Five straight for Schatz
Donny Schatz scored his fifth consecutive feature race victory at Ausdeck Archerfield Speedway on Friday night (January 10) when he chased down Lachlan McHugh to win the Titan Garages QSS World Series Sprintcar Australian Open Preliminary A-Main. In was another dazzling display from Schatz that puts him in a very strong position to defend his Australian Open crown and secure his tenth win in the $20 000-to-win showpiece event. A late surge from Kerry Madsen carried him into second spot, with Lachlan McHugh finishing third in a welcome return to form from the Gold Coast youngster. James McFadden finished fourth ahead of Jock Goodyer Andrew Scheuerle and Luke Oldfield, the latter no doubt relieved to get through the night unscathed after a series of misfortunes in recent outings.
In round five of the American Tire and Racing Services Midget Series, Brock Dean was again a cut above the pack, racing to his third feature race win from as many starts. Pole qualifier Charlie Brown finished in second spot ahead of Darren Vine and the only other drivers to have won a feature race at Archerfield this season in Rusty Whittaker and Glenn Wright.
Dave Fanning outgunned Keith Blatch and Wayne Iacono to win the Lightning Sprint feature race, while Sam Gollaschewsky prevailed over Terry Leerentveld and Joel Smith in a very scrappy Modlite feature race.
Although 32 cars pitted for round nine of the 2019/2020 Queensland Speedway Spares World Series, only 31 would take on the clock in qualifying as Jai Stephenson was unable to fire the Cobar Steel #45 for time trials. Running early in the session as the sixth car to hit the track, McHugh topped the timesheets with a fastest lap of 11.733. Goodyer (11.788) was next best ahead of Jack Lee (11.839), with young Californian Kalib Henry (11.894) the last of the sub-12 runners. Kevin Titman, Rusty Hickman, Scheuerle, Mark Pholi, Brent Kratzmann and Madsen rounded out the top ten, with Schatz languishing in 15th but better placed than his compatriot Lucas Wolfe (17th) and the likes of Dave Murcott, Brooke Tatnell and Shaun Dobson, all of whom timed outside the top 20.
Tatnell started his fightback in the opening heat race when he launched from the outside front row to lead home Mitchell Gee and Brock Hallet.
The outside front row also proved fruitful for Glen Sutherland in heat two as he led throughput to defeat Randy Morgan and Murcott in another straightforward affair.
In contrast to the races that preceded it, heat three proved that passing wasn’t particularly difficult as Schatz advanced from position six to chase down Adam Butler on lap five and surge into the lead. Butler finished second best, with Callum Walker clinching third.
Tim Farrell led much of heat four, only to be demoted by Dobson with two laps to run, leaving Hallet to keep Oldfield at bay to secure third.
Heat five saw Bulter again clear away from the field, only to be run down once more as McFadden and Madsen advanced to take the top two spots, leaving Butler third at the flag.
The final heat saw Schatz again surge through the field from the third row, although this time he could climb no higher than second behind Gee, with Bryan Mann besting Tatnell for third.
The B Main dished up the only incident of the night when Andrew Corbet pitched Ryan McNamara into a wild series of somersaults through turn one. From the restart, which proceeded without McNamara, Corbet and Walker, a great race developed at the front between Gee, Hallet, Mann and Murcott, all of whom had to first overcome Butler to secure a top four finish and a transfer into the main event. After starting a lowly 14th, Wolfe found a high groove that swept him into sixth to suggest that he might yet prove a real chance on Saturday over 50 laps.
Top qualifier McHugh outgunned his front row partner in Goodyer to lead the field away in the preliminary feature. From position four, Schatz was into second spot after two laps with Madsen in pursuit as Goodyer fell back. Madsen slipped ahead of Schatz briefly on lap four, only for the American to retake the position on the next lap and set out after McHugh. The lead change came on lap nine when Schatz swept McHugh aside to assume control. McHugh fought back but could not find his back to the front, ultimately coming under attack from Madsen as the laps wound down. At the chequer, Schatz finished more than 3.5 seconds ahead of Madsen, who usurped McHugh from second spot on the final lap. Although he moved ahead of Goodyer on lap nine, McFadden made no real inroads on the top three. Behind Goodyer, sixth-placed Scheuerle was the only driver whose position never changed at any stage throughout the race. Oldfield and Lee were next ahead of Henry, who arrived in Brisbane amid little fanfare but impressed from the outset in the Green Bros #4. Dobson, Tatnell and Kratzmann were the remaining runners on the lead lap, with Murcott, Hickman, Mann and Titman the final finishers as both Gee and Hallet failed to go the distance. Heading into night two, McHugh leads Schatz by a solitary point, with Madsen just two points further back on a congested leaderboard and, with only seven points separating the top five, the remaining heats are going to prove critical.
Nathan Mathers scooted clear of the field and looked on track to win the opening Midget heat, only for Dean to reel him in and slip into the lead on the final lap. A fast-finishing Scott Doyle finished third.
Resisting his penchant for running the highline, Brown prevailed in heat two in advance of Brad Dawson and Wright, who then took out heat three ahead of Whittaker and Brown with less than a second separating the trio at the chequer.
The final heat produced another narrow result as Vine resisted the efforts of Bodie Smith to grab the win, the pair leaving third-placed Dawson some six seconds in their wake.
Despite starting from the inside of row two behind Brown and Wright, it was Dean who led the field into the turn one and that is where he remained through the 20 laps that followed. Likewise, Brown remained second to the end, initially fending off Wright before Vine moved into third spot on lap 14. Having started back in 12th after failing to finish his opening heat, Whittaker advanced through the field and would finagle fourth from Wright with three laps remaining. Cal Whatmore stormed from even further back, surging from 16th to secure sixth spot ahead of Doyle, Matt O’Neill, Audie Malt and Dawson, who recovered from a spin to salvage a top ten finish. With all 16 starters still circulating at the finish, Mitchell Rooke, Reid Mackay, Mathers, Bodie Smith, Barry Gibbes and Cody Stothard completed the field.
Last start feature winner Tyler Stralow won the opening Lightning Sprint heat from Wayne Iacono and Wayne Jukes before Dave Fanning prevailed in the remaining two heat races as a precursor to an emphatic victory in the feature race to win round eight of the Stockmans Civil and Plant Club Championship. Keith Blatch snared second spot in the feature race ahead of Iacono, with Jim Kennedy fourth to the flag. Stralow finished fifth, followed by Queensland champ Jason Rae, Adam Norton, Danny Stone, Wayne Jukes and the final finisher in Jason George.
After the completion of four largely incident-free heat races that went the way of Sam Gollschewsky (2), Terry Leerentveld and Trent McLean, the Modlite feature was plagued by a series of restarts that eventually saw the race ended prematurely with two laps remaining. Not surprisingly, Gollschewsky emerged as the victor over Leerentveld, with Joel Smith inheriting third place when Jac Carnall spun himself off the podium on lap 13 to trigger the restart that would force the hand of officials in abandoning proceedings. With McLean and Dan Lewis amongst those who failed to go the distance, Julian Olley, Chris Fing and Callum Beerling were the best of the rest.
Racing continues at Ausdeck Archerfield Speedway tonight (Saturday, January 11) with two more rounds of heats, B Main, Pole Shootout and 50-lap Titan Garages QSS World Series Sprintcar Australian Open feature race. Also on the program will be Formula 500s, AMCA Nationals and a big field of Wingless Sprints.