Ferguson retains reign
Redline racer Brooke Ferguson showed on Saturday night that she is once again not only Queen of the Mountain, but queen of the race track.
Competing in Queen of the Mountain, held at Ballarat’s Redline Raceway, Brooke finished with two heat wins and a second place to start off Pole for the feature, driving on to take the chequered flag in front of Sara Benson and Brooke’s mum, Karen.
Megan Cheeseman started off the front row of the final with Brooke, having had two heat wins including being the only driver to get the better of the eventual Queen of the Mountain winner, when she drove to the chequered flag in Heat Nine.
Karen was the first driver to claim a heat race in the event, crossing the line in Heat One before Cheeseman and Kelly McDermott.
Brooke followed in her footsteps – or rather racetracks – the very next heat, winning from Jacque Whatmore and Belinda McCoubrie.
Piloting the ED Falcon of Trev Logan’s – Felicity Roycroft showed her authority over the field in Heat Three, with Jo Storer and Sarah Meakins rounding out the Top Three.
“Going out in my first heat in Trev’s animal of a car that I had only driven to the dummy grid was a bit nerve wracking,” Roycroft said.
“Coming up beside ladies who had raced for many of years, and who knew their car – I was just hoping to finish so getting the heat win was a bonus.
“I stopped and spoke to Justin in the infield and I didn’t even know the car sponsors. That’s how confident I was about getting a heat win.
“I probably should have spoken to the boys about that!”
Second time out and Brooke got another heat win on the board. Belinda McCoubrie ran second McDermott third.
Whatmore felt the full force of the drama a blown tyre can cause with the car borrowed from her husband rolling in this heat.
In Heat Five Sara Benson was victorious with Karen and Melissa Crutchley crossing the line for the minor placings.
Cheeseman bettered her previous second place in her second heat out, driving away from Pricilla Grech and Casey Newlan for the win.
Benson took back to back heat wins after rolling out for Heat Seven, with Belinda McCoubrie and McDermott once again finishing second and third.
Newlan found her form on track in the following heat, driving to victory in the Dylan Campton owned FG Falcon. Ellen Hampson and Sarah McCoubrie finished second and third.
“Winning one of my heats at Queen of the Mountain was a huge confidence boost for me,” Newlan said.
“Going into the day I had it in my head that I didn’t stand a chance, being in a car I didn’t know and not being super confident with no race rubber.
With two laps to go in my third heat I was sitting back in second position and there was a caution.
“I thought to myself it was my chance to make a move.
“The leader and myself were both running the same race line so I knew I would have to go out of my comfort zone to get passed even though I had way more race speed.
“With Campo (Campton) in the back of my head telling me ‘just trust the car and it’ll hold you’ that’s exactly what I did – cruised past on the gutter and led the green white chequer right until the flag.
“The experience to race against all the other ladies was one I’ll never forget and I can’t wait until next season to get back out there and do it again.”
The last heat race of the night promised to be entertaining – and it delivered. It featured both Brooke and Karen Ferguson (who lined up beside one another) along with Cheeseman and Whatmore, with her car repaired after rolling.
While Karen got the jump on the field and raced away, setting a new lap record for Street Stocks at Redline Raceway in the process, the joy was short lived after she hooked a rut and was forced into the wall on the back straight.
A battle for first followed between Brooke and Cheeseman, with the SA32 of Cheeseman eventually getting the better of the driver of the B62.
Jo Storer claimed third place after Roycroft was penalised by the steward.
In the final, Brooke Ferguson started off the front row with Cheeseman alongside her. Brooke got the jump on the field and took the lead before the first corner to lead the entirety of the race.
Cheeseman went higher in the first corner and dropped back to fourth, but was showing good pace and making up ground before succumbing to a flat tyre 11 laps in.
Benson, Karen Ferguson, McDermott and Roycroft rounded out the Top Five in the final.
An elated Brooke Ferguson said it’s not easy to win an event like Queen of the Mountain.
“It involves a lot of luck – the littlest mistake can put you out – but it is an incredible feeling to be able to carry the crown once again,” she said.
Brooke said next year racing alongside both her mum, Karen, and sister, Kasey, is something that will not only be big for the family, but something she is looking forward to.
Piloting partner Jayden Blomeley’s Ford for the night, Brooke said she didn’t find a lot of difference between that car and her usual ride, a VY Commodore.
“Jayden’s car was easier to drive in harder and it just stuck,” she said.
“I find in mine I have to get off it a lot earlier to get me around the turn.”
After claiming the crown in a Ford, Brooke isn’t completely against making further appearances in it.
“I’ll drive whatever I can so if Jayden wants to move on over I’m fine with that,” she laughed.
When the grids for the night were released the Ferguson family were looking forward to Heat Nine, with both daughter and mum lining up besides each other.
Karen issued Brooke a warning that she wouldn’t go easy on her daughter if push came to shove, and the feeling was reciprocated by Brooke.
“Mum and I look at each other as we do anyone else, we are just as much, if not more competitive with each other,” Brooke said.
“I thought I’d have her on the start but she took off and I lost her in the view.”
Brooke said the track on Saturday night was the best she had raced on at Redline Raceway.
“It normally either goes black or cuts up a little,” she said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love a black track but Saturday night it was smooth from the fence to the pole and so tacky.”
She was also full of praise for her fellow drivers in the final.
“With only one stoppage in the final the ladies could not have done a better job,” she said.
“It was a challenge coming up to a group of five or so cars who were all racing for position but I was committing to my line a long way before I got to them.”
While Ferguson’s story was one of success on Saturday night, Cheeseman was disappointed to finish the race infield, but understood it’s all a part of racing.
“Unfortunately coming through turns one and two on lap 11 the outside rear tyre let go,” Cheeseman said.
“There had been a fair bit of contact from a car on the outside earlier in the race that had made contact with that wheel so that would have been the result from that.
“I was disappointed, however, at the same time just shrugged it off as it being a part of racing, unfortunately these things happen.
“I was happy to bring home a straight car.”
In the drivers seat of Steven Gartner’s FG Falcon, with limited experience in it before Saturday night, Cheeseman said she the car was “awesome” and she loved every minute of it.
“I had an awesome time,” she said.
“‘I’m in love with the FG.
“I was just stoked to be back out there and racing on such a fast Redline track.
“I always enjoy this event and it’s so great to see it so well promoted and supported.”
Gartner accompanied Cheeseman on Saturday night in the passenger seat and she said she felt a lot more confident with the experienced driver – and reigning Street Stock SA Champion – by her side.
“I’ve always felt better being out there with a passenger even in my own car so I definitely drove it better this time than I did that first meeting that I took it to,” she said.
“He was awesome to have there, he set my tyre pressures, wouldn’t tell me what they were so I wouldn’t over think it and then gave me instructions on what line to run and how I should be entering the corners.
“After each race we would debrief and he would tell me where I went wrong and what he would have done differently.
“I learnt so much, and the information he gave me was so helpful.”
Heading into the event with almost 12 months away from the race track, Cheeseman said she didn’t know what to expect.
“Quite a few of the other girls that have been racing all season have improved so much and I really did feel that I would be off the pace,” she said.
“I was so stupidly nervous before the meeting and before each heat as I had put so much pressure on myself to do well.
“It was such a relieving feeling to get a couple of heat wins because it reassured me that I hadn’t forgotten what to do and that I hadn’t lost the confidence to go fast.”
Queen of the Mountain runner up Sara Benson also went into the event not knowing what to expect.
Driving Eugene Bennett’s VY Commodore Benson claimed two heat
“I absolutely loved racing Queen of the Mountain,” Benson said.
“I was stoked to have been able to win a couple of my heats.
“I’m still smiling that I came second to Brooke.
“She is a great chick and I have a lot of respect for her off and on the track.”