While it may have taken him some time to get familiar with it, Tony Blanch’s new Panther Chassis has already paid dividends, with the AMCA Nationals racer recently picking up the two best results of his career.
With a decade of AMCA National racing under his belt, off the back of five seasons in RSA Street Stockers, Blanch has always been competitive, winning multiple Northern Rivers Classic and Andrew Walker Memorial events. However, he’d never before been able to clinch an Australian Title podium, with his best previous results being a pair of top-10 finishes.
In addition to that, the Grafton, NSW-based racer was yet to clinch his maiden state title crown, being the best of the rest (second) in previous NSW and Victorian Titles. That all changed when he decided to purchase a brand-new Panther Chassis built by Victorian-based Mick Kiraly, which was the first of its kind and featured all the trimmings, including a 350 Chev engine, a quick-change differential and the new purpose-built front clip with coil over front suspension.
Initially struggling slightly to come to grips with his new setup – in particular, the new front end, it wasn’t until a recent Action Series round at Brisbane’s Archerfield Speedway, a fortnight prior to the Australian Title that Blanch began to experience a turning point, winning the B main and delivering a hard-charging feature race performance to place fifth.
Carrying newfound confidence into the Australian Title at Toowoomba’s Hi-Tec Oils Speedway, Blanch didn’t have the easiest of runs during the feature race after starting from position two and being the highest point scorer after the opening night of qualifying, with his right-rear shock pin aboard his NSW # 24 Panther car coming off and causing the car to the shudder on the bottom of the track, therefore forcing him to run the high line.
Doing well to manage this problem throughout the distance, Blanch eventually came away with a fighting third place – the first Australian Title podium of his career. It was this result that had him feeling hopeful heading into the Queensland Title at Archerfield Speedway just four nights later.
Once again qualifying on the outside of the front row, Blanch wasted no time in seizing the lead, going on to fend off several advances from newly-crowned Australian Champion Matt Hardy. Nudging the wall during a restart with just two laps remaining, Blanch’s experience in keeping his composure shone through, with the 46-year-old racer clinching what was a well-deserved win.
“Finishing on the podium in an Australian Title is such an amazing feeling but being able to win my first state title after so many years of trying is a whole new level,” admitted Blanch.
“Winning the Queensland Title is definitely the pinnacle of my career so far. I’ve been absolutely rapt with the performance of the car and my improvement in it this season. Hopefully we can keep up this form for the rest of the season.”
The NSW Title will be the next major event for Blanch, with the event taking place at Gilgandra Speedway on May 4, where he’ll be hoping to back up his recent Queensland Title performance. Prior to this event, Blanch will contest several race meetings between Lismore Speedway and Archerfield Speedway tracks.
Blanch would like to thank his 2018-19 season sponsors: Panther Race Cars, Battery Barn, Direct Clutch, Speedway Stickers, Penrite Oils, and Shaq’s Speedway Pics.
Special thanks from Blanch must go out to his wife (Lynda), his parents (Barry and Ruth), along with Mikey and Anastasia, Mick Reidy and everyone involved in the AMCA Nationals class, and Sam and Steve Potts from AMCA Nationals Queensland.
Photo: 44 Photography