetrick, a four-time U.S. Driver of the Year who has led North America in purses seven of the last eight years, is making his first appearance in the World Driving Championship. Tetrick was the leading money-winning driver at Harrah's Philadelphia in 2014 and has won six driving titles at the oval since 2007.
"It's a great honor to be able to represent the United States and hopefully I can win it and make America proud," Tetrick said. "I love competing at a very high level and this is on the international scene. I'm just going to go into it and try to have a good time and enjoy myself and do what I love to do, which is race horses."
The World Driving Championship, introduced in 1970, is now conducted every two years. France's Pierre Vercruysse won the 2013 edition, held in his home country, and will defend his title in Australia. Also part of this year's field is Canada's Jody Jamieson, a two-time WDC champion.
Past U.S. champs are Joe Marsh Jr. (1974), Ron Pierce (1989) and Dave Magee (1995).
"Timmy, good luck over there," Pierce said in a video message to Tetrick. "I hope you get on the right horses and put it on them boys. You know you're better than them.
"You're driving for all of us, so we're all rooting for you."
Drivers already have received their post positions for the World Driving Championship's 20 races and will drive whichever horse randomly draws the matching starting spot. Tetrick will drive the post No. 10 horse in the opening heat. All drivers will start twice from each of the 10 posts.
"Hopefully they give me the best horses," Tetrick said with a laugh. "I'm going to study it the best I can, work with what horses they give me to drive, and hopefully I don't embarrass myself too badly. There are a lot of different (driving) styles. We're all kind of in the same boat, but hopefully I get some good luck with the draws."
Learning to compete against various driving styles will be among Tetrick's most difficult challenges.
"It was a completely different style of racing than what I was used to," said David Miller, who represented the U.S. in 1999 and finished fifth. "It took me a while (to adjust). We raced at five or six different racetracks and they were action packed.
"I think (Tim) could probably watch tapes of races, maybe study the horses. I would just tell him to have fun. Go over there, go all out, and try to win the whole thing. He's a great driver, but you've got to get the horses and you've got to have luck."
Andy Miller, who represented the U.S. in 2005 and 2007, with a best finish of fourth, said having a good time is important.
"The camaraderie and meeting new people are great memories," Miller said. "I would tell him to have a great time and meet everybody you can and take everything in that you can. It's something you don't get to do very often, so enjoy it. If you're having fun, the wins will come and you'll do better."
Tetrick, who in his career has won more than 8,500 races - including the Hambletonian Stakes and 14 Breeders Crowns, is one of five drivers making his first trip to the World Driving Championship. The others are Spain's Guillermo Adrover, Denmark's Knud Monster, France's Tony LeBeller, and Norway's Vidar Hop.
Rounding out the field are Australia's Chris Alford, New Zealand's Dexter Dunn, and Finland's Mika Forss.
"I definitely want to win," Tetrick said. "But I'm looking forward to visiting the country and seeing what it's like. I'm familiar with a few of (the other drivers). I'm looking forward to hanging out with them and getting to know them, and hopefully coming out with more friends."