Shepparton racer Mark Cecil took out the Victorian Grand Prix Midgets Championship at Rushworth Speedway on Saturday in spectacular fashion, when his engine exploded into a ball of flames just seconds after passing the finish line.
Cecil won the event with comparative ease from defending champion Jason Crawford and fellow Shepparton identity Dennis Myers, with Mooroopna’s Lisa Chalcraft and national champion Paul Perry filling the fourth and fifth spots on the podium.
The 20-lap final offered plenty of action, with several lead changes and incidents keeping the fans on their toes.
An initially impressive list of 16 entries was reduced to 12 due to mechanical issues.
Heat winners were Chris Fowler, Cecil, Myers and Crawford, with Cecil posting the fastest time of the night with a 17.720 second lap.
The top six grid positions for the final had Crawford on pole with Myers on the outside, followed by Chalcraft, Cecil, Fowler and Sean Denning.
From the green flag, Myers erupted from the line, claiming the first corner.
Crawford followed, with Cecil making up the top three, as this group quickly established a 50m lead over Chalcraft and Fowler within the first couple of laps.
Crawford then got an outside pass on Myers, followed by a quick series of moves from the three front-runners, which resulted in Cecil leading from Myers and then Crawford.
All of this was short-lived when on lap five, Fowler crashed heavily in turn two, bringing out the red flag.
Fowler, who had started as one of the favourites after winning the past two race finals and running fifth at that stage, was out. Perry inherited the position.
At the restart and with positions going back one lap as ordered by the chief steward, it was Myers leading from Crawford, Cecil and Chalcraft.
Cecil performed an outside pass to take over the lead, and in the shuffle, Crawford also passed Myers on lap nine.
David Bacon retired to the infield on lap 14 with a possible engine fire.
As the field settled down, Cecil had pulled out a 50m lead, which he later extended to about a quarter lap.
The racing order was Cecil from Crawford, Myers, Chalcraft and Perry, and that was how they finished.
This was Cecil’s third state title in this class.
Despite his impressive times in the heats, Cecil had been generally unhappy with this engine, and spent some time tweaking it before the main event.
Although the engine then went like a rocket, it had also acquired a rocket’s tendency to explode, which was exactly what it did in turn two, just after Cecil took the chequered flag.
Some interesting scenes followed, as an elated but bemused Cecil abandoned his machine and trotted across the infield to the finish line to the applause of the crowd.
Deprived of his victory lap, someone offered to piggy-back him (complete with chequered flag) around the track, but this idea was abandoned in favour of a ride, appropriately, in the back of the fire wagon.
- Ray Read