Brown prevails in championship prelim
Former titleholder Kaidon Brown has made very strong inroads towards securing a second Australian Midget Championship with victory in the Preliminary Feature Race at Eastern Creek Speedway on Friday evening (March 3), the opening night of competition for the 81st staging of this most prestigious event. Having set the early pace, Brown found himself trailing American ace Brady Bacon through the middle stages of the race, only for Bacon to run out of fuel in the winning position for the second time in as many weeks. Assuming control again from a restart, Brown survived a late challenge from another American in Thomas Meseraull to clinch the 25-lapper. A fast-finishing Kaiden Manders raced into third spot after starting 12th, with New Zealand’s Kaleb Currie home fourth ahead of Matt Jackson.
A 42-car field fronted for competition, including four international entrants and drivers from every Australian state. Unfortunately, some would see their championship aspirations disappear before they began, with Monique Matherson the earliest of casualties when a right rear wheel courtesy of Dan Biner launched her into a heavy crash during hot laps. Others beset by problems early in proceedings included Dean Meadows, Jeffery Burns and Richard Malouf, none of whom would trouble the scorers, with New Zealand champ Hayden Williams also failing to fire a shot.
The opening heat proved a very underwhelming start to the competition with only four of the nine starters making it to the chequer, one of whom was subsequently disqualified. Nick Parker and Kaidon Brown were untroubled in filling the first two spots and, with Williams and Matt Geering amongst those who failed to go the distance, Justin Watt would find himself third in the wash-up.
Newly crowned New South Wales champ Michael Stewart led every lap of heat two, finishing in advance of Travis Mills, Jay Waugh and Nathan Smee.
Inheriting a front row start in heat three when Meadows failed to front, Casey O’Connell took full advantage of his good fortune to lead throughout. Meseraull and Currie filled the minor placings ahead of Charlie Brown, who advanced from the fourth row.
Bacon destroyed the field in heat four, leaving pole starter Troy Ware in his wake as he shot to the front and cleared away, lapping several tailenders on his way to en emphatic win. Ware remained second at the flag, with Manders besting Michael Kendall for third.
Matt Geering kept Kaidon Brown at bay to prevail in heat five, with Smee and Stewart the best of the rest.
A ripper start from Waugh in heat six would see him leapfrog into second spot behind Matt Jackson, who would go on to take the race ahead of Currie and Charlie Brown as Waugh fell to fourth.
Another win from the front row came courtesy of Scott Farmer in heat seven, the Queensland-based former Kiwi upstaging Meseraull, Manders and Troy Jenkins.
A brief shower forced a delay in the staging of the final preliminary, but once the cars finally hit the track, it proved to be the best heat of the night. Despite being hounded by Kendall from the outset, DJ Raw would hold firm at the front to win by the narrowest margin. The fight for third place proved an equally close contest from which Mitch Brien prevailed over Bacon, who charged from the fifth row.
Launching from pole position, Kaidon Brown led the 24-car preliminary feature race field though the opening laps, with Bacon immediately relegating Meseraull to settle in second. After serving notice on a couple of occasions when he edged ahead through turn two, Bacon went to the front on lap 11, leaving Brown to fend off both Meseraull and Stewart. Just when it looked as though the race might be completed without interruption, the yellows were deemed necessary with just seven laps remaining to enable an ailing O’Connell to exit the track. With the field formed and ready to resume, Bacon headed infield with an empty tank, handing the lead back to Brown. As is so often the case, restarts beget restarts and that is what transpired with a spin from Tim Devine followed by a more spectacular moment from Geering when he rode wall along the main straight before being deposited in turn one. A final restart would come courtesy of a spin from Raw in turn three with four laps remaining and, whilst Brown would hold his nerve through these interruptions to keep Meseraull at bay, there was plenty happening behind them. When a flat tyre dealt Stewart a cruel blow and send him spiralling down the order, Manders pounced to round up Currie and grab third, leaving Jackson fifth from Farmer, Parker and Smee. Ware and Kendall completed the top ten runners ahead of Harry Stewart, who impressed despite a distinct lack of Midget racing this season. With Jenkins, Waugh, Michael Stewart and Brien next in line, Mitchell Freeman, Raw and Watt were the remaining finishers.
In the first of the Lightning Sprint preliminaries, Kurt Wilson hit the front early and never looked back, winning ahead of a fast-finishing Chris Davis, who clocked the quickest lap of the race but ran out of laps and finished more than 1.5 seconds in arrears, with Kevin Ottey home third.
In heat two, Davis was again the fastest car on the track, yet could only manage third behind Australian champ AJ McTaggart and race winner Scott Withers.
Wilson was too good again in heat three and, despite only taking the lead with four laps remaining, he was able to finish more than four seconds clear of Queensland’s Jayden Mathers, with Peter Styles third on this occasion.
Whilst it was Wilson occupying pole position for the Gold Cup feature race, it was Davis who started superbly from the outside front row to lead the field away, with McTaggart immediately slotting into second spot. Another Queenslander in Harley Graham brought proceedings to a halt on lap two when he drifted high along the back straight, rode over the front left of Ottey and flipped out of the race. Back underway and Davis bolted to establish a sizeable lead in very quick time, only for his aspirations to be ripped asunder when he retreated to the infield on lap 14, handing the lead to McTaggart with Wilson in pursuit. Just two laps from home, Wilson succumbed to a smoking engine and headed infield, handing second spot to Withers and elevating Bradley Anstis onto the podium. Styles secured fourth, while Keith Blatch emerged as the best placed of those from north of the border, finagling fifth in front of Jack Selmes, Ottey and Layne Stace.
Riley Fisher got a flying start to the opening Legend Car heat race, zooming from firth to second on the opening lap, only to fall away as the race progressed as Darren Snowden advanced to the lead with four laps remaining. Daniel Nikiforoff and Troy Bolton filled the minor placings, with Linden Martin also moving ahead of Fisher.
Troy Bolton bolted to win heat two over Matt Elliott and Martin before Snowden doubled up to win heat three, downing Thompson and Elliott on this occasion.
First up on a freshly manicured track following a rain delay, the feature race proved easy pickings for Snowden, who assumed control on lap five and would finish more than seven seconds ahead of a terrific scrap for the minor placings. Having led early, Bolton saw off an initial challenge from Thompson for second spot, only to find himself under increasing pressure from Nikiforoff, who would pounce through the final turn to snatch the runner-up result. Thompson and Martin rounded out the first five ahead of Rooney, Brett Muller, Jones, Elliott and Adam Fisher.