Winton Motor Raceway had its second Speedway Sprints, backing up on last season’s success with a two-day event, combining with the first appearance of RX Aus at the venue to give motorsport fans speedway and rally during the weekend.
Classes participating in the Speedway Sprints were street stocks, standard saloons, V8 open sedans and six-cylinder open sedans, with only one winner from last season backing up to claim the top prize once again.
Mount Gambier’s Anthony Beare took out the top time in the street stocks for the second season running.
Times in the practice session showed super sedan driver Trent Susol was determined to claim the top prize in the V8 category and Daniel Unternahrer, last year’s winner, was equally as determined to defend in a different vehicle.
Husband and wife duo John and Trish Dike were keen on the standard saloon top prize as they bookended young gun Adrian Lawrence in the practice session.
What was to come was a weekend-long battle with CAMS licence holder Lawrence, 15, dragging John Dike along to new incredible times.
In six-cylinder open sedans, Allen Treble threw his hat in the ring and Winton circuit racer Mick Pettit from Leeton in NSW showed the experience he has had in the past year racing in the TT track series had given him great pace.
In street stocks, Lewis Clark, Beare and Steve Watts looked like the top drivers to keep an eye on.
Moving into session one of the sprints, Susol cut more than three seconds off his practice time in what became a new speedway sprint track overall record of 1:10.52, with Unternahrer and Darrin Dunham in a Commodore with a FC Holden body the next best, yet two seconds slower.
Lawrence lapped a second faster than his standard saloon practice time as Matthew Domburg took a liking to the track and started to put in competitive times.
Charlie Ball, a small circuit racer from Wilby Park, in a VH Commodore took the lead in the six-cylinder class with Simon De Boer and Allen Treble, who were sharing the same XF Falcon, sitting in second and third.
Lewis Clark in a VY Commodore led Watts and Beare in the street stocks. Lawrence, Ball and Clark were all new record holders for their classes at this point.
Winton, in the days before the event, declared racers did not have to conform to tyre rules they were used to under speedway governing bodies and, as a result, many brought in slicks from Eddie Albenica of Melbourne’s Cheapest Cars.
In session two, the FC Holden with Dunham at the wheel emerged at the top of the charts with a blistering 1:09.86 time.
South Australian street stock champion Matt Nelson, on a set of slicks, then stopped the clock at 1:12.76 and it was game on.
Clark was sensational without slicks continuing to set 1:14 range times and in his competitors’ eyes was champion of the weekend in the street stock class, beating everybody else running without slicks.
Dave Cherry in his VZ Commodore and Ben Moon, both of the Alexandra Speedway Club just down the road from Winton, then moved to the lead of the six-cylinder class, with Cherry hitting a 13.36 and Moon half a second behind.
In the standard saloons, Lawrence went another half second quicker than he had already and John Dike dropped to less than 1:14 to make it into the 1:13s for the first time.
Session three provided a sensational moment on Sunday morning.
With a clear track ahead of him, fresh tyres and no wind, Graeme Harrison in his VN Commodore stopped the clock at 1:07.48, a clear track record for speedway V8 sedans.
Up to this point Harrison had been running about the 1:12 bracket and the time sent the announcer scurrying to check if something went wrong in the timing.
Winton officials advised the system from point A to point B had to be correct; the only way it was wrong was if Harrison came off track at full speed and cut corners.
There was no such occurrence and Harrison became the man to beat with his amazing effort that will take some beating in the future, as the rest of the day proved.
Lawrence in his standard saloon blew pundits away when he dropped into the 1:12 bracket, smashing everybody else in the third session for his class.
Nelson remained fastest in the street stocks, with Darryl Atkinson having a good run in the session, and Lewis Clark remained fast even though he started to share Steven Watts’ car after the Clark vehicle suffered engine concerns the day before.
In six-cylinder sedans, Pettit was fastest in the third session in his last big dash for the overall win, while Treble and Cherry were still thereabouts, with Cherry’s time in session two still the lead time.
Session four in the V8 sedans had Hastings and Susol really try to shake the time Harrison had set earlier and for Hastings he would have become the leader if it was not for Harrison’s blistering run in the previous session.
Lawrence again caused the timekeeper nightmares when he clocked 1:12.57 in the fourth session for standard saloons — it was simply sensational to watch the racer clock new time after new time consistently.
De Boer in the six-cylinder sedans took the lead ahead of Cherry, while his car owner Treble moved into third place. De Boer clocked a 1:13.21 time to set the new six-cylinder open sedan record for a brief moment and Darren Forrest whacked slicks on his car and shot to second in the street stock times behind Nelson.
Forrest clocked a 1:12.827 just .07 behind Nelson with one session to go.
The final session of the weekend proved to be the best in regards to competition in the V8s and records in the street stocks and six-cylinder sedan classes.
Susol, Dunham and Hastings all clocked times in the 1:08 bracket.
Hastings had a 1:08.63, placing him second behind Harrison, Susol then ran a 1:08.31, putting him second and Hastings third and then Dunham clocked a 1:08.42 putting him into third and Hastings out of the trophies in that last session.
Former dual Victorian Speedway Sports Sedan champion Moon in the six-cylinder sedans then recorded a time 2.5 seconds faster than the times for the whole weekend in his class, setting a 1:10.76, while Treble moved into second place with a 1:12.16.
The scary thing for competitors in the class was Moon was only just getting comfortable with the track and hitting his marks and he thinks he can go faster next time!
Domburg was the fastest of the standard saloon competitors in the final session, securing his third spot for the weekend when he ran a 1:13.55 time, with Lawrence well off the pace in the last session having worn out his tyres.
In street stocks, a sensational finish had Forrest take the lead with a 1:11.83 ahead of Nelson, only for Beare, who jumped from his VE Commodore into Lenny Bates’ FG Falcon with slicks on, to scorch around Winton in a new track record time of 1:11.07 to take the win from Forrest.
Interestingly enough, the sportsmanship by Bates to let Beare have a crack with slicks on knocked Bates out of the top three for the weekend.
V8 open sedans: Graeme Harrison (Wilby), Trent Susol (Redline), Darrin Dunham (Wilby).
Six-cylinder open sedans: Ben Moon (Alexandra), Allen Treble (Nagambie), Simon De Boer (same).
Street stocks: Anthony Beare (Mt Gambier), Darren Forrest (Rosedale), Matt Nelson (Alexandra).
Standard saloons: AJ Lawrence (Rosedale), John Dike (Drouin), Matt Domburg (Portland).
New track records
V8 open sedans: Graeme Harrison 1:07.48.
Six-cylinder open sedans: Ben Moon 1:10.76.
Street stocks: (with slicks) Anthony Beare 1:11.07.
Standard saloons: AJ Lawrence 1:12.57.